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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What's in Your Luggage?

I think people tend to over pack. That groan when the taxi driver picks up your bag is not a good sign. For a few trips, I feel like I've only used half of the stuff in my bag. Every year for my longer trips I use the same packing list spreadsheet to make sure I don't leave a necessity (or useful item) behind. I never stress over packing though. 

The only things I need, and I make sure I have are on the following shortlist:
  1. Passport (or Drivers License if I'm staying in the States)
  2. Prescription Meds
  3. Credit Card/Check Card
  4. Prescription Glasses/Spare Contacts (If I lose a contact my whole trip will go by without me.)
Four simple things. If I need anything else, I can buy it. Knowing your absolute essentials is key to stress-free packing. If your list is more than five or so, you should probably think about it a little harder.

That said, there are a few things that make life a lot more easy for me on my faraway travels. The list looks long, but I can stick most in a single gallon baggie. I never have more than a small roller bag, even for 2 week trips. If you are traveling with others, try to split up some of the pharmacy-type items.
  • Water Bottle: This is a must have carry-on for me. Take the empty and fill it up in the airport. Take it on your adventures to save money and easy access. It's good for Mother Nature too.
  • Standard Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, comb you get the idea. I use a good soap for shampoo and shaving cream too. It's simple and leaves me with more room and less liquids to worry about. If you can find multi-purpose items, that's always best. Travel sized does make a difference. And you can trash the empties for more room coming back.
  • Wisps: These handy little one-use brushes are good to have tucked in your bag for long flights. No liquid, so no issues at airline security. It gives you that little bit of fresh to make you feel human again after a crammed overnight flight.
  • Sunscreen: Protection is very important for healthy skin if you're going to be out and about (throughout the year).
  • Tiger Balm: I'm an active traveler, and a good rub gets me ready for the next day's adventure if my muscles are aching.
  • Pain Reliever: Helps ease any aches to get you to bed and moving the next day. I'm partial to ibuprofen. Just take one that you know works for you. 
  • Pepto-Bismol Tablets and Imodium: They don't take up much room and when you need really need them. Some countries (e.g., some EU countries) don't permit the sale of bismuth subsalicylate because of  past issues. Pack your own.
  • Benadryl:  Another small one worth the space if you need it. It will nip any allergies, rashes, or bites in the bud. Take it before bed and wake up irritation free. Get the cream if you want to avoid the drowsiness. If you are prone to seasonal/environmental allergies, bring your preferred allergy meds. With a new environment, your allergies might get triggered.
  • Chargers: Don't leave home without them if you want to stay connected. If you forget yours, you can always check the lost and found at the hotel. The front desk generally has a stockpile from forgetful travelers that they don't mind sharing.
  • Pen/Marker: Not all hotels have this freebie, and you might want to document your journey or take notes for your travels.
  • Travel Alarm Clock: Your phone will do, but you can't count on the hotel clock (if they have one). If you have a good wrist watch, that would work too.
  • Thin Foldable Corkscrew: A light-weight foldable corkscrew come in handy on long weekends or trips that might involve local wine. Many hotels have one (ask at the front desk), but it does come in handy. I have one that stays in the pocket of my luggage.
  • Eye Mask: This is a big one for travel abroad. No way I'd nap on the plane without it.
  • Travel Books/Dictionaries: If you are travelling to an unknown spot, these may be your lifeline. In the age of smartphones, they are still helpful in many cases.
  • Scarf/Light Raincoat:  If it's not winter or summer, you might want to prepare for rain. I have a very thin hooded windbreaker that tucks into a little bag. I have a super compact umbrella. I will generally just bring a shawl or scarf that I can tuck in my bag for that quick coverage until I can duck inside.
  • Shoes: They must be comfortable. If you must have some special shoes that won't work for extended wear, try to limit it to one pair. It's torture for some of us, but shoes take up the most space. Wear the big sneakers and pack the light sandals.
  • Clothes: As much as you are tempted, don't pack your whole closet. This one is a hard one. Especially in times with erratic weather. Resist the urge and bring a couple of layered outfits that you can rewear. Yes REWEAR. Do it. The world won't end. You won't stink. Just tell yourself that if you need more clothes, you'll just buy it there. If you know it's really hot, I'll concede that you may want a couple of extra shirts...but summer clothes are smaller, so it shouldn't take much suitcase real estate. Bring clothes that will transition well into the evening; there may be times where you can't get back for a wardrobe change before dinner.
  • Febreeze (Travel Size): In the summertime this will make your clothes go a little further (don't judge, it's true). Might make you more comfortable with the rewear.
  • I feel like MacGyver with some of these, but this is my list that keeps me prepared for my faraway travels. What do you have on your list?


  1. On another list I saw duct tape. LOL.

    Good list!

  2. Duct tape is a good one. Nice for quick repairs to luggage, books....and even shoes!