It’s that time of the year when many of us are packing our bags and heading off for a well deserved break and after my recent trip to Japan (more on that later) I thought it was timely to share some useful packing tips.   These could be applied and adapted to almost every travel scenario and are really useful tips and tricks that can save you time, money and give you valuable space to bring home treasures from your adventures.

1. Avoid the stash and dash

Whilst the spontaneous unplanned trip is exciting and the idea of minimal luggage and the ‘I’ll just shop when I get there’ mantra is empowering, the reality of this type of packing plan can be disastrous.  In some countries it can be difficult to get clothing in all sizes which can cause some embarrassment and unintentional offensive comments from the locals. I have heard stories of average sized female travellers in Asia being told they need ‘elephant size’ or blatantly told ‘we have nothing for you’, not really what you want to hear on holidays or anytime in fact!  In some destinations clothing be quite costly – do you really want to blow your travel budget on expensive socks and undies when you have a drawer full at home? Finding clothing whilst travelling can be time consuming which will eat into the time you have to explore your destination. I am not discounting the great gear that can be purchased on your travels, you can certainly get some unique pieces for your wardrobe but taking some time to pack some essentials in advance will mean a comfortable trip and you will be prepared for the right weather with hats or raincoats as seasons dictate.

2. Ziplock bags

I think these are a vital little packing essential.  I take a selection of empty ones in a range of sizes which are perfect for holding small purchases like jewellery and lollies so they don’t get lost in your luggage.  They are also great for storing wet swimsuits between locations.  I have actually packed a formal dress for an overseas wedding in an A4 ziplock bag extracted the air and when unpacked it didn’t even need to be ironed!  The bags are handy for keeping mementos such as tickets, receipts and cards together. They have also saved all my toiletries from the soggy scourge of a leaking shampoo bottle, simply bag it up and no more spills. A new use i discovered is to protect my phone in heavy rain or sandy, dusty locations simply lock it up and you can still tap the screen through the bag! Really the uses are endless and having a few on hand is a must.

3. A humble pen

It seems simple and I know you can pick these up in most hotel rooms but the first time you will use this little gem will be before the plane even leaves the tarmac as you pass through customs and complete the departure form.  Next you will be asked to complete a customs form of the plane oh right you need a pen lucky you brought one with you!  Useful for writing down details, addresses, phone numbers and booking confirmations, marking up maps and more – you won’t be sorry you popped one in.

4. The fabric multi tool ‘The Sarong’

Some may find this more relevant for the ladies but I have found a sarong or large cotton scarf is a particularly useful item especially in warmer locations.  I have used it as a towel, pillow,  dress, picnic rug, skirt, shawl, head scarf and even a bag by simply tying the corners together. It can also be handy to use as a blanket on cooler evenings or to protect from hot sun. Choose something that is versatile as clothing and at the beach a block colour or simple pattern is easy to mix and match and means you can get away with it for more uses.

5. Sample size me

Head to your favourite beauty product counter or store and see if they have sample or travel sizes, some stores sell them others may even give them away.  These are fantastic for short trips as you can take just enough and most come in disposable packaging that can be discarded or recycled at the end of the trip. No more toiletries taking up precious shopping space and no risk of shampoo leaking through your new purchases on the way home.

Finally, a commonly shared mantra – pack what you think you will need and then half it – or at least remove a quarter! There have been so many trips where I think ‘oh just one more pair of jeans or tshirt or summer dress’ and then on the trip I have had cheap laundry available or stuck to my favourites and not worn the extras I thought I needed and I have lugged around the ‘just one more’ item for no reason. Don’t do it I promise you will regret it, stick with your initial minimalist kit and you will have more than enough.

It has taken me years of travelling to get the right bag type, packing timeline and ratio of underwear to outerwear but now I am a packing machine and happily take off on most international trips with well under 10kgs of luggage.

What are your packing tips?  Share below in the comments.

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