Friday, August 03, 2007

Do You Really Need All Those Bags?


Not knowing what the future holds in store for you makes it hard to know what to pack. Most people pack way more than they will ever need. Seasoned travelers will tell you to lay out everything you think you want to take with you on your bed. Then, halve it and that is how much you should really take. There are plenty of what-if scenarios, but believe us when we tell you that what-if scenarios rarely happen. With that in mind here is some advice on making the most of what little space you have in your suitcase.

Essentials:

•Passport (for international) or Government-issued Photo ID (for domestic flights)
•Any Visas or money for Visas, entry, or exit fees
•Airline tickets
•Hotel Information: Address, Phone Number, Reservation Number.
•Cash

Luggage: What kind of luggage are you going to need? It depends on your travel circumstances. If you are going to be staying in one location for your entire trip, the type of luggage you will want probably will not matter. If you are backpacking, of course, you are probably going to want a sturdy, heavy duty backpack. You can find backpacks at REI (http://www.rei.com) or Bass Pro Shops (http://www.bassproshops.com).

Clothing: There is no need to bring your entire wardrobe with you on a trip. As tempting as it may be, resist the urge and try to pack smart.
What to bring will heavily depend on where and when you are going

•Always bring a pair of pants. You never know when it will cool down at night or you will be in an air-conditioned building all day. Also, if you visit certain countries you will need to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt as a sign of respect for the culture.

•Bring a couple other items like shorts, Capri-length jeans or pants, skirts that you can mix and match with your tops.

•A variety of tops is your best bet for dealing with changing weather conditions. Choose a couple of tank tops, t-shirts, and even a couple of long sleeve shirts. Layering is key in most places. Keep in mind that some countries require women to never show skin. In places like Italy, if you want to get into a basilica they will turn you away if you have bare shoulders. So plan ahead on days you may go sightseeing.

•Always pack a sweatshirt or hoodie for nighttime or cooler days.

•If rain is predicted, a waterproof anorak can keep you dry without making you too hot due. They usually fold up quite nicely for easy packing.

•Always pack a week’s worth of underwear. If your trip is longer, plan on doing a load of laundry. At last resort, you can always hand wash them in your hotel. Don’t forget bras too!

•Socks are key for keeping feet warm in cold weather and keeping feet dry and blister-free in hot weather. Bring a week’s worth and follow the washing rule for anything beyond this.

•Bring a swimsuit or two if you plan on doing any water activities. If you plan on being in the water frequently, having two may be better so you can let one dry while you wear the other one. Also, if you’re doing active water activities you may want a one-piece suit so you don’t have any wardrobe malfunctions.

•Never underestimate when you will need a swimsuit. Even in places like Antarctica, there are warm hot springs!

•Don’t forget a cute cover-up or wrap for your afternoon by the pool. Wraps are multi-functional anyway, so be creative!

Shoes: Yes, shoes are great but your new adorable gold sandals do not need to make the trek to Austria in winter. Pack smart in this category as shoes take up more room than you think. If possible, wear your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane.

•A pair of athletic shoes will probably come in handy sometime during your trip whether it’s hiking in the Andes or using the hotel’s workout facility. If you plan on doing anything adventurous, shoes like this are highly recommend and sometimes even required for safety reasons.

•Bring a pair of inexpensive flip-flop sandals for protecting your feet from heat and bacteria in gyms, pool/spa areas, public showers, and hot sand at the beaches.

•If the climate is colder, snowy, or rainy, bring a sturdy pair of waterproof boots. Shearling boots are also great for warmth, but make sure they are protected with Scotchguard.

•If you are going near an ocean, lake, or river, consider getting a pair of mesh-type shows that allow you to walk in the water but also protect your feet from sharp rocks and slippery surfaces.

Jewelry and Accessories: Traveling does not mean you have to put a halt on accessorizing just find items that can work with multiple outfits. Bring one or two belts (perhaps, brown and black) and keep earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings to a minimum. Also, keep any flashy jewelry (even it is cubic zirconium) at home.

•Always remember sunglasses, even in snowy destinations, where the sun can reflect through the clouds off the ice and onto your face.

•If you must travel with your expensive jewelry, NEVER check it with your luggage unless you have insurance because once in goes through customs you’re never going to see it again.

Toiletries: You can rely on the hotel for the basics, but if you’re used to a certain brand, you may want to bring it yourself. Also, don’t stress out too much as you should be able to purchase the item, or a local variation, at a local store.

•All the basics for your hair: shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, styling products, brush/comb, hair ties and clips.

•Body and face lotion.

