Traveling is a great way to relax, visit family and friends, and explore different lands and cultures. Some travelers pull out their luggage and start packing as soon as their vacation is booked. Others view packing as a daunting yet necessary evil and dread this aspect of travel altogether. Whether you are a seasoned traveler, or you are just beginning to explore the world beyond your front door, it’s worth keeping a few general principles of smart travel in mind while you’re planning your trip.
Do Your Research
Summers in Dubai can reach temperatures in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, yet revealing clothing is considered wildly inappropriate if worn in public places. In Barbados, the wearing of camouflage by non-military persons is illegal and subject to a fine. As these examples show, simply dressing for a stroll around the block can be fraught with local taboos and invisible expectations. Be sure to check the weather forecast and research local customs for your destination when considering what to bring, and try to avoid drawing undue attention from your hosts.
Though many airlines allow one carry-on bag per person free of charge, some may charge up to $100 for bags you carry with you. Verify your airline’s baggage policies for pricing and size limits to avoid extra costs at the airport. Also, familiarize yourself with the Transportation Security Administration’s list of prohibited items to help facilitate the screening process at the airport. Check the baggage policies for cruise ships as well. Certain restrictions apply to bringing alcoholic beverages on board.
When to Start Packing
Do not leave packing to the last minute. Instead, begin picking out what you want to take and set those items aside at least a week before your trip. Rushing will only make packing more stressful. You may end up with an overfilled suitcase, hobbling to the plane with a load of items you don’t need and still lacking things you do need. If you have children, take extra time to get their things ready.
Deciding What to Pack
Except for formal wear, try to avoid packing anything that can only be worn once. Choose pieces that pair well with others and can be worn in different ways. Solid-colored tops and neutral-colored bottoms are easily interchangeable and can be accessorized to create multiple looks.
Many hygiene and beauty products have multiple uses. Leave your foundation and sunscreen at home and opt for a tinted moisturizer with SPF. Try a shampoo-and-conditioner combination and let your shower gel double as a shaving cream. Share toothpaste and contact lens solution with those traveling with you.
Bring along a few small plastic bags to separate your clean clothes from those that are wet or soiled. Don’t forget your passport, prescription medications, and chargers for your electronic devices. If small children are traveling with you, have them bring along a toy or game to keep them occupied and quiet during the flight.
Determining What to Leave at Home
Since most hotels provide bedding, towels, and some personal care items, you can probably leave yours at home. Small toiletries can also be purchased as needed once you arrive at your destination. To maximize the space in your luggage, wear your bulkiest clothing and shoes while traveling instead of packing them into your suitcase. If possible, download electronic versions of reading material and leave the space-consuming books at home. Avoid packing valuables and unnecessary gadgets in your checked bag.
How to Pack Your Bags
Choose a durable, lightweight bag that’s large enough to hold your belongings. If you have to sit on the bag to zip it closed, consider removing some items before you reach for a larger suitcase. If you are really pushing your luggage to its limit, consider using vacuum-sealed bags like Ziploc Space Bags to increase interior space.
Roll up your socks and stick them inside your shoes. To protect your clothing, wrap your shoes in plastic bags and put them at the bottom of your luggage. Add your bulkier clothing items on top of your shoes and place your lighter pieces on top. Use any pockets in your suitcase and the spaces between your clothes to pack underwear. Try packing cubes like eBags to organize the inside of your suitcase and make unpacking a breeze.
If a friend or co-worker has previously traveled to the place you will be visiting, ask them for tips on what to include in your suitcase and what to leave behind. Smartphone applications such as PackPoint and Packing Pro can help you create and organize your packing list based on your destination and itinerary.
Of course, there is no one surefire way of packing. Every traveler and trip is unique. Experiment with different packing methods until you find one that best suits your personal style and needs. A little bit of forethought can do much to alleviate the stress of packing.