Travel/Packing Tips

Whenever packing, we always struggle with making choices. Thought we’d share a few things we’ve learned along the way:


  • Bring machine-washable clothing for long trips.
  • Keep your “base” neutral so that you can add elements (an overshirt, scarf, belt, etc.) to make it look different for photos.
  • Always bring along a rain jacket (preferably one that packs in its own nylon sleeve.
  • Bring along a portable clothes line and laundry detergent (you can buy at the travel store) to do laundry along the way, if necessary. Also bring shout wipes.
  • Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes. They’re heavy. Bring one for day and one for night and coordinate your outfits to match.
  • Bring a backpack as one of your carry-ons (Check to ensure that your airline will allow it. Some won’t). This comes in handy for day trips. Ours has a pouch for our water bottle–very handy.
  • Girls, bring a small, but expandable tote instead of a purse. It’s nice for the market and it’s easier to fit a sweater inside.
  • Bring along a dirty clothes bag–keeps them seperated, but it’s easy to scrunch down to pack back.
  • Instead of bringing “outfits” that you have to wear together, bring along lots of coordinating elements that mix and match to make lots of outfits.


  • Limit yourself to two bags. And bring the type with expanding handles and rollers. Ideally, you could limit yourself to the small carry-on size (much easier to navigate over the Rialto Bridge–take my word for it)
  • Wear an under the clothes moneybelt in unfamiliar cities. Keep your passport, the equivalent of $100 in the local currency and any credit cards or other ID in the belt at all times. If you need to grab something out of it, go into a bathroom stall. We prefer the belt style to the lanyards because its less visible. But, girls beware, adding the pouch along the waistline does add the look of 3-5 lbs. I’m still on the hunt for a thin one…I’ll post it if I find one.
  • Guys, keep a money clip with a small amount of money in your pocket. Then, if you were to be mugged (unlikely), you could throw the clip as far away from you as possible and run the opposite direction.
  • Take along ziploc plastic bags of all sizes. They’ll be empty on the way over, but they often come in handy.
  • Bring 1-2 handkerchiefs per person, small things of anti-bacterial gel and travel packs of toilet paper, tissues, and moist towelettes (all available in Target’s travel section). Keep these in your backpack or tote as you travel out by day.
  • When you check into your hotel (in a foreign city), place one of their business cards in EVERYONE’S money belts. Then, if someone gets seperated, they can hand the card to a driver to get them home.
  • Send an electronic copy of your itinerary to your family–and to yourself. Include flight numbers, hotel/accomodation contact info and other relevant information. This allows them to get in touch with you if they need you, but also allows you easy access to the information from abroad, if you lose your original.
  • Load any city maps, Web pages, your itinerary, etc. onto your iPod. Then, you can see it on screen if you can’t find your hard copies–or print from the files.
  • Pack any liquids (including aerosols) in plastic ziploc bags.
  • If going on a long trip, don’t stress about packing tons of toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, shave gel, lotion, etc. You can always find what you need in a local pharmacy.
  • Use rechargeable batteries in your digital camera. If you opt not to use rechargeables, note that most (if not all) countries have the same batteries as we (in the US) use. You can get more wherever you’re going.
  • Don’t stress yourself out by being in a new city every day. You need to soak up and enjoy “life” where you’re going. Allow yourself at least 2 nights in every hotel/accomodation, if possible. Toting your bags daily, however small, is grueling. With a well planned itinerary, it’s easier to take day trips away from your accomodations and return at night rather than tote as you go.
  • Many foreign airports, train stations, accomodations and other facilities offer lockers or check-in service for your luggage. For a small fee, they’ll keep your bag while you explore the city and sights. Then, you can return to pick up your luggage and go on your way (this was very handy in Japan, in particular).
  • Remember, you’re going abroad. Not to the moon. When packing, most of us going into the “bring everything in case” mode. Don’t do that to yourself–preparing for everything will weigh you down. Know that people have the same problems, ailments, and basic needs world-round. If you need something, you can buy it there. Example. I picked up the flu or a cold in Japan with the typical symptoms. We had packed vitamins and other things, but I didn’t have the decongestant and cough drops I wanted. Despite the language barrier, the pharmacist got the idea (like playing charades) and gave me medicine that did the trick.
  • Invest in a travel blow dryer–one that will accept multiple voltages.
  • Bring earplugs for the overnight flight.
  • Bring a travel alarm clock.
  • Little nylon or leather packing blocks are handy for packing medicines, and other small, loose items. Check at or at your travel store to see the variety available.
  • Bring along a small paper notebook and pen wherever you go. It’s good for lots of reasons, here are a few: keep up with your cash spends so that you can more easily budget for your next trip; so that you can write down words that you learn along the way; so that you can write down phrases to show to storekeepers and others when your pronunciation is off.
  • Include an expandable tote in your luggage (empty) on the way over.
  • Pack light. If in doubt, leave it behind.
  • If they put you in the suite overlooking the park (in the middle of the spring or summer), ask for another room. We all love kids, but not at 8AM when you’re jet-lagged.
  • Always determine a meeting place and time in case you get separated from your group.
  • Don’t Americanize your destination. Do (and eat) as the locals do.
  • At least one person in your party should study-up on the local language before you get there. If you make a decent effort to speak in the native language, the locals will often be patient and kind–or speak English. If you try to speak in English to the locals without trying their language, you won’t be kindly regarded and you won’t get the most of your travels.

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