Recently, people have been asking me to do a packing list on the blog. While I’m happy to oblige, I won’t bore you with how many pairs of socks you should pack while on a trip.
Although every trip is different in duration, climate, unexpected weather, and packing preferences, here are my packing tips on what items I find necessary to bring, and some of my personal preferences when I’m on the road.
1. Pack light.
Not enough can be said for this tip. People hear this a lot, and ignore it. Trust me- whether you are backpacking through Europe, or just going away for the weekend, less is more.
I traveled for a month in Europe on 2 separate occasions; once when I was studying abroad, and once for a post-graduation trip.
On my first trip, I brought a massive suitcase filled to the brim with clothes for every scenario I could think of. I barely wore half of what I brought.
On my second trip, I only carried a backpack with enough clothes for about a week. I did laundry 3-4 times on my trip. I loved backpacking- while other people were lugging suitcases up and down narrow hostel staircases, I zipped ahead.
After learning how to pack light, I’ve never turned back. Even when I go out of town just for a weekend, I only bring a backpack. I’ve learned to bring only what I need, and cut down on clutter, and its made my life a lot easier.
If you want more tips on specific clothing/toiletry items to pack for a variety of trips, Pinterest is a great resource, as well as travel sites like The Saavy Backpacker.
2. Be prepared for weather and research the typical climate in your destination.
You might think this is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Every time I go on a trip, I do extensive research into the weather. For trips to Europe and the Caribbean, where I planned the trips many months in advance, I looked at historical weather data and predicted temperatures and rainfall for the time of year I was going on my trip.
My biggest piece of advice related to facing any type of weather while traveling is to bring the following 3 items:
- A good raincoat with a hood. NOT your heavy-duty winter raincoat, but a solid, lightweight raincoat that you can layer over other pieces.
- Shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. Even if you think your destination is going to be sunny, rain can happen at unexpected times, and you don’t want to be caught in suede boots in a downpour.
- An umbrella. A lot of travelers will advise against packing an umbrella, saying its just extra weight. When you’re stuck in the rain, and street vendors are jacking up umbrella prices, you’ll be happy you packed one.
A key to navigating weather is to layer up. When I was traveling for a month from mid-May to mid-June, I didn’t want to pack a ton of bulky items. I only brought one long-sleeved shirt, a cardigan, and a raincoat.
While in Ireland, the weather was super unpredictable, and we often encountered spotty showers and cool evenings. I was perfectly warm and dry by layering the items I brought; tons of people on my trip brought very heavy winter clothes, and regretted packing so much when we got to warmer destinations.
3. Prepare for small emergencies when you pack.
Take the time to pack some of the “little things” that can help in unexpected situations. Here are some of my suggestions and stories to accompany them:
- I always bring tissues and wet wipes when I pack. A travel sized pack of tissues can be extremely helpful in sketchy bathrooms (you encounter a lot of these throughout Europe). When I was visiting a castle in Wales, a few birds decided to attack me, and having wet wipes was really helpful to get their mess off of my jacket.
- If you’re prone to headaches or stomachaches, bring what you need with you. A lot of people will advise you to wait until you get to your destination to buy these items. However, many non-English speaking countries don’t call Advil by the same name. If you’re unfamiliar with what the drug is actually called, you’ll have a much harder time finding it. Even if you’re in the US and could get to a drugstore, I like to have what I need with me just in case I’m in a bind.
- Bring your own water bottle. I carry a Camelbak Eddy with me wherever I go. When you’re traveling (especially if you’ll be drinking alcohol), you need to stay hydrated. Water bottles will add weight to your pack, but making a $15 investment in a sturdy bottle will save you a lot of money in the long run, especially when water bottles are $3-5 a pop.
4. Sacrifice a bit of space, and pack a few items to keep you entertained.
I get bored super easily when traveling. Even though it takes up space, I always pack 1-2 books, a small book of sudoku puzzles, and sometimes my iPad on longer trips.
If you pack 1-2 less items of clothing, you can easily fit in the items I listed above. My backpack has a great front pocket where I can slide in my iPad and a book. It makes the front of my pack a bit bulkier, but I’ve never regretted having something to do on a plane ride.
5. Skip the bulky electronics and beauty products.
As a girl, I totally understand that everyone wants to look good when they travel. However, blow dryers, straighteners, and tons of makeup take up a lot of space. When I backpacked this summer, I bought a mini, cheap hair straightener that I only used one time. It was pretty liberating to not worry about wearing a lot of makeup or doing my hair every day.
I recommend packing as few of these items as possible. Most hotels, and even many AirBNB listings, provide hairdryers and basic toiletries. If you’re staying with friends, borrow their beauty products. A massive hairdryer only takes up space in your suitcase, leaving you less room for things you really need.
Also skip bringing your laptop or anything bigger than an iPad. I stick to either my phone or iPad and a good pair of headphones. I often get work emails when I’m traveling on the weekends, but I can easily answer them anywhere I can get wifi, and I’ll often borrow a friend’s laptop if I’m staying with someone.
Again- less is more. Even if you need to use a laptop when you’re traveling, don’t bring your own if you want to save on space and travel lighter. There’s a good chance you’ll have access to Internet, even from the more remote parts of the world. Pretty much everywhere has Wifi these days- when visiting Stonehenge (which is in the middle of nowhere in the English countryside), I was able to get Internet and upload pictures to Instagram.