My sister Kara and her husband love to travel. Europe, India, Asia. They’ve visited each of those continents in the last couple of years. With summer quickly approaching It’s a good time for her to give us some Traveling Tips and Tricks.
Skyler (my husband) and I just went on a week long trip to Morocco and only took two backpacks. And not a backpacking backpack, but the regular, “have a good day at school” kind. We are completely opposed to checking bags for any vacation, be it two days or two weeks. It cuts out so much hassle, not to mention cost, and you never have to worry about your bag not making the connection. Plus, you’ve got all your essentials at the tips of your fingers.
I’ll do another post on what exactly those “essentials” are. This post is focused on light, liberating packing.
Not only is it liberating to not worry about where your bag is, to not have to wait for it at baggage claim, and to not have it thrown and crushed in the process, it is truly freeing and invigorating to be able to step off the plane and Go! No constraints. No wheeling cumbersome suitcases down cobblestone streets. No hoisting them into crowded buses. No wasting time to stop at your hotel to drop them off only to have them tell you you’re too early for check in. Forget about all that. You’re ready to explore.
Here are my tips for packing to have everything you need on your back, without breaking your back.
A wise woman (my mom) once told me: If you forget something, you can buy it when you get there. If you can’t find it, you don’t need it.
So number one, don’t stress. You do not need to pack every single item you own.
Plan your outfits in advance. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but I see people go overboard all the time. Thinking ahead cuts out the indecision which often leads to people bringing enough clothes for 3+ outfit changes a day. I know well enough that staring at your closet and choosing what to wear can be an overwhelming task, so let me help you narrow your options down. Get your itinerary out, check the average weather, and get started. Having your itinerary will eliminate a lot of “what-ifs.” You’ll realize you only have one free night to possibly go out dancing so you only need one potential club outfit, not five.
Let’s talk shoes, Ladies (and gentlemen). After eliminating all those extraneous clothes, shoes are your number one space waster, read: heavy & bulky. Unless you have a fancy evening planned, limit yourself to two pairs of shoes. The pair you wear on your feet while you travel and one other pair in your bag. You do not, I repeat, you DO NOT need more than two pairs of shoes, but you do need two. Switch shoes every day to give your feet a break.
Spacial thinking tip: stuff socks and other small items into the pair of shoes you pack. This will not only help them keep their shape, but this is also valuable real estate that would otherwise be wasted.
Choose color-coordinating pieces. Every single piece of clothing you bring should look good together. This way, if you spill on Tuesday’s pants, your blouse still looks good with Wednesday’s skirt.
Light layers. This has almost become a cliche at this point, but that’s because it’s good advice. Don’t bring bulky items to stay warm (unless you are actually going somewhere that will be frigid the entire time). Instead, bring lightweight items that can be layered because wait, what, oh right, they’re color-coordinated, rendering infinite outfit possibilities with minimal space taken up in your bag. Also, limit yourself to one cardigan/jacket that will look good with all your outfits. A dark neutral perhaps? It will camouflage grime and make you look slimmer. Win win.
Plan on re-wearing items. A great pair of jeans goes a long way. Bring a clothesline with you, or hang items over your shower rack in your hotel. Extra bonus of light layers: they dry quickly!
Pro Packing Tip: roll your clothes instead of folding them. I cannot explain the science of why this takes up less volume in your suitcase, but it does.
Pundit Packing Tip: put those clothes rolls in zip lock bags and squeeze all the air out of them, then pack. It is amazing how much more space this saves when every cubic centimeter counts. Also, if anything spills on or in your bag, your clothes are saved. AND you can put your dirty clothes back in the bags and they won’t stink up the rest of your lovely, clean ones.
While you’ve got the bag of zippies out, go ahead and put everything in them. Yep. Everything. Put any liquids with questionable lids (push tops that may open, sprays that may leak) in their own individual bags, and then put all your liquids & creams in a larger bag that you can easily remove for security. Put this in the top of your suitcase/bag so you don’t have to unpack everything to get to it.
Speaking of liquids, cut out as many as possible. One of the best perks about being a hippie is how little space my cosmetics take up. My homemade, powdered deodorant goes in a baggie with a powder puff. My shampoo and conditioner are solid bars. The liquids/gels you can’t eliminate, get in travel size: contact solution, makeup, toothpaste. Consider facial wipes instead of face wash. Bonus: wipes can be multipurpose.
For the love of all things, do not even think about bringing a hair dryer or heating tools.
Anything you can take out of the packaging and make smaller, do. Example: put vitamins and painkillers in small plastic baggies instead of keeping them in bottles (in my essentials post I will give a list of first aid items to include and a clever way to pack them),
Sharing is caring.
You don’t all need to pack your own toiletries. There’s no need for multiple tubes of toothpaste or bottles of shampoo. If you’re staying in the same hotel room, plan on sharing these items. Have the same phone? You can share the same charger, too.
My last light packing tip for the day: Go minimal high-tech. Condense your technology and maximize its impact. Forget about bringing a laptop, and honestly, I would skip the iPad, too. Our phones have more storage than our iPad did anyway. All your entertainment can be on your smartphone: Kindle/Audible, movies, music, games. And you can cutout even more bulk by eliminating the need for phrasebooks and maps by downloading a few apps. (I’ll tell you which apps we used in my next post.)
Even after all that downsizing, are you wondering how we were able to bring home any goodies if our backpacks were stuffed to the brim? Guess what else I crammed into the bottom of my backpack. A folded up duffel bag to bring home souvenirs in. And Bonus! Since we were well under the allotted baggage limit with our two backpacks, we got to carry our duffel bag on the plane as well.
Hopefully this post has inspired you to shed a few pounds of your baggage and to take on the world! You’ll be ready for anything, and you can mock the suckers dragging suitcases the size of an efficient euro vehicle behind them.