These days, almost everyone is (and can be) a professional traveler, photographer and do-er. After just only a couple trips across the pond to see those big stones everyone’s talking about, exploring other cultures while trying not to insult by throwing a peace sign to the wrong one or simply venturing to another part of your own country because you need that giant donut, we get the hang of what we need to bring and what needs to stay home in order to have the ideal experience. Being weighed down by that extra pair of boots and forgetting your converter can both cause unpleasantries.
This is for all of you soon-to-be adventurers and to help you get a jump start, because one of the best damn things I’ve learned since being a flight attendant (besides smiling through the constant bull shit) is how to pack a suitcase/backpack like a BOSS. Regardless of how many places I’d traveled before becoming an FA, I still sucked at packing. Y’all… it was bad. I now have a way different meaning to the word “necessity” than I did before. So believe me when I say I know this can be a struggle. I really do, because what if it decides to snow during the summer? What if a dolphin eats your sunglasses? What if you need those fancy earrings because you run into Gerard Butler, and you were right, he does want to marry you? It’s difficult. The main things to take into consideration are the weather and what you’ll be doing.
Jewelry: Have a favorite, charm, necklace, studs? Fine, but that’s it! You don’t need all that metal weighing your bag down, plus wearing too much bling can point you out as a tourist, making you a target for pickpockets. Subtle is best if you really feel naked without that silver around your neck. It’s even smart to buy a cheap watch that looks cheap when you’re traveling as opposed to wearing that Fossil watch your grandma gave you for christmas.
Shoes: You don’t need an extra pair of sandals in case those break because guess what? Other countries actually sell the same basic shit we have at home. If worse comes to worse, get another cheap pair to get you through. I bring flip flops OR sandals (not both), tennis shoes and a pair of flexible, all-weather boots that don’t go past the knees. If I have room at the end, I might add a pair of flats (no suede or other material that gets ruined when wet). Unless you have actual plans to go to a fancy restaurant, leave the heels at home; you don’t need them to party, that’s what new friends and booze are for, people.
Hats: I love my hats, y’all, fedoras, Panama hats, maybe a nice cloche every now and then when I’m feeling moody, and they sure are great when you haven’t washed your hair in 4 days. However, they are not easy to keep nice and in tact when traveling. If you want to bring a hat, stick to a old baseball cap, beret or beanie, if it’s cold, since they all pack pretty well (those little headband ear warmers pack well, too, for chilly weather).
Scarves/Gloves: Speaking of cold weather, don’t forget about that biting wind and frosty air. If you’re going to a chilly place, I don’t bring more than two scarves (so if one gets wet, it has time to dry while you wear the other). For gloves, bringing one pair of leather gloves should suffice, unless you’re adding a snowboarding day then bring a pair you can wear on the slopes and on the sidewalks.
Make-up/Hair: Personally, I don’t like using much, so there are four items I generally use – concealer stick, powder, blush, mascara. I am aware there are people out there who like having their 100,000 products in their routine (like my amazing sister – Love ya, sis!), but when traveling, it is really best to keep it to a minimum – I think I’m just jealous because I don’t know how to use the majority of make-up products out there…
Also, as nice as it is to have big bottles of shampoo/conditioner/dry shampoo/hairspray to last you the whole time, take small bottles to save room, and buy more as needed. This not only makes your bag lighter, but helps when you air travel and are forced to fit ALL of your liquids in a clear, quart-sized, plastic bag (including liquid lipsticks, moisturizer, mascara, gel deodorant, everything). Make some cuts, and travelers, make it work! *Tim Gunn reference*
Sunglasses: Don’t bring those Ray Bans if you don’t want to lose them, break them or have them stolen. Stick to some Fay Bans, so your heart isn’t broken. Again, you can buy more wherever you go 🙂
Entertainment: Computers, iPads, books, PSPs, games, over-the-ear headphones and so forth can take up a lot of space, and bringing expensive items always leads to a possibility of theft. Unless you have somewhere secure to put them while you’re out and about, leave the electronics at home. Yes. That includes your beats; I know some good quality headphones can be compacted, but it really is best to just stick with a pair that can be coiled up and put in your pocket.
Books can take up a lot of space, so it is nice to have a nook or kindle of some sort, but you’re not going to be doing much reading with all the activities you’ll find. I prefer tangible books that have that awesome book smell and show me the satisfaction of progress (a bit old-fashioned here), but I don’t usually bring more than two, as I stay rather busy performing various shenanigans. Alternatively, I do bring a deck of cards which has come in handy many times under a plethora of circumstances! – Cough, cough, “drinking games” cough.
