Packing: The Worst Part of Travel
Arguably one of the most frustrating things about traveling is figuring out what to bring and how to fit it into your bag. But it doesn’t have to be that way. For frequent travelers, packing has become an art form.
In my experience, there are three methods that have worked the best:
1) Rolling your clothes
2) Folding your clothes into small rectangles
3) Using packing cubes
But before we get into the particulars, let’s start with the basics:
Maximize Your Wardrobe Options by Color-Coordinating
Many people tend towards a certain color or pattern and find that their closets are full of similar clothes. That’s great for travel because you can mix-and-match more efficiently. If your closet is more of a kaleidoscope, consider choosing a color-scheme when going on a trip. That way you will have more outfit options without taking extra clothes.
I like to take it a step further and bring primarily solid colors with one or two accent pieces. For instance, I’d bring plain tees/tanks and a colorful lightweight scarf.
But Where do You Start?
Lesson one: Pack ahead of time.
Give yourself at least a day in advance to pack. This way you can have time to remember what you’ve forgotten to pack before you’re on the plane.
Lesson two: Be logical.
Start by laying out everything you’re considering bringing. Then go through and make the most logical decisions: “this one doesn’t fit the color scheme”, “this one only matches one other thing”, “this one wrinkles easily”, “this one is too heavy”, etc.Obviously it’s important to check the weather where you’re going to see if you need certain extras like a raincoat, sunglasses, bathing suit, etc. I’ll never forget the story a friend told me of leaving rainy Scotland for sunny Australia with a bag full of Scottish-weather clothes. Don’t be that guy.
Lesson three: Downsize.
Ok, now you’ve narrowed it down and you’ve started putting clothes into the suitcase. Take one last look over your choices and take out at least two items. Keep in mind that planning your outfits ahead of time will make your life easier when you have to wear them — no indecision involved.
If you need formal wear, don’t take more than one pair of fancy shoes. Choose a neutral color that will go with everything. Take one or two pieces of jewelry — say, classic stud earrings that can be dressed up or down and one necklace and bracelet. Don’t take anything you’d be devastated to lose. Now is not the time to wear that heirloom piece from your great-grandmother.
Lesson four: Pack so you can see everything.
One of the reasons why I like the rolling and rectangle folding methods is because you can see everything in your suitcase at once. The downside to these methods is that it’s hard to keep your clothes neat. Once you start unpacking, everything kind of goes to shit (pardon my french).
On the other hand, using packing cubes allows you to only take out what you need at any given time. You can also re-use them for dirty clothes on the way back to keep your clean ones separate (or prevent them from touching dirty tennis shoes, etc).
I like to put one small cube with a quick change of clothes at the top of my suitcase in case I need to access it in the airport (spilled drink, sweated too much, decided to use an airport gym, etc etc). If you are checking a bag, it’s helpful to throw one of these in your carry-on so you’ll at least have clean underwear if your checked bag gets lost. I like to think of packing cubes as sandwich bags for clothes.
So What About Toiletries and Entertainment Items?
Go ahead and get a few zippered clear-plastic toiletry bags. Some airports will still require you to re-bag liquids in provided bags, but most don’t care as long as your bags are see-through. And remember, “liquid” is everything from spray-deodorant to liquid concealer to toothpaste and mouthwash. It’s a pain, but pack these things together. Lately I’ve been using a hanging toiletry bag. Very convenient if there’s not much counter space.
Minimize the number of liquids you’re bringing by opting for lipstick/chapstick instead of gloss, stick deodorant instead of spray or roll-on, bar-soap instead of liquid, face wipes instead of wash, etc etc. Consider using the provided soap/shampoo/lotion if staying in a hotel. Remember, you’ll be able to find a drug-store in most places you visit, so don’t bother with extras like nail polish remover or sunscreen (unless you know for sure you’re going to need it).
Bring an extra (small) bag. Like one of those canvas shoulder-bags that are so popular right now. Or a light-weight backpack. I like to pack my entertainment items in here so if I need to access them on the plane, I can just reach in the small bag instead of fishing around the whole big suitcase. You can also pull the whole bag from the suitcase once you’re on the plane if you want to (airlines like EasyJet only allow one carry-on with no personal items). Extra bag=easy access.Lose the camera bag. I bought a protective neoprene sleeve for my DSLR. It was easily the best travel-related purchase I have made. The sleeve fits snugly around the camera without all the bulk of a camera bag. Not to mention you can slip it into your backpack without worrying it’ll get scratched and without the big camera bag that screams “tourist”.Put your toiletries near the top of your bag. You’re going to have to take them out at security. Just make it easier for yourself, ok? On that note, zip-up your bag so the zippers are near the top, and if you’re bringing a laptop, make it as easily accessible as possible.
Avoid extra weight. Wear your heavy jacket and heaviest shoes on the plane. Bring an e-reader instead of a book or take advantage of the many book trade-in stores at airports. Check to see if there will be a hairdryer at your accommodation. Don’t bother with umbrellas. Travel-size everything from shampoo to your hairbrush.
What did I miss? Do you have any packing tips to share?
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