Traveling 101: What to Pack and Not to Pack According to the Experts (Slideshow)
August 2, 2016
Carrying too much baggage? Allow us to lighten your load with these vacation packing tips
Like most people, I enjoy a good book every now and then, and have even had my life changed by a few. For instance, after reading Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal a few years ago, I discovered it was a perfect replacement for the broken leg of my sofa — and I’ve been living a much more satisfying, balanced life ever since. But bringing a bulky, heavy book on a trip nowadays is insanity, especially after the invention of the Kindle. Sure, there are a few minor drawbacks to e-readers (I’ve never once said, “I dropped my book, and now it’s broken!” or “My book’s battery died,” because I enjoy life outside of the looney bin), but the extra space and the lighter load will be much more valuable. This goes for guidebooks, too, since most hotels have Internet access. And a knowledgeable staff. (Remember human conversation? There’s a blast from the past.)
Skip: Clothes for Every ‘What If’ Scenario
When it comes to packing different outfits, most of us could stand to be a bit more practical. Sure, your trip to London could include Queen Elizabeth asking you to dine with her at Buckingham Palace, but it’s not especially likely. Instead, pack some versatile items. Dark jeans can be worn with a T-shirt at the park or with a button-down or nice blouse at dinner. The right polo or skirt can also be used for almost any occasion from beach to brunch. A light- or medium-weight jacket can be supplemented with additional layers. Smart and sensible shoes can be worn for a variety of situations. And believe it or not, almost every country sells clothes in some capacity, so you can always buy an outfit if a totally unexpected emergency emerges.
Skip: Shampoo Bottles
Bringing full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and sunscreen are a complete waste of valuable space and valuable arm strength — yet this is something people still do all the time. Even if you’re checking a bag while flying (which you’ll need to do in order to get so much liquid onboard), it’s still worth investing in a few small, refillable bottles. Not only are they TSA-friendly, but you can limit the amount of shower and sun liquids to only what you’ll need for your trip. Or, better yet, forgo bringing these products altogether. If you need a large amount, you can almost always buy it at your destination. If you need just a small amount, your hotel can likely provide enough to get you through your stay. They may not be your favorite brands, but we promise the difference in shine and bounce won’t ruin your trip.
You know most hotels provide towels, right? Sure, they’ve probably been used by 1,000 people before you, but the industrial-strength detergent and boiling, lava-hot water is enough to cleanse away all the dirt, germs, and probably the color, too. (Why do you think all hotel towels are white?) If you’re really untrusting, at least pack a light, compact, and quick-drying microfiber towel, lest you have to re-pack a towel that’s not quite dry and end up lugging around a bunch of heavy, useless, non-drinkable water.
Plus, if you’re staying with friends or family, they’ll almost certainly have towels for you to use. If not, forget them. Life’s too short to associate with selfish towel hoarders.
Here’s a handy exercise: Pack normally, and then consider how many things you’ll want to eventually store in your in-room safe. Then unpack all those things and leave them at home. This includes unnecessary electronics like bulky cameras and video recorders (your smartphone should hopefully already have these things), expensive jewelry (especially if you might only wear it once), and anything with an abundance of sentimental value that might still be treasured by thieves with no feelings. So skip bringing your giant laptop on your next flight or your $20 million Heart of the Ocean necklace on your next cruise — you’re just going to end up throwing it into the sea anyway.
In the old days of travel (like when people use to get around on the backs of dinosaurs à la The Flintstones), adapters were generally useless on short trips. But now that every Tom, Dick, and Harry (or Thomasina, Delores, and Harriet) has a smartphone in which they store their entire lives, adapters are a bit more handy. Thankfully, globe-trotting no longer requires a different adapter for every country or continent, as you can now buy a single adapter that does the work of all your previous ones.
Take: First-Aid Kit
We’re not advocating bringing along two pairs of crutches, an arm sling, and enough pharmaceuticals to take down a bull elephant, but a few painkillers, some Band-Aids, a bit of hand sanitizer, and the all-important Imodium can easily save a trip, if needed. Oh, and also any necessary medications you regularly need to take. Please don’t forget those.
Take: Solid Luggage Tags
In recent years, airlines have gotten much better at not accidentally losing luggage. However, we still suspect that they send every 100th bag to a random location just for fun. If this happens, don’t just rely on the airline to track down your bag — after all, they’re the ones who lost it in the first place! (That’s like going back to the same barber to fix a totally botched haircut. Or asking a surgeon to remove the forceps he left inside you during an operation.) Instead, invest in a GPS- or QR-equipped bag tag to keep track of it yourself or to help a kind employee or stranger return your bag to you (after they’ve opened it and realized you didn’t pack anything valuable). At the very least, you should have a sturdy tag capable of withstanding some transit abuse. If you only have one of those flimsy paper versions they give away for free at the airport, you might as well just rip it off at the beginning of your trip and save some time.
Take: Travel Organizer
No, we’re not referring to the money-belt (both around-the-waist and around-the-neck models) that you’ll wear once before deciding it looks and feels exactly as uncomfortable and awkward as you suspected. This accessory is instead a way to keep your passport, travel documents, cash, and credit cards in one place instead of stuck haphazardly in a variety of suitcase pockets. Sure, having everything together will make it easier for thieves to rob you of the most important items that you’re bringing all at once, but this is where that in-room safe comes into play.
Take: Well-Packed Suitcase
Sometimes it’s not so much what you pack, but how you pack it. Studies have repeatedly shown that rolling your clothes can indeed save valuable suitcase space. Plus, it will help avoid the wrinkles that result from folding. If you’re not ready to roll, consider buying vacuum-pack bags that will help eliminate all that useless air. (They probably have plenty of air at your destination anyway.) Varieties exist nowadays that don’t require an air-pump or sealing machine, like these Travel Space Bags from Ziploc that utilize a one-way airflow system. You can also eliminate wasted space by storing stuff in your shoes… when you’re not wearing them, that is.