Airlines and airports should of course be doing their bit on this front. The maddening mix of ever-changing rules on airline luggage and security checks must explain some of our thirst for instruction.
Yet not that many decades ago, none of this guidance was necessary. The only people who could afford to travel had servants to take care of their piles of chests and trunks, says a Lund University paper from one of the academics now weighing into the fray.
It was not until mass travel began to take off in the late-19th century that travellers carrying their own cases began to emerge, along with a bevy of instructions and manuals on how to pack. You would think we might have got the hang of it now, in the second decade of the 21st century.
Yet road warriors like Neal Keny-Guyer continue to astonish. He runs Mercy Corps, the global humanitarian organisation based in Oregon and never checks a bag.
Everything goes into a 20-inch carry-on case, he told me last week, even on a typical three-week trip like the one he took this year from Baghdad to Davos to Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The same rule applies to family trips.
He and his wife once took their three children to Cuba and Guatemala for three months: “We did it all with carry-on.”
I bow to his prowess, which completely outdoes my own pathetic efforts. For what it is worth, the few things that have worked for me are these: keep a list of what you needed on your last trip and get some of those packing cubes so you can separate everything into recognisable piles.
Confine everything to carry-on if possible and if you cannot, do not worry. Life generally carries on. Forget all the guff about whether to fold or roll, along with those “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” rules that say you should take no more than five sets of socks and underwear, four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes and one hat. They are far too generic to be useful.
Ignore packing apps for the same reason, along with anyone who says you must spend a month’s salary on a suitcase with a hard shell and four wheels.
Finally, remember that the human species has managed to get itself to the moon and back. One day, it will also know how to pack.