Packing for Travel–Step #3: Pare down the list

I’ve said it before & will say it again.  There are 2 kinds of travelers.  Those who pack light and those who wish they had.  But how do you know what you’ll really need?!?


Just like using a grocery list helps you make sure you don’t forget something important for dinner, but keeps you from picking up a third bottle of ketchup because standing in the store you’re not sure if you have one at home, using a packing list is a great way to make sure you bring everything you need, and ONLY what you need.


Recently while planning a 4-day visit to my parents’ house during spring break, I put 4 pairs of pants into my pile to take.  Then I realized, the pants I was currently wearing were on their 3rd wear without being washed.  Ignoring my sketchy level of hygiene I might indicate by mentioning that, I clearly didn’t NEED 4 pairs of pants for 4 days.  I think everyone will agree you can get at least a second wear out of a pair of jeans.  If you do this regularly at home, there is no reason you should plan to pack more than one pair of jeans for every 2-3 days.  This is especially easy to do with pants.  Nobody notices a repeat.


If you don’t wear it here, you won’t wear it there.  It’s fine to think of options (on one day I can wear the blue shirt or the green one), but every outfit doesn’t need a contingency plan.  If you think it could be hot or chilly, pack ONE or TWO items that could be your “just in case” clothes for the whole trip.  I always bring an extra “just in case my bag gets lost or my flight is canceled” underwear with me. I always bring a zip-up sweater in case it gets chilly.  But I bring ONE extra.  Not an extra to coordinate with each outfit.  Which brings me to…


When I travel, my “uniform” is black bottoms and a shirt that match.  I am never stuck because I brought the blue pants, and only one shirt matches the blue ones but I accidentally wore it with the green pants and now I can’t match anything clean to the blue ones.  I will bring black pants, a black skirt, and shoes that match me wearing black.  Everything is interchangeable.  I decide to wear a skirt one day and it doesn’t throw off my plans to wear pants another. Sometimes, if I do a really good job of planning, all the shirts I pack will match my gray pants and I can bring those along to spice it up.  Yeah, it isn’t always my favorite items that I bring (I *love* my purple pants!) but it keeps packing simple and any “contingency” plan items like my zip-up sweater will match whatever I’m wearing on the day it gets cold.


The best example I can give of this is possibly more girl-specific, but also tends to be more of a problem for the girls.  If, for example, you usually wear one eye shadow, but sometimes you like to rock a smoky eye and need 4 additional colors…make the decision to go with your “normal” eye look during the trip.  If you have 2 different colors of flip flops, just suck it up and bring one.  Find ways that you’ll be okay with the pared down numbers.  Don’t pack for “just in case”…pack for “will I really use this enough to make it worth lugging around the world”.  In most cases, no.  Remember, we’re going to travel to a place where millions of people live.  They have stores.  If you really need more socks, or shampoo, or whatever, you can buy it there.


When we travel, students are in groups of at least 2, sometimes 3.  Odds are, within a pair or group, you don’t need 3 tubes of toothpaste.  Or 3 shampoo bottles.  Or 3 hair dryers.  Figure out what you can do to split the load of what you all bring.  This is called “buddy packing”.  Another recommendation?  Put some of your clothes into a friend’s bag also.  That way, if your luggage is lost, you’ll only be missing half of your stuff until the bag finds its way to you.