How to Pack: A Beginner's Guide

Author: 
Meghan Brennan

What separates the pros from amateur travelers?

If there's one thing in travel that separates the pros from the amateurs, it's packing. Anyone who has done a lot of traveling knows the many benefits of packing light, and above all the problems that come with bringing a lot of luggage – checking luggage is just the beginning. If you want to travel like the pros, the best thing you can do is restrict yourself to carry-on, a task that isn't nearly as daunting as it seems. Follow a few simple tips and you'll be amazed at how much simpler it makes your coming travels.

Luggage: packing light

  1. Bring only what you need. In this case, ‘need' doesn't mean what you think it means. You need plenty of underwear (a good rule is one pair per day plus three – four for longer trips). You don't need a pair of pants for every day – you can wear a sturdy pair of pants three or four times before you have to wash them, and there is no reason to pack any pants that aren't sturdy. As far as shirts go, bring plenty of tank tops, undershirts, and such – but sweaters, button-downs, and the like? You only need a few. If you can keep everything in one color scheme, so much the better.
  2. You don't need five pairs of shoes for a week. Depending on where you're going, you can almost always get away with three or less. A good rule is walking shoes, nice shoes (sometimes these are the same), and destination-specific shoes (sandals at the beach, hiking boots in the mountains, you get the idea). If you're only going to wear them once, don't bother.
  3. Use the biggest bag your airline allows. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the bigger your carry-on, the less chance that you'll need another bag. If your airline lets you bring a bag that's 22 by 14 by 9, don't limit yourself to one that's 20 by 12 by 8.
  4. We're all plugged in all the time these days, but the time to unplug is on vacation. Don't bring a laptop if a tablet will suffice, and leave the tablet if you can manage on a smartphone.
  5. Don't bring things you can buy for a reasonable price. Obviously this depends on where you're heading, but there's no need to bring soap to Europe or sunblock to the Caribbean. You won't be able to fit very much anyway, thanks to the 3-1-1 rule, so why bother? Save the precious real estate for things you have to bring.
  6. There are exceptions to every rule, and these are no exception. If you're traveling specifically for work, bring your laptop. If you're heading across the country for a party or a wedding, of course you need a fancy outfit you'll only wear once. But these basic tips and some common sense can save your back and bags a lot of wear and tear, and a chunk of change at the same time! Bon voyage!
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