To unpack the suitcase or not?

This Tweet is doing the rounds at the moment.

“People who actually unpack their suitcase and use the dresser in their hotel room are at a level of responsibility that I will simply never attain.”


I’m a logistics person. Even brief trips to the local shop are automatically planned out in my head – deciding the optimum time to go and where’s the best spot to park (this is in a small village where parking really isn’t an issue). What to buy is either written on a post-it or, if items number under a dozen, memorised using a mnemonic device – one gun shoots out beer; two shoe filled with butter; three tree hanging with tomatoes… and so on.

The idea of not unpacking the suitcase in a hotel room just doesn’t make sense to me. It conjures scenes of ugly chaos and inefficiency. Clothes strewn across a room seem no different than litter on the roadside, or a kitchen sink filled with dirty plates, cutlery and pots and pans. Andy’s with me on this, neither of us could feel relaxed if we didn’t get rid of the washing up immediately after dinner was over. On my part I put this partly down to being moulded by a Scottish Protestant upbringing where play only comes after all the hard work is over.

Hotel room, Florence
When we arrive in a room like this, we want it to stay looking like this, sort of.

We’re not cleaning-obsessed by a long shot, but we don’t like clutter, or understand illogical disorganisation. We can see our neighbours’ terrace from our kitchen window and it drives us, mildly, mad. It looks perpetually like a laundry. At this moment a bed sheet is strung across two chairs. It has the appearance of one of those ‘dens’ I used to make out of bedsheets when I was eight. It’s been like that for five days. Knowing that fact makes me sound like a curtain-twitcher but, in my defence, it’s in my line of sight every time I wash the dishes (immediately after eating meals off course).
There are a few factors which make their ‘clothes-drying’ system nonsensical. The first is the farm has a huge washing line which is in full sunshine most days. When Andy did a wash in the morning two days ago, the clothes were dry by the afternoon. In this part of Portugal it takes no time to dry clothes outside. But that requires walking a couple of hundred metres to get to the washing line which, I suspect, is the problem. That sheet would have been dry within a couple of hours, yet it remains draped across the terrace; a terrace which is open on two sides. When it rains, the terrace gets wet. Yesterday it rained. The sheet which had been dry for four and a half days is now damp again, and probably dirty as it was sandy rain. It is an illogical practice which makes no sense.

I bet our neighbours don’t unpack their suitcases when they go on holiday.

Magazine packing
All our clothes were packed like this, except a bit neater as I’m out of practice.

The other part of my anal-retentiveness I put down to a brief spell in the Royal Marines, where a lack of personal neatness during training resulted in punishment. Subsequently knowing how to fold clothes into perfect, magazine-sized bundles rapidly became ingrained. It was a handy skill I passed on to Andy, along-with how to neatly get back into step when marching. We used it over many years of packing for holidays, until we realised all our clothes, with their crisp lines, looked as though they were fresh out of shirt-boxes from the 1960s. The neat rectangles were easy to unpack though; one scoop and they’d move from suitcase to hotel wardrobe, or dresser drawer. We could be unpacked and in the nearest harbour-side bar in half an hour – work first, play later.

Lodge room, Atlas Mountain, Morocco
There are times when we don’t unpack, especially if there’s nowhere to put clothes, like this room in the Atlas Mountains.

Now we’ve evolved from rectangles to a far more casual approach to packing, folding is no longer regimental. But there’s still a system. We split our clothes between two cases, taking half of each case (on the off-chance one goes AWOL). However, we don’t always unpack. Our work can mean we regularly have hotel one-night-stands. The worst case was twelve in a row in Italy. We don’t unpack for one-nighters, it’s not worth it. Mostly we don’t unpack if it’s two nights either, but there’s an exception to this rule. If we’ve had a run of one-nighters immediately prior to a two-nighter, we unpack in order to take stock and tidy things up again (i.e. make sure all the smelly stuff is tucked away between the lining and the case’s outer shell). With stays of three nights and over we always unpack for the simple reason that, for an initial and small investment of time, it makes transient life smoother in the long run. Beautiful hotel rooms remain beautiful hotel rooms, and don’t turn into claustrophobic tips. It’s easier to find the right clothes. And it feels good. Plus, repacking takes no time at all.

Walk in wardrobe, hotel
Paradise – a room with a walk-in wardrobe, keeping all the clutter out of sight.

I’ve been on holidays/trips with anti-unpackers, they’re generally the ones getting stressed-out from not being able to find what they’re looking for when us ‘unpackers’ are foot and finger tapping impatiently because we’re being held up from doing something exciting and/or fun.

About Jack 799 Articles
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a Slow Travel consultant and a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Facebook for more travel photos and snippets.

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