I have traveled a lot. I visited all 50 states, about 58 countries and 6 continents. I have traveled enough to know how to pack and what to pack. This blog will give you some of the tips and tricks I have learned over the years, and is updated from my original blog in 2016.
Pack what you need, but no more. This is the most important rule. Inexperienced travelers traditionally overpack. Today, this is going to cost you in terms of excess baggage charges, or worse yet, a missing bag because you could not carry it on and it was delayed because you checked it.
Calculate how many days you plan to be gone, and figure out how many outfits needed. Compile a list in advance. Segregate those clothes in a separate area starting the week before the trip, so you know what you might need to buy, wash or locate. Start at your feet and continue to your head, thinking about all of the clothing items you will need. Be sure to check out the dress requirements (climate, activities, special events) ahead of time and find those items. On a recent cruise, there was a white hot night (all white clothes) and an 80s party, so I packed specific items for these events. Figure out what you need in sports equipment that you cannot or do not want to rent. Consider the cost of baggage fees (to and from) as it might be cheaper to rent equipment than to carry on.
If you travel often, put together a bathroom kit with everything in small sizes that you need (shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste)when you travel. Include items like a small sewing kit, earplugs, over the counter medicines like pain relief and upset stomach. Keep this in your suitcase even when you are home. After a trip, replace any items used so you don’t find them missing on the next trip out. Keep all your gels and liquids in a one quart bag with bottles that contain no more than 3 oz. Make sure it is accessible in your luggage for removal during screening. This is true also for any electronics larger than a cell phone.
Travel with color coordinated clothes you can mix and match. Limit the colors you take so that you can pull this off effectively.
Mark up your luggage with tape or ribbon so that it will not be mistaken for another similar looking bag. Make the marking a bright color that is easy to spot from a distance while riding around the airport carousel.
Roll up your clothes to keep the wrinkles to a minimum. Start at the bottom of the item and roll to the top after you have done your initial folding of sleeves, etc. Your appearance will be better since you will reduce wrinkles in your clothes. You dont want to spend your vacation ironing!
If you have a smartphone, leave most of your other gadgets at home. Your smartphone doubles as a map, alarm clock, music player, camera, flashlight, web browser, email communicator, etc. You really do not need to pack an extra GPS, for example. But if you plan to use your smartphone for a GPS, pack a cigarette lighter charger with your smartphone cable, or an external battery as the GPS function will drain your battery fast. I recommend carrying two charging cords and two chargers in case one gets lost or damaged. Of course, if you are traveling to a photographic intensive destination or are a serious photographer, then by all means carry your photo equipment, but skinny down on the accessories to only the ones you will need.
Check your airline baggage size and weight requirements on their website and measure and weigh your luggage before you head to the airport. Airlines have strict luggage weight requirements for checked luggage and some have weight limits for carry on luggage also. Baggage fees change often and depend on airline, passenger status, type of aircraft, type of luggage, credit card used, and destination. If you do not have a baggage scale, use your bathroom scale, for a close approximation. First weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding the bag and subtract to find the weight of the bag alone. If you are over, consider repacking or choose to accept the fees.
And finally, when you get back home, survey what you used and what you did not. Make a mental note to pack less next time. If you keep a standard bathroom kit in your luggage, now is the time to replenish the items you used on the trip.
Your reward for packing lighter is less strain when you carry your bag, less baggage fees, less dealing with lost luggage and less hassle.
Road Warriors: Do you have any additional suggestions on packing? Please feel free to leave a comment here!