I'm thinking about packing right now because it's Sunday night and I just finished packing for a trip to Scotland, for which I leave Friday evening. I'm not someone who loves packing, but I do it fairly often. And I know that when I follow these tips, my trip will be easier and less stressful.
- Pack early. Yes, I don't leave for 5 days and I'm basically packed. Thursday I'll have a last minute checklist of things to add, or things I still need to do (call the bank and credit card company, check in for the flight etc.). But basically this week, and especially Friday, I will be able to focus on finishing up things at work.
Another advantage is that it gives you time to buy or replace anything that you need. Are your socks still good? Do you need a new hat? Much better to be thinking about that Sunday night than Friday morning.
- Follow a packing list. Every time I pack, I download the packing list for that trip and I check each item off as I put it in the suitcase. I also keep notes of the things that I can't pack yet because I'll need them before I leave, like sunglasses, or I still have to wash them.
There are a couple of reasons to follow a packing list, the most obvious being that you are less likely to forget things you really need. But another advantage is that it is hard to pack for 60 degree weather (Scotland) when it is in the 90s (Baltimore). Right now I can only imagine how much I will enjoy being cool, even cold. But that will last 5 minutes. And because my packing list is reminding me that I need gloves, a warm hat, and some fleece, I'll be prepared. Many people keep a packing list that they update and refine over time. If you're not sure, download one of our packing lists.
- Don't overpack. This is the single biggest packing mistake people make. It is so easy to think - oh, I'll just thrown in that just in case. And pretty soon you need a big suitcase and it's heavy, and everytime you have to get it upstairs, youl regret it. But that isn't even the biggest problem with overpacking.
Unless you're going to one place and stay there, you will have to repack during the trip - sometimes, you'll repack several times. The more stuff you have, the longer it takes. Do you really want to be in your hotel room packing when you could be wandering the town square or going outside to look at the stars? If it takes you more than 15 minutes to repack, you've brought too much. Bring clothing you can wash out by hand. Yes, your dinner attire may be a little boring - but it's a small price to pay for the freedom of traveling light.
- Think carefully about what you'll pack in your daypack or other carry on. You don't want it to be too heavy, just for ease of walking through the airport. But for a hiking trip I always carry my hiking boots because they are the most essential and irreplaceable piece of clothing I bring. I will also bring clothing appropriate to where I land- either a fleece (which also makes a comfy airplane pillow) or short sleeved shirt so I don't have to go into my suitcase in the airport.
Some people really enjoy packing, others not so much. But whichever camp you're in, learning to pack effectively and efficiently will make your next adventure vacation even better!