The art of packing is tricky. You don’t want to overpack, because then you end up carrying all that extra weight around. You don’t want to under pack because it can easily get expensive and you waste precious travel time running around trying to find stuff that you already have at home.
So here are my general guidelines for packing less (items 1-3 listed below can be packed in one 21″ roll aboard bag):
Buy the travel size of the basics and leave them in your suitcase when you put it away. We leave our toiletry kits in our suitcases. They just stay packed all the time. This way, we don’t have to search for them when it’s time to leave for our next trip, but having designated small travel bottles seriously saves on space. Make sure you have all of your liquids sealed in a plastic bag or some other water tight solution so that you don’t ruin your clothes if something spills or explodes due to expanding air pressure in the air.
Replace or refill travel toiletries when you unpack after a journey. I am notorious for forgetting contact solution. However, our last few trips we haven’t had this problem because I have refilled the travel bottle as soon as we returned home rather than trying to find it in the middle of the night while we are out on the road somewhere.
Ladies, leave your hair dryer at home – nearly all hotels have one in the room or one you can borrow from the front desk. It may not be as good as the one you have at home but you don’t need all that extra weight and space taken up in your bag.
Bring clothes that all “go” together. Ladies, pack tops that will go with all your skirts, pants and shorts. I usually have grey, black or tan (just one of those colors) as a base color. This doesn’t mean I bring all black, it just means everything should go with black. This way it’s easier to get more usage out of less clothes. If your purse, shoes, wallet etc. all are one basic color then you need less. Men, all the same applies to you minus skirts and purses.
Neutral colors also draw less attention when you are in foreign country, making you less of a target for pickpocketers. Plan to do laundry on the road if your trip is more than five days – it’s not as expensive as you think (even in expensive hotels) and certainly not as expensive as an extra checked bag fee.
Do your homework, and pack for the weather. Hanoi in January can be cold. Alaska in July can be blazing hot. Check the forecast a few days before you go and throw in a lightweight rainjacket (unless you are trekking through the Sahara) just in case. Pack layers. That way if its hot you can shed and if its cold you can just add on more.
Wear/bring good shoes. You never know how much walking you may end up doing. We rarely ever rent cars when we travel (more about that in another post). Getting the most out of your destination while traveling usually requires quite a bit of walking. A good pair of walking shoes is a must – but try to limit it to one or two pairs of shoes at the most (not counting flip-flops). Shoes add a significant amount of weight.
I recommend the following items be carried with you in your “personal item” bag that can go under the seat in front of you or in a small regional jet overhead in case you are forced to gate check your 21″ roll aboard bag due to space constraints
Reading and Entertainment
Books and magazines used to comprise a significant part my suitcase weight. Now I just carry an ereader. I prefer the Kindle because I can download out of the US. If you use another, simply know that you may need to download your books before you leave the country.
Your laptop, tablets and any important work documents should always be carried on your person. Keep the cords in your personal item as well – you may need to charge up if you get delayed.
Warm jackets, hats, gloves, etc should always be carried on your person if you are switching climates. Nothing could be worse than traveling from a summer climate to a winter climate and having all of your warm outer wear lost in checked luggage that got lost between connections in Bangkok or Dubai.
Passport and High Value Items
These are a no-brainer. NEVER allow these items to be out of your sight or more than an arms reach away.
Spare Change of Clothes
In the event that your roll aboard gets sniped due to space restrictions as a result of being stuck in Boarding Group/Zone 5 or because you’re boarding a regional jet, you should always have a spare change of essential clothes (shirt, socks, underwear) in your personal item.
Bottom line: traveling is much less complex when you bring less, rather than more. You’ll be able to navigate public transportation easier and avoid the risk of losing your bags enroute.