Packing is perhaps the most challenging part of a journey. The indecision over what to bring and the stress over trying not to forget anything combined with the problem of trying to fit it all together neatly in one bag can be overwhelming.
We’ve collected a few clever tips to make the packing process a little less harrowing and a whole lot more enjoyable. There’s no need to pull your hair out every time you’re packing for a short trip or a long stay.
Make a list
The art of making lists is never going out of style. Lists rule, and we all know it. Organise your packing list into categories, grouping items of related use together.
A tip for making an effective packing list is to physically move around your home while writing down which items to pack. If you’re writing the “Toiletries” category, standing in the bathroom facing the contents of your toiletry cabinet will definitely help make sure you don’t forget anything.
If you’re worried that you might forget to include an article of clothing or an important accessory on the list, one tip is to start from your head and work your way down. Do you need hats or something to cover your head where you are going? And then, your face—do you need sunglasses? And so on and so forth until you’ve reached your feet.
Keep the list open, handy and easy to add to, and don’t forget to consult it at all times during the packing process.
Put some music on
Feeling ready to tackle your packing? Setting the scenario with some ambient music of your choice might get you into the right mood and help you relax and pack with concentration and ease.
Pick items, then cut them in half
This packing hack is one of the most difficult to accomplish but surprisingly the most satisfying to achieve—pick your items, then cut everything in half (if you can).
Go through the items on your list and make little piles (by category) on the bed, table or floor, next to your suitcase or bag. Survey all the items and the size of the piles and then challenge yourself to reduce it all by half, or as close to half as you can get it. For example, will you really need four pairs of shoes where you are going? Couldn’t you take two pairs that would work for different settings instead? Carry on with this mentality, and it will help you narrow down your pile to a manageable size.
Pack in stages
I used to stress myself out by packing in a rushed, frenzied manner, cramming the entire packing process into one afternoon or night. Completely ridiculous, and a recipe for forgetfulness and carelessness.
Many travellers and travel experts recommend packing in stages, maybe over the course of several days. Reviewing what you’ve packed the next day, with fresh eyes after a good night’s rest, often yields good results—like cutting down on unnecessary items or remembering things you’ve forgotten.
Use packing cubes
Besides the “roll, not fold” rule for clothing, using packing cubes is one of the best packing hacks on the planet. These nifty space-saving organisers make packing so much more efficient and they allow you to pack items of the same type together, keeping your luggage uncluttered, with easy access to the things you need.
Always leave some space
This is one packing hack you definitely do not want to ignore. The most seasoned world travellers and jet-setters can tell you that extra space is like gold in the travel world.
Never pack your suitcase or bag to full capacity. Even though no coming-of-age, back-packing travel movie is not complete without the quintessential sitting-or-jumping-on-the-suitcase-to-close-it scene, it’s not at all that romantic in real life.
Packing your bags to the brim is one of the worst things your can do to your future self, who will no doubt struggle even harder to close it than you are at the moment. Try packing your suitcase to no more than 75 percent of its capacity, keeping in mind that dirty clothes take up more space than clean, tightly rolled clothing and you will probably buy souvenirs or other items on your trip.
Put a stop to the “what ifs”
It can be very easy to get carried away with the “what if” way of thinking. Research done ahead of time into the weather, climate and culture of a place will eliminate the need for unnecessary wondering over what items to pack.
If the weather report of your destination proclaims sunny skies and clear days, don’t get caught up in the “But what if it rains??” mindset. You don’t need that rain jacket, hat and umbrella. While you can’t anticipate everything, you can always purchase something in a local shop should the need for it arise.
Take it easy with the gadgets and gizmos
Be smart when considering which gadgets to bring on your trip.
You may own a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone (not to mention all the accessories that come along with them, like headphones, chargers, cords and the like) but that doesn’t mean that you should bring them all. Think about where you are going and for what purpose, and then decide which to take and which to leave at home.
The tech world is full of the coolest, niftiest, seemingly useful gadgets and gizmos, and we’ve all been in drawn to their appeal like flies to honey. Don’t get swayed into packing them all!
Pay special attention to your carry-on bag
Don’t pour all your energy into packing your luggage that you forget about your carry-on bag. This bag might just be the most important one of all, because it’s the one that will be with you at all times.
Pack the most important items on your carry-on; they will be more secure with you than in your suitcase. Bring a good set of travel-sized toiletries with you and a new change of clothing—it’s nice to freshen up after a long journey, and in the unfortunate event that your luggage gets misplaced (knock on wood that it doesn’t!), you have the essentials on you to help you get through it.
Your carry-on bag should have the following essentials: wallet and identification, toiletries, spare clothing, snacks (like nutritious energy bars), entertainment (such as an e-reader or a book), mobile phone accessories, and a sweater or a shawl, which can also serve as a blanket when you are cold and in transit.
Do a test drive
You’ve reached the finish line of the packing process—you’ve just zipped up your suitcase and shut your carry-on bag. You might think you’re done, but there’s one thing left to do that most people forget—the final test.
Actually pick up the bags you have so carefully packed, put them on and take them on a test carry. Walk around with them, pick them and put them down, and try going in and out of your carry-on bag for things you might need in a pinch. Open your luggage and how much things have moved around inside.
Do your bags feel secure and properly packed? Is anything lose or falling out? Does your bag feel unbalanced? Is your power bank easily accessible? Do a test run; it’s the best way to find out if your packing hacks have worked!
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