With all the moving parts that make up travel planning, packing may seem fairly unimportant. However, in today’s world of shrinking aircraft and burgeoning ancillary fees, packing can take on a whole new significance. Why does it help to pack light?
- Keeping costs down: With fees for one or more bag, it really adds up at typically $25/connection. For any trip, business or leisure, there are more fun ways to spend your hard earned cash!
- Safety: As a woman solo traveler, I have found myself standing alone in the dark waiting for late night trains. Having once been robbed in broad daylight in a train station abroad, I know the importance of being able to make a fast getaway in an emergency. If you are laden down with luggage, that makes that impossible.
- Flexibility: If you are running to catch the last flight/departure on a whirlwind trip, you need to have as little as possible to slow you down. Traveling light makes it work. If you are a solo traveler, trying to maneuver through a line in a crowded airport with bags in tow can be a real feat.
- Nuisance: What can be more aggravating than arriving in Europe or Asia after all night on a plane and waiting in line for a checked bag? While you compete with 300 other passengers to recover your belongings, your annual vacation may get off to a frustrating start.
Worst yet, when you arrive in Oakland and your bag has gone to Auckland, you may ask yourself if checking luggage was worth it. Having chased down missing bags from St. Louis to Copenhagen, my view is that the only way to travel is with one carry-on bag. Lastly, as recent as this month, I was dismayed to arrive abroad only to find there was no jetway! That meant toting all my gear down steps to reach the tarmac and a waiting bus.
Having just returned from the Mideast and South Asia, here are my updated tips to make packing and travel better.
- The best way to live out of a suitcase is to separate clothes in packing pods. A free alternative? Use see-through zipper plastic packets that come with linens, blankets and other purchases. This makes it possible to keep separate casual clothes from work or dress-up outfits or to organize items by colors and types.
- Remember if traveling abroad to take both converters and adapters for all electronics. Not all devices are universal even if they claim they are.
- Miscellany to pack: a small umbrella for shade or rain.
- a whistle to get help in an emergency.
- a small trash bag for use in the flight or rental car.
- a large trash bag for an impromptu poncho for sudden downpours.
- for intense heat, a hand-held fan that operates off your cellphone battery.
- a flashlight for rural trekking or glamping.
- batteries, chargers and instructions for seldom-used gadgets.
- Buy specialty items locally; donate or repurpose them when you get home. In India, I discovered that my American pants were way too heavy for the humid monsoons. I bought a light weight local pair covered in elephants, clearly marking me as a tourist. Back home in DC, they are great for lounge wear or even pajamas.
- If your carry-on weighs too much or has large wheels, you can find yourself being “gate-checked” and late for connecting flights as you scramble to get your bag back. If you have a connection that is tight and/or will take you to another terminal, plan ahead.
- Women should consider packing and wearing pants with no metal decorations to avoid being held up in airport security. They work better than shorts or a skirt.
- Liquids can always leak so be sure to wrap or double-wrap bottles in sandwich bags with tight top closures. Where possible, opt-in for flat, sample packs of shampoos and other toiletries since they take up less room and tend not to leak.
- Take wash and wear items that you can hang over the shower to dry. If you remember to wring them out in a towel first they will dry faster. A hairdryer can help as well. When visiting areas with malaria or other insect-borne diseases, treat or take pre-treated clothing. (Pants with elastic at the ankles plus socks are a good mosquito deterrent as well.)
- Be sure your one personal item on a flight is a sturdy tote. To avoid having it break in the middle of a large airport, get one with the straps and bag made all from in one fabric. Even sturdy handles can detach just as you are dashing to make your flight.
- Never pack valuables. Wear them, and in the case ef medicines or electronics, take them in your carry-on personal item or tote.
After you get home, be sure to figure out what you really didn’t need and what you should add on your next trip.
Remember: the lighter you travel, the easier your trip will be!