Last Minute Packing Tips

Departure in less than 3 days…

Excitement is building, and the packing is at hand!  So here are a few tips that always help me as I prepare for the adventure of a lifetime!

Spread everything out that you’re thinking about packing and evaluate.

  • Double check that the essentials are there.
  • Look at every item carefully, do you really need it?  Is the space and weight worth it?
  • Are there any items you can double up?

Compartmentalize. There are “cube” systems you can buy for packing, but I just use an odd assortment of little bags I’ve gathered over the years.

  • Toiletries: in a small bag that will has a few small pockets to help organize, also has a hook which is perfect for small bathrooms without counter space.  I just hang it on a towel rack and which keeps everything handy.
  • First aid kit: small bag with first aid supplies.  Hopefully I won’t need to go in there very often, but I don’t want to have to run to a pharmacy for a headache or blister.
  • Compression bags: Space saver bags are great for condensing the size of your clothes, but they’re also helpful for organizing.  I use one for underwear and socks, and one or two others for shirts and pants.  X-Large Ziploc bags also work if you can squeeze all the air out before you seal it up.
  • Shoes:  I wear my tennis shoes and fit my sandals in the edges.  If they’re dirty, I’ll put them in newspaper bags.

What goes in the checked luggage vs carry on?  While I admire backpackers who can pack for 3 months in a carry-on, my photography gear throws a curve ball to that style of packing, so I have to pack with checked luggage.

Be sure to check the TSA website.  There is a very helpful chart of what you can and can not pack.

Carry on:

  • With an overnight flight and almost 24 hours of travel time, it’s important to choose the travel outfit carefully.   I’ll dress for comfort, but also to keep my suitcase lighter.  So I’ll wear my heaviest shoes, long pants and layers.  I’ll also wear my one light jacket.  Airplanes tend to get cold at night, and I want to sleep on the flight down.  The advantage of layers is it also provides more options in case the main suitcase doesn’t arrive.
  • Other important items for carry on: prescription medicines, earplugs, book (or eReader) toothbrush, small toiletries.  Anything you would NEED for a day or two if your luggage doesn’t make it.
  • I’ll also wear a money belt under my clothes, which will have my passport, cash, credit card.

Photography gear.  Since Photography is my reason for travel, my photography gear is more important to me than a complete change of clothes.  My carry-on will be a camera backpack which will hold my camera gear and laptop.  My “small personal item” will be my day pack packed with a wallet with my itinerary, pocket money, Nook, iPod, small toiletries and at an extra pair of underwear and t-shirt.

Checked luggage:

  • My tripod goes in the middle of my suitcase, in between the rods for the wheels.
  • Anything prohibited in carry-on.  This includes knives, multi-tools, liquids over 3oz.
  • Everything liquid or cream gets put in a plastic bag.  I’ve had a bottle of shampoo explode on an international flight. Ick!  It took a while to rinse the shampoo out of all my clothes.
  • Most clothes packed in space saver bags, but some little items kept out to fill the empty spaces left when other items are packed.  Socks make great space fillers.
  • Pack the heaviest items at the bottom of both wheeled luggage and backpacks.
  • Don’t forget to leave some space for souvenirs.

Once everything is packed and ready to go, make sure that YOU can carry everything at one time.  We won’t have any sherpas or porters.  If you can’t easily handle all of your own gear, then you make yourself more of a target for theft.  Of course, we’re traveling with a group and will keep an eye on each other, but it’s always a good idea to be self contained with your luggage.

Do any of the readers who are seasoned travelers have any other advice?

Travel Preparations: It’s the Little Things

When spending extended time away from home, sometimes it is the little things that can make a difference in your comfort.  I often travel for 3-4 weeks at a time. These are a few things that I have learned make life on the road just a little easier.

