Realist Packing Tips Unleashed

I’ve boarded the plane. I don’t have to worry anymore. I’ve got what I’ve got, and whatever I’ve forgotten, I’ll figure it out when I get there. But sometimes, getting to this point can be as tough Newt Scamander getting his fantastic beasts back into his suitcase. 

Do you imagine yourself as a carefree traveler but find preparing for your trip to be anything but carefree? 

Do you browse packing lists with recommendations for your destinations? 

Read blogs about packing tips? (Clearly.)

Ok, but really, packing for an international trip isn’t any different than packing for anything else, and getting hung up in thinking that it is could be your first mistake. 

Me, I’m on my way to Mexico, one way ticket. My backpack (carry-on, so I don’t have to worry about it getting lost in the bowels of the plane) weighs 14lbs. I’ve made the mistake of over packing. But not this time. And now, neither will you: 

Step one: Clothes 

Who ever started this travel packing myth that you should get a whole new wardrobe for your backpacking-touristy days, it caught on like a Murtlap to Jacob’s neck, and I’m tired of it. 

All the sudden you have all these items you need to get specifically for the trip. Your new must-haves: Those light, quick-dry kaki traveling pants everyone recommended. A loose thin shirt to cover up from the sun. Clunky sandals that are “comfortable.” Knee length shorts. A modest one piece bathing suit. 

But just step back and imagine yourself wearing these things at home, feeling natural in them. Then dump out your pack and instead pick out your favorite tank, shorts, flip-flops and string bikini. (Being modest while traveling is overrated, look what the locals wear.) If you wear jeans at home, bring jeans. If you normally wear a baseball cap, don’t bring one of those floppy safari hats. The back of your neck will survive without the 360 degree protection. Promise. 

Cut to the chase: You don’t become a different person when you travel. Just bring a couple pairs of your normal clothes. 

Step 2: Entertainment 

You’re on vacation. You think you’re going to have all this extra time on your hands so you need to pack books, cross word puzzles, games…Stop. Just bring one book, you can exchange with other travelers and hostels, or find a used bookstore. If you do want the extra frill, fine. Just don’t bring electronic entertainment. Thieves are opportunists. Wave laptops, iPads and nooks around and they’ll be on that like a Niffler in a jewelry shop. 

Cut to the chase: Don’t bring random extra entertainment items you don’t use at home. You won’t use it abroad either. Leave your valuables at home. 

Step 3: Personal care 

They have stores in other countries, damnit. Stop acting like you’re going to the moon. Don’t bring your entire trip’s supply of shampoo and Q-Tips. Just bring what you need to get started. As for first aid, meds, etc. — you’ve probably packed a whole bag of precautionary items but haven’t thought of the one thing that’ll actually hit you while you’re there. Just find a pharmacy when the dreaded strikes. 

Cut to the chase: Again, there are stores where you’re going. (If there aren’t stores where you’re going, my bad, go look up one of  those destination-specific lists I told you not to bother with.)

3 exceptions to the necessities-only clause:

1) Sarong

This thin piece of cloth is multipurpose and takes up hardly any space or weight. The sarong can take the place of a towel, dress, skirt, blanket, sling — you tell me, get creative! 

2) Underwear, damnit!

Why does everyone recommend only brining two pairs of underwear? Yes, it’s true, you can wash them in your hostel sink and hang them from your dorm bed  every evening, but really? They are the smallest item in your bag, bring as many as you want! 

3) A journal.

I know I said don’t bring anything you don’t normally use at home, but, while I’m guessing you don’t keep a journal at home, I do think this is one exception. Everyday is new and unique when traveling and not only will you want to remember every moment of the ups and downs, but the journal can also be used to keep track of budgeting and write down important information. 

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