Here is another post giving some travel tips. This one focuses on what you should (and shouldn’t ) pack when setting off on an adventure.
In my mind’s eye I am an “easy-breezy” traveller. I am wearing an ethically produced maxi dress, beautiful wrap sandals holding my wide brimmed hat in one hand, my large but not oversized beautiful travel bag hooked over my other arm and my cute but not miniscule crossbody bag draped over my torso.
I would have a physical book with an engaging yet lighthearted storyline and I’d be contentedly nibbling on a healthy home made pinterest worthy snack bar while waiting on my next flight.
I would be the envy of all other travellers. They would whisper to themselves “Look at her, she’s so casual, so worry free, traveling so light”
Sadly, I have more often than not, NOT been this type of traveler. I have been the one with two overstuffed duffle bags literally filled with useless nonsense, struggling and panting to get from one gate to another, who despite having packed everything but the kitchen sink, left the one thing I really need at home . But I am getting better, much better, so much better that I made a 10 day trip to Costa Rica last November with only one large carryon and one hand bag. YASSSS!
Packing heavy isn’t just physically and mentally taxing, it can cost you. It means maximum luggage fees, it means having to repurchase the crap you forget to pack and sometimes leaving things you’ve spent money on behind.
So I am going to share a few “packing light” tips and I hope it helps.
1) Travel Documents
Don’t leave home without them or you won’t get very far. Most of us need our passport to get around but don’t forget other supporting documents such as work permits, residency letter etc.
Additionally, check well in advance about Visa requirements prior to travelling.
2) Prescription Medications
Again, just don’t leave home without them. If you are on potentially life saving medication such as insulin, thyroid meds, asthma inhalers etc please make sure you pack this stuff.
Unlike OTC drugs that you can stroll into any pharmacy, gas station or even book store and purchase, most pharmacists will not issue prescription, meds without a prescription. This means if you forget your stuff you will have to go pay and wait to see a doctor in order to get the prescription written. This can take a chunk of time not to mention money out of your vacation.
Just as important as the first two on this list. Even if you have your passport and your medication, if you don’t have a dollar or cent to spend, you are in proverbial duck’s guts. Be sure to pack these three things FIRST!
4) Electronic equipment
We live in the digital age (that is what we call it right?) and our electronic devices are just as much a part of our lives now as food and water. Be sure to pack your electronics as needed. So if you don’t think you’ll need your laptop for the next 4 days, leave it or if you never use your tabet then forget it. Be sure however, to remember your camera, go pro and any other important photography equipment for your awesome trip!
5) (Mini) Cosmetics/ Makeup
Mini is the important word here. Precisely what you need is rather subjective. I might need skin moisturizer but not shower gel, someone else might need 6 hair products but no mouthwash .(I’m not judging)
The real key, is the amount. Even on a fairly long trip; >10 days you don’t use a full container of any product so you don’t need to carry it. Most fullsized containers are well over the carryon allowance of 3 FL Oz (100mL) and it means you will have to check your luggage which for most carriers will cost you.
So, it is worthwhile to carry mini sizes of most of your cosmetics. Most pharmacies, supermarkets etc sell these pint sized versions of your favorite cosmetics for under $3 each and for certain items like deodorant and hairspray I recommend buying them.
But in an effort to be more money conscious I recommend investing in a set of mini empty containers. You can fill them up with small amount of your full sized products instead of having to buy a mini. This is more cost effective ultimately.
As for makeup (if you wear it) select a few items that create a number of looks for the time you’ll be travelling. You don’t need 3 eyeshadow pallets or 12 liquid lip colors for 5 days!
Of course this is a must have. If you are going anywhere for longer than 24 hours, you’ll need a change of clothes. You’ll need underwear, actual clothing not to mention jewelry, shoes and accessories.
This is definitely a situation of less being more. Try to coordinate your outfits in advance selecting pieces you can mix and match maximizing each one. For example in a 4 or 5 day trip I may only need two bottoms, 3 tops and a dress. Be even more minimal when it comes to accessorizing. You can probably get away with one pair of shoes (plus the ones you travel in) , one bag and just a few jewelry pieces.
