I have done a lot of packing during the last five years. Moving in and out dorms at university and travelling from a week to two months at a time. You would think that I would be used to it by now but the truth is that it still stresses me out like hell. I always tend to over-pack and end up carrying to much stuff. I’m one of those people who always brings stuff “just in case”. I mean, when you are travelling to a place you have never been to and that you don’t know much about then you definitively don’t want to be in a situation where you need something that you can’t get. But along the way I have learned with each experience that there are some essentials that are a must to take with me when travelling.
I have owned many different kinds of suitcases and bags for travelling and in my opinion the soft shell ones are better than the hard shell ones. They are more resistant, lighter and have more packing space. Its also good to buy the suitcases that have the wheels built-in inside rather than the ones popping out which won’t last at all. It’s also good to put straps and tags that are colorful to be able to recognize your suitcase specially if you have a black one like everyone else. *For extra protection get a luggage rain cover.
For carry on I prefer to have a handbag so that I can keep it with me in my seat instead of having a backpack or small suitcase that I have to put in the overhead storage compartment. It takes longer to leave the plane when you have to wait for people so that you can retrieve your suitcase or backpack. Also I’m constantly putting things in and out so I prefer to have it with me. And don’t forget for safety reasons its better to have your valuables close to you.
I have really come to love Longchamps from France. They can be more expensive than the regular handbag but they sure are a must for travelers. I have had so many handbags when I was living in Korea but they wouldn’t even last me a year because I was using them all the time for class and also for travelling. And when I tried to pack my handbags in my suitcase they would always occupy a lot of space and when carrying them they were so heavy. But Longchamps are very light, thin and resistant. Also waterproof I might add. When I have to pack them I just fold them and they become really thin. They have a tiny pocket on the side and a big main pocket which gives you a lot of packing space. I can even fit my laptop in the large size Le pliage.
Then for going around its better to use a crossbody handbag. I have seen many people carrying backpacks or big handbags when touring around but it just makes you an easier target. And also it will make you more tired to carry around heavy bags when you walk a lot. So for me a crossbody handbag is very convenient and enough to carry my phone, money, map, etc. Remember that when travelling is not good to show your valuables like big cameras, wallets, etc. Also comes in handy to have an extra foldable bag if you do end up doing a lot of shopping.
Well it depends on the destination, the weather and the amount of time that you are staying but many countries have laundry services that are not that expensive. Also if you are staying at an airbnb then you can know before hand if that place has a washing machine or not. Also I have found that people usually like to buy cloths, either normal or as a souvenir like t-shirts and sweaters so its good to have some free space in your luggage. I believe that when travelling the suitcase should only be half full so that you can buy the things you want and not worry about overweight. That has happened to me many times. Moreover I started using this Ziploc vacuum seal bags which are very practical specially to pack big things like winter jackets.
Now, some things that I think its always good to have:
- Regardless of the season I think its always good to bring
sunglasses, a scarf, an umbrella and a light cardigan. Just because you never know about the weather. I have been to some places that are really hot during summer like Malaysia but sometimes at night or inside the mall its cold so its good to have a scarf or a light cardigan. Also in some tropical countries even though its summer it tends to rain sometimes. I found this tiny umbrella in HongKong that has been very handy to carry around.
- Bikini or swim suit. Because you never know if you will get the chance to go to a swimming pool or Jacuzzi. I was in Amsterdam during winter so I didn’t even think about bringing my bikini but the hotel happened to have a really nice pool and Jacuzzi area and I spent a whole day at the city trying to find a bikini which was really difficult of course since it was out of season. So it was either the really expensive ones or the really ugly but cheap ones left over at H&M. So since then I always bring a bikini just in case , plus it occupies hardly any space in my luggage.
- A set of formal nice cloths. Because you never know if you will be invited to a party or have a meal at a nice restaurant. A simple dress or a blouse with nice jeans are good to go. What can help make an outfit look good are accessories like a statement necklace or a nice pouch. When I was in Thailand for the bartender course I didn’t think that I would need nice cloths since it was mostly training time and beach party time but anyways I did bring some dresses just in case and it came in handy when we had our graduation dinner and everyone was dressing up for it.
- Good walking shoes. For me the most important thing are the shoes I’m wearing because when you are walking around the city all day then you definitively want to have good shoes. When I went to Italy I made the mistake of only bringing sandals. I mean, why not? Its summer and you want to wear your dresses with sandals right? Well that’s fine if you are going to places like Malta where you don’t need to walk that much and you are probably going for a swim every day but not in Italy. Specially in Rome where there is so much to see and the roads are all stoned which makes it very painful to walk. So I recently tried the loafers from crocs and they are amazing. I actually think crocs are kinda ugly but these ones are really comfortable for walking and don’t look that bad.
