I have a confession – I am not a great packer. I don’t have a stable, tried and true, magic packing list to share with you. I talk a big game. My travel buddies who read this will laugh because I always talk about bringing only a backpack, or only taking what will fit in a carry-on…but I rarely do. I pack early and often for a trip. I think it’s part of the fun, anticipating the trip, researching, thinking about what I have planned, then changing and refining the plan several times. Experts say you can get anything you forgot or need “in country.” And this is true. Some travelers love finding and buying supplies “on the economy,” for them it’s part of the adventure, for others however, spending an hour to buy a toothbrush and what may or may not turn out to be toothpaste is an hour they could have spent in the castle, museum, or hanging at a cafe.
My advice is on packing is the same as it is on almost all travel topics – figure out what is important to you and your goals and go from there. If being light and mobile is important to you, then there are some great blogs and books about how to pack uberlight. If you want lots of options and hate to be cold or hot, then think through layers. If you aren’t moving around from night to night who cares how light your stuff is! Pack the kitchen sink, take a cab from the airport and enjoy your options. But if you are traveling by local bus in Central America, you may want something that fits on your lap.
Some things to think about as you consider what and how to pack for each trip:
-All cities will have a way to do laundry. You can wash out your clothes in the hotel bathroom sink, you can have it done at a hotel, many hostels have laundry machines, you can find a local laundry service, or seek out a laundry mat. Personally, I’ve done it all. I was able to have my laundry washed in Tanzania (hotel), and in Costa Rica (local service), and in Krakow I did it myself (laundry mat). But remember, doing laundry on a trip takes time away from your adventure and is really only an option when you spend 2-3 nights in one location.
-If you plan to go to a laundry mat and it’s a relatively short trip (1-4 weeks) bring some detergent sheets or pods with you to save an extra shopping stop.
-Tourist areas don’t always have affordably priced convenience stores, but if you venture just a few blocks outside the tourist center you will find convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores.
-The lighter you pack, the more mobile you are and the cheaper your transfers and transportation can be. If you have a light, easy to carry bag you can take public transportation or even walk with your bag. If you have a heavy suitcase you will most likely be restricted to cabs and airport transfers.
This picture above was of my luggage when I visited family for a 5 day trip. It’s big and heavy, but what do I care? I had rides to the airport, on this trip checking luggage was free, I was traveling with someone who likes to check her luggage, and I was staying in one place for the entire time. Other than one hard lift up and down one floor of stairs, there was no reason not to bring what I wanted. My point – there is no right way to pack for travel!Decide what is important to you, this will probably be different every trip, and then build your personalized experience. If you want some help or a second opinion, just let me know!