Pack light. You really don’t need to bring everything you own with you wherever you go. These days with the airlines charging for luggage we really just have to learn to scale it down. A good rule of thumb is one bag per person. When I traveled as a kid my parents said “You can take whatever you like as long as it fits in one bag and you can carry it yourself.” I think that might have been some of the best advice they ever gave me. And remember if you forgot something you really need – the odds are pretty good you can get it where you are going.
So here are my top 10 tips (not necessarily in any order) for light packing and yes some of them are stolen from things I’ve seen and read but really it’s not like I’m reinventing the wheel here…
1. Do your homework. Call or check the website for the hotel, motel, cruise ship, friend’s house or wherever you’ll be staying and ask if they provide a hairdryer, iron, ironing board, beach towels, bathrobes, sand toys—basically anything that’s bulky and that you’d rather leave at home. Most places even provide shampoo and conditioner and guess what … if there isn’t enough you can always ask for more.
2. Check temperatures and events at your destination. Only pack what you know you are going to need—do not bring “just in case” clothes. They only take up room and have to be washed at the end of your trip even when you didn’t wear them. Save yourself the time and space.
3. Choose a central color to pack around. A neutral such as brown, black, or tan is a good place to start, then bring accessories and accent pieces that go with this color palette. This way everything is mix and match and can be layered and changed around for different occasions. This also applies to shoes. They take up tons of space so one great pair of heels in black that goes with everything is a great space saver.
4. Don’t pack things you wouldn’t use at home.First-timers going abroad often make the mistake of thinking they are traveling to another planet and simply pack too much. This mistake might be due to the all the great travel gadgets available, but a good rule of thumb is if you don’t need it at home, you don’t need it while traveling.
5. Wash it out. If you’re traveling for more than a week, plan on washing clothes instead of bringing more. If you’re in a country with a good exchange rate, or aren’t on a tight budget, take advantage of the hotel laundry service or dry cleaning. Otherwise, bring travel sized bottles of laundry detergent and a travel stain stick and use the sink in your room to wash and shower to hang it dry. If you’re in a hot climate and have a balcony the sun works great too!
6. Write it down. Make detailed lists of everything you plan to bring. That way you can easily see if you’ve allotted six pairs of pants for a four-day trip. Note everything—including socks and underwear—and then stick to your list when packing. This is a big plus just in case your luggage gets lost. You can use the list to claim your missing items on your travel insurance or credit card or with the airline or cruise ship. Take a picture of your luggage too and keep it in your phone. This way if it goes missing you can easily identify it to others.
7. Downsize toiletries. Pick up travel-size versions of your favorite products whenever you see them, not just when you’re getting ready to travel. If you can’t find miniatures, buy small plastic bottles and decant from larger products. As for makeup – the makeup counter at your local department store will happily give you samples of your favorite foundation (in tiny bottles) for you to try before you buy. They will also give you a few extra small bottles to “bottle your own” and bring with you. These are tiny and take no room at all and can hold a 2-3 day supply (if not more depending). Ask for them, and get your free gifts when you can. These are usually filled with small bottles of moisturizer, mascara, and lip glosses/sticks and small sizes of eye shadow. They are perfect for travel and usually come with a makeup bag to hold them in.
8. Wear your heaviest shoes, sweater, and jacket. That way, you don’t have to pack them. If you do wear flip flops or sandals on the plane (sometimes they are the only shoes I bring) take a pair of socks to wear on the flight – planes get cold and cold feet are just no fun.
9. Pack outside your bag. Before you actually pack your suitcase, pile everything you plan to bring on your bed or dresser. This is your opportunity to eye your clothes and cull a few more items. If you pack directly into your suitcase, you’ll be tempted to throw in a few extra items.
10. Keep your electronics to a minimum. That goes for chargers and convertors as well. Combine where you can and don’t bring what you don’t need. The less you bring the less likely you’ll loose track of your expensive items. Note that there are great international convertors that have more USP slots as well as ac/dc so you can charge more then one item at a time – if you’re buying consider that as it saves space and takes full advantage if you’re on a cruise ship which has limited plugs in the cabin.
And again Buy stuff there. Since you’re not going to the Moon, you will be able to find things on your trip that you can not only use while you are gone, but once you bring them home will become souvenirs!