After choosing the perfect destination, going through the stress of booking a flight and counting down the days until you go, there comes the dreaded task of packing. I come from a family of overly organised packers. My Mum starts at least two weeks before going away and takes up the entire spare bedroom. My Nan, I would say starts even earlier for her trips and places tissue paper between each item. Fortunately for me I have fought the urge to follow in their footsteps. However, this has led me to some packing mistakes along the way. Below are a few tips that I hope will help you through the worst part of travelling.
- Choosing the wrong bag
This is one mistake I have made more than once. You need to get your bag right and the rest will follow, but it’s not an easy decision to make. My first solo trip was for one month to California. I was young and excited so chose to take a backpack. Not an awful choice you might think. However, I also took along a large sports bag with no wheels and that was the worst mistake. Whenever, I moved from one place to another I had to lug both around which proved to be difficult. I also found that, for me, backpacks were difficult to find things in without making a complete mess.
My next mistake when choosing a bag was more recent and one my family are still laughing at me for. Packing for a two-year trip was the most stressful of the trips I have done so far. It’s hard to bundle your entire life, from spring to winter, into one bag. So off I went to buy the biggest suitcase I could find. Not only did I pack more than I needed but I had to put up with comments from complete strangers noting ‘Gosh, that’s a big suitcase!’.
So, take time to consider the type of travelling you will be doing, are you unpacking frequently or staying in one place for a length or time? Will you need to pack for more than one season? And are you able to carry all your items at once without looking like Buck-a-roo?
This leads me to my next mistake and one that you will all have been guilty of at some point. Matt will openly admit that this is one of my worst packing problems. I pack too many pairs of pants (you never know, right??), socks tend to overflow and why do I need twenty t-shirts when I only ever wear the same three?
However, a few simple considerations can help you cut down on unnecessary items. I found it much easier to pack for a three-month summer trip than my two-year working holiday. If going on a longer trip, pick up some detergent and go to a local laundry. You won’t need to pack as much if you can clean regularly.
Pack pieces that can be worn over several seasons. I have a denim dress that looks great with tights and boots in the winter, great with leggings in spring and fall and is cool enough to wear with sandals during summer. Just add different accessories and voila!
- Don’t pack awkward to wash items
Before leaving the UK I worked for a company that specialised in organic cotton. My wardrobe was full of it. It washes at 30 degrees, not a problem. BUT it cannot be put in the dryer. This has been a problem when road-tripping as sometimes items would not dry in time. But, this was also an issue when we have been in one place for winter and clothes couldn’t be put on the washing line without turning into one big icicle.
Before you depart on your tip take the time to read the care labels on your clothes, you’d be surprised at how many require ‘special’ treatment. Why waste time doing chores when you could be out exploring?
- Attempting to use vacuum packs
Now, both me and Matt had a great time using the vacuum packs for the first time, they can squeeze bulky items, such as coats into more manageable sizes in an instant. I would recommend them if you are moving to a new country and are using one place as a base for your exploring.
However, if you are moving from one place to another, don’t be tempted. The main problem is once they are open without a vacuum to re-seal they are far less efficient, it’s not going to be easy to find a vacuum whilst camping in the mountains. Secondly, they tend to squish into awkward shapes making it difficult to fit into a suitcase. Thirdly, they are cheap and therefore don’t tend to last too long.
My advice would be to invest in packing cubes. Having been recommended to me by several people they are on my Christmas list this year for sure! Hint, hint!
Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and make packing for both short and long trips a little easier. Comment below with your packing horror stories and any tips you may have for fellow explorers.