Packing for a trip? You’re probably staring at your suitcase, clothes and travel gear strewn all over the floor. ‘Do I need this? Did I forget something? Will I exceed the weight limit? Where did I put my passport?’
Take a deep breath. Here’s a list of tips, given by frequent travelers, that will help you pack smarter, and hopefully, lighter. It will also help you prepare for any possible problem related to your belongings—lost luggage, stolen carry-on—plus how to deal with inconveniences like spilled suntan lotion. Read on, and learn to pack (and travel) like a pro.
1. Make an electronic copy of your security and flight details.
Common sense tells you that you should keep your passport, passport photos, paper tickets and credit cards very safe—ideally in a zippered compartment of your bag or vest. However, smart travelers prepare for any possible emergency, Scan these documents and email a copy to your web-based email account. Include the emergency contact numbers of your bank or credit card companies so you know what to do if your wallet gets stolen.
2. Don’t put all your valuables in one place.
It’s best to distribute your cash, credit cards and travelers’ checks in different locations: some in your wallet, others in your jacket pocket. If you’re traveling with your family, ask your partner or a trusted older child to carry some of the valuables too. That way, if you’re robbed or your things get lost, you aren’t stranded in a foreign country with nothing to your name!
3. Transfer toiletries into travel bottles
You seriously don’t want to bring a big bottle of shampoo or lotion! It takes too much space. If you can, use the free samples they give away at the beauty stores, or travel kits that have just enough for 3 to 4 days.
You can also transfer some of the contents of your big bottles to special travel containers. These should be waterproof and sturdy (so they don’t crack if the luggage is mishandled) and ideally see-through, so you don’t get hassled at security checks. Also, place any creams, lotions, toothpaste or any ‘leakable’ product inside Ziplock bags, lest you want to scrape off sticky sunblock from all your clothes.
It’s also important to check the airport or customs websites of the country you’re visiting for their policies on carrying liquids. You may save yourself a lot of hassle by buying bar soap and shampoo or powder tooth paste.
4. Bring plastic bags
These are good for storing dirty clothes, or serving as garbage bags (it’s in poor taste to visit a beautiful beach or mountain trail, gasp about the view, and then proceed to destroy the surroundings by leaving soda cans and burger wrappers).
5. Divide and conquer.
Group clothes into outfits so you don’t have to rummage around each time you dress up. Or, you can group all small items (makeup, underwear, accessories, etc) in clear plastic bags. This also makes it easier for you when you go through customs. Instead of having to take out everything each time you go through security, you can just calmly take out 5 or 6 bags, show them to officials, and put them back. Everything stays neat and organized.
Extra tip: if you have several small items in one bag, count the number of contents and write it down on a masking tape, adhered to the inside. That way, when you go home, it’s easy to check if you misplaced something. ‘Hey, I brought three pairs of earrings. Where did the other one go?’
6. Control the number of clothes.
You should only bring enough for your stay. If you are going to be traveling for more than three days, it makes more sense to have clothes washed at the hotel. This could prove cheaper than paying extra for exceeding luggage weight. Besides, most tourists end up buying souvenir shirts or scouring the bazaars for great bargains—including clothes. Another tip? Instead of folding clothes, lay a thin sheet of tissue over an item and roll it. This seems to increase luggage space.
7. Divvy up the clothes if you’re traveling in a group.
This is crucial if you’re with your family on a flight that has a lot of stopovers. Instead of assigning a suitcase or bag to each member, divide your clothes so each bag contains one set of clothing for everybody. That way, if one bag gets lost, you all have something to wear in the first 48 hours before the airline sends your things.
8. Make your own dividers.
Ideally your suitcase should have dividers so you can organize things into neat compartments. If not, you can create makeshift dividers by cutting up pieces of cardboard. This will keep your things neat and also help your clothes lie flat.
9. Manage your carry-on.
Your carry-on luggage is your traveler’s ’emergency’ kit. It should hold whatever you need to survive the trip or any problems you may encounter. This includes medication, an extra set of clothes in case your bags are delayed. You may also want to carry important papers, or if you’re traveling on business, anything that’s crucial to your job.