Friday, December 17, 2010

4 tips on packing for a trip

Efficient packing is key to budget travel and especially backpacking. It is by far one of the most dreaded activities for most travelers. Or am I just coming up with an excuse for my own dreading? Anyhow, all of this just feels like hard work:
  • making yourself come up with a list
  • eventually coming up with one (time in between can last between half a day to a couple of weeks)
  • washing/ironing
  • buying some stuff (including presents for several people you're going to see)
  • actual packing
  • agonizing
  • making sure you don't forget anything
  • forgetting something
I guess the last point is optional. I'm usually pretty meticulous and a bit obsessive (once I get into it), so it's hard to forget something. I check if I have not forgotten the most important things (passport/visas + money + tickets + insurance + electronics) at least 3 times before leaving, 1 time on the way to the airport and 1 time once aboard.

There are several online packing list generators that make the process a little bit more fun and the most handy of them is packwhiz, it allows you to create your own list based on several criteria (e.g. weather, destination, gender) and customize it as your heart desires. You can also search the lists of other travelers who opted for making their lists public.

It needs to be said I am not a big fan of backpacks (except for small ones that can only fit in a laptop and a few necessities), I prefer a suitcase, because I'm in favor of staying longer in one place than jumping around between several destinations. I am now in the process of preparing for my 2.5-month trip to several European countries, 5.5 days to go and all the range of clothes is as always a issue. The winter is only three weeks in, but it's already obvious it's not going to be a piece of cake with all the weather challenges it has presented thus far.

If asked for advice concerning packing for a trip, I have a few things to say:

Take lots of socks of different types because seriously, you never how much chance there's of your feet going wet or cold - rain, snow, own bathroom. And it's not great when you realize you have wet feet, and two other pairs are still wet and the other one is dirty.

Considering going shopping on your trip and even have an approximate list of what to buy? Yeah, right. We all know how that turns out. You're more likely to buy more than to buy less, so be prepared to get rid of some old stuff. Normally I'm ready to part ways with at least half of the stuff I take with me on the trip. So be prepared to get rid of some old stuff if you want to fit all new stuff in. You don't have to throw it away either, second-hand shops are plentiful almost everywhere, Goodwill locations less so but possible to come across.

Have at least one go-out outfit with you for... obvious reasons. You don't want to buy tickets to the premiere of a movie or book a table in an arguably posh restaurant and realize all you have is Caterpillar boots and a tank top.

A first aid-kit is a necessity and you probably know your weak spots. Typical first aid-kit is something like this: band-aid, painkiller, nose spray, cough/sore throat drops, if you have prescription drugs, it might be useful to fetch the actual prescription.

My personal golden rule is probably to underpack than to overpack. There's almost nothing you can't buy everywhere in the world especially when it comes to such (sometimes heavy) stuff as toiletries.

Useful reads:
Packing list on Wikitravel
Packing Light on Globotreks


Maria said...

I travel very lightly, however my partner packs everything she can think of for all emergencies. She even packed a cocktail dress and I have only seen her in a dress three times in the three decades that I have known her....

True story said...

I'm sure it was quite a sight, Maria. :D I hope you and Bing will have a good time on your upcoming trip to Chicago!

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