•Sunscreen for your body and face. Be sure to use it everyday!

•Dental care: toothbrush with case or travel toothbrush, toothpaste (bring a large one and share it with the group or opt for a small tube), dental floss, small bottle of mouth rinse.

•If you wear contacts be sure to bring enough for your trip and an additional week’s supply, solution, and a case. If glasses are part of your routine, bring them in their case with a small repair kit.

•Make-up: foundation, powder, eye shadows, eye liner, mascara and lash curler, blush, lip gloss/lipstick. Bring only what you usually bring, not your whole arsenal! Also, check out the packs of make-up that include eye, lip, and cheek product in complimentary colors...great space saver!

•Deodorant is always a must! Baby powder works too.

•If you are a fan of perfume, bring smaller bottles or samples from department stores.

General tips for toiletries:

Plastic bags for everything!

•Look for screw tops over pumps as they are less prone to spills.

•Before packing, gently squeeze the bottle and then lock the top. This will provide an air cushion for the product and it will be less likely to explode in your suitcase.

•To save room buy empty travel size containers to keep things like shampoo, conditioner and lotion in. It will make a huge difference in space. Enough to add an extra pair of shoes!

•If you’re backpacking, you’re not going to need a lot of toiletries, hairdryers, curling or flat irons. When in doubt, leave it out!


Electronics: Electronic gadgets can definitely fill some time during your trip and can also help you make the most of your experiences.

•A camera is a must. Whether it is disposable, 35mm, or digital, you will want to capture the sights and scenery of the places you have visited. Be sure to bring the necessary extras: batteries, chargers, film, memory cards, and most of all, protective cases with straps.

•A video camera is another gadget that can allow you to bring your trip home. However, take into consideration that this is an expensive piece of equipment that has to be carried and protected at all times.

•Consider a camera-video combo if you’re in the market for something new. Two-in-one is a definite space saver!

•Bringing a laptop computer is completely optional and typically, not recommend unless explicitly needed (study abroad). For those Internet-fanatics, rest assured that most countries are flooded with Internet cafes.

•Pack a set of binoculars if you will be going anywhere to look for animals or birds.

•A portable DVD player with a couple of your favorite DVDs can be a great distraction for the perils of air travel. Although most laptops can play DVDs, a portable DVD player costs a lot less and tends to be smaller. Don’t forget chargers!

•MP3 and CD players are great for long journeys. Also, make a note that most airlines have in-flight music now. Check their websites to see if anything peaks your interest.

•Cell Phones are good to bring so that you can make calls when you are at domestic gateways. Once you’re international, most US phones will not work, however, some carriers still get service that will give you the local time.

•With any of the above items, be sure to check out the voltage of the outlet as well as the type of prongs that go into a wall. To use an item you bought in the United States, you will need two converters to use it abroad: one for voltage and one for the wall. Look for a pack that contains multiple prongs so you can use it for all your travels. Even if it looks like you can plug it in but you know it’s a different voltage-DON’T! You risk blowing up your appliances and maybe even blowing out the breakers!

Extras:

•Ear Plugs: Even if you do not normally use them, a seat near the engine or a crying baby will make you glad you had them.

•Eye Mask: This can block out a bright movie screen and let you have a good night’s rest. Also can come in handy in your hotel.

•Flannel Pillow Case: Makes that airline pillow a little more like home. Also can be used at your hotel in lieu of that starchy white pillowcase.

•Toothbrush/Toothpaste: If you have a flight with meal service or when you will be going to sleep, this can instantly give you a wave of freshness, especially if there is a cute boy sitting next to you.

•Slippers/Socks: Depending on what type of shoes you wore on the plane, bring slippers and/or socks to keep your feet warm. Slippers will also make that walk to the bathroom that much more sanitary.

•Entertainment: Be sure to bring magazines, books, music players (CD or MP3 players), paper and a pen, and other items to entertain yourself. Never rely on the in-flight movie!

•If you wear contacts, bring your glasses, contact solution, and your contact case with you on the plane. As unglamorous as it might seem, your eye will thank you for sparing them of the dryness and pressure.

•Zippered Carry-On Bag: Nothing is worse than when you are flying and your carry on spills under your seat or in the overhead compartment with all your belongings inside.

•Water! Especially when flying, anything else you drink will either dehydrate you or make you sick.

•Layer your clothes. If you are wearing a tank top, t-shirt and have a sweatshirt you add/subtract as needed. Sweatshirts are sometimes even better than pillows!

•Lotion: Traveling dehydrates your skin and you will smell better after that 14 hour flight!

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