My Travel Essentials + Packing Tips

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I can’t be the only one who thinks that packing well is the first step of an awesome trip, can I?

Like it or not, what we put into our suitcase and carry-on could help make our trip better or turn our trip into a chaotic mess. Packing too little for a trip could lead to this state of deficiency when we arrive which leads to spending more money on buying a lot of things. However, packing too much can lead to us carrying a lot of dead weight (which our arms will cry for when we have to haul our suitcases through security checks.) So today, as I pack for my next trip, I came up with several tips which I’d like to share here to make your packing much easier.

I usually pack the day before the trip – note that it’s day, not night. The reason for this is that if I pack during the day, then I’ll have some time in the afternoon or night to re-check what I’ve put in my bag and get to a convenience store if there are some things that I’m missing because I’m not into making trips to convenience stores when I’m on my trip. Besides, packing the night before you travel kind of induces some sort of panic – especially if you’ve got a morning flight.

I usually start with my carry-on luggage. My carry-on is always a backpack (because I learned the hard way that sling bags kill my shoulders and back) and most of the items here are my staples so I never have to think too much about it. When it comes to backpacks, I’d rather pick one that has a lot of pockets on it and inside of it so I won’t have to grope around my backpack when I need anything. Seriously, I recommend that you don’t pick a drawstring or one-pocket-for-all kind of backpack for traveling because you don’t want to be that person missing out a photo op or something because you’re too busy looking for your camera.

My carry-on essentials include:

  • Sarong. I learned this tip from NatGeo and seriously, you can use a sarong for pretty much anything: from spicing up an outfit, a make-shift blanket, to covering up for entering temples.
  • Headband/hair tie. I honestly hate having hair in my line of sight so this item can save my mood.
  • Wallet.
  • Notebook. For long trips, I usually take my medium-sized one and cope with turbulence by writing. Really, this helps distracting me from the fact that the plane is swaying from side to side.
  • 2 pens. I always have back-up in case one runs out of ink.
  • Lip balm/lip gloss. Girls, here’s a tip: a bit of lip balm/lip gloss can instantly freshen up your look. Really, you don’t have to bring a make-up bag in your carry-on. A fresh coat of lip color or gloss is enough.
  • DSLR camera + charger
  • Cell phone + charger + mobile power supply. Whenever I get to a hotel, I would usually charge my power supply first as my “investment” for the next day.
  • Band-aids. As a clumsy person who can trip on plain, flat floor, this is everything.
  • Tissue. I don’t know about you but I always sneeze a lot during flights so this saves me from looking like a snotty freak.
  • Headphones. I only use this during flights if I don’t have any writing ideas. Once I get to the place, they’re usually stowed away because what’s traveling if you don’t “hear” the place?
  • Sunglasses + case + lens cloth. If you wear glasses, then a lens cloth will be quite crucial to clean your lenses if it got hit by sea water or rain.
  • Cap. Again, this is to get the hair out of my face.

My tip is to pack your most valuable stuff in the deepest part of your carry-on, especially if it’s the same bag that you will carry with you everywhere during the trip because it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Once my carry-on is packed, I would start packing my baggage – which is usually a medium-sized black suitcase with wheels. I won’t give any specifics here because what I bring in my baggage varies with each trip. But here are some trips I have for packing the suitcase.

Clothes

  • Bring clothes that you can mix and match with each other a lot. What I usually do is lay out the shorts/pants that I’m bringing (I never bring skirts) and chunk out all the tops I think might go well for the trip on my bed. I eliminate my tops by pairing them with each bottom. The rule is if it matches with more than two bottom wears then it can go with me.
  • Drop the fancy dresses or fur coats or other items that match with nothing. Seriously, unless you really have to, leave them home.
  • Roll up clothes to save space. If you can’t roll them, then fold them to as little of a square as you can so that even if you bring a lot of clothes, you still have space to put other things.
  • Try to keep certain articles of clothing clean so you can wear them again. This doesn’t mean you can’t get down and dirty – this is your trip to enjoy after all. But if possible, try to keep your clothes as clean as possible. This also saves you from the huge laundry you have to do after a trip or laundry costs at a hotel.
  • Bring a neutral-colored outerwear that you can pair with other items. This helps transform your look and make you look different without needing to bring too many clothing items.
  • Bring as few jewelry as possible. Bringing and wearing too much jewelry makes you a more likely crime target and will make you freak out when you lose it – really, just leave it home.

Toiletries

  • Bring travel-sized things. You don’t need a gallon of soap or shampoo, no.
  • Drop the expensive products. When re-packing things before we get home, it’s likely that we’re going to forget something at the hotel or lose things. You don’t want that thing you forget to be that expensive soap with rich shea butter or gold dust or whatnot.
  • Drop the make-up and the hair-styling tools. I’m seriously baffled with girls that bring two curling irons and a huge bag dedicated solely for make-up while they’re traveling. I usually bring my moisturizer and three choices of lip color for my trip. Unless a beauty or a fashion shoot is in your agenda, leave those things home. Even if you have to bring them, go for 2-in-1 products like lip + cheek tint or eyeshadow + blush palette.
  • Use a bag that you can flatten or squish. Don’t bother bringing a hard make-up case on your trip. Pick a fabric/plastic bag that you can squish if there’s extra air and save space.

Other tips

  • Bring a canvas or cloth bag for your dirty clothes and one plastic bag for wet clothing items. Air-dry wet clothing items and put them in a plastic bag to separate them from clothes that are clean or at least cleaner.
  • Don’t bring too many pairs of shoes! Shoes really waste space in a suitcase. I usually wear some running shoes/trainers for my flight and bring a pair of trekking sandals because they’re more comfortable.
  • A note to girls: always wear and bring pantyliners + pads if you’re traveling near “that time of the month”. Trust me, you’d rather have “extra security down there” than sorry.
  • Don’t bring too many pajamas for sleepwear. No one’s going to notice that you sleep in the same thing you slept in two nights ago.
  • To not overpack your suitcase for your trip back home: don’t shop too much! Just spend your money on things you can only get in that area.

The main rule in packing for any trip basically is this: only bring the things that you need and just leave everything else at home. And how would you know what kind of things you would need? Do some research about the place you’re heading to. What’s the weather like there? How are the customs? Do they tolerate skimpy outfits or do they welcome T-shirt and jeans better? What are you going to do there? What does your itinerary look like? Will you climb mountains or head to the beach? Ask yourselves these questions before you pack and it should help you sort things out.

If you have any extra packing tips, do share them in the comments below. I’m curious to know how you pack for your travels because everyone has their own specific trick. Hopefully this post helps you get sorted with your packing!

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