Packing, no matter how big or small, has the capacity to make or break a trip for you. Pack too much and you’re stuck lugging around stuff you don’t need and you’ll end up resenting your bag and past self for thinking all this stuff was necessary, or pack too little and you’re stuck having to suffer through a hard spot or break down and buy something you may already have at home. I personally have found myself in both situations and neither are fun to be in. When I was in France I thought it would be a great idea to bring all the books for my research project I planned to work on (which I wrote maybe a page of when I was actually on the trip) and ended up kicking myself when I missed my flight due to the fact I could not run with my carry-on bag due to its weight. I’ve also been in many a situation where I did not pack properly for the cold and have been forced to buy expensive jackets or hoodies when sitting at home I had seven other perfectly good ones I simply forgot to bring along. Knowing how to pack smart is a skill that I’ve refined over the years and feel confident enough to share some of my tips with you.
First and foremost, before you even touch a bag, try and nail down your trip itinerary with as much detail as possible. I’m talking times of arrival, average weather and seasonal climate, dress codes for events, plans of physical activity or outdoor exploration, and cultural notes of your location. Planning ahead as much as possible will help you better determine what you need for your trip, thus leaving less room for guessing and overpacking.
When you get to packing, I like to lay everything out on my living room or bed room floor in order to visually see and commit to everything I’m bringing. I personally tend to overpack on clothes, thinking “Oh I may wear this at some point”. No. Everything in your bag should have a purpose and intended use. I find that the more basic the clothing, the better because you can easily mix and match to have many outfits for a variety of events. Having one or two extra things is not bad, its great to have “just in case” things but even so, make sure they flow into the rest of your wardrobe if need be. With that being said, make sure that you’re realistic about the weather. As I mentioned before, I’ve been caught by unexpected cold or rain and suffered unnecessarily. Pack a jacket and socks, always.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, switch to solid hygienic products. They are lighter, you don’t have to pull them out going through security, they won’t leak in your bag, they’re more durable, and they use less plastic which is a win. Overall though, watch that you’re not packing things that are too heavy because even if you fit all your things in specially, there are still restrictions in weight. I find liquid and paper products tend to weigh the most and even small sacrifices make a difference. Packing one paperback book versus two or three hardcover ones will help tremendously.
Next, organizing your bag. This is super important if you will be spending even a small amount of time relocating or staying packed. When I was in Europe, I did a month in just a duffle bag and let me tell you, with how many new locations I was in, it was so nice to know that my eyeliner was in the red makeup bag and my moisturizer was in the green one. By dividing your things, keeping things in specific places, and planning your pack can save you time and frustrations when you need to find something quickly. This will also help keep your pack, well, packed. If you don’t need to tear apart your bag looking for Chapstick that drifted to the very bottom, you don’t need to worry about trying to put everything back together again. You’ll eliminate lots of frustration in your life, and don’t we all want that!
A quick note about packing clothes, rolling is your best friend! Fold tee shirts, pants, and dresses in half the long way and roll tightly to reduce wrinkles and create more space in your pack. If you have an empty water bottle, be creative! Fill it with extra socks or underwear to, again, stay organized and utilize all available space in your pack.
Finally, make sure you always have some wiggle room in your bag, both in space and in weight. Get good at telling yourself what you actually need and denying yourself what you don’t. Nine times out of ten you’ll be buying things on your trip and it’s nice to know you will have room for it in your bag and not have to leave something behind in order to accommodate.
Overall, be smart and find a balance that works well for you. Be a smart packer and you’ll set yourself up for a great trip! Have fun 🙂