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Packing is an art, not a science.
What does this mean? Well, it means that you can follow all the packing formulas to a T, but your suitcase still won’t feel up to snuff if you don’t avoid the packing mistakes that often negate all the awesome packing techniques we worked so hard to foster.
Wait, doesn’t that mean these are just more rules I need to follow? Not really; I think of these as mere suggestions that can help you think about how you are packing, rather than what you are packing. Perfectly packed suitcases are not made by employing expensive packing cubes and stringing your necklaces through plastic straws. They are made by a profound understanding of how to create the travel companion that serves you. Deep? Yes, it is.
Am I making it deeper than it needs to be? Sure, but I just love packing, okay?
Honestly, I can’t think of any reason why anyone should be checking luggage. You are allowed a carry-on suitcase, plus a “personal item,” which frankly can be much larger than just a purse. You definitely don’t need the amount of stuff it takes to fill one of those gigantic suitcases.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: A longer trip does not mean you need to pack more stuff. It just means you might need to do some laundry. If you will be traveling for longer than a week, think about where and how you can get your laundry done, whether it’s at a local laundromat, using the hotel laundry service, or DIY-ing it in your AirBnb sink.
not making a list
I know, I know, some of us travel frequently and feel like we have our packing lists burned into our brains. But it only takes a split second for you to forget to grab your phone charger on the way out the door, and then having to spend the entire flight with no power.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Make a list! Preferably, start your draft 3 weeks or so in advance. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to revise and add items forgotten.
living on the edge with your liquids
Packing liquids is a necessary evil, but we can take precautions to make spillage less likely. Catastrophes come in three forms: breakage, leakage, and explosions, and they all suck.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: To prevent breakage, make sure any glass bottles are packed snugly so they won’t shift around. I also wrap the bottle itself in a plastic bag and knot it tightly, then wrap clothing around that and place it in the middle of my suitcase. To prevent bottle leakage, place a sheet of cling wrap over screw-top bottles or masking tape over the hole in flip-top caps. Secure the cap tightly, and place the entire bottle in a plastic bag. Finally, prevent explosions by traveling (as much as possible) with full containers of liquid. The change in air pressure up in the sky causes air (gasses) to expand, but doesn’t do the same for liquids. No air in the bottle equals no expansion, and no explosions.
organizing by category instead of purpose
I was once guilty of this one. I was so obsessed with “organization” that all thoughts of practicality went out the window. Sometimes packing like items together makes sense, such as with underwear. But at other times, it just makes things more difficult.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Think about when you’ll use a particular item, rather than what the item is used for. For me, the most important distinction I make is whether I’ll want the item handy on the plane. Also, I separate my morning toiletries and my evening toiletries to help keep the bathroom organized.
not pre-planning your outfits
If you don’t enjoy wearing it at home, you aren’t going to be pleased wearing it on vacation either. Travel is not the time to force yourself into wearing clothes you aren’t into. It’s also not the time to simply throw all your favorite things in your suitcase and figure out the details upon arrival.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Think in outfits, not clothes, when packing. Try on all of your outfits before packing them to make sure they look and feel exactly how you expect.
not packing a laundry bag
We often don’t think this far ahead while excitedly stuffing our clean clothes however the heck they’ll fit in our suitcase. But nothing makes you feel dirtier than having to stuff your used clothes back in alongside your clean stuff when it’s time to move along.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Always have a plan for your laundry, and pack bags accordingly. For example, if you plan on having a wet bathing suit, pack a few plastic grocery bags. For everything else, I like a drawstring canvas bag so I’m sure that all the dirt and smells stay inside the bag. I recommend looking for a bag that expands to roughly the dimensions of your suitcase when fully expanded to make the best use of space.
forgetting your rubber flip flops
Whatever you do, and wherever you are going, please do not forget your flip flops. Hotel room floors are filthy, and don’t even get me started on hostels. You definitely don’t want to be walking around barefoot and then getting into bed with dirty feet.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Let an inexpensive pair live in your suitcase when you aren’t traveling. This way, you’ll never be without them.
packing shoes next to your clothes
I mean, gross. And no, I don’t think shower caps placed over the soles are sufficient.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: I recommend purchasing travel shoe bags to protect your shoes from scuffs and protect your clothes from whatever filth is on your shoes. These washable bags ensure that you’ll always have a clean place to store your shoes, and everybody in your suitcase is happy.
overdoing “wilderness mentality”
When I say “wilderness mentality,” I mean the fear that you must pack EVERYTHING EVER because you are going to the “wilderness” and won’t be able to get your hands on things you need. This is okay if you are actually going into the wilderness, but chances are you are traveling to a city where most things you could need are readily available. (Obviously, this doesn’t go for prescription meds and sometimes, tampons.)
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Consider where you are traveling to and be realistic about what you won’t be able to find. There’s no need to carry a month’s supply of heavy-duty bandages when you can easily pick some up, should you need them. However, I still do like being prepared, so I suggest packing a small amount of many items. This way, you’ll have just enough of what you need to tide you over until you can find a pharmacy.
overdoing “tourist-y outfits”
This is similar to the “wilderness mentality” thing. Consider where you are headed before you go crazy with the “tourist-y clothes.” You wouldn’t walk around your home town wearing a safari vest and cargo shorts because you must have a surplus of pockets, would you?
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: For goodness sakes, dress normally. How ever you dress in your every day life is how you should dress when traveling. Well, unless your are from Hawaii and your daily uniform is comprised of flip flops and surf shorts and you are going to Europe, then maybe you should consider dressing up a bit more.
That’s all for today!
Like this post? You’ll find this one helpful too >> What To Wear On A Plane || Travel Outfits Do’s & Don’ts
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Till next time ♥︎
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