Enjoy travel? Here are 15 packing tips to make your travel amazingly memorable.
This post is the result of a promise I made my friend—to help her pack for her upcoming trip to Manila. And a little envy. Last week when she told me she had just made her flight booking for a week-long trip with her gal pals, I couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit jealous. She was excited, of course. In the twenty years I’ve known her, I’ve always been her “packer” as she fondly calls me and also, she takes my packing tips seriously!
I cannot stop laughing at some of my own travel memories—especially the ones related to packing for my own journeys. I’ve come all the way from being an over-packer who constantly thought “what if…” to being a minimalist—something I never ever thought possible!
Flashback to that time when I ran to catch my train, dragging my suitcase, which suddenly decided to burst open, spilling out my favorite yellow dress along with a whole lot of unmentionables on the dirty platform—to another trip where I packed too many clothes that I never got around to wearing—to yet another trip where I almost missed my connecting flight because I was carrying checked in luggage for a trip that could have easily been managed with a carry-on!
The list is embarrassingly endless.
But yes, lessons learned the hard way are the best, right? Over the years, I’ve become a wiser traveler and packer. Marie Kondo would approve.
A few years ago, when I traveled to Shanghai,, the only thing that made my trip absolutely amazing was my packing. I took only carry-on luggage. What a smart move! I had everything I needed. And was able to make all my flights ONLY because I was smart enough not to take check-in luggage.
Now, I have nothing against check-in luggage. I know sometimes there’s just no option to avoid it. But in my experience, most of the time, we can do without it by packing smart. I believe that it is easy to travel with a backpack easily for up to a week, and even a fortnight when you are really clever with what you carry in it.
Also, right now my friend is really excited about traveling Philippine Airlines for the first time, and the way it looks, she might want to carry her entire house with her. I simply had to do the iron-hand-velvet-glove routine on her.
So, without further ado, let’s get right down to the packing tips, shall we?
15 packing tips to travel light and make your travel amazing
1. Follow the ground rule
Pack only what you can carry yourself. You don’t want to depend on someone for help to transport your stuff.
Keep in mind the following:
- Your destination.
- The climate there.
- The duration of your trip.
- Your itinerary.
- Activities planned.
3. Choose the right bag
Let’s start by choosing the right bag. Problem is, we tend to fill whatever space we have. Think: how long is your trip? How are you traveling? Will you need a daypack? One bag and handsfree or two bags? Me, I worship my backpack. It is sturdy, easy for me to carry, can easily take a week’s worth of essentials and most important – keeps my hands free. I also carry a fanny pack and/or sling bag for my phone, cash, cards, documents and power bank. For longer trips, I take a small carry-on that can go with me as cabin luggage.
4. Make a packing list
Next, make a packing list of what you need. I have a standard packing list of essentials I use as a checklist. During my corporate days, when I traveled on business, I always had a bag packed and ready so I didn’t run around putting things together at the last minute. Now, I am a frequent traveler and continue the habit.
What to put on your list?
This could be personal to you. But here are the questions to ask before the item goes into your bag:
- Do I really need this?
- Is it lightweight?
- Can it multitask?
- Will it occupy big space?
Sort accordingly. Remember no “just in case” items. On your list, only add what you “must have” and absolutely cannot do without.
5. Gather everything you want to pack
Get everything together. Then, eliminate mercilessly. Just pack what you’d normally wear on a normal day when you are at home. This will probably cover most situations for the duration of your travel. If absolutely necessary, you can buy what you need. Truth is, a majority of our what-if situations are just imaginary. So—pack light. Be flexible. Tackle things as they happen. More fun that way.
6. How much to pack?
A good ground rule is: always pack for one week. Easier to manage. Yes, you will have laundry to do if you are traveling for longer, so pick clothes accordingly. It’s easy to wash socks/t-shirts/underwear. Choose materials that drip dry quickly. Also, it costs way less to do laundry than pack a check in bag.
7. Packing tips for clothes
Choose materials that pack small and dry quickly. If you use jeans, wear them. Don’t pack them. They are heavy and hog space. Wear your shoes. If you have to pack extra footwear, choose wisely.
8. Cold climate?
What if you are traveling to a cold climate? Think layers rather than big bulky items. Think thermal tops, light woolen shirts and fleece jackets that you can take off when the weather gets warmer. Thin layers are more flexible and take up less space. In fact, an easy rule to follow is: if it is bulky, wear it. If you need two pairs of footwear such as boots and flats, wear the boots, pack the flats.
9. Avoid packing full outfits
Pack pieces that can be mixed and matched. I usually wear jeans which go with almost any top. and pack at least three tops + a pair of light pants or skirt to mix and match.
10. Packing toiletries
Pack travel-sized and in Ziplock bags to avoid leaking. Pack a loofah. Makes your soap last ten times longer. I use a hair and body wash that does away with packing soap, shampoo separately. Also, follow the airline’s rules for liquids or they’ll just throw your stuff out. If your travel is longish, buy what you need at your destination.
11. Don’t forget these
Hand sanitizer, water bottle, hygiene products (skip the tampons and sanitary napkins. Go green and switch to the cup.)
12. Avoid over-packing
It is just more stuff to worry about. Heavy luggage is annoying not just for you, but for others as well. You are likely to end up paying extra for overweight bags while stuck with the hassle of wasting time checking in and waiting for your luggage to arrive.
13. Don’t pack these
Which brings us to one of our most important packing tips. What should you skip packing?
- Thick paperback books. Switch to digital versions for your travel.
- Bulky shoes that hog space.
- Stuff your hotel will provide anyway.
- Gadgets you don’t need. Only pack those that multitask. For example, your smartphone that doubles up as a camera and has internet. Think twice before packing your laptop.
- Expensive jewelry. Heartbreaking to lose it.
14. Skip valuables in checked in baggage
Avoid packing your expensive valuables in checked in luggage. Always carry stuff you cannot afford to lose in your carry-on.
15. Make it easy to move around
Revisiting the first of our packing tips, remember the ground rule. Traveling with only a backpack and carry-on luggage somehow makes the trip easier as I will draw less attention to myself. It also makes it easier to visit the rest room. Seriously! Try maneuvering a suitcase into a cramped stall! It also makes it easier to fit into a luggage locker. Most of all, there’s a sense of confidence as I won’t have to depend on someone for help. And let’s face it—it feels good when people ask, “where is your suitcase?” and I smile and say this is all I am carrying. More freedom to focus on the travel itself than juggle extra luggage.
Travel should be about enjoying the experience, seeing the sights, the food and the people. Also, more exciting to explore the market and shop local when you need something, right?
- You really don’t need as much as you think you will.
- Remember, before you pack:
- Your destination.
- The climate there.
- The duration of your trip.
- Your itinerary.
- Activities planned.Keep in mind the following:
- Pack no more than backpack and if you cannot avoid it, a carry-on.
- Choose the right bag.
- Make a packing list.
- Avoid over-packing.
- Don’t pack what you don’t need.
- No matter how long your trip – pack a week of essentials.
- Always dress in layers.
- If it is bulky, don’t pack it-wear it.
- Avoid packing valuables in your checked-in baggage.
- Keep it simple – pack pieces, not full outfits so you can mix and match.
- Before flying, double check the airline’s rules about liquids, carry-on luggage size and weight.
What would you add to these packing tips for traveling light?
Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Tajawal. All opinions are mine.