The life of a world traveler can be filled with obstacles that you must learn from and overcome. There are problems on every trip that you cannot plan for, but there is a way you can make your trips run more smoothly and more enjoyable – packing wisely means less luggage trouble, allowing you to focus on creating memories instead of lugging around heavy suitcases. This is a must-have list of the top 15 tips that every backpacker and traveler should keep in mind when preparing for globe trotting adventure.
1. Pack a Fraction of What You Think You Need
It is human nature to try to pack everything that fits in your bag instead of trying to pack only what you need. Most people try to plan for “what-ifs” and end up bringing superfluous clothes that never end up being touched. Bring only enough clothes for one week, and only staples that you know you will wear all the time.
2. Buy Things Along the Way
It can be intimidating to imagine trying to search local markets for necessities like shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste, but these extra items can take up a lot of space in your bag, and are actually easily purchased no matter where you go, often cheaper than in the US. Bring only things you definitely cannot get abroad, like prescription lenses, dental care items like retainers, and any special medications.
3. Leave the Entertainment Items at Home
Items like books and laptops can be something that most people wish to have with them while traveling, but they add unnecessary bulk and are often easily replaced. If using a travel guide, it is better to photocopy the pages that you need the most and pack them instead of lugging around a book. Laptops can be useful but heavy, and almost everywhere in the world has wi-fi and computers for public use now. If you must bring some technology, bring an Ipod that you can load audiobooks on to and use to relax when en route to places or hanging out in the hotel room.
4. Condense Your Items
When traveling through airports, the hassle of checking luggage and claiming it at baggage claim can take hours of adventuring off of a trip. Instead, make sure that everything you pack fits in one carry-on bag so that you can quickly make a getaway and begin your travels when you land.
5. Prepare for Security
No matter where you go, in this new security-heightened world your items will definitely be inspected, and you want to make it as quick and painless as possible. Keep all suspicious items such as nail clippers and the like in a smaller removable bag so that you can send it through the x-ray machines separate from everything else. This will allow officials to find these items faster and keep you moving through security.
6. Use the Snail-Mail Systems
Buying souvenirs can be a great way to remember that once-in-a-lifetime trip, but carrying them all around as you travel from country to country can be a pain on your back and slow you down on your adventure time. Instead, mail the items home as often as you can. Mailing items is often cheaper in foreign countries, and the items will be waiting for you when you arrive home from your travels.
7. Lose the Tourist Image
Nothing will scream tourist more than wheeling around huge bags of luggage. This will make you easy to identify as someone who does not belong in the area, making it easier for them to take advantage of you. You can be overcharged by locals who know you will pay the prices, especially for cabs and porters, and you can also become a target for robberies if they know you are foreign. Be smart, and carry only a lightweight bag.
8. Reuse So You Can Reduce
When at home you don’t want to wear most things more than one day in a row because you see the same people every day. However, on a trip you will be surrounded by strangers, and it is ok to wear the same things for a few days in a row, or to mix and match so that you can use a few items longer than packing a change of clothes for every day.
9. Sinks Are a Traveler’s Best Friend
Many of the items that a traveler pack’s that DO get dirty are often lightweight articles that are worn closer to the body, like t-shirts, underwear, and socks. The good thing about these items is that they dry quickly, and can be washed in a hotel sink and set out to dry, also reducing the changes of clothes you have to bring.
10. Layer Away
It is better to bring a few lighter items that can be rolled into a smaller shape instead of a bulky heavyweight coat. This allows for space saving, and also lets you change your outfits as you travel to different climates, instead of relying on one coat for all weather conditions.
11. Ditch the Sleeping Bag
No matter how cheap the place you’re going is, chances are that there is going to be bedding there. A sleeping bag is similar to a heavy coat in that it’s bulky and won’t get much use. Everywhere from hostels to hotels has bedding, if not free than for a very nominal price, and it is worth it to save your back from lugging around the extra weight.
12. Forget the Formal Wear
Back to the human instinct to prepare for every situation. Unless you know that you are traveling to go to black-tie events and business dinners, it isn’t necessary to pack formal clothes. Have one outfit that could work if you choose to go to a nice restaurant or show, and make sure that it can be mixed and matched with other things.
13. Remember the Local Culture
It is important to remember that not all places dress the same as Americans do. Most religious places have modest dress codes, so it is important to remember to pack a few items that are not too skimpy or revealing. Alternatively, you can take inspiration from the locals and purchase a few outfits from a new country, adding a little cultural flair to your wardrobe.
14. Divide and Conquer
Separate your items into sections in your backpack. Buy a few plastic bags, or recycle them from market, and keep everything divided so that you can find something quickly if you need it. Organization is key when using such limited space to carry all of your belongings, and it is better to have everything divided up than jumbled into a mishmosh in your bag.
15. Footwear Faux Pas
Keep in mind that you do not need to bring shoes for every kind of situation in the same way that you do not need clothes for every event. A good sturdy pair of shoes is a must for a traveler who will be trekking across countries. Make sure that they are waterproof, comfortable, and warm. Cheap rubber sandals can be purchased almost anywhere and disposed of when leaving for use in showers and such.
Follow these tips and you will have a much easier and smarter journey! Enjoy your travels, and remember: PACK LIGHT!
David is co-founder at www.CreditCardCompare.com.au, which is a top credit card comparison website for Australians where he writes in-depth reviews of the frequent flyer rewards credit cards that help you build airline loyalty points.