- Wardrobe malfunction kit and super glue. These can help you in any situation plus they are very tiny.
I always try to get the travel size of the products that I’m using. I used to pack a lot of toiletries before but then I realized I wasn’t even using half of them. It’s easier for men I guess. When my husband packs he only takes his toothbrush, deodorant and hair wax. But I mean, of course, then he is always using my shampoo, soap, toothpaste or anything else he later finds out he needs. Well I think most toiletries are not really that expensive nor hard to find but the thing is that when you arrive in the middle of the night and want to take a nice shower after a long flight and there is no supermarket or pharmacy open, then what do you do? That’s why I always carry my travel size toiletries just in case. I loved it when I went to America and Wallmart had a bunch of travel size products for 1 dollar and also at Sephora I found a lot of travel size makeup items. They are really handy! Also I think it’s good to have them when you are on a really long flight and at one point you just need to really freshen up. I have done really long ones like from Korea to Norway, making stops in China and Denmark. Or from Korea to Paraguay, making stops in France and Brazil. And those flights are between 13 hours to 8 hours long with up to 5 hours of waiting in airports. For carry on toiletries there are some regulations though, more strict in some airports than in others. You can only carry up to a 100ml or 3.4oz per item in a 1 quart size bag. Also as I mentioned in my other post about my South America trip, a hairdryer can be very useful when you have cloths or towels that are moist and you don’t have a place to hang them. And of course a small thin towel as not all hostels offer them.
Apart from the usual things you use to freshen up, other things that you might find useful when being in an AC dry environment for many hours are: hand cream, lip balm, eye drops (if you wear contact lenses) and perfume. I found that hand sanitizer and tissue and wet tissues are really a must when travelling. There are a lot of germs in planes and airports. Also if you are walking around the city all day and eating out you definitively must carry them. And if you want to look a little nicer some basic makeup and dry shampoo (not spray but powder) can help.
Whether I travel by bus or plane, the things I need are almost the same. First, for sleeping I have an inflatable neck pillow, ear plugs and eye mask. Then I also carry motion sickness pills and sleeping pills (When I was at the airport in America I found one that helped me get over jetlag called Sominex). If you are not a big fan of pills then there is also this motion sickness wrist band called sea-band and if you need some help sleeping you can always buy those tiny alcohol bottles at the duty free store. 😉 I usually only pack cloths and toiletries in my suitcase. All my electronics go in my carry on. Well is not that I have that many anyways. My laptop and cellphone with their respective chargers plus I have a battery pack which I totally love. My husband is always so pushy about how important are noise cancelling headphones. He has also done his fare share of travelling and whether he is listening to music or watching movies he NEEDS his noise cancelling headphones. He spent around $300 (WHAT??!!) for these from BOSE which he bought at the airport. I stopped carrying a camera because it was too chunky and I realized I was not really using them as much. Also because I got an iphone and I really liked the quality of the pictures. Moreover can’t forget the selfie stick and if you are going to a beach destination a waterproof cellphone bag and waterproof dry tube bag are a must as well. Since I keep taking my phone in and out then I though I should get a really good cellphone case. This one I got from Etsy and cost around $30. It’s light, thin and it’s a double case (rubber on the inside and hard on the outside).
Specially in long flights and long waiting hours at the airport you will need to snack. Usually food at the airports and the snacks they sell on flight are expensive so its good to carry some snacks. Also since you will be breathing the AC air which is really dry you will need to hydrate well. I bought this reusable silicone water bottle in Korea. Since its silicon its better than plastic bottles and it can hold 14oz of either cold or hot water. And when its empty you can just roll it and put it away. I usually buy very salty chips or nuts since salt helps if you are feeling nauseous. It’s good to have candies for when you are just bored and of course gum or mints to keep your breath fresh. Snack bars also come in handy, they are very compact and can make you really full.
Documents and Money:
Its good to carry a copy of all your documents in a separate bag in case you loose them. I also usually print maps and information about the place where I am going. Don’t forget to print your flight itinerary and lodging reservations as well. I have an inside pouch for money and one for cards. I don’t usually use the money pouch since I don’t usually carry so much money on me. I prefer to withdraw from the ATM from time to time instead of exchanging money. I also have a notebook with all the information I might need and a pen. I think the pen might be one of the most important things to have with you. When my husband landed in Paraguay he needed a pen to fill in the custom papers and he had to wait for more than 30 minutes in line to borrow a pen. Now he will never ever again forget to bring a pen! And I have this really cute passport case where I can also put my cards and papers and its the size of the boarding pass. All in one place so I can have everything I will need at hand instead of it being spread all over my handbag. Safe Travels!