Friday, May 01, 2015

Vacation Packing Part One: Figuring Out What to Pack

I've been traveling the world since I was 6 years old so I have some experience with packing. I've been packing my own suitcase since I was 9 and I've learned how to manage packing for all sorts of transportation, trip lengths, and locations.

In my trolling through the internet I've found a lot of people have posts about how and what to pack. I've yet to find one I agree with entirely so I thought I'd add my voice to theirs. I encountered a problem when writing this post however. My voice is a lot longer than most. LOL! So I'm doing a series. Bear with me. I'm a little passionate on this subject. This one is about figuring out what to pack.

Of course, how you pack needs to be appropriate to your personality and to your trip. You are going to pack quite differently depending on whether you're in your 20s or in your 40s. You're also going going to pack differently depending on whether you're back packing or going to a resort, going to Europe or going to Africa.

My first advise is to carefully consider what is appropriate and what is needed for your trip. 

Most people play the "what if" game about what they might need. By considering what is appropriate and what is needed you'll help alleviate that. You can find out what is appropriate by doing some research into what is appropriate apparel for your destination, what kind of transportation you will have, what experiences you have planned, etc.
 • Appropriate apparel for your destination: Look at what people are wearing in those destinations, use travel guides to assist you if needed. Your travel experience will be richer if you respect those norms. If you don't you could attract unwanted attention or be barred from going places you had planned on seeing and experiencing. While this tends to be more true for women, it doesn't exclude men. What we perceive as normal can be disrespectful or even frightening to other cultures. Normal can even be different from place to place in the same country. Believe it or not, what works in New York isn't necessarily going to work in Denver, or Seattle.
Type of Transportation: Think about comfort and health. You might look good in high heels but your feet will rebel if you do too much walking in them. If you're sitting on a bus all day, tight clothes might start to become constraining and claustrophobic. If you're hiking mountains or hanging from zip lines through a jungle, baggy clothes could get in the way.
Types of Experiences: Will it be cold, will you be inside or outside, will it be sunny or overcast, will you be visiting rural areas or holy places, will it be hot during the day and chilly at night...? Make a list and figure out what those experiences will require.

My second advise is to pack as lightly as is reasonable. When I say "lightly" I mean both weight and quantity of the contents.

•  Plan outfits that mix and match so that you can have a new outfit everyday without packing a separate outfit for every day. If you choose a color scheme (like blues and greens) its easier to do.
Choose fabrics that aren't too bulky but do the job. If you need a warm sweater, sheep's wool can be very bulky, but you can get the same amount of warmth in a lighter garment in other fibers such as angora, alpaca, or cashmere.
Plan to do or hire laundry. Yes, it's okay to do laundry on vacation. Some hotels will have laundry service for a price and you can plan that into your budget. If you can't afford the money, take some powdered laundry soap to do it in the sink. If you do that, you might want to also include a camping style clothes line. Pick fabrics that will dry quickly...not cotton, and plan for time in the day to do it.

Finally: Pack everything compactly in the smallest bag possible.

Carefully roll up your clothes. I see a lot of people advocating for packing cubes and I think they're a waste of money and space in your suitcase. The reason people like them is for organizational reasons but you can organize just as well by rolling your clothes. I'll explain in more detail in my second post.
Unless you have back problems I recommend ditching the roller bag. I discovered several years ago that the frame for a roller bag takes up so much space that I could pack more in a lighter bag to be carried. By getting rid of the roller bag I cut down on weight, size, and added an incredible amount of flexibility. There are so many reasons why a roller bag is a bad idea, but I'll talk more about this in my second post. The ultimate bonus is when you amaze people who see you traveling with ease because you have everything you need but it's not weighing you down or getting in the way.