Eye mask/ Ear plugs/ Neck pillow: These are really just for the plane; although, I use an eye mask anytime light will bother me which is all the time since I’m one-third vampire, and I use headphones instead of earplugs because I don’t feel like they work on me; plus earplugs don’t play my beloved Vivaldi while I sleep. Sometimes, I bring a neck pillow, sometimes I don’t. If you go pro pillow, be sure to get one that snaps together, so you can hook it onto your bag without it falling off. That way, it’s not too much of a pain to carry it around, and it may also come in handy if you find yourself a hobo for the night, sleeping in a train station or airport, just don’t forget to put out your paper cup in case someone thinks you really are a homeless.
Undies: Bras, bandeaus, socks and underwear… don’t bring more than a few days worth. “What? Ew.” Calm ya tits. They have washers in other countries, if not, they have soap and water.
Swimming: Two suits MAX. Again, one’s dirty or drying, you have the other. I bring one swimsuit wrap, IF I have room, at the end. Otherwise, you can just use shorts and a tank or a dress that you wear for roaming to cover up. Don’t forget to bring a tiny bottle of sunscreen or just buy a big bottle when you arrive to your destination. Last time I even brought a decently big towel with me when traveling – it didn’t go in my bag, rather strapped on top of my canvas bag. A towel can be used as a blanket or even a scarf – OR a scarf can double as a towel and a blanket – speaking from experience here 😂
Pajamas: Okay. Let’s be honest. I rarely wear pjs, so I forget to pack them quite often. Most of the time, I’ll just wear a dress or pair of leggings and a tank to bed, that way I’m not packing some useless outfit I wear for a few hours at night.
Satchel/purse: Sometimes I bring my Nikon camera with me, and he needs a safe place to chill while not in my hands, and I don’t like bearing in on my shoulder because he just screams “Tourist! Come pick my pockets and try to sell me cheap shit for a lot of money!” Bringing a little side bag is perfect to hold my camera and other things like a small bottle of water, wallet and chapstick. Always ensure it can go over the shoulder and is secure! No wide open bags without a zipper or anything, please, for me, bae.
Pants: Packing just two pairs of jeans is plenty, no matter where you’re going. If it’s colder, I add a pair of thick, warm tights or thermals and fluffy socks. If it’s warm, I’ll throw in two pairs of shorts. Also, I don’t believe more than two pairs of leggings is necessary for any temperature; I don’t believe leggings are pants either, but I have categorized this by public opinion.
Dresses: No matter if it’s cold or hot, I wear dresses, just sometimes with legging and sometimes without. I usually bring two. I think about versatility such as wearing it over a swimsuit, if it’ll be windy and what circumstances I’d wear it. Generally, I prefer solid colors for travel.
Shirts/Coats/Cardigans: Remember dressing in layers can be very handy, especially on an airplane as you can’t control the temperature for 200 plus people – quick air travel tip, don’t wear jewelry and wear shoes that slip on and off easily, otherwise, you’ll just piss off everyone that’s in the security line behind you.
Hot >>> two tees, four tanks, one long sleeve, one cardigan. Cold >>> Three sweaters, two long sleeves, one cardigan. Even if you’re spending a month or two somewhere, it’s all you need. Don’t forget you’ll want to buy that cozy sweatshirt from the street vendor, and you’ll find you just can’t live without those fab sandals in the corner shop.
Souvenirs: Since we’re on the subject of shopping, don’t forget what you think you’ll buy for yourself and others. “Oh great! I got it all to fit. Time to go.” Nope. Unless you plan on buying another bag at your destination for your shopaholic self or not buying anything at all, take some shit out. On that topic, you don’t need to buy a keychain for everyone you know. A cool way to let them know you didn’t forget them is to send them a fancy postcard. It’s easy, and who doesn’t love getting mail?!
Workout clothes: Running is my thing, and I like doing it when I travel since it helps me see more, faster. If I bring running clothes, I make sure they’re items I’ll wear just while wondering around, too. Like pants and a tank. Gotsta learn how to multi-purpose!
Umbrella: Oh, how it has come in handy to have one of those tiny umbrellas that fit almost anywhere, not just for the obvious reason but for shade, too (this is really for people like me who blend into the white beaches and turn into ripe tomatoes, but your skin will appreciate the shade nonetheless). They’re not expensive, and are easy to pick up along your travels if you forget to bring one.
Converter: This you DO need. Some hotels, especially chains, do have versatile outlets, but it’s always smart to bring a converter. There are a bunch out there that have multiple country plugs in one, so figure out what you need and get it! Click here for a helpful guide.
I hope I covered all the bases and that this prepares you for your adventures to come! In case you are curious as to which canvas backpack I use, it’s this one. It’s been quite the trooper for me these last 6 years, and I’ve stuffed it to the brim. The only thing is it’s not the most comfortable as there is no back support whatsoever, but still a good bag that I don’t have to check when getting on the plane.
Through your travels I’m sure you’ll learn a bunch of great packing techniques of your own, so feel free to share in the comments below 🙂
May the travel gods be with you and mother nature ever so in your favor!