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The ultimate packing guide

Budget Travel's "World's Best Packer" contest was full of smart advice for better-loaded bags.

When we launched the World's Best Packer contest in May, we expected a healthy response. But the entries were even more creative than we'd anticipated. From slideshows to videos to a Frost-inspired ode titled "The Suitcase Not Taken," each was full of smart advice for better-loaded bags.

We assembled our favorite suggestions to create this handy manual.

Top layer
All-weather items like a poncho and a hat go on top, in case you need them right away. In a pinch, the poncho can also help protect your suitcase from rain.
Andrew Doukas, Portland, Maine

Bring a deck of cards for entertainment on the road.
— Larry Swingen, Malta, Mont. (who opts for Mini Uno)

Toss in a collapsible, lightweight bag to fill with souvenirs or laundry.
Velma Greene, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Middle layer
Use your shoes as packing cubes: Stuff them with small items like socks or even a travel alarm clock.
Ilana Berner, Caesarea, Israel

Save space by choosing a good-looking jewelry pouch that can pass for a purse.
Phebe Schwartz, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.

Bottom layer
Position heavy items near the wheels of your suitcase to keep the bag from toppling over when it's upright.
Ivana Rix, Vienna, Va.

Rolled clothes are less likely to wrinkle, and they create a flat surface for layering everything else.
Inga Carmack, Port Orchard, Wash.

Double-duty items are key. Bring pants that zip off into shorts, a sarong (for use as a beach towel, scarf, skirt, or cover-up), or a little black dress that can be toned up or down.
Amy Zimmer, Murrells Inlet, S.C.

And the winner is ...
Larry Swingen of Malta, Mont., took first place in our contest for the World's Best Packer with more than 17,000 votes. He and his wife, Barb, walked away with a six-night trip to Egypt, courtesy of Foreign Independent Tours, and a six-piece set of American Tourister luggage.

Congratulations, Larry!