When it comes to packing a pair of boots, nearly every traveler will tell you the same advice: Wear them on your journey. By donning your heaviest pair of shoes, you’ll save room in your bag — and avoid an overweight luggage charge. Technically, it’s great advice. In practice, however, it doesn’t always make sense. Having to untie a pair of lace-up snow boots at airport security on your way to Aspen? That sounds like a time-consuming nightmare. Running to make a connecting flight in Atlanta while lugging thick-soled leather boots on your feet? They just weigh you down. There’s no doubt about it: Heavy boots are not the best travel shoes.
But, boots are necessary, especially for cold-weather trips. They’re warm, protective, occasionally waterproof, and, depending on the style, can go with everything in your suitcase, from leggings to jeans to long-sleeved dresses. A good pair of boots may be a packing inconvenience, but they’re also a necessity. So travelers must learn to pack them — and pack them well. That starts with avoiding some common packing mistakes.
Read on to discover the most common problems you’ll encounter when packing boots in a suitcase, duffel bag, or carry-on… and their solutions, according to the founder of packing hack and travel style site Just Packed.
Mistake: Not packing multipurpose boots and needing extra pairs.
You’re going to the United Kingdom for the first time, so you need a pair of wellies. You’ll also be stopping in the countryside, so you have to bring your leather riding boots. And a night out in London calls for a stylish pair of heeled booties. So you pack them all, resulting in a hefty bag and a lot less room for souvenirs.
Solution: Find a pair of boots that does it all.
An alternative is finding a comfortable, water-resistant pair of Chelsea boots. You’ll want to choose a neutral-colored pair made with quality materials and a durable leather sole. Depending on your preference, you can find some with a slight heel as well. Brands like Margaux, M.Gemi, Bernardo, and Loeffler Randall are good places to start your search. Once you find the perfect pair, you’ll never need to pack your entire stash of boots again.
Mistake: Folding your boots and ruining them in the process.
It’s a common practice (and mistake) for boots that come above your ankles — riding boots, snow boots, cowboy boots, over-the-knee boots — to be folded away in a suitcase. They’re long; you’re trying to save as much space as possible. Then you get to your destination, only to discover that your brand-new pair of leather mid-calf boots are permanently wrinkled and cracked.
Solution: Stuff your boots, then pack other clothes and soft items around them.
Your first move should be to stuff your boots: socks, underwear, and leggings do the trick. This saves space and allows the shoes to keep their natural shape. Second step? Place each boot in the opposite direction of the other. Finally, utilize all extra space by packing your other items carefully around the boots. It should be firmly packed tight, but not so tight that their overall shape becomes compromised.
Mistake: Packing boots in the wrong compartment, or leaving them without protection.
Once your suitcase leaves your hands at the bag drop, it’s out of your control (and protection) until you reunite at baggage claim. That means travelers need to prepare for the worst in order to avoid any potential shoe-ruining hazards — including, but not limited to, broken toiletries staining your new suede over-the-knee boots, or a pair of stilettos scraping the side of your leather booties.
Solution: Keep a layer between your boots and everything else in your suitcase, or pack them away from potentially hazardous items.
This is where packing cubes come in handy. Carefully pack your boots inside one of the cubes, thus adding a protective layer between them and any other potential shoe-ruiners. You can also use grocery bags, tissue paper, or shower caps in a pinch. It may seem unnecessary, considering your shoes make contact with the outside world on a daily basis, but you’ll thank us when your toothpaste leaks during an overnight flight and your precious pair of designer boots remain pristine. Another option, if you don’t have access to any of the previously mentioned items, is to keep your boots in a separate compartment. The bottom shoe section of a weekender bag is great, or use the mesh covering side of your suitcase to keep your boots far away from any liquids, lotions, or other fragile items.
Lydia Mansel is a travel writer and founder of Just Packed, a stylish traveler’s resource for packing lists and product recommendations. Most of her frequent flier miles come from trips to the United Kingdom, but she’ll fly anywhere in search of a hotel with soft sheets, fluffy robes, and top-tier room service.