For this installment of the A to Z Challege, I’m diverging from my usual post of travel places and instead giving you some travel tips. Specifically, P is for Packing Tips.
Why packing tips? Packing is one of the most important parts of taking a trip, but it is usually one of the last things that most people think of. I definitely put off packing to the last minute (but maybe that’s just because I procrastinate), and I find it to be one of the more stressful things about travel.
Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, packing is something you should plan at least somewhat in advance. So even though you might not be planning a trip right now, at some point you will pack for a trip, and you can keep these tips in mind!
1. Pack Ahead of Time
This seems like a simple tip, but it took me a while to follow it and to realize its benefits. For business trips I think it’s especially important, so that you don’t leave anything important behind. Packing ahead of time ensures that you don’t forget anything, allows you to get plenty of sleep the night before your trip, and reduces stress.
How early you start packing is totally up to you. I start thinking about what to take usually as soon as I plan the trip, and I start the physical packing up to a week before a long trip, or 2-3 days earlier for a shorter or business trip. I also like to pack over a few days rather than all at once. It’s best to find what packing strategy makes you feel less stressed and tweak as needed.
2. Pack Mix & Match Outfits
Packing mix & match outfits will make your suitcase lighter. I used to just put together outfits and throw them in the suitcase, until I realized that I needed to make sure that every top could be worn with multiple pants/skirts/etc, and that the jacket matched everything. If a piece can’t be used multiple times, leave it home. In addition to making the suitcase lighter, it also makes it easier to put together an outfit during a jet-lagged stupor when you have to go to a meeting with friends or coworkers less than 3 hours after you land.
This tip is most likely applicable to women rather than men, because while I’m mixing and matching outfits in the mirror, my husband grabs a handful of shirts and throws them in the day before we leave. However, when men are packing for a trip to a wedding or a more formal event, mix & match is important when bringing a combination of casual and formal wear.
3. Don’t Pack More Than You Need
This seems logical, right? But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve packed way too much. And it can get expensive! Most US domestic flights charge you around $25 to check a bag. And the more bags you check, the more expensive it gets. International flights usually will check your first bag free, but a second bag can run $100. If your first bag is overweight by 50 lbs or 23 kg, it can be another $100 charge.
If I am going on a business trip or a weekend trip, I will try to keep my suitcase to fit in a carry-on. Most US domestic flights will not charge you for a carry-on, and if it’s a rolling suitcase and the flight is full, they may check it free for you and return it to you at the plane at the end of the flight or at your destination. You have to be aware of liquid limits on US domestic flights, which is usually 3 oz in a quart size zipper bag. You can usually get away with slightly larger zipper bags, but the 3 oz for each separate container is usually strict.
For longer trips, I will check a larger suitcase, simply because I don’t want to deal with carrying it around the airport and I want some extra space for the things that I know I will buy on my trip. For domestic US trips, this means a $25 fee, and making sure that it is well under the 50 lbs/23 kg weight limit to avoid the extra charge. For international trips, I haven’t been on a flight that charges me for the first bag, but the second checked bag will usually incur a fee up to $100 depending on the airline.
When you are going on a longer sightseeing trip or traveling to a study abroad destination, you may tend to overpack (I know I do), so make sure to leave room (and lessen the weight) for souvenirs, presents, and anything else you will likely buy while on a trip. This way, you won’t have to ship things home or buy a second suitcase, which can get pretty expensive.
Bonus Tip: When in doubt, leave it out. Pack ahead of time, double check the items you think you need on the trip, and trust your instinct – if you are having second thoughts about an item, don’t bring it!
4. Bring Any Medications You Think You May Need
Last but not least, I have learned that it is a good idea to bring medicine from your own country or hometown when going on a trip. In addition to any medications you usually take, think about medications you might need. Pain killers for headaches, medicine for any unexpected stomach issues, herbal supplements for colds, and any other medicine that can help make travel a little less painful. This is especially for traveling abroad, when medicine in another country might not be of the same strength or over-the-counter availability as in your own country. Best case, you won’t need it. Worst case, it’s there and you don’t have to try to figure out what medicine you want in another language or try to get to a town when you’re far out from civilization.
I hope that these travel tips are useful! What travel tips do you have? Let me know in the comments!