Packing Tips You’ve Probably Heard Before, But Are Still Pretty Darn Helpful
Packing for five months of travel across multiple countries, continents, and seasons is not the easiest task. I’m notoriously either an underpacker or an overpacker, with the *very* rare occasion of hitting that sweet spot in between. All in all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the amount of use I’ve gotten from (almost) all that I’ve packed. Here are a few tidbits of packing realism I’ve picked up along the way:
You will be able to buy anything you need.
Shopping trips might take double the amount of time, as you stand in a Bulgarian pharmacy trying to decipher Cyrillic letters while scouring the aisles for familiar brand names (shout-out to Nivea and Garnier, which have been in every country so far). Liquid toiletries can be difficult to carry from country to country, and a nightmare if they explode in your checked bag, so I tend to purchase what I need at the beginning of each month. So when you’re packing, focus on the most critical items you can’t live without and are hard to obtain or replace abroad — like contacts and prescription glasses, medicine, computer, passport, extra credit cards, etc.. (But keep in mind, you can actually live without a lot.)
Don’t bother packing heels or a sun hat. Or hiking boots.
And this is coming from someone who loves to wear heels. You just won’t wear them. Plus, they actually add so much unnecessary weight to your bag — and let’s be honest, you don’t really want to wear heels on travel day. Flats and sandals, all the way. However, I happen to like these heels and don’t want to toss them, so I’ve been making myself wear them at least once a month, because I’m stubborn like that.
Similarly, I’ve carried around my hat for three months now, and have worn it a whopping total of twice. Once as part of the fly ensemble I wore one day while working at a beach cafe in Camps Bay, seen above. Another, for a photowalk with friends through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Sun hats, though light in weight, end up being pretty annoying on travel days. So I’ve ended up just stuffing it in my suitcase, which just ends up crushing it each time and now it’s kind of misshapen. First world problems.
As far as hiking boots go, even if you’re going somewhere like Cape Town that has some of the most incredible hikes in the world, just pack one pair of tennis shoes and use those. Personally, I bought a pair of trail running shoes (better traction / sturdier than my typical running shoes) that easily double for workouts on and off the trail.
Russian Doll Approach — Bag within a bag.
In my case, I check my big rolling suitcase and use my travel backpack as my carry-on, but it’s been so useful having a smaller travel bag for side / weekend trips. On that same note, I typically use a tote for my work bag, but there will be plenty of times when you will want to have a sturdy, smaller backpack or drawstring bag — comes in quite handy for hands-free day travel and adventures, like biking around the city.
While we’re on this note…
Use a 360° wheeled suitcase.
It makes life and transit so much easier and takes an enormous load off of you having to physically carry your life belongings. Many people will say don’t use a wheeled suitcase if you’re planning on going to European cities with cobblestone streets — I’ve never had an issue, especially with 360 degree wheels. And fun fact, suitcases come with handles too. You can use those to pick up your bag over a pothole if need be :)
Packing cubes, packing cubes, packing cubes.
One of the most cliche and common suggestions, in addition to rolling things, but seriously so helpful. Designate each packing cube to different types of clothing — I find it way easier to have one packing cube dedicated to work out clothes, one to nice clothes, one to sleepy/comfy clothes, one to undergarments / socks, one to whatever clothes are out of season for the next country (e.g. I’ll be packing away, or donating, my tank tops and shorts when I head to Prague for November), etc. I’ve found that organizing them into categories like this makes it so much easier to unpack and find things when you arrive at your next location. Packing cubes are also so great for shorter side trips. I use my extra daypack / small bag to separate all the random items I collect along the way, and ziplocks on ziplocks to store any liquids.
If you do overpack or find yourself lugging around things you don’t need?
Donate! A key part of travel is giving back to the communities that are welcoming you, and donating clothes and other items is an easy (and mutually beneficial) way of doing so. In the States, my go-to is typically Goodwill. While abroad, it’s easy to find a good local donation center with a simple google search. Salvation Army is one highly respectable charity organization that has donation centers all around the world.
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