Unless I’m going camping or snowboarding, when traveling I generally wear my life on my back. I’ve come to realize that taking a lot of luggage is a liability and a risk that I just don’t want to take. So I adopted a minimalist view when it comes to packing and that’s what I want to share with you today.
I have spent nearly twenty years in the travel industry and the one question I hear almost daily is “how many bags can I take?” or “how many free bags?”
So here is my view of packing:
- If it will all fit into a backpack, use a backpack: As stated above, I wear my life on my back and under most circumstances will travel with a medium to large backpack. The reason for this is because a backpack will typically fit in the overhead bin of an airplane and in some cases under the seat. No checking necessary.
- Only take as many clothes you intend to wear. This is primarily for outerwear like jackets, sweaters and even shirts and pants. If you are like me, you have stood over your clothes, spread out over your bed or on the floor, trying to decide what to take. I try to pack neutral clothing: blue or black jeans, a nice button-down shirt for when we go out to dinner, comfortable shoes (and in case we are camping, shower shoes) and depending on if we are going to a cooler or cold climate, an easy to carry jacket. Feel free to take as many pairs of underwear and socks as you think you may need as accidents happen and it can rain unexpectedly.
- If possible, stay at hotels or hostels that provide access to laundry (washer and dryers). By doing this, you can wash your clothes and limit the amount of clothing you will need to carry. If this is not possible, and not to offend first world sensibilities, you can wash your clothes in the sink or shower with the soap provided. Hang them on the end of the bed or locker and let them air dry for the night.
- Money: You are not going to get a consensus on this. Some travelers still prefer to carry local currency and some prefer credit cards. Either way, your money needs to be out of sight and securely stored. There are a variety of accessories for carrying money, the more inconspicuous the better, also I prefer not to put my wallet in my back pocket, instead of either in the front pocket or a cargo pocket, something that will require a bit more ingenuity on the part of any would-be thief. My personal preference is to use cards instead of cash, purchases are easier to make because the conversion is done for you and you will not have to pull out a roll of bills and try to count out the amount needed to buy that shot glass you want. Today most credit cards are accepted around the world, with branches or partner branches available in case of theft or damaged cards. Check with your bank ahead of time to see if they have local branches where you are going. Also, use the travel features available from your bank such as authorizing transactions for a certain period of time, from a certain location or more importantly, shutting off a card if lost or stolen.
- Roll your clothes: Space is at a premium in the military as the men and women of the armed forces know. Whether is it a foot looker in a barrack or a locker onboard a submarine or ship, you need to be able to store all clothing that is issued in the space provided, leisure and business travel is no different. One technique used to do this is to roll your clothing. The tighter the roll the better as it allows for more items to be packed in a backpack or suitcase.
- Leave the jewelry at home: While wedding bands are acceptable, you want to avoid diamond rings, gold necklaces, and overall bling. The idea is to blend in, not stand out. Also, theft is not reserved for the streets as many travelers have left their hotel rooms only to come back and find all of their jewelry gone.
- Toiletries: If you are staying at a hotel or even a hostel, generally speaking, towels, pillows, blankets, toilet paper etc are provided for you, so you do not need to carry them. Bring a toothbrush and toothpaste, depending on the length of the journey you may need to duck into a restroom and brush your teeth (your traveling companions with thank you).
- Leave the expensive camera at home: When I travel, I take pictures with my mobile phone, the picture quality of mobile phone cameras gets better and better with each generation of phone. Most of the pictures taken on this blog are done with an iPhone 6 plus and nothing more. Learn how to use the higher resolution on your phone to take breathtaking photos and leave the heavy, expensive camera at home.
- Find out the baggage limits of the carrier you are taking beforehand: All of the previous points are based on this main point. Travelers tend to get hit with unexpected fees because they do not know how much weight or size of their luggage (both checked and carry on) the carrier will allow before either charging or charging extra. You can call the carrier reservation number or go to their website, typically there is an FAQ or section on baggage that can tell you how heavy, how big or how many bags are allowed before fees kick in.
These are only a few tips and tricks I’ve learned in my years of travel, I hope they make your next trip that much easier.
Until next time…Cheers!