How to pack for a trip, from an expert (with photos)
Yes, I am calling myself an expert packer. My credentials include having traveled to 20 countries, 12+ states, and have lived in about seven of those. I know a lot of you have traveled way more, but all of those places combined are more than my age, so I feel like I qualify to have at least some helpful knowledge -also, having made a lot of mistakes along the way (losing luggage, getting things stolen, overpacking… the list goes on).
Ok so let’s get right into it! First, I always recommend starting with the essential important documents. It’s not the super fun part, but you will thank yourself later for being organized in this area. I have a trusty little zip pouch that I keep my passport (if traveling internationally), one of my credit cards, a pen (for easy access when you have to fill out customs forms, or if you live in Hawai’i that irritating residents doc.), cash if I’m carrying large amounts, and my boarding passes. This pouch I protect with my life and keep in a very safe, and secure (but easy for me to get to) place.
Pictured is my personal travel pouch and everything I keep inside. Passport (with cover), cash, pen, and boarding passes.
A note on carrying cash: When I travel to developing nations I usually bring enough cash for my entire trip. I do this because ATM fee’s are usually about $10 each time you pull out money. If you’re stopping at the ATM every few days those fees add up. If you’re traveling to an area where credit cards are mostly accepted then it’s a good time to rack up some of your points! But I still recommend bringing a good amount of cash to last you so you don’t ever have to stop at at ATM. I also suggest changing your money into the countries currency in the actual country but NOT at the airport. Airport currency exchanges usually aren’t very high. So if you do need some cash right away don’t exchange a whole bunch at the airport, possibly only $100 to get around with and then when you’re out and about find a better rate hopefully without a commission.
An example of itineraries all ready to go!
Next, I print out ALL of my itineraries. This includes hotels, aribnbs, flights, rental cars, anything and everything I’ve booked. I just find it a lot easier to have a paper copy to read with all of the information, stacked by date, rather than looking through e-mails that can sometimes disappear. Although it is not the greenest method it is helpful to see your trip laid out in sequence. I put all of these in a folder and keep it in my carry on so that I’m able to check on connecting flights, and have phone numbers/ directions to hotels in case my check ins are lost.
In my carry on I also have a pouch of skin care essentials. I bring face oils, lip balm, lotion, a small face wash, and of course an eye mask because it’s the only way I can sleep. I also bring melatonin or ZzzQuil with me for overnight flights and make sure I have a sarong in my carry on to use either as an extra blanket, cover up, or pillow. Then of course the fun stuff such as a journal, good book, devices and anything and everything to keep you occupied on a long flight AND layover.
The most important tip I have for you is to make copies of your passport and drivers license and then place them in a different bag other than the one holding your originals. One time when I was on a layover in Greece I had my backpack stolen. Luckily I had copies of my passport, drivers license and travelers checks in another bag. The only way I was able to get a new passport within 24 hours was because I had these copies and also a way to get some money since all of my debit cards were stolen. So it is important to keep your copies as well as another money source separated from your main ones.
Proof that I over pack ! In my defense I had a lot of work samples + gifts for friends.
As for my check in, the first rule is to not overpack. However, I break this rule religiously so don’t feel bad if you do too. But keep in mind, there is nothing worse than trying to find your hidden airbnb, in the blazing hot sun, rolling several suitcases down a cobblestone road, trying to navigate street signs in a foreign language. I’ve been there one too many times, so that being said, try your best to pack light. Depending on the weather, I recommend packing outfits you can layer, and get lots of versatility out of. For example, a jumpsuit you can walk around in all day, and then layer with a fun jacket and a pair of earrings for evening. It will look like you’re wearing an entirely new outfit, while being minimal. Bring tops that you can match with several of your bottoms, and lots of one piece outfits that are easy to move in. If you’re going to be gone for a week, you don’t need to bring 7 bottoms and 7 tops, and 7 one piece outfits. Figure out how you can re-wear a few of those items and transform them into a completely new outfit. I am also a believer in bringing your favorite clothes while you’re traveling. A lot of people want to leave their favorites at home for safe keeping, but in reality if you’re going on an epic holiday, you’re more than likely to be taking some of your most epic photos- and you’ll want to be wearing your favorite dress, or that jumpsuit that makes you look amazing. Trust me, it’s worth the risk of something happening to it, in order to make memories in an outfit you love. Make sure you bring at least one jacket with you, and a pair of closed toed shoes in case you need them. So, my check in packing rules are to pack all of your favorites, then once you have them in a pile, start eliminating things you may not need or know you most likely won’t wear and get it down to a small bunch you’re comfortable with carrying with you at all times.
As for toiletries, I’m personally fairly simple. I don’t bring any hot tools with me to do hair (and honeslty don’t own any), and try to bring only the basics. But you also don’t want to irritate your skin while traveling so I try my best to take products I’m already used to using. If you’re bringing a check in this is a lot easier, but if you’re bringing only a carry on you have to remember to check all of your products and make sure they are under 3 oz. The Target travel section is my favorite for little things you don’t need a big bottle of such as shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, and travel toothbrushes.
And that's a wrap! Depending where you’re traveling to your packing list may look different but here is a simple guideline you can follow:
- print copies of your passport and drivers license and keep them separated from your originals
- bring an extra source of money whether it be cash, an extra credit or debit card, or travelers checks
- bring cash in incriments of $100 because that gets you the best rate (when exchanging money foreign countries usually like bills from 2009 and up, blue bills will be your best bet, and don’t bring overly wrinkled or ripped bills)
- try not to use the ATM’s because of the fees associated with them
- don’t exchange money at the airport unless you need cash right away
- have a small pouch to fit all of your essentials such as passport and cash
- I like to have a passport cover so when I’m standing in line at immigration people can’t tell which country I’m from (unless I speak)
- if you’re traveling to a developing nation, when you’re at your hotel packing to go out for the day, it’s a good idea to bring a roll of toilet paper, just in case you can’t find any when ya gotta go.
- don’t pack any valuables in your check in