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Easy Going

Travel stories + tips from seasoned explorers

Packing Tips for International Travel

July 23, 2015

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Why not grab the fridge, too?

After years and years, the last-minute struggle of sitting on my suitcase and jamming that extra toothbrush in has become second nature to me. We all strive to pack “light and right”, but in the end very few have the ability to do it. Who knows when you might need a spare dryer?

Unfortunately, packing light and right is not easily mastered. It is a process, and it takes time and effort. Speaking from experience, you can’t just start packing light near the end when you realize you suitcase has already been filled up with extra pairs of pajamas. Start from the beginning, and always check the weather at your destination a couple of days before departure. Good luck!

Checked Bag:
Depending on how long you are staying, choose a bag that will fit your needs. Typically, the weight allowance is 50 pounds and the size limit is 62 inches (length + width + height). And by the way, I LOVE the suitcase pictured above. Made by Victorinox, the Swiss Army Knife company. I’ve had that exact bag for years and cannot kill it. Check out their Swiss Tracker program, which reunites you with you bag should you be separated. And tie a neon ribbon on the handle. It does make a difference when you’re scanning the conveyor belt with 500 bags going round.

Do not pack clothes that require ironing. Aim for polo’s (which normally don’t need ironing), cashmere, jeans, cotton knit, and sweater knit.

If you are going during sweater season (spring and fall, the best times to go!), pack only one or two sweaters. Jackets are bulky, and normally not as necessary. Exception: I always pack one all-weather jacket with a hood. Arcteryx has some great options.

Six things to think about when you are packing- texture, material, weight, quality, thickness and wrinkles. The ideal outfits when traveling have all six!

Choose a basic color scheme, and build your outfits around that. Change it up with splashes of color from scarves, belts, ties, jewelry, small handbags/clutches, etc.

Leave the boots behind-unless you are hiking! Shoes in general take up lots of room. Only pack two, or maybe three pairs. This is a rule I could learn myself. Great space saver idea: tuck chunky jewelry into socks, then roll them and slip them into your shoes. Place shoes in large zip-lock bags. Wear your heaviest shoes on the plane, leaving more room for cute, stylish shoes in your bag.

Roll up your clothes for easy outfits and to save space! Combine 3-4 pieces in a roll, with knits on the inside. Again, large (2-gallon) zip-locs are ideal ways to sort clothes into categories. That way you can simulate dresser drawers: the shirt drawer, underwear drawer, etc. Pull them out, take what you need, then zip back up and replace in your suitcase.

Unless you’re going somewhere that’s very remote, don’t bring a bunch of something you can buy for a little once you run out- such as socks, shampoo and toothpaste.

Extra Ziplocs are never a bad idea. Sorting out clean from dirty clothes is just a drag.

Pass on the towels-they always have extras at hotels and you probably won’t be needing to tote one around. However, bring washcloths if you use them. Even the 5-star hotels in Italy often lack this essential.

If you have “status” on the airline you’re flying, they will often permit you to check two bags. If that’s the case, consider adding a collapsible duffle bag inside your checked bag to bring home all those pretties you know you want to buy!

Don’t go bigger than a backpack or a purse. If your bag is small, then you only have so much space to put your things.

We tend to pack our carry-ons to exploding point. Pack something that is small and will occupy you for a long time, such as a good book or your laptop.

Have a special folder or separate container for all of your boarding documents, passports, IDs, and your phone that you can easily reach at all times.

Use all of the pockets in your carry-on to keep organized.

Make sure to pack a long sleeve shirt or sweater in your carry on. It tends to get cold on the plane, and you can always use an extra jacket as a blanket.

Pack an extra pair of undies and socks in case of an unforeseen layover. It’s happened to me more than once, I hate to say. In that vein, all power cords and electronics, as well as any valuables, meds, etc, should go in your carry-on.

Have a ready-to-tote toiletry bag in your luggage at all times. Replenish it when you return from a trip. Fill those little bottles only 2/3 of the way to avoid leaks due to air pressure changes.

A great way to organize earrings and small necklaces and bracelets is in a repurposed pill organizer.
Leave the really valuable jewelry at home.

Hopefully, you have come one step closer to packing light and right. The struggle can be overcome! Safe travels and good luck.

Partial credit for this blog goes to my daughter Morella, who after this research is well on her way to becoming a young international packing expert!

How have I put together all these great packing tips?