Packing tips

Assorted packing and luggage hints and hacks

Clothing tips

  • Cardinal rules for travel clothes:
    1. Nothing white
    2. Nothing that wrinkles
    3. Clothes you can layer
    4. Lots of pockets
    5. Very few
  • Remember: Clothes take up the most room in your bag, so be stingy with what you take. Take a maximum of 2–3 each of pants and shirts that can all mix and match together. » more

  • Believe me, it's easier to do a bit of laundry in your room every few nights than lug around a ton of extra clothing. Only your immediate traveling companions will know you've been wearing the same outfit for the past three countries. SocksT-Shirts, and underwear—the clothes that ripen quickly—are the easiest items to wash out and dry overnight.

  • Don't dress down. Urban Brits dress pretty snappily—not necessarily a Savile Row suit, but well nonetheless. While you should travel in whatever wardrobe makes you feel comfortable, you’ll probably be happier fitting in, so save the Bermuda shorts and sleeveless T-shirt for that trip to Hawaii.

  • Cover up in church. In many churches there is a strict dress code that forbids shorts, skirts above the knee, and bare shoulders. Some WILL NOT LET YOU IN if your bare knees and/or bare shoulders are visible. That means no shorts, no skirts above the knee, and no tank tops, sundresses, or other tops that bare your shoulders. Pack accordingly. (Hint: a silk shawl packs tiny, works as an emergency skirt or shoulder coverup, and doubles as an extra blanket during the plane ride.)

Toiletries and bathroom bag tips

  • I recommend a waterproof bathroom bag for the toiletries, but a gallon-sized Ziplock also works just fine.
  • Minimize toiletries spillage disasters by storing everything in resealable plastic baggies.
  • Maximize the tiny space inside a bathroom bag/toiletry kit by using sample sizes and by decanting shampoo and detergent into small, screw-top plastic bottles—bonus, this makes them TSA safe.
  • jumble together just enough pills—for pain, allergies, etc.—to last me into a single one of those plastic cylindars of travel-sized ibuprofen or Dramamine to make a personalized, pocket-sized pharmacy.
  • Keep all toiletries and cosmetics to a minimum. Perfume or cologne on the road become vain dead weights and spills waiting to happen (imagine everything in your bag drenched with Chanel no. 5).

Sundries tips

Luggage tips

  • To keep the bulk of your bag down, layer your thick sweaters and coats and such to wear on the plane (you can strip down once seated).
  • Some bags have zip-away straps and waist belts that convert the pack into a more respectable soft-sided suitcase for waltzing into your hotel lobby.
  • Whatever sort of pack or suitcase you choose, be sure to put a slip of paper with your name, home address, and destination inside each piece of luggage as well as attaching a sturdy luggage tag with a concealed address window to the outside (some criminals peruse visible luggage tags at the airport, collecting the addresses of people leaving on vacation).
  • Keep your valuables in your moneybelt, not in your luggage.
  • Get as many tiny travel locks you have zippered compartments on your pack and daypack. Make sure it is one of the special combination locks that have a red diamond-like symbol meaning they're TSA-friendly (baggage screeners carry a secret code and a special back-door key so they can open the lock if they feel the need to paw through your valuables and dirty undies). No, they are not going to stop a determined thief, but they will keep an opportunistic browser from pawing through your stuff.
  • Note that the TSA is considering once again will allow you carry small knives in your carry-on bag. However THIS RULE HAS NOT YET BEEN PUT INTO EFFECT (despite some early news reports to the contrary). For now, you will still need to pack any knife in your checked luggageHere are the official TSA regulations.
  • If you're traveling with others and plan to check your luggagedistribute everybody's stuff throughout all the bags, so no one is left in the lurch should any one suitcase disappear.
  • Many bags come with zip-off daypacks, which is an excellent idea (or bring a small backpack). Keep in it your first-aid kit, sections of your guidebooks you stripped out for the day's use, tissue packswater bottlejournal and pen, pocket knife (though not on the plane), and umbrella.
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