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I’ve said it before & will say it again. There are 2 kinds of travelers. Those who pack light and those who wish they had. But how do you know what you’ll really need?!?
Using a grocery list helps you make sure you don’t forget something important for dinner. It also keeps you from picking up a third bottle of ketchup, because standing in the store you’re not sure if you have one at home. (Trust me, I’ve got 3 bags of powdered sugar that will serve as witness of me doing just that!)
Using a packing list is a great way to make sure you bring everything you need, and ONLY what you need. You won’t find yourself in a hotel abroad without contact lens solution (I did this one too), you also won’t have to lug around a lot of things that do nothing but take up valuable real estate in your bag.
Speaking of valuable bag real estate…picking your bag is a key to packing light. Start with the smallest bag you think could possibly work. If it’s too small, look at what doesn’t fit. If you really need that stuff, only then should you step up a size in your bag. Want to know more about choosing a bag? Check out this post about picking the right bag.
Recently while planning a 4-day visit to my parents’ house during spring break, I put 4 pairs of pants into my pile to take. Then I realized, the pants I was currently wearing were on their 3rd wear without being washed. Ignoring my sketchy level of hygiene that might indicate, I clearly didn’t NEED 4 pairs of pants for 4 days. I think everyone will agree you can get at least a second wear out of a pair of jeans. If you do this regularly at home, there is no reason you should plan to pack more than one pair of jeans for every 2-3 days while traveling. This is especially easy to do with pants. Nobody notices a repeat. Do you REALLY need three pairs of flip flops in different colors? Would one or two be enough?
If you don’t wear it here, you won’t wear it there. You love that top that has been hanging in your closet for quite some time. It isn’t comfortable, but doggone it, you just might find the perfect occasion on this trip! NO! Put the shirt down and step away!
It’s fine to think of options (on one day I can wear the blue shirt or the green one), but every outfit doesn’t need a contingency plan. If you think it could be hot or chilly, pack ONE or TWO items that could be your “just in case” clothes for the whole trip. I always bring an extra “just in case my bag gets lost or my flight is canceled” underwear with me. I always bring a cardigan or jacket in case it gets chilly. But I bring ONE extra. Not an extra to coordinate with each outfit. Which brings me to…
When I travel, my “uniform” is black bottoms and a shirt. I bring in a lot of color and fun pattern in my shirts, but mostly stick to black pants or skirts. This way I am never stuck because I brought the blue pants, and only one shirt that matches the blue ones, but I accidentally wore it with the green pants and now I can’t match anything else to the blue ones.
To fix this problem, I will bring black pants, a black skirt, and shoes that match me wearing black. Everything is interchangeable. If I decide not to wear a skirt the day I planned because it got chilly, it doesn’t throw off my matching scheme later on. Sometimes, if I do a really good job of planning, all the shirts I pack will match my gray pants and I can bring those along to spice it up. Yeah, it isn’t always my favorite items that I bring (I *love* my purple pants!) but it keeps packing simple and any “contingency” plan items like my cardigan will match whatever I’m wearing on the day it gets cold.
The best example I can give of this is possibly more girl-specific, but also tends to be more of a problem for the girls. If, for example, you usually wear one eye shadow, but sometimes you like to rock a smoky eye and need 4 additional colors…make the decision to go with your “normal” eye look during the trip. If you have 2 different colors of flip flops, just suck it up and bring one. Find ways that you’ll be okay with the pared down numbers. Don’t pack for “just in case”…pack for “will I really use this enough to make it worth lugging around the world”. In most cases, no. Remember, we’re going to travel to a place where millions of people live. They have stores. If you really need more socks, or shampoo, or whatever, you can buy it there. I did forget contact lens solution when I went to Mexico for study abroad. And I bought it there. But I’ve traveled a lot and never found forgetting one special shirt or pair of shoes ruined my trip.
When we travel, students are put into rooming groups of at least 2, sometimes 3. Odds are, within a pair or group, you don’t need 3 tubes of toothpaste. Or 3 shampoo bottles. Or 3 hair dryers. Figure out what you can do to split the load of what you all bring. Another recommendation? Swap some suitcase space with a friend…put some of your clothes into their bag, and take some of theirs in your bag. This is called “buddy packing”. That way, if your luggage is lost, you’ll only be missing half of your stuff until the bag finds its way to you.
Share! We're all in this together!