In honor of my upcoming trip to Europe on Tuesday, I wanted to share some of my top travel tips for preparing and packing. Over the years I’ve learned to whittle it down into something easy and manageable to handle when the daunting task comes up. Everything about travel is exciting but I’d say packing for a trip is just a notch above the unpacking part. So, I’ve devised a plan for your convenience (and mine) to help alleviate some of that pressure. And please, feel free to comment below with some of your travel tips, tricks, life hacks or suggestions below. I’m always happy to add another skill set to my repertoire.
1) Pick luggage that doesn’t complicate your life.
So, the first thing to consider when traveling abroad is what you’re going to be carrying everything in. Depending on what kind of trip you’re doing you might only be taking a backpack along, which I’ve done on multiple occasions, but in this case, let’s assume you are planning on taking a suitcase. Ever since some genius finally decided to put 4 wheels instead of 2 on suitcases it’s made traveling SO much easier. I definitely recommend buying one with four 360 degree wheels, dubbed ‘spinners’, if you are in the market for new travel ware. They’re becoming standard in all the newer suitcases being made these days. I know there are designer suitcases out there, and some of them are gorgeous, but for this trip I just wanted something I could lug along and not worry about scuffing up when bouncing around from city to city catching planes, trains and automobiles. And would you believe it, Costco had just what I was looking for. Lightweight, durable polycarbonate suitcases that come with a smaller matching jr. suitcase for only $130. Also, they are cat approved- just ask my two fur babies.
2) Strategically pack your carry-on
Packing your carry-on can be just as important, if not more important, than packing your main suitcase. I think of my carry-on as my survival bag. When you’ve been stuck for days in a foreign country with nothing but the clothes on your back and the random array of personal items stashed away in your purse, you learn very quickly how necessary it is to pack key essentials in your carry-on. Generally if the airline loses your bag, the daily allowance they reimburse you still does not cover the bare minimum you’d require to replace the missing articles needed, so it’s better to be prepared. Just keep in mind that some airlines have more strict rules than others about the size of your carry-on so always check ahead of time and remember not to fill it up too much in case your suitcase is overweight and you need to stuff some things in it. Overage fees are no joke and can be easily avoided by being vigilant. With that being said, here is a list of things I always take on board with me:
– At least one utility travel converter. I prefer ones that also have a USB plug-in.
– All chargers for phone, camera, travel speaker, etc. These can be expensive to replace, if at all.
– All my vitamins (pre-organized into daily packets) and medications, if necessary. I also like to stick some cough drops, gum, advil and a couple of my favorite tea packets in there too.
– A sweater & an extra pair of underwear (trust me, you’ll be thankful if your suitcase ever gets lost after a long international flight).
– A compact tote in the chance that you need an emergency bag for those spontaneous shopping sprees at the airport souvenir shops or if you feel like putting a few select items in it to have under the seat in front of you for easier access. I have a little drawstring pouch that’s smaller than the size of a donut when its folded up so it hardly uses any space at all.
– Travel sized toiletries: deodorant, anti-bacterial gel, moist face wipes, chapstick, lotion, toothbrush/toothpaste, eye drops, nail file and comb.
– My iPad, a good book and my ear buds
– Healthy snacks
– A pair of sunglasses/reading glasses and my eye mask.
– An external battery- because there’s nothing worse than dying electronics when you’re stuck on a plane.
3) Invest in a travel steamer
You’ve probably already heard that rolling your clothing helps to prevent wrinkles. And it does. Significantly. But, anyone who’s done it knows that some wrinkles are just kind of inevitable. Now before you freak out about taking a steamer along in your luggage, let me assure you that it’s been one of those items that I’m always so relieved to have brought. The travel sized one I purchased from Target for $30 has already flown around the world with me and will embark on this next journey without question. With this baby, I could literally fold my clothes into airplanes and it wouldn’t make one bit of a difference once I use my handy-dandy steamer. I actually use this when I’m at home instead of my bigger one since assembling and disassembling it is more time consuming.
4) Pack dual use items
It can be tricky but, I try my best to consolidate my clothing and pack articles that can be used for more than one thing. A great item that can be utilized in hot or cold weather is a light scarf. It can be worn as the obvious but also as a shawl, sarong, head wrap, impromptu belt or sometimes I use it on the plane in place of my eyemask. Other items might include leggings that can be dressed up at night or worn for exercising and exploring during the day. Finding things like these will cut down your packing list and give you more options when you don’t have the accessibility you have at home.
5) Don’t forget the little things that make your down time better
When the day is done and you finally make it back to your hotel room, there’s a couple small things that will make life a little more enjoyable and give you a touch of home. I always pack a portable speaker, a couple tealight candles, my robe and a wine opener. There’s nothing worse than getting back to your room to unwind with a nice bottle of wine only to discover there’s no way to pop the cork!
6) Bring carabiners!
This one may have caught you by surprise but I have found so many different uses for them throughout my travels. I’ve used carabiners to secure my sneakers to the outside of my backpack after trekking through mud, keeping keys or my camera attached to me/my bag, hanging grocery or shopping bags, attaching tarps, clipping zippers together to deter theft, keeping hair ties or jewelry together, or even tightening your pants (true story). I usually have a variety of sizes and randomly clip them to my luggage and bags.
7) Bring a drawstring laundry bag
Hopefully you get a chance to hit a laundromat while you’re on the road but in the meantime, all that dirty laundry has to go somewhere. I can’t stand the thought of it laying against my clean clothes so I bring a separate bag to house it all. Large Ziplocks can work as disposable ones or Target carries laundry bags for as little as $1.99 . Throw some dryer pads in there to mask any odors or just keep your suitcase smelling fresh.
8) Cover your shoes
If you think about where the bottom of your shoes have been you probably wouldn’t want them rubbing up against everything in your suitcase. For this reason, I put each pair of shoes into their own dust bags. As an alternative, you can buy shower caps from the Dollar Store or even use plastic grocery bags.
9) Take pictures of the belongings you’re bringing
Now I know this may sound completely paranoid and before my bag was stolen, I would’ve agreed. But, a lesson was learned and now I feel compelled to share it. If the unfortunate case should ever arise that your suitcase goes missing, the first thing baggage claim will want is an exact description of your bag. Sounds easy but try describing your suitcase out loud right now. Do you even know the brand name of your suitcase or it’s dimensions? You’d be surprised by how many people don’t have a clue. They’ll also want to know the contents in it. Again, it sounds easy but once you’re actually required to itemize each individual article to feign a chance at reimbursement it becomes quite a mission. Not only does it make your life easier but you also have picture evidence.
So there you have it, my top 9 tips for packing. More travel posts to come so be sure to subscribe. Now it’s time for me to pack my things and jet! First stop: Copenhagen!