My mother will legitimaly pack 3 different pairs of shoes and about 10 bracelets to go with each outfit because she couldn’t make up her mind.( She is that traveller with 2 overweight suitcases trying to smuggle an extra carryon piece) Don’t do it!
7) Emergency kit
As easy as it may be to find painkillers or bandaids when on vacation , they may be pricier as you will likely be purchasing from a souvenir shop or you may not find the brand you want.
I usually carry along a little pouch with some emergency nessecities. Note I said LITTLE. Again it’s all about moderation. In my emergency kit I carry a few ibuprofen tablets, a couple antihistamines, a few alcohol swabs and a bandaid or two.
I have seen a certain family member who shall remain nameless (cough* my mother* cough) pack a first aid kit so massive I swore there was an actual defibrillator in it. (There wasn’t ). Unless you are going hiking or exploring some other dangerous terrain where you need a proper first aid kit you won’t need anything so elaborate as to include abdominal gauze and actual bottles of alcohol. If you really require that stuff then you should probably be in an Emergency room.
8) Book/Magazine/Art/Craft supplies
So you love to read or do crossword or sudoku or whatever the kids are doing these days.Maybe you are a hobby artist. Going on vacation for many means having time to relax and do something they really enjoy (like reading) so by all means take your hobby items along. Just not too much.
I am guilty of this. I read quickly and I’m constantly afraid of finishing a book and having nothing else to read for the remainder of my trip. I can say without a doubt this has almost NEVER happened. Take 1 book, or one crossword or one roll of crochet thread and one needle. Not five or six. You will overload yourself and probably not use half the stuff anyway.
This is another thing you don’t need but it can be reasonable to travel with. Perhaps you like a very specific protein bar that you eat every morning at 10 am and you don’t think you can get it where you are going. By all means pack a few. Not ALL. Maybe you have layover and 3 flights to get to your final destination and you want to carry something to sustain you along the way, sure go ahead and pack a bag of chips and an apple.What you don’t need to do is prepare a 3 course meal and portion it out into plastic containers (I have actually seen this). Keep it light.
Towels and paper toiletries
When I was very little, we traveled with our towels. Then, on the last day had to pack a moist towel on top of our clothing. You don’t need this in your life. Most hotels and even many hostels will provide clean fresh towels and toilet paper. If they don’t, check out and get far away, very far away.
This is the whole point of this post. You only need what you need. Always think about that when you find yourself wanting to pack something “just in case” You don’t need extra clothing, you don’t need extra snacks, you don’t need extra shoes and purses. I often find myself feeling more flustered than comfort when I am over packed and over burdened with stuff.
These are those items we can often overlook or leave until the absolute blessed end and then forget.
This is a pet peeve of mine. It happened to me so many times I’ve lost count. You step out of the airport into the sun and bam! Corneas scorched! All because you forgot to toss your sunglasses on top of your stuff. Now you have to decide whether you are going to spend a chunk of your cash on new ones, overpay at a souvenir kiosk for likely poor quality ones or spend the rest of your days with your hand over your eyes.
This might sound weird to some but I have never regretted traveling with an umbrella. Not once. I have a small one that easily fits in my hand bag. This is especially important if you’re travelling someplace with a high chance of rainfall. I am that person that whenever it begins to pour I pop out my umbrella and keep moving only to find one or two persons (who I don’t know) nestled up beside me sharing my umbrella. Don’t be a nestler!
Electrical cords/Backup memory cards and batteries
It should go without saying that when you travel with electronics you carry the cords. I have never left one of mine behind but I know so many unfortunate persons who have. Then you are faced with a similar dilemma to the sunglasses situation.
To ensure I don’t forget any of these items I have a highly organised mental travel checklist that I won’t allow myself to step through the door without checking off twice. If you don’t entirely trust your mental faculties I recommend a written (paper or electronic) list to make sure you have all that you need and nothing more.
I hope you’ve found some useful tips, travel light and have an awesome day!