My Best Advice: Unpack When You Get to Your Hotel Room

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Something fast and simple I’ve been practicing lately has gone a long way to change my mindset when I stay in hotels: unpacking.

It sounds so small – it is! – but I’ve found the effect is well worth the extremely minimal effort it takes. And, you end up saving yourself time in the end.

It beats living out of a suitcase, especially for stays of more than a few nights (and curiously, I’ve had a lot of 4-night stays recently thanks to Citi Prestige). Unpacking has made the difference between feeling transient or temporary and like I’m home for a little while. And that mindset carries over to how I interact with the place I’m in, albeit in a very small way. But, hey, it all adds up.

Why unpack?

Do you unpack your suitcase when you get to your hotel room? Why or why not?

If you’d asked me that last month, I would’ve had an answer (which would’ve been I don’t), but no explanation, really.


I hung my shirts. In a closet. In a hotel room

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I had some shirts I didn’t want to get wrinkled, so I hung them up.

And then, I folded and put away my pants. And my unmentionables (I’ve always loved that term as a reference).

Emptied my backpack and put out my cords and chargers. That was all I brought – I unpacked in about 2 minutes for a quick weekend trip.

I spent the next few days marveling at how everything was in reach. No sorting through a heap after the shower because everything was already in its place. No wondering, “Oh, bloody hell now where is that…?” (I’m a stodgy old British man in my mind.)

What a feeling! After all my years of traveling, something felt new and novel again: simply unpacking.

But then…

Humans have rituals. New environments break them. Unpacking helps put them back. And lets us ritualize the way our evolutionarily formed brains intended.

I noticed having my morning ritual intact directly before leaving put me in more of a homey mindset. Like I wasn’t far from normality. And everything was right where it should be.

Now, I’m not saying there was some dramatic effect. But it did give me a little boost.

Even hung my pool shirts in Hawaii

Even hung my pool shirts in Hawaii

And it was comforting to come back and know where everything would be.

The 2 minutes I spent unpacking probably saved me dozens of minutes in fumbling and sorting and walking back and forth. Now I wonder why I tried to live out of suitcases for so long. Especially after considering the payoff of saving several minutes with a small investment of only a couple of them.

Bottom line

Now I’ll ask you the question I couldn’t answer: Do you unpack your suitcase when you get to your hotel room? Why or why not?

If you’ve never done it, I recommend you give it a try!

And if you already unpack, do you find there’s a benefit, however small it may be?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this, as someone who’s recently found out the joy of unpacking.

Definitely one of those “why haven’t I been doing this all along?” moments!

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. Depends for me on how long the stay is and whether or not I have clothes that has to be hanged. I usually hotel hop for benefits/status so hate unpacking for just a one-night stay. However, if I’m staying at a hotel for more than three nights I will unpack all my stuff. I always wipe down the bottoms of the drawer since you never know how clean they really are. Feels nice that everything is “fresh” since I usually iron my clothes too before hanging them up.

    • Good tip about the drawers! And yeah, feel you about the one-night stays – those are usually pretty rough no matter how ya slice it.

      Thank you for sharing!

  2. I always hang up everything – pants and shirts. Underwear, socks and belt out the night before. By hanging and putting out – if I oversleep – it is a huge time savings. For the “unmentionables” I keep everything in the flight 001 spacepak bags. They have a clean or laundry side – so very easy to keep separate when multiple days or hotels. I use the big one for shirts and pants. Then only what is clean comes out.

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