Have you ever wondered how to pack like a pro, how to have an organized backpack and be ready for any situations?
In this post, you will learn how to do it. I will explain you the do’s and don’ts of packing.The advice will be about how to prepare a backpack but the guidelines can, also, be applied to normal luggage. Furthermore, you will understand what facts to consider when you are starting to pack for your next trip. You will know how to decide what you really need and what you might decide to leave home.
Ready? Let’s start.
BEFORE WRITING YOUR PACKING LIST YOU NEED TO CONSIDER:
- The weather at your destination. You need to know, more or less, what kind of weather you will face. If you are going to Thailand during the dry season, probably you will not need winter clothes whereas if you are heading to South Africa in August….forget your bikini. It will be freezing and cold! Usually, I check the temperature on AccuWeather so to have a general idea of the climate and be ready to pack according to it.
- The places you will visit. If you are planning to sunbathe and to relax at the seaside, you will not need a tuxedo or a cocktail dress. But, for example, you will need them while on a cruise. You can add or remove clothing item, from your list, according to the kind of holiday you have in mind.
- Will you have the chance to wash your clothes? I traveled for almost a month in South America and I had a very small backpack with me. Everywhere there was the possibility to use a washing machine (in hostels for instance) for a few dollars. You need to seriously consider this. Why bringing tons of clothes when you can just get them washed in a couple of hours? If you stay for a while in the same place and there is no a washing machine, everything you will need is a sink and some soap (I did it in many occasions, especially when the climate was very hot……the clothes very ready in few hours). In case you decide to get your clothes washed during your stay, what I suggest is to use a calendar to evaluate how many clothes you will surely need. Has it ever happened to you to come back from a holiday and to realize that you have not worn half of the clothes? I was used to that. Make a realistic analysis of how many changes you might need. It’s very personal. You are the only one to decide for how many days you feel like wearing the same T-shirt or the same slacks. By doing this, you will avoid to just randomly throw everything you have in your backpack or luggage. At the end of the day, you are carrying your own backpack, aren’t you? Don’t you want to travel as lightest as possible?
WRITE A LIST
After considering all the factors cited in the previous paragraph, you are ready to draw up your list. I LOVE LISTS. To have a written list empowers you. You are in control and it will be impossible (almost) to forget something home. Therefore, start with a general list (clothes, shoes, books) then as the day of the departure approaches you can add everything that comes to mind (your favorite sweets or a particular pair of sunglasses). Write on the list every single thing you don’t want to forget. It’s going to be your best friend. (you can trust the word of an obsessive-compulsive person like me!)
Here you find an example of one of my lists:
- Clothes (I write also the numbers, the singular items, and the colors to be sure they all match, I will take pictures and I want to look fine!). Above all, never forget a headscarf. It can be useful in thousands of situations (to enter a mosque or a church, to get protection from the wind, the sun or the rain.) Once, I wrapped up a headscarf and I used it a handbag too. It’s a must in my backpack.
- Shoes (not many usually). I choose shoes that can match with many different outfits, that are waterproof and, generally speaking, resistant. I don’t pack more than two or three pairs: a pair of flip-flops, a pair of snickers plus the pair I wear during the flight.
- Maps and guides.
- Sunglasses (I tend to bring the cheapest I have. I don’t want to lose expensive items or to draw unwanted attention, especially if the destination is a poor country where I need to be careful about my appearance).
- A wristwatch (it applies the same principle regarding the sunglasses. Furthermore if the phone will be dead, I will have no problems with checking the time).
- Personal medicines (with the doctor prescription. At the airport, officers might decide to ask for it. It happened to me at La Paz airport in Bolivia).
- A couple of pens. (When you are at the airport and you need to fill a form, you will thank me!)
- Photocopy of passports and important documents.
- Earplugs, camera, phone and its charger.
- Paper towels (you never know)
- Some small plastic bags (for example, I use them if I have to wash some clothes and I have not found a washing machine yet. In this way, I don’t mix dirty and clean clothes.
- A small folding umbrella.
- A copy of the daily trip plan with all the address and useful info. You can see how to prepare yours by reading the post How to plan your next trip
Of course, this is just an example. You can make up your personal list.
READY TO PACK
The action day has arrived! You are ready to pack. First of all, make sure your luggage/backpack size respects the rules set by the airline company you will flight with (you can check the regulations on each company website).
- Roll your clothes. Yes, roll everything. You will save space and the clothes will be protected. You can use small plastic resealable bags like this one. For instance, I use a bag for T-shirts, one of slacks etc… (the plastic bags have different sizes). In order to know exactly what the bag contains before opening it, I put a small label and I write down its content. Give preference to non-iron clothes, easy to wash. Dark colors are usually the best since it is more difficult to perceive spots.
- Use your shoes as containers for socks, underwear, necklaces and other small items.
- Use small containers for toiletries if you only have a handbag (remember that there restrictions on liquids). I use 100 ml bottles so I can carry them in the transparent liquid bag. Surely, If I ran out of something, I can buy it at the destination. I use also the free samples I get at the supermarket or at the perfume shop so I can save more space.
- Put the documents in an internal pocket of the backpack, out of reach of any strangers.
- Consider wearing a money belt while traveling. You will keep the money safer than in a normal wallet.
- Put the chargers in an external pocket, so that you will be able to find them easily, for example, while waiting at the airport. Do likewise with all the items you think you want to keep at hand.
- Most noteworthy, CHECK THE WEIGHT OF YOUR BACKPACK/LUGGAGE (airline companies are becoming more and more strict about the matter. It could be bloody expensive to pay for your extra weight).
- If you carry fragile items (hopefully not) wrap them in your clothes. As a result, they will be protected from impacts.
- Leave some space for souvenirs, in case you don’t want to come back carrying another handbag. Sometimes airline companies allow only one handbag. Take this into consideration if you travel with a backpack only.
- A final advice: if you want to pack bulky clothes, wear them during the trip. And if they have pockets, you can use them for small items.
Don’t forget to leave home, to your relatives or to a trusted friend, a copy of your passport, credit card or other documents. If you get robbed or you lose your backpack and you don’t have even the photocopy of your documents (that really sucks!), it will be easier to figure out what to do if someone is ready to email you whatever paper you might need. This is something I always do, I am overzealous but I like to be prepared as much as possible!
How do you prepare your backpack? What is your advice?