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How To

How to Pack a Suitcase Full of Books

Jennifer Paull

Staff Writer

Jennifer Paull walks quickly.

How many of us traveled after the holidays with a pachyderm’s weight worth of new books in our suitcases? I’d raise my hand, but my arm’s still sore. Receiving dead-tree books as gifts for the holidays is always wonderful—but getting them home can resemble a junior-high wrestling match. Below are my tips, if you’re packin’ bibliophile-style.

Checked Bag

Wrap each big hardback and short equivalent stacks of paperbacks in (clean) t-shirts, then line them up in an even layer along the bottom of your suitcase. Keep the lighter books towards the top. If you have a wheeled suitcase, don’t stack up too many books at the wheel end, because that will throw off the bag’s balance once it’s standing up, and lead to awkward waltzing-the-suitcase situations.

If you’ve got a duffle, create a false bottom with a wrapped-book layer. Or slide your books vertically in regularly spaced intervals between your rolled-up clothes. One of the hard corners will get you in the kidneys, either way.

If you are really persnickety about your hardcovers’ condition (this is not me, I promise), take off the paper jackets and slide them into a padded envelope, to pack separately in your carry-on.



Do you plan to put your carry-on in an overhead bin? Then you’d better make sure you can still lift it over your head once the books are in it, or you’ll be that red-faced sucker in the aisle, straining to heave the bag into place (OK, am guilty of this one). Load in your paperbacks since they weigh less and are more flexible. Besides, they hurt less if you get clobbered by the bag on its way down.

Keep whatever you most want to read on your trip closest to you, in your purse or a bag you can stash under a seat.


Last-Ditch Moves

If you’ve got a couple of tomes that just won’t fit and you’re facing an airline’s “one carry-on” rule, put a small collapsible tote in your main carry-on bag, then carry your books loose in your arm to the airline gate. Pull out your tote and drop the books in once you’re clear of the scowling stews.

Or just ship everything book rate.


If You’re an Heiress . . . 

Invest in an antique Louis Vuitton library trunk!

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