General Travel Tips – Packing/Stuff

What to bring?  No matter how many bags you bring, you’ll always think you’re just a little bit short on space.

This is us with everything we brought just before we left (it was around 4:00 a.m., so we weren’t looking our best).

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Of course, my first recommendation is to make a detailed list.  Literally put every single thing you plan on bringing on it.  I usually make my lists in my G-Mail account and then mail it to myself after we leave so I have a record of it and can reply to it with any ideas of things to bring on future trips.  Now, I’ve developed a pretty standard list that I just modify for the trip.

My second recommendation is to pack as light as you possibly can.  If you’re going on an extended trip, figure out exactly when you will be able to wash your clothes (or whatever you plan on doing) and only pack exactly what you need – do not bring a single extra garment.

So what’s the big deal with packing light?  If you’re going on an extended trip with many different stops, you’ll have to repack your bag every single time.  If you’re not overstuffing your bag, that process is much easier.  Plus, you have to carry your bag if you’re going the backpack route.

Which brings me to weight.  Recommendations on the internet seemed to suggest that you limit your backpack weight to 10% – 15% of your bodyweight for extended wear.  That is very light and probably appropriate if you will be doing some hiking or similar.  We were not within that range – especially Alyce, whose backpack was actually a little heavier than mine.

We did moderate walking with our bags….Walking around airports, to taxi stands, upstairs at some vacation rentals…generally no more than a block or two.  My bag weighed between 35 and 40 lbs.  Alyce’s was in the low 40s.

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I felt that I could have walked a pretty good distance wearing my bag at 35-40 lbs.  I wouldn’t want to go hiking or anything like it with that much weight, but I was pretty comfortable.  Alyce was on the edge of comfort with her bag weight.  She was able to do the things I listed above, but any more would have been excessive.

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Again, it all goes back to knowing your situation.  If you will only be going to one or two spots and strictly cabbing and staying at hotels, go ahead and load up your roller bag to the airline’s weight limits.

For moderate walking, guys should be ok at 40 lbs; I’d suggest that girls try to keep it as close to 30 lbs as possible.  Alyce ended up at 40, and she struggled at points.

Either way, pack your bag and put it on prior to leaving.  Walk around for a distance you expect to have to walk.  See how it feels.

Also, always be aware of the airline weight restrictions.  Some foreign airlines limit bags to 20 kilos (44 lbs.) instead of 50 lbs.

Type and Amount Clothes

I’m not going to try to tell anyone how to pack their own clothes/toiletries, but here are some things we came across.

A lot of people go with the quick drying style clothes and wash them in the sink.  Personally, I’m not a fan of that if you can avoid it.  I bought some and they feel noticeably different compared to normal cotton clothes.  We were able to work it out so that we’d have access to laundry frequently enough to not have to worry about washing our clothes in the sink.

That said, I did have a change of the quick dry clothes in my carry-on just in case my bag was lost.  It was an emergency backup plan, which I thankfully did not have to worry about.

If you’ll be visiting a variety of climates – as we did – layering is very important.  With appropriate layering, a lightweight down jacket will suffice as jacket for a cool evening or keeping you warm in snow.

Speaking of which, we each had lightweight down jackets that collapsed into their own pocket.  They took up minimal weight and space for an overcoat.  We also each had lightweight rain jackets that also folded into its own pocket.  I’m glad we had both items.  Every space saving/organizational feature helps.

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Another option if you’ll be visiting a variety of climates and it works out timing wise is to ship some of your stuff home after you’ll be leaving a cold weather spot.  We shipped home a little bit from Tokyo, as it was our last true cold weather destination.  Similarly, you can ship your stuff to your destination if it will be at the end of your trip (just make sure it fits in your suit case and you can get it back home).

Some Specific Recommendations

I won’t go into clothes/toiletries.  Only you know what you need for that.

Major electronics is similar.  Obviously, bring any chords/chargers you’ll need…I’ll post in the future about cameras in detail.  Laptop vs. Tablet is something many people debate about.

Personally, I had to have a real computer.  Tablets are great for watching shows/browsing the internet, but I need a computer to stay on top of all my stuff.  I also needed it to handle the photography/camera stuff…and also for the blog.  With the laptop, I brought two portable hard drives (the 2.5” kind that don’t require a plug) and an HDMI cable for hooking up the computer to the TV.

