Packing For A Trip
Here are my own personal opinions about what to take on a trip. After I wrote this, I found some other good sites:
- One Bag has very detailed and thorough travel info.
- Lani Teshima has a quite extensive site on TravelLite FAQ.
- Mark Verber has a site on Travelling Light
- Travel Kiosk has packing lists and packing tips.
- Linda Freedman wrote How to Travel Out of A Carry-On Bag For a Month
The number-one rule in packing for a trip, unless you have hired several football players to carry your gear for you, is to pack lightly. You will be moving your luggage into the trunk of your car, out of the trunk of your car, through the airport, off of the luggage carousel, to the train station, to the bus stop, onto the bus, off the bus, back two kilometers because you overshot your stop, up six flights of stairs, and onto the dresser.
While this might be great exercise, you might rather save your energy for climbing up to the top of the cathedral. Leave the bowling ball at home.
AbsolutelyHere are things that it is difficult to imagine not packing:
Contact lens equipment and spare glasses
You might also wish to consider extended-wear contact lenses, especially if
you are going to be going somewhere with poor water supplies (e.g. camping).
Hair care equipment (brushes, comb, blow dryer)
You might wish to consider growing a beard, letting your leg hair grow
out, and/or getting a crewcut (yes, women too!) if you are going on a long,
These might be unavailable or difficult to obtain where you are going,
especially in Catholic countries.
If you are traveling on business, the utility of business cards should
be obvious. Small cards with your name and address can be very handy
for tourists as well, to give to the people you make friends with along
Soap (in a plastic bag)
Shampoo (or shave your head and use bar soap)
ClothesMy rule of thumb is to take enough underwear for one week, or for the length of the trip plus two days, whichever is shorter.
If you are traveling on business, you can probably take two suits and rotate between them. Try to take different colors of shirts/blouses; mixing and matching might fool people into thinking you brought more clothes than you did.
If you are going on an extended trip, pick one color and stick with it. If you are part of Generation X, rejoice, as black travels very well. You can get horse slobber all over your black jeans, and as long as nobody stands too close, you'll look fine.
Plan on inclement weather. It will happen, and everybody there will say, "Oh, it almost never rains/snows/hails/blows/floods like this! This is very unusual weather." In particular, be prepared for it being colder than you expect. A polypropelene shirt is a wonderful thing to take traveling with you: it is light, very warm (even when wet), and dries quickly. Packing a Gore-Tex shell is another good way to save a vacation; Gore-Tex rain pants wouldn't hurt.
(Californians and other desert denizens, take note: what will dry out overnight in California might take two days to dry out in wetter climes!)
I also recommend bringing a pair of flip-flops (also called thongs or shower slippers). Not only can they come between you and the strange things that are growing in the bathroom of the scummy dive you ended up in, but if your shoes get wet, this gives you something that you can wear while they dry.
If you are doing any sort of sight-seeing, take some sort of small
backpack or fanny pack. You will want to carry maps and perhaps
phrase books, guidebooks, water bottles, sunglasses, and so on.
This is especially important on the hostel/train circuit. Keep most of
your money hidden away underneath your clothes. If you are as paranoid as
I am, you might even want to go to a two- or three-level system: keep
passport, airline tickets, and the bulk of your money in a money belt,
about US$50-100 in a neck wallet, and about US$5-10 in your jeans pockets.
This is optional, but you can get really tiny flashlights, and they
can come in very handy.
This is very useful if you are shipping a bicycle or anything else in a box.
These can make your plane trip much more enjoyable. Aside from being
noisy and prone to pressure changes, airplane cabins are very dry, and you
will tend to dehydrate if left in one long enough. The gum helps with
depressurization, and airline food is, well, about as good as airline
Imagine that you got rerouted to Omaha, Nebraska because of the weather,
and then got all the runways were iced over. You really want to
have the number of Aunt Martha, who lives in Omaha. You won't care that you
haven't seen Aunt Martha for seventeen years - anyplace with a bed is
better than the airport floor.
Even if you are inside the country, it is a good idea to take your passport
with you. It is light and you never know when your company is going to
want to send you to China, the Feds (or Mafia) are going to catch up with you,
you're going to fall in love with a sexy Italian, or your rich great-uncle in
Ghana is going to die. At a trade show in Dallas, I bumped into some
former colleagues who asked if I'd like a quick contract that would involve
leaving for Paris the next day. Had I had my passport with me, I would have
Passports can also act as identification if your wallet gets lost or stolen.
A cheap digital watch with an alarm is small, light, and very useful.
Outside Your CountryPhone beeper
If you have an answering machine or voicemail to check while abroad, you
will probably need a small electrical device to generate the appropriate phone
tones for your country. (In the US, you can get these devices cheaply at
Most places in the world have different plugs and different power supplies.
If you want to use your computer/modem/electric razor/alarm clock abroad,
you will need to get equipment to translate from "your power" to "their
- Hex wrench
- You can get sets of wrenches that all fold together.
- Spoke wrench, tire irons
- Unless you are certain that your wheel will never become untrue and
your tires never puncture, take along these small tools.
- Crescent wrench
- (Only needed if your pedals can't be removed with a hex wrench.)
- Patch kit
- These come in little boxes and take very little room.
You might also want to give serious consideration to Kevlar tires. They are heavier, but much much much less prone to flats.
Leave It Behind!Do not pack camp fuel or even an empty fuel container. In some countries, the airlines get upset about even the SMELL of fuel. (I am not joking. See my New Zealand Trip Report for a discussion of all the hassles we went through.) If you plan on camping, bring a stove that does not have an integrated fuel canister and leave the fuel at home.
It is a very good idea to avoid controlled substances. You probably do not want an extended vacation in another country's jail system, even if room and board is free.
If you are traveling internationally, be very hesitant to take anything for anyone else, especially if you do not know them well. At best, the airlines will ask you lots of questions about what you are taking. At worst, the airplane will explode and you will die. (The Lockerbie crash, if I recall correctly, was caused by an explosive device carried on by a passenger for her fiancee. Nice guy.)
See also Diana Fairechild's How Should Jet Travelers Pack?.
Go to Tips For Travellers
Copyright, Kaitlin Duck Sherwood, 1994