Going to mix it up with a packing post…
As only a part-time traveler, I usually go places for between 4 days and 2 weeks. My destinations really vary, but to give you an idea, recent trips have ranged from Belize, to Cambodia, to Uganda, to Naples, Italy. I’ve finally developed a solid packing routine, and figured out what I really need and what I should really leave. I always pack only in a carry-on these days–even for the longer trips–so space is at a premium. Here are the ten things I never pack, regardless if I go to a city, to the beach, to archeological sites, or on safari.
But one caveat: these do not apply to destination weddings and big formal events. I’m not that hard-core, and I totally checked a bag to our destination wedding last year.
On to the list:
1. Cotton sweatshirts/hoodies: Oh, lots of reasons for this one. First, they are bulky and heavy–enough said, particularly for those of us that like to pack in a carry-on only. Second, they are not multi-functional. Can you throw a cotton sweatshirt with your university name on it over that nice sun dress? Well you can, but you shouldn’t. Third, they take forever to dry. In a dryer. On high heat. Good luck if you ever get wet in one or need it to dry somewhere cold and humid. I know it’s great to roam around your house in one of these puppies and it feels all cozy, but they just aren’t practical while traveling. Get a good cardigan in more tech-like material or wool (I have one from Athleta I love), and carry a proper fleece if you need one for real warmth (I’m obsessed with my Patagonia Better Sweater). Or bring a stylish jacket for the city that can be dressed up and down.
2. Converter: I’ve never, ever used one or carried one, so please chime in if you have a device that requires a converter. An adapter is a must–so you can plug in your electronics into the actual socket–but most devices (ipods, ipads) can deal with voltage on their own these days. Thank goodness. This is an extra gadget that most travelers can live without.
3. An enormous, unweildy bag of makeup: See a trend here? By the time I pack into a carry-on, I know exactly what you’ll wear for most days. I don’t need 10 colors of eyeshadow. I need the basics. For non-city trips, I often only pack powder foundation, blush, mascara, and an eyebrow pencil, in the event I want to look a little more put together at dinner. Do those elephants really care what you look like? Do you want to spend 45 minutes putting on the perfect face before setting out on 5am game drive? No. Well at least I don’t.
4. Lotion: I have sunscreen for my face, and sunscreen for everywhere else (yes, I carry two different types of sunscreens in my TSA ziplock baggie). So why would I pack more lotion? If you are staying in hotels or lodges (and not camping), nearly everywhere has some type of lotion that can get you by for a few days, unless you have serious skin allergies or other issues. I don’t need another tube of stuff. Some people like to take aloe-based lotion for sunburns, but you shouldn’t be getting sunburned anyway! Remember to use SPF, people.
5. Hair dryer: In the last 10 years, I’ve not stayed in a single place where I needed to dry my hair that did not have a hair dryer. When I travel for work, the hotels all have a hair dryer. Even the lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda had a hair dryer. I only dry my hair when absolutely necessary (and I have extremely cooperative hair), so perhaps I’m not the best judge of this. I know some people can only dry their hair with a high-quality dryer, but I am not one of those people…so if you can, leave it. Figure out good styles with wet hair (i.e. a braid over the top), get creative. Plan ahead so you can let your hair dry first on its own if needed. Plus, they are space consuming! And I may put a little more effort/time into my clothes because I don’t put a lot of effort into my hair… (full disclosure? this is true in my day-to-day life as well).
6. Sentimental items: If I lose/break/ruin something at home, I get upset–but not nearly as upset if something happens while I’m traveling, because I dwell on “how I shouldn’t have brought that.” Things in this category include my Burberry winter trench that was my husband’s wedding gift to me and family jewelry. I don’t always wear my engagement ring, either, depending on where I’m going and what I’ll be doing. It’s just not worth the worry.
7. White pants: The last thing I want to do while I’m traveling is constantly being worried about stains. I actually don’t even attract stains at home, but I tend to sit in bird sh*t while traveling and my husband tends to always spill coke/wine whatever he’s drinking on the plane. (At this point, I sort of take it for granted and schedule it into my day–and make sure I don’t have white pants on.) Additionally, I don’t want to have to worry that I have on the one pair of underwear that shows through my white pants, and not notice this until it’s noon. Just simplifying here.
8. Linen clothes: Oh, I love the material. It’s light, it’s airy…and I have yet to find a linen that doesn’t wrinkle and look awful in 10 minutes of sitting. I hate to iron, and I definitely don’t iron on vacation. So I don’t take linen clothes when I travel, at all. Particularly because I find them harder to wear again, since they are so easily wrinkled. I love the crisp, classic, linen look dearly–so if you have a good recommendation on linen that doesn’t wrinkle as easily, please tell me! Or tell me how you deal with the wrinkles besides throwing up your hands in frustration…
9. Perishable food: This really seems obvious…but….sometimes I occasionally would pack some perishable food for the first international flight. I’m mainly talking fruits and veggies, not a sandwich or something which is harder to forget about. There are two big issues with perishable food. First, in many places, it is illegal to bring in fruits/vegetables from another country. That’s why they ask you about it on your customs form. Second, have you forgotten about an apple in your bag for 2 weeks, only to wonder what that strange mushy thing is when you are looking for your sunglasses? I have. It’s gross, and will not be repeated because I no longer pack perishable food!
10. Heels: Cringe here if you want, but I don’t ever pack heels unless the caveat above applies. On vacation? Never. First off, I’m on the tall side (5’8), so I’m not trying to look taller here. Second, I don’t care how comfortable you say heels are, they aren’t as comfortable as flats (heels..not wedges…those can be comfortable). I’m on vacation. Did I mention glampacking was not my thing? I don’t want to be uncomfortable. Third, they are harder to pack. I can have super cute flats/sandals/flat boots, still look stylish, and not be wishing I could take my shoes off on the sidewalk/street. Which for the record, is gross.
There you have it! I’d love to hear what you never pack.