The truth is I am a horrendous packer. I frequently fly between different states to see friends and family, and despite the frequent travels my packing habits have gotten way out of hand! When I travel, it’s generally for 4-days but I will still pack a bag big enough to travel overseas for a month. I do blame it on all the washing I’m so kindly hope my Mum will ‘assist’ me washing when I return home, but reality is that I prefer to be over-prepared rather than underprepared. Somehow I’m going to have to change my packing habits in little under a month and here’s how I’m going to do it!
Location, Location, Location
The first thing everybody tells us is to pack for the location, but it often seems like if the weather channel says it’s going to be sunny, there’s a good chance of rain. Despite this, I firmly believe that if you are heading to a summer location, pack for summer! Just do remember to include at least one pair of pants (preferably not jeans as they are a travellers worst nightmare when wet!) and a sturdy rain jacket. If you don’t have a rain jacket at home DON’T BUY ONE, buy one overseas IF and WHEN you need it. If it does turn out to be sunny you’ll just be lugging weight around in your bag for no reason and in a lot of countries (particularly throughout Asia) clothes are so much cheaper.
Being ‘unplugged’ from the world for any period of time is daunting for many people. “How will I be able to ring my mum/dad/boyfriend/sister/auntie/second-cousins-twice-removed/dog if I don’t have my mobile/iPhone/laptop?” but the reality is on-the-road there is going to be pay-phones in hostels and internet cafes everywhere. Whilst there are a huge number of people turning into flashpackers, it really isn’t essential to carry around two laptops/iPhone/iPod touches/video recorder/two cameras/10 interchangeable lens plus all the accessories needed with them. By travelling ‘unplugged’ you get to take in all the sites and sounds of the location whilst not being hidden behind another screen. You’ll be more approachable, and you will also take the time to talk to locals.
If you really can’t travel unplugged be savvy when choosing what items you take with you. If you’re a photographer or learning to be – take your camera and two lenses which will suit all purposes. I suggest a great zoom lens and, depending on location, a wide angle is all you really need. If you’re a film student, take youcamcorderer but ensure it has a photo mode so you can still take some decent snaps. If you can’t travel without a laptop, consider buying a netbook (I have a a HP Mini which I love and would recommend to anyone, but I have heard good things about the Asus EEEPC range as well). They’re so small, very versatile and weigh nearly nothing – perfect!
Lay everything out
My Mum always taught me to lay my clothing out on my bed and then work from there. It has been estimated that people, particularly woman, will pack three times the amount of things they really need and having it all laid out before you helps sort out the essentials and the excess. Will that top be suitable with both pairs of pants and the skirt I bought? Will that pair of shoes goes with everything? Alright, keep it. How often will I have access to washing? Will these clothes suit the weather of the location/locations I’m going? If not get rid of it.
Another handy hint is to buy basic colours which will work with everything – black, white, navy and grey.
When I first read about using zip-lock bags to increase the amount of room you have when packing, I honestly thought the writer was crazy. Upon thinking about it more, I realised that there were really not that much difference between zip-lock bags and the space-saver bags the infomercial channel had almost convinced me to buy.
All you need is a couple of jumbo sized bags, fold the clothing neatly, and slide it into the bag. When you have placed the desired amount of clothing in, or the bag is full, simply seal half of the bag and then using your hands, press out as much air from the baggie and seal it off. I find that using sandwich sized bags are often good for underwear and socks!
For my round-the-world trip I have decided I need a bag limit or I will take everything regardless of if I will need it or not. I have decided that one large suitcase (to check-on board), one backpack or wheeled overnight back and my laptop case is all I will take. Yes, that does mean my camera will have to fit into one of my onboard bags!
By placing a limit on yourself it forces you to think, “Do I really need this?” A general rule of thumb is: if you can buy it at your destination, don’t take it!
It’s nice to be prepared for everything on the road so don’t remember to take that item that makes you feel good, but be practical because it will save you spending hours looking through your gear finding things, or the stress if you lose something. If you have to carry items up stairs, or load your suitcase/pack into buses or taxis, you face the risk of permanently injuring your back. So, do you want to be a pack-horse or a packing pro?
Helpful packing sites
One Bag – Doug Dyment is convinced you can travel anywhere with just one bag
What’s in the Pack, Travel Tips for Backpacking Light! – Nick Vivion has some great basic tips for backpacking which people often forget.
Packing a Backpack – Simple and easy way to pack for your around the world trip.
How to Pack your Backpack for an Around the World Trip – It’s a little quiet but he brings up a great organisational tool ‘Packing Squares’!