If you have a standard traveling backpack, you really shouldn't have trouble fitting a lot of stuff in it. (Let's face it, if you are willing to carry around a 20 kilo back-pack, you probably aren't the kind of traveler that will be needing non-essential things like a flat iron!)The biggest problem that you'll probably come across is getting it to stay within weight limits.
So here's my top 8 tips to packing your life.
1. Start packing 2 weeks to 1 month before you leave.
When you travel as a backpacker, especially if its for a long period of time, you will constantly be changing your mind on the things that you'll need or want to bring. By packing up your bag well before your departure date, you are giving yourself the chance to change your mind (and let's not ignore the chance to save yourself from a few headaches). And when I say pack, I don't mean, fold the clothes that you think you'll need/want to bring and put it in a nice little pile on top of your bag. I mean, take out all the clothes, shoes, accessories, toiletries, electronics, etc., and stuff every single one of those items into the backpack. I speak from experience of taking the rocky road (instead of the paved one). I waited until the day before we left before I completely packed our bags. Luckily (or stupidly), I bought too much stuff and my struggle was having to take away enough items so that we didn't break our backs. But what would have happened if I had forgotten to buy something or if I realized there was something I needed, but couldn't get? Save yourself a migraine, pack early.
2. DON'T go on a travel shopping spree.
If you are using a packing list (assuming you locate the one that you actually need), it'll tell you tons of must-have items that will make you feel like you absolutely will not survive in the wild if you don't have it. That's crap. First, no matter how remote or foreign a country may be, there are things that you will always be able to locate. So yes, I'm telling you not to pack those 3 tubes of toothpaste. And items like collapsible travel cups and even converters are items that are really not necessary for minimal packing. The best way to really judge what you need and don't need, is simply to do Tip #1 before you start shopping (hence doing it early!). I know all you closeted shopaholics out there will say, "but I need this... and I have to have this... and I haven't bought this yet, so I need to do that first." STOP. I promise you, no matter how much you think you need something, if you don't have room or weight space for it, then you won't pack it. Pack the items that you do have first, then use the money you saved and give yourself a treat during your trip with the money you saved.
3. Forget double- Triple up!
Every advice out there will tell you to bring versatile clothing to maximize the space, but don't limit that knowledge to just fabric. Try to have multiple uses for most of your items. Your average smartphone these days can also be used as an alarm clock, a flashlight, and a compass! (Quadrupling it up!) A pillowcase can be used as a pillow (with your clothes stuffed inside) or as a laundry bag or picnic cloth. There's no limit! The best thing is to just look at what your bringing and figure out how many times and how many ways you'll be able to use it. And this can actually help you narrow down your items if you're struggling with that.
4. Bring a travel scale and a big enough purse.
|used countless times|
5. Pockets, Pockets, Pockets!
Sometimes, even when you fill your cabin bag up to 10 kilos and your check-in bag is also at its max, or even when the airport's scale cheats and says your bag is 10.5, having plenty of pocket space is the difference between having an extra 40 Euros in your pocket and not. If you are traveling long enough to span the width of several seasons, then you'll most likely have some type of jacket in your arsenal. Luckily for you, jackets are considered clothing items that can be on your person. And since airlines have not been legally allowed to charge for excess weight on a person (and let's all pray that they NEVER find a loophole for this!), then stuffing your jacket pockets with things is a must for every budget traveler. Don't get me wrong- don't use your jacket as a makeshift luggage and expect to get away with it. But take all of your heavier, less bulky items (i.e. cellphone, phrase books, chargers, etc) and stuff away. On one flight (again, with the amazing RyanAir *insert sarcasm here*), I was able to fit an entire 6 kilos in our two jackets combined! (And yes, I took my scale and weighed it just to see how crazy we really were.) So the rule here is to pack your pockets well.
6. Shoes, Shoes, Sho- NO!!!
|shoes I brought|
7. Your new best friend- the soap bar.
Not just any soap bar, but a laundry soap bar. Some people may snicker and think this is insane, but this small item will not only save you money in laundry costs, but by knowing that you'll be able to wash your clothes anywhere there's water, you'll have a lesser need to bring more items. Instead of bringing a week's worth of underwear (boxers and tanks do add up), you can cut that in half by washing every 2-3 days. I know it might seem daunting, but it really doesn't take up a lot of time and you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly. So soap- don't leave home without it.
8. Safety first?
I placed a question mark because there's a huge market out there for all of these crazy travel safety items that just sometimes end up being a waste of space and money. Fancy luggage tags- take a piece of paper, write your info, and stick it in the outside pocket. Luggage straps so your bag is easily recognizable- take a handkerchief, a table napkin, or just rip off a piece of fabric (just not off your mom's favorite dress!) and tie it to the luggage handle. Passport cover- I have to admit that I have one, but I only like it because its neon orange (which actually is a HORRIBLE color for a cover since it screams 'look at me!'). Anyway, the actual purpose of one doesn't exist to me. Why would you be flailing your passport around so others can see it? The cover prevents water damage? HOW? The only part its actually protecting is the part that doesn't really get damaged by water. A first-aid kit- pack some bandages and alcohol wipes. Any injury that needs more than that will probably need to be seen by a real doctor anyway. And I can go on and on and on. Junk. That's what 80% of all the travel stuff out there are. The only real safety item that I will advocate for is a money belt. Not a fanny pack, or even a neck holder thing (sorry I've got no clue what the name is- its the same as a money belt, but around your neck), but an actual, strap-around-your-waist-and-wear-under-your-clothes money belt.Your passport, spare cash and credit card should always be on you. But you should never have easy access to them, because if you do, then someone else does too. So, no matter what happens, no matter what might get lost, you won't get left with nothing.
I hope that at least one of these items was helpful to you. I learned some of them the hard way and others through tons of research, reading about what other travelers have seen/done. I want to make a point that my advice is mostly for other crazy travelers like us who want to save $10 for every dollar spent. The ones who are traveling to attend fancy events or dress up for expensive meals will probably not benefit much from this. You may disagree with my opinions, but that's all they are- opinions. And if this is exactly the kind of trip that you want to take, then wouldn't you rather get advice from something other than a universal packing list?
|Joel's sister carrying one of our bags.|