Packing Tips Made Simple

Packing is something that gets more and more difficult as the size and weight limits go down and airlines start charging for every bag you check. On a recent trip to Africa, we had to limit our checked bags to 35lbs, but we were going to be traveling for six weeks. So in this post I am going to share some packing tips, some maybe familiar to you and some may not.

I think everybody knows what type of clothes to bring for a trip but more often than not most people over-pack. If you get home from a vacation and you find that you have not worn more than 75% of what you packed than you are an over-packer and just carried 25% of the weight of your suitcase on vacation for nothing.

So my first tip on packing is to really evaluate what you need and look for articles of clothing that have dual purposes, long pants that can be zipped off to make short pants or a blouse that can be used with multiple pants or a skirts.

Layout everything that you think you want in your suitcase a day or two early than try to remove articles of clothing as you evaluate what you need.  If you are going somewhere where it maybe or will be cold, layer your clothing. Rather than taking a large bulky jacket, take a sweater and a lighter jacket.

As you pack your suitcase, roll your clothes, rolling your clothes will make them compact and will reduce wrinkles. If you have pressed clothes, fold them with the dry cleaning plastic on them, also a tip to prevent wrinkles. Bring a packet or two of individual laundry soap. In a pinch you can wash a article of clothing in your bathroom sink, ring it out inside a towel and let it drip dry. This is really good for reducing the number of undergarments you need.

Always carry a change or two of clothing and “must have” toiletries on your carry-on bag. If the airline loses your bag, you will be thrilled that you have them. An airline lost our bags one time and it was three days before we got them back.

On any trip but certainly international trips you should consider the following:

A small flashlight – (I like the Mag Lights because they are small but powerful). I have always felt that when you need a flashlight, you need it NOW. These lights can be carried on a carry-on, in a purse, in a backpack or even in your pocket but are powerful enough to light up a dark room or a path.

 Multiple pens – I think you should spread pens throughout your luggage. Like the flashlight, when you need a pen, you need a pen NOW. Also our ball point pens are a luxury in some countries, other countries pens tend to break, leak or stop writing. They can be a nice thank you to a clerk, salesperson, waiter, etc.

Plastic bags – Always carry a small roll of 1gal plastic zip lock bags. Why? Refer to 1 & 2, when you need it you need it NOW. Something is leaking, something is wet that you have to put in your luggage, something is broken and you want to save the pieces, you want to collect something and keep them together, you have a kid who is about to throw up or you just walked into the airport and realized that you have some liquids in your purse or carry-on.

Money – Do not carry travelers checks, they are difficult to cash and are a general pain in the a**. Carry enough cash to get food, airport expenditures and for your first couple of hours in country and a little extra, then rely on a debit card that has international access (Interlink, Plus, Star) for additional funds. Why? You will get the best exchange rate because you are going directly through your bank, if someone steals your bank card they don’t have your PIN number so it is not like they stole all your cash, and bank teller machines are everywhere, yes even in developing countries. You also have a better record of when and where you spent your cash.

Medical supplies – Antibiotic, Aspirin (along with another pain reliever), Band-Aids, anti-diarrhea, laxative, Benadryl, sleeping pills. Why?

  • Antibiotic – When you get sick in a foreign country usually trying to get non-emergency medical help as a tourist is a nightmare. Most sickness is caused by bacteria (if it is caused by a virus there is nothing you can do about it anyway) and the net result of going to a doctor is going to be that they will give you an antibiotic anyway.
  • Aspirin is important because besides being a pain reliever it could be a life saver if you have a heart attack in a foreign country.
  • The anti-diarrheal and laxative are self explanatory.
  • Benadryl – Can be used for sinus problems or can also be a life saver if someone has an allergic reaction to something.
  • Sleeping pills (optional) – when you get a room in a loud spot or on a long flight, these can be lifesavers too.

While in many foreign countries I will step into a pharmacy because most foreign countries do not have the restrictions that the US has and you can find perscription drugs for a much lower cost and no perscription required.