Stress-Free Packing Tips
Packing for a trip can be a pleasurable preliminary to the trip itself, or it can be a rushed, stressful chore. Here are some packing tips from experienced travelers that may reduce your stress. Start early. Take at least two weeks to select what you want to take. Allow enough time to shop for garments that will be needed on the trip (For example if you’re traveling in January from Anchorage to the tropics, it will take a little extra time to find that silk, short-sleeved blouse.)
Look for destination temperature and rainfall information in your guidebooks, and check your newspaper or weather website for current conditions. Don’t fall into the trap of letting local weather influence your clothing decisions for your trip. You’ll keep your luggage weight down by keeping in mind what the weather will be like at your destination, not at home.
Recognize that the variety of clothing needed for any combination of weather and activities can be much less than what’s called for at home. When you travel independently, the people you come in contact with will change almost every day. That means that you can wear the same outfit time after time. And you won’t have to carry all those extra clothes. On the other hand, if you are traveling with a group, you may want a little more variety. But keep in mind that you’re not traveling to show off your wardrobe (hopefully), and by the end of the trip the person with the least luggage is the one most envied.
Clothing should be coordinated and layered as much as possible. Practically, pants and skirts should be able to be coordinated with at least three shirts or blouses, and bulky items, such as sweaters should coordinate with as many items as possible. Clothing for cold weather is particularly bulky. Take what you need to stay warm, but remember that a windbreaker over a sweater will often keep you as warm as a separate lined jacket, and takes up a lot less space. A Polartec® or similar fleece sleeveless vest is compact and versatile. Both silk and down are warm and light, so consider long johns and a down jacket (packed in a stuff-sack) for really cold weather. Finally, if you are going to be away for more than two weeks, remember that a clothesline and a plastic bottle of laundry soap weigh a lot less than multiple outfits.
Decide on the type of luggage and the number of pieces you will want carry. Check with the airline you are flying about both checked and carry-on luggage limitations. Weight and size restrictions frequently change, or new fees are imposed. Remember: never travel with more bags or weight than you can carry at one time unless you know that you will have assistance at all times during your trip. Always pack a light nylon day pack for carrying items such as picnic supplies, beach towels, etc., and a medium-sized nylon duffel bag for carrying home all those “finds” (and dirty laundry, while on the trip.)
Be realistic about the quantities of toiletries you will need. If you will be traveling for three weeks, don’t take enough toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc. for three months. If you can’t find a small size of each item, many stores carry small, leak-proof, reusable plastic bottles. Be sure to check current security restrictions, particularly for liquids, for both checked and carry-on items.
A few days before departure, try to pack. If you are like most of us, it won’t all fit. Don’t go for the extra bag. Instead, start deleting clothing with the fewest possibilities for coordinating and layering. Bring clothes that can simply be laundered for reuse. If you are flying and checking your bags, use your day pack to carry aboard your security allowed toiletries, a change of underwear, prescription drugs, and valuables that you are not wearing.
After you finish packing, pick up all your luggage, carry it outside and walk around the block. If you need help getting back home, start thinking about what needs to be left behind.
Our final packing tip: Upon returning from your trip, jot down what you really used, what you didn’t use at all and what you wished you had taken, but didn’t. You’ll appreciate it when planning for your next trip.