The number one thing I realized, after years of stressing out and over-packing, was that I really didn’t need as much as I thought I did. I didn’t need to bring my favourite outfits along with all their matching accessories. I was going on a vacation, not a photo shoot. Who cares if I am wearing the same thing in every photo? It’s not about what I am wearing. It is about where I am. The experience. The scenery. The people.
My packing epiphany came to me as I stood in Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada, and watched in horror as my suitcase came down the conveyor belt. Actually, I saw my clothes first, as they tumbled out of my busted, exposed, and overstuffed suitcase.
Twelve hours earlier, sweaty and tearful, I had been sitting collapsed on top of my suitcase. I’d finally managed to close it when I spotted a shoe across the hotel room. Not a pair. Simply one right-footed brown loafer. I held it and cried out loud, “Where am I going to put this?” Defeated, I stuffed it in my purse and slept for a couple of hours before my flight.
Now in Toronto I pulled my heavy suitcase off the conveyor, tucked my clothes back through the crack, and vowed to change my over-packing ways. I mean, for goodness sake, I had packed nine pairs of shoes for a ten-day vacation. Nine pairs of shoes.
Once you realize that you don’t need as much as you think you need—then pair that realization with the fact that, no matter how remote your destination is, if you do forget something, you can buy it—your packing will be stress-free.
Here are a few more tips to help you keep it light:
- Check the weather at your destination frequently and as close to your departure date as possible. This helps immensely in packing the essentials and nothing outrageously inappropriate for the climate. When choosing your clothes, make sure the colours are neutral and complementary so they can easily mix and match. Add a scarf or jewellery for added flair and colour—or better yet, buy them on location to support the local economy and take home a beautiful, wearable souvenir.
- Wear your heaviest clothes on the plane, like an extra sweater and your jacket.
- As for shoes, wear a comfy pair (like runners) and pack a dressier pair, plus flip-flops.
- Rolling your clothes is key to reducing wrinkles and effectively using space, as is using Ziploc bags. This helps you to locate things easily without having to take everything out of the suitcase, and it makes it easier to separate clean clothes from dirty ones. As for dirty laundry, there is always the laundromat or hand-washing. No more 30 pairs of underwear. Bring only a few and wash them or bring older ones and throw them out as you go.
- Lastly, and this is my favourite: depending on the destination I will often take clothes that I am willing to leave behind, to give to host families, porters, or local donation boxes. In turn, this provides space in the suitcase for local items. Because really, folks: at the end of our adventures, we all want to take home a little souvenir of the beautiful places we’ve seen—and for that, you need space in your suitcase.
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