If you’re generally happy using a tablet and won’t need a computer for handling pictures, leave the laptop at home.  Otherwise bring one.  I would definitely recommend getting an ultrabook/lightweight Mac.  You definitely do not want to be lugging around some 8# desktop replacement.  Keep the weight as close to 3lbs as possible – and definitely under 4 lbs.

We brought a couple universal converters with us.  Most of the hotels we stayed at had converters for us to use.  Also, if you’ll be travelling within a region that uses a single plug, leave the universal adapter at home and get a cheaper/lighter single region plug adapter.

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This Skross World Travel Adapter is very durable.  I was as pleased with it as you could be for a plug adapter.  I also brought along this Ceptics adapter; it did the job but was a noticeable step down in quality from the Skross adapter.

Equally as important as the adapter is a multiplug.  This Simran Universal 3 outlet strip was small and light.  Having universal plug inputs is also a plus in case you need to unplug something from the wall to use the plug. We also brought this Monster 3 Plug outlet with USB chargers.

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And a brief sidebar on USB charging…If you’ll be bringing a laptop, it will most likely charge from its outlets while sleeping.  This will save you from having to get out extra chargers, which is a definite benefit when moving from place to place.

One thing I did not bring was a voltage converter.  We managed fine without it.  If anything you plan on bringing requires a converter, seriously consider whether you really need it, and – if you do need it – try to find a battery powered alternative.

If you’ll be renting a car and driving, remember to bring a portable car USB charger and an auxiliary plug so you can listen to your own music in the car.

I highly recommend investing in a quality pair of head phones – specifically the in ear monitor type.  They have excellent sound quality, but more importantly they are great at blocking out noise because they actually go in your ear like earplugs.  The noise isolating is superior to the Bose noise cancelling headphones in my experience (I own the Bose headphones).

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Westone and Shure make great in ear monitors.  Good pairs start around $100 and go up to $1000 for custom molded monitors.  Amazon has a good selection of monitors if you search Westone or Shure.  Another benefit to these over the Bose headphones is that they are much smaller and do not require a battery.

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That said, some people just don’t like having something in their ear.  If that is the case, the Bose headphones are a fine product, but they are pretty bulky.

And while we’re on the topic of headphones, a headphone splitter is always a good thing to have with you.  Another thing is an adapter plug to let you use your own headphones for the plane’s in flight entertainment.

Years ago, Alyce got me this Suitcase Scale.  It is one of my favorite presents I’ve ever received, and I never travel without it—even if I know I have no weight concerns.  It is small, light, and can save you from getting hammered by foreign airline overweight fees.

I like to always bring my Leatherman with me…Just make sure it is in your checked luggage.  I also brought a wine key with us.

Another small item that we were happy to have was a couple of small LED flashlights.  They were tiny and only a couple bucks, but they proved to be very useful.

We never had to use it, but I always threw a couple of portable ponchos in a day bag (or my back pocket) if we didn’t think we’d need our rain jackets. We also brought 2 travel umbrellas.

I always throw a couple of garbage bags and Ziploc bags in my suitcase whenever I go anywhere.  You can use them for many things and they take up no space.

On long flights, we both wear compression socks.  It is supposed to be good for you when you’re sitting for such a long time…I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I wear them.  Plus, you can find them for much cheaper than linked if you look around.

You always want to have some essentials with you…Aleve or Tylenol, Ear Plugs, Melatonin, Immodium/pepto bismol tablets/other stomach medicine…You may also want to bring an emergency antibiotic prescription with you.

One thing we brought that we ended up not using was a portable router.  Still, I was happy to have had it just in case we ended up needing it.

Finally (and obviously), don’t forget any identification information you’ll need.  Not just your passport, but other stuff like a SCUBA certification card (speaking of which, we only brought a mask and snorkel with us and rented the rest of the gear).  I had a neck wallet for our passports, but I really didn’t use it all that much.

So that’s most of what we brought with us outside of clothes.  One important thing to remember when packing is that you can always buy stuff when you get to your destination if necessary (except for places like the Maldives).

This link has some more ideas of stuff to bring.

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