My rule of thumb is to take enough underwear for one week, or for the length of the trip plus two days, whichever is shorter. If you are traveling on business, you can probably take two suits and rotate between them.
Try to take different colors of shirts/blouses; mixing and matching might fool people into thinking you brought more clothes than you did. If you are going on an extended trip, pick one color and stick with it.
Plan on inclement weather. It will happen, and everybody there will say, “Oh, it almost never rains/snows/hails/blows/floods like this! This is very unusual weather.” In particular, be prepared for it being colder than you expect.
A polypropylene shirt is a wonderful thing to take travelling with you; it is light, very warm (even when wet), and dries quickly. Packing a Gore-Tex shell is another good way to save a vacation; Gore-Tex rain pants wouldn’t hurt. (Californians and other desert denizens, take note: what will dry out overnight in California might take two days to dry out in wetter climes!) I also recommend bringing a pair of flip-flops (also called thongs or shower slippers).
Not only can they come between you and the strange things that are growing in the bathroom of the scummy dive you ended up in, but if your shoes get wet, this gives you something that you can wear while they dry.
Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Contact lens, equipment and spare glasses You might also wish to consider extended-wear contact lenses, especially if you are going to be going somewhere with poor water supplies (e.g. camping). Makeup (for business trips) Razor Hair care equipment (brushes, comb, blow dryer)
You might wish to consider growing a beard, letting your leg hair grow out, and/or getting a crewcut (yes, women too!) if you are going on a long, low-budget trip. Business/calling cards If you are travelling on business, the utility of business cards should be obvious. Small cards with your name and address can be very handy for tourists as well, to give to the people you make friends with along the way.
If you are doing a low-budget trip, you should also bring cleansing products: Soap (in a plastic bag) Shampoo (or shave your head and use bar soap) Towel If you will be looking at ceilings (like on a castle or church crawl), bring a small mirror so that you won’t strain your neck.
Day pack If you are doing any sort of sight-seeing, take some sort of small backpack or fanny pack. You will want to carry maps and perhaps phrasebooks, guidebooks, water bottles, sunglasses, and so on. Neck wallet or money belt This is especially important on the hostel/train circuit.
Keep most of your money hidden away underneath your clothes. If you are as paranoid as I am, you might even want to go to a two- or three-level system: keep passport, airline tickets, and the bulk of your money in a money belt, about US$50-100 in a neck wallet, and about US$5-10 in your jeans pockets. Tiny flashlight This is optional, but you can get really tiny flashlights, and they can come in very handy.
Tape and magic marker This is very useful if you are shipping a bicycle or anything else in a box. Earplugs, water bottle (with water!), chewing gum, food These can make your plane trip much more enjoyable. Aside from being noisy and prone to pressure changes, aeroplane cabins are very dry, and you will tend to dehydrate if left in one long enough. The gum helps with depressurization, and airline food is, well, about as good as airline food.
Phone Numbers Imagine that you got rerouted to Omaha, Nebraska because of the weather, and then got all the runways were iced over. You really want to have the number of Aunt Martha, who lives in Omaha. You won’t care that you haven’t seen Aunt Martha for seventeen years – anyplace with a bed is better than the airport floor. Passport Even if you are inside the country, it is a good idea to take your passport with you.
Passports can also act as identification if your wallet gets lost or stolen. Watch with alarm A cheap digital watch with an alarm is small, light, and very useful.
Having appropriate luggage can make a world of difference. It may mean the difference between carry-on and stowed (which may mean the difference between lost and not lost!), health or a hurting back, and damaged vs. undamaged belongings. Note: This article assumes that you are packing for a plane flight; travelling by train, bus, or car may be slightly different.
Garment Bags Garment bags can be exceptionally nice for short business trips. Some aeroplanes have little compartments with a bar that you can hang them on. Be advised, however, that those compartments fill up pretty quickly, and you may have to jam it into an overhead bin, wrinkling your suits and dresses. However, garment bags are not particularly easy to carry if very full or for a great distance.
Wheeled Luggage If you must take heavy items (like, for example, six computer manuals and a replacement power supply), seriously consider some sort of wheeled contraption. One can purchase carts that can fold up and go inside the suitcase or suitcases that have wheels and a handle built-in. Suitcases with stiff, centre-mounted racks are much more manageable than suitcases with “leashes”. The leashed suitcases have a tendency to wobble, tip, get stuck, fall over, etc.
Whatever you pack your gear in, be sure to clearly tag your luggage on the outside with your name, address, and phone number. (You might want to use a business address or PO Box instead of your home address.)
Also put a piece of paper inside with the same information, in case the tag gets stripped off. If you are travelling internationally, you should pack your own gear, then keep it close to you at all times. If someone else packs your gear or you are separated from it, the best that could happen is that the airline will grill you about your luggage and possibly go through it.
Organizing The Space You will undoubtedly want to organize the space in your luggage so that items are easily accessible once you get to your destination. Plastic Bags are Your Friends when it comes to this. You can pack your undies in one bag, your socks in another, your toiletries in another, and so on.
(Don’t forget to pack an extra bag for your dirty laundry!) Avoiding Wrinkles My former neighbour tells me that the best way to avoid wrinkling suits is to roll them up carefully, then put them in a plastic bag. Avoiding Breakages If you are travelling with anything breakable, surround it with soft and squishy items.
Put your Listerine bottle inside your one of your boots. You might also want to put your breakable item inside a cardboard box stuffed with foam or packing “peanuts”, then putting that box inside your suitcase. The best way to avoid breakage is to take the item as carry-on, if possible. Maximizing Space Utilization If you are having trouble fitting everything in, look for ways to use nooks and crannies.
Fill the area around books with socks. Put your ethernet cables inside your shoes. Also, you can cheat a little bit on the carry-on. Wear your jacket on the plane instead of putting it in your suitcase. (This is not a bad idea anyway, since aeroplanes are frequently cold.) Put your earrings, modem, or even a few pairs of underwear in your coat pockets. Happy Travelling! 🙂