  • Bandana- I won’t leave home without it.  I wear it as a head band, or tie it onto my day pack.  On the plane, I pull it down over my eyes when I want to sleep.  It’s like hanging a “do not disturb” sign.   After an overnight flight, I can then use it as a wash cloth.  Washing my face and brushing my teeth after an overnight flight, makes it much easier to face a new day in a new country.  It also serves as a napkin, or “table cloth” for a quick picnic.
  • Waterbottle– one that will fit in your daypack, so that you will take it with you everywhere.  It is so important to stay hydrated when traveling and little bottles of water are expensive.  If tap water is not safe, then I  go to a grocery store and buy the biggest bottles of water available and use those to refill my small bottle. Make sure it is empty before going through security.
  • Earplugs- great for sleeping on an airplane and in a noisy hotel.   A good nights sleep makes all travel much more pleasant.  Earplugs are especially helpful if sharing a room or sleeping with an open window.
  • White noise – I’m addicted to white noise because I sleep with an airfilter in my room at home.  It does wonders for drowning out the little exterior noises that wake you up, especially if you are in an unfamiliar environment.  I used to travel with a radio, alarm, white noise combo, but now I just have a white noise app on my iPhone that does the trick.  I guess you’ve figured out that I value my sleep.  It helps keep me healthy, both physically and mentally!
  • Flashlight– I keep a little one clipped to my camera bag.  I also love headlamps, because they free my hands.  They work great for reading in bed, if your hotel doesn’t have a small lamp by the bed, or if you’re sharing a room.  It’s also helpful for getting things out of your suitcase at night, without disturbing your roommates.
  • Multi-tool and/or Swiss Army Knife–  You never know when you’ll need to fix a piece of gear, or open a bottle of wine!  Just be sure to pack it in your checked luggage, so it doesn’t get confiscated by security.
  • Duct Tape- You can repair all sorts of things with duct tape: rips, tears, shoe soles… you name it, it’s been “fixed” with duct tape.   I wrap a few feet of it around a pen, and keep it in my camera bag.  If you need any more ideas for the possibilities for duct tape, check out this blog.
  • First-Aid Kit– stuff for blisters, indigestion, diarrhea, motion sickness, pain, cuts, bites, etc.  I don’t take an entire pharmacy, just enough of these item to prevent an inconvenient emergency trip to a drugstore.

Remember, pack light.  Carefully consider each item in your suitcase.  Is it necessary?  How much does it improve your quality of travel?  Can I buy it in country?  I’ve decided that for me, each of these items are worth the little bit of space they take up, even if it means I have to take one less book, or one less pair of shoes.

General Travel Preparations- 2 Week Countdown.

Less than two weeks before departure:  

As the countdown continues, there are a lot of general travel preparations that can be done.   Anyone preparing to travel overseas may find these reminders helpful.

Contact your credit card company and bank.  If you don’t let them know that you are traveling internationally, then your card may be declined.  I’ve had this happen.  It’s a real hassle!

Preparing to pack.  Set aside a spot in your house where you start putting the things that you are thinking about packing.  As you think of something you want to pack, place it in that area.   That will it make much easier when you start putting everything in the suitcase.

I’m a big fan of packing light.  So I don’t actually pack everything that I put in the packing area.  At this point it just helps to have all the maybes in one location, so it easier to decide what I really need.   You might also notice that you have too much of one item, and not enough of another, or you might discover that all your clothes are purple (it has happened) or crazy patterns that won’t match.

Shop:  Don’t wait until the way to the airport to pick up sunscreen or deodorant.  Do all your shopping this week.  I’ve already been doing this little by little as I run my regular errands, a few things I’ve picked up are:

  • Sunscreen (critical for Brazil – and expensive in Brazil)
  • Bug spray
  • Plastic bags – A travel essential!  Pack any liquids, lotions, soaps inside a resealable plastic bag.  Bring extra bags, you’ll be amazed at the things you use them for.  Newspaper bags work great for shoes.
  • Small Laundry Detergent:  I love these little packets of Woolite for washing in the hotel sink. But I’m going to skip the packets this year, and put some in a 3oz travel container.
  • 2-1 Shampoo and Conditioner.  While I love my conditioner, it takes up a lot of room.  I’ll buy a few sample conditioners to use every few days, or better yet shop for it there.  Call me weird, but I LOVE shopping in foreign countries.  It’s fun to figure out what things are.  Ie.  I know it’s soap because there are bubbles on the bottle, but is it for dishes, laundry or the body?  Plus, it’s a fun reminder of your trip when you use toothpaste with a foreign label at home.
  • Feminine Products: We’ll be gone for month.  It’s going to happen.
  • Immodium – you know what that’s for.  Hope I don’t need to use it!

As you come back from the store with the items you plan on packing, put them in the packing spot, so you don’t have to search for it later.