When deciding what or how much to bring on a trip, I live by one sentence:
Less is more.
I wasn’t always this way; I used to believe the opposite. I’d count the number of days and make sure I had a separate outfit for each day: a separate top and a separate pant/skirt. I’d throw in few swimsuits, at least three pairs of shoes and three purses into my overstuffed suitcases.
So, why change your outlook? A few good reasons… One, you won’t have to abandon any belongings after you buy souvenirs and find you have no room.
And, there is a 100% chance that you will buy souvenirs. I had to sacrifice some items in Asia because I had a hamper full of custom clothes made for me in Shanghai. Two, if you’ll be taking public transport to/from the airport, you’ll want to make you and your stuff easy to carry. There’s not always going to be a moving sidewalk or an elevator or an escalator or even smoothly paved streets. You might have on a heavy coat. You might be walking on a very busy street in Tokyo. There’s not going to be a kind stranger to help you up or down the stairs. (Or, they might “help” you and run away with your stuff!) Save yourself the stress and the backaches. And, third: On your trip, fewer things will translate into fewer decisions to make while on vacation and fewer things to worry about or lose.
- Use a smaller suitcase to help you edit your portable wardrobe. I have a 21″ rollerbag. It’s bubblegum pink, and it keeps me honest.
- Don’t pack the night before or the same day. Give yourself as much as a week, or at least one full day prior, to pack. My godmother packs a month in advance because she doesn’t want to forget anything. Rushing will only stress you out. And if you stay up all night then you’ll be tired and weaken your immune system just in time for the petri dish that is a commercial airline. Also – packing earlier will allow you to…
- Take stuff out. Think of your baggage as a draft. You put things in and then you edit down. Pick up your “first draft” bag and ask yourself, “Is this too heavy? Can I easily lug this around for hours, if necessary?” I repeat, take stuff out. Once, I had a friend come over and help me pare down.
- Don’t check any baggage. I know this sounds crazy, ladies, but there is a method to this madness. Making the decision to not check any bags will keep your baggage overall volume down to a minimum. You won’t be able to bring a big bag. You’ll save time, too, by not waiting at the baggage claim conveyor belt – and – there’s ZERO chance that the airline can misplace your stuff! In addition to my 21″ rollerbag, I carry on an 18″ duffel for under-the-seat. (Check your airlines’ measurement guidelines first.)
- Bring clothes that mix and match. Bring items that you know that you will use more than once. Don’t bring a pair of shoes or boots that only match with one outfit. (Give yourself one exception: You might want to bring a special dress for that anniversary dinner.) Comfortable shoes for wandering are called for here, not sky-high heels. You can always hand-wash some items or use the hotel laundry service. In the colder seasons/climes, layers are key: one bulky sweater, a thin one, long sleeves, a few camisoles, leggings/tights, and definitely a scarf.
Lastly, a few words on fashion: Look your best. You are a visitor, after all. Folks elsewhere live by this credo. I don’t mean that you should wear designer labels all the time or be black-tie affair decked out. Just have some polish and look respectable. No one is wearing yoga pants or sweats, unless they are doing yoga or actually exercising at that precise moment. Not many other people outside this country, I’ve found, wears the equivalent to pajamas to the airport. No one else is wearing white athletic shoes. Or fanny packs or baseball caps or other sports apparel or souvenir t-shirts from other places. (I love sports like any red-blooded American. But it’s just not what I wear when traveling. I’d make an exception for attending a live match or game. Then, by all means – wear your colors proud! Otherwise, no.) No holes, no saggy hems, no schlep. Save the short shorts for the beach. You can be both comfortable and chic.
But, wait! What’s wrong with my sequined fleece hoodie and matching yoga pants, you ask? Dressing this way makes you look like a tourist, making you a target for less-than-savory characters along the journey. Show respect for the host country in which you are a guest.
Ladies, please exercise modesty. Untoward behavior is yucky to deal with at home or anywhere else.
Travel guides can give you more detailed information on proper attire when visiting specific countries, religious buildings and other sacred sites.
And, remember that the best thing to wear is a smile 🙂
- Learning to Travel Light on Extreme Telecommuters
- Back to the Future! A later post I did on Thing I Bring: A Personal Packing List