After years of trial and error, I’ve learned that with a little preparation, a few key items and a couple of strategies when packing, life is made so much easier on the road. If you want to be more organised, prepared, save space and weight when travelling, these essential travel-packing tips may come in handy.
Use Zip Lock Bags
Taking a few different sizes of re-sealable bags is a good idea on any trip. Big zip lock bags are invaluable for separating clean and dirty clothes, underwear, shoes and wet stuff, like bathers. Since these bags are transparent, you can easily identify what you need, when you open your case. You will also need a big zip lock bag if you intend taking toiletries on-board your flight (maximum size is 100ml for liquid and gels). Small or medium bags come in handy for sealing up toiletry items to protect them from leaking, transporting cotton buds, bandaids or anything else you might want to keep together, and dry.
Take Two Wallets
I find having two wallets whilst travelling works really well for me. I take a small wallet with me when I go out sightseeing, only carrying minimal amounts of cash and a travel card on my person. The larger wallet, I keep in the safe or hidden in a separate bag back at my accommodation. This one contains backup cash, a backup travel card, credit card, passport, spare passport photos and photo memory cards. So, if your wallet unfortunately gets stolen or you lose it whilst out and about, you have all you need as a backup in the larger wallet and you don’t lose a substantial amount. When I am going from A to B, for example when catching flights or buses, I keep the two wallets in different bags. There is no point separating your valuables into two wallets if you carry both of them in your handbag – and it gets snatched.
Keep Photo Memory Cards Separate From Your Camera
If you take your happy snaps on a camera and are not able to backup your photos immediately to the cloud or to your IPad, with a lightening cable for example, it is a good idea to keep your full used memory cards well away from your camera. Store memory cards in your second wallet or another area of your luggage, until they can be uploaded. That way, if your camera case goes missing, you don’t lose all your photos as well.
Carry A Medical Kit
No matter what trip I’m leaving on, I always take the basics of a medical kit. Sometimes I find myself cursing the extra weight and space, yet there have been times when I have needed something basic but immediately – and to my relief I have had it in the kit. At these times, I am almost grateful for the injury or health concern as I can happily justify being so prepared! It’s a bit like paying insurance for things, it can seem like a waste but if something happens, the simple precaution seems invaluable.
The more remote and less developed I go, the bigger the kit.
For all basic trips I take:
- Aspirin – good to gargle for sore throats or ward off fever
- Ibuprofen – to relieve sore muscles from hauling luggage, headaches and a possible hangover!
- Antiseptic Throat lozenges – I find that on flights, especially long-haul, my throat gets dry and being around other people’s germs, lozenges seem to ease any discomfort and help ward off nasty bacteria
- Band aids – cuts or blisters are not uncommon whilst travelling
- Antiseptic spray – always comes in handy for skin problems or cuts
- Aloe Vera – all round miracle soother and also good as after-sun relief if you get burnt
- Gastro stop – we all hope we don’t come to need this but I have been caught out and it was not fun. Now I make sure I always have a couple of tablets with me
- Sleeping tablets – I have gone off taking sleeping tablets on planes as it can serve to make me feel lousy. I bring them all the same, just in case I change my mind, or later have trouble with jet lag and just need that one good night’s sleep
- Sunscreen – depending on the country you’re in, sunscreen can be really expensive. I like to use a specific brand on my face so I usually take this with me, rather than trying to find some on the ground. It is evident, however in this article’s main photo, that I should wear more!
I might sound like I am contradicting myself by saying minimise toiletries when I suggest taking a medical kit, which you may or may not use. However toiletries are usually more easily sourced than medication. Often your accommodation supplies the basics and it is not going to be an emergency if you haven’t got your favourite shampoo with you (well I hope it is not for you).
With toiletries, the smaller, the better as they add weight to your luggage unnecessarily.
Whenever I visit hotels where the toiletries are complimentary, I usually collect a few, stocking up for my next trip. If you haven’t got a stockpile, then buy small travel size items. Most supermarkets or pharmacies have a travel section, which sell smaller versions of common toiletries. If you want to take your own beauty products but can’t find them in a small size, buy small plastic travelling containers and use a funnel to fill up the smaller bottles from your bigger bottles at home.
Utilise Space Saving Measures
It is quite incredible what I have managed to fit into a small sized case by using a few strategies. Rolling clothes really works to save space. You are able to mesh and mould clothing together, fitting small items into cracks. Rolling also makes clothes less likely to dislodge and go everywhere in your case, which can sometimes happen if you fold clothes. Outbound, fill your shoes with socks, or items you can fit inside. On the return you can use your socks to wrap small souvenirs and then fill your hard covered shoes with these wrappings. It makes a safe and secure travelling position for precious trinkets. Likewise, I use shoes to transport and protect wine if I’m putting it in my case!
