A weekend getaway, an afternoon picnic, even a 2-week vacation, the often overpowering urge to overpack for some is a genuine struggle. Women and men alike daydream about that perfect outfit (with matching accessories) set against the backdrop of a dream destination location. A cascading waterfall in a tropical forest somewhere in Asia, perched on top of a camel in the Sahara. The upsetting reality is, some paid professional has already taken that portrait of your dreams and honestly, you don’t need nearly as much as you think you do to travel the world.
After 2+ years of backpacking hundreds of thousands of miles, a journey that took me to all 7 of the World Wonders, and by default, across six continents, this Bag Lady is sharing a handful of priceless packing tips for the aspiring globetrotter in you.
You Don’t Need Everything
As a travel blogger, my thirst for adventure serves as the catalyst for my globetrotting. Restricted to only carrying a combined total of 90L of belongings I have become a packing connoisseur of sorts. That being said, let’s begin at the beginning.
As a Navy Corpsman, my father always told me that organization is your friend. So as it is in my life, it is in my travel. If forgetfulness is a concern, I recommend starting packing about a week before the trip begins. This will allow time to add/purchase/replenish necessities as they come to mind during the days leading up to the planned departure. Think about the itinerary and think about which outfits are best suited for the weather, culture, and activities that will fill your day. Picking clothing items that are interchangeable as well as stuffing things inside other things (an ace bandage wrap or a perfume bottle inside the toe of tennis shoe for example) can create the space for a few of those travel items that teeter on the border of need and want.
Once settled on your wardrobe, take half of it and put it away. You heard me. Bring only what you need. Anything else can be purchased (or borrowed) along the way.
As a backpacker, anticipating the climate is tricky, but oh so necessary. From sand to snow, pack all necessities (emphasis on the word necessities here) accordingly. If it is foldable or compact, consider it. If it is not, don’t. Simple. Compact go-to’s such as travel-sized umbrellas (or reusable ponchos) and a foldable windbreaker jacket accompany a swimsuit and bug spray in my personal pack. Packing smart is the name of this game, after all.
Of course, there are some items that this concept won’t apply to, yoga mats, for example. Be resourceful and brainstorm travel-friendly replacement items or consider purchasing or renting equipment once you’ve arrived at your destination. Prioritize packing clothing items with style as much as versatility. I tend to favor clothing with pockets and carry a backpack or a satchel with a shoulder strap, which makes it easier to stay hands-free. In certain regions of the globe where motorbike transport is the norm, this bit of advice is priceless.
Print, or save a tree and get digital copies of, essentials for all travelers including passport(s), visa(s), travel insurance details and boarding passes. Loading the location of accommodations, airports, bus/train stations, even designated embassies on any mobile map application of choice (maps.me is a personal preference because it can work offline) can reduce frustrating run-ins while coordinating navigation in a new location.
Take it one step further and plug in the international help or hotlines for credit cards and bank institutions into your contacts list and be ahead of the game should any untimely financial mishaps take place along the way. Speaking of finances, alert your personal bank of confirmed travel destinations and verify any limitations and/or fees for withdrawing cash on foreign soil. Charles Schwab offers a visa debit card with zero annual or currency conversion fees. What’s more, the card is widely accepted overseas because Chuck operates as an international bank. If that doesn’t convince you, Chuck also refunds all ATM fees you incur at the close of each month. This is the only card I strongly recommend during international travel.
Now that you’re ready to start packing like a pro, don’t forget to consider how you’re traveling (plane, train, bus, car) and pack a day bag with the same fervor. Be prepared for delays or long layovers with travel-sized toiletries, clean underwear, and any necessary device chargers. Applying these travel tips should make for a relatively stress-free travel experience.
Embrace a minimalist mentality while simultaneously embracing the unknown of your impending adventure. Anything can happen and that can be as exciting as it is terrifying. Have courage; feel the fear, do it anyway. Go out and explore the beautiful blue rock, just with far less luggage.