Don’t Forget Essential Electrical Items
I’m a bit of a tech junkie so a considerable amount of my travel weight is taken up with all sorts of devices. However the essentials on most people’s trips could include:
- Electrical Adapter – I have a multi country one. I got sick of collecting adaptors from different regions so now I just take the one, which gets me out of any electrical conversion issue any place, anytime.
- Apple Travel Adapter Kit – this almost supersedes the need for the above adapter if you only need an adaptor for your apple products. This kit covers you virtually globally, wherever you need to connect your apple device to be charged.
- Phone – Wi-Fi is so far widespread now in most places, even if I am not using a local SIM card to make calls, I still take my phone as I can access the internet when I get into a Wi-Fi zone. I use mostly use Viber (for IPhone) to text or talk with folks back home.
- Camera – My phone camera isn’t really up to scratch and even if it was, I prefer to use a camera to capture images. You might have a more capable phone and happy to use it for your holiday pictures, in which case, you can leave the camera at home.
- Mini-IPad – this is a bit of a luxury but has become irreplaceable on my trips. It is great having a big screen, but not too big, to read emails, books, use the Internet and to download and preview my photos.
- Chargers for all these things – it sucks, but every device needs its charger (with adapter).
- A small Apple lightning cable with memory card reader. This has been a recent great investment. I insert my camera’s memory card into it and when connected to my IPad, it transfers all my images, providing an immediate backup. Plus, it’s really small and doesn’t weigh anything.
Take Good Walking Shoes And A Hat
No REAL traveller should ever go ANYWHERE without good walking shoes – just make sure they are well worn in before you leave! There will always be a situation where you need them – whether it be at a natural wonder or man made, you’ll often encounter rocky and slippery surfaces at temples, forest walks and even just walking down the road. There can be rubbish and random items, so to protect your feet from injury and picking up germs, closed shoes are invaluable. Likewise, a hat will almost always be needed but you may decide it’s easier to get one on the road, if you don’t want to take one with you.
Pack Enough Underwear
In places like Asia, it’s pretty likely you are going to get pretty sweaty. There were times when I got back to the hotel and my underpants were saturated! I just had to get them off and have a change. Some people suggest taking old pairs of underpants and throwing them out during, and at the end, of the trip. For me, I always like to be in my comfortable and good fitting briefs, you never know when you’ll get caught out with bad ‘undies.’ Since I usually wear one pair in the day and change for the night, I find a minimum of seven pairs is suffice. I hand wash them in my accommodation’s sink with some shampoo or soap and hang them on a travel laundry rope in the bathroom to dry overnight.
Leave your bling at home
Ostentatious jewellery or anything gold will make you stand out, plus jewellery weighs a lot. The more bling you wear, the more you are asking for trouble. I knew a traveller in Rio who had been wearing a gold chain around his neck for twenty years and it had huge sentimental value. If only he had been wise enough to leave it behind, he wouldn’t have had it ripped off his neck on Copacabana beach. Furthermore, if you are travelling through a country where people have so little, you should really ask yourself if wearing jewellery is appropriate. The more humble your appearance, the less of a divide there may be between yourself and locals.
Check your luggage limits for all legs of your journey
Your international flight might allow 30kg (if you’re lucky) but it will usually be around 23kg. Check luggage limits for any domestic flights you are taking to join with your international flight, and any other internal flights within the country you are visiting. Some countries only allow 15kg on domestic routes. If you plan to have more, it is better to be well researched and book excess baggage online before you depart, rather than turning up at the airport and realising that THIS particular flight has different specifications and paying a lot more. I got caught out leaving for a long-term trip, not realising Jetstar had tightened their weight limits on hand luggage. After leaving some things behind, a lot of reshuffling from hand luggage to check-in and a $60 fee – it wasn’t the best start to an overseas trip!
Never leave with a full case
The irony is, that despite my suggestions above, I am a notorious over-packer. I have, however, suffered the price to pay, when I’ve travelled with too much – it is a serious burden and frustration. I’ve come to realise, you really don’t need that much clothing, just the basics. If you really need specific clothing you’re without, most times, you can buy it. Unless you are ruthless at not spending money and don’t get tempted by local items, you are likely to want some memorabilia or clothing from your trip. Leave enough room in your luggage when you leave for the inevitable items, which somehow end up coming home with you.
With the advice and help of a good friend and seasoned light packer, my check in luggage for a five-week trip to Europe was around 12kg. Still to this day I am amazed, and impressed with myself. Yet, I am still struggling to beat that record!