The more I travel the more convinced I am there are no rules. I know there are a lot of books and blogs out there that will tell you differently. And I spend a lot of time reading them. I spend a lot of time thinking about the perfect packing list. But let’s face it, every trip is different. Different places. Different timelines. Different expectations.
As you know, last year I met my mom in Iceland. We were there four days. While it was technically spring, it felt like winter. I was very proud of myself for packing everything into a back pack. Let me be clear, this was not a 60 liter backpack that you see on around the world blogs. This was something your kid would take to school every day. In fact, their school back pack is probably larger. I packed light because I wanted flexibility. I was only there a short time, every night at a new place. I got a great fare on WoW airlines but did not want to pay any extras. I didn’t want to lose a single minute of my trip checking or waiting on bags. We rented a compact car and I didn’t want to lug it in and out of the car. And frankly, if you look at my photos, you only see my coat and hat! So as long as I had a clean tee-shirt and underwear, I didn’t care if I wore the same thing every day.
Fast forward a year. I am visiting my parents in Salt Lake City. Same climate. Same number of days. I packed in a suitcase that was ridiculously large. Seriously, I can fit in it. But the circumstances are very different. I am flying Delta where I get a free checked bag. I am flying with someone who will be checking a bag. We will be going out, but we will also be spending a lot of time at home so I want extra clothes to sit on the couch and read comfortably. In fact, I also wanted to bring a comfy blanket for reading, watching TV and talking around the fire. I was preparing for a triathlon so I at least needed to get in a run and bike ride and needed gym clothes. I brought four books with me along with a couple of hats because I wasn’t sure which ones I wanted to wear. And I even broke a fundamental “rule” and wore my walking shoes (not my running shoes which I still packed) and packed my boots in my suitcase because I wanted to be comfortable on the plane.
Two weeks later I am traveling to San Antonio for work. This is somewhere in between. At least it is warm, so clothes are less bulky. But I am not going to wear the same thing every day to meetings. And really, the concept of color palates and layering that is great while playing tourist is not the same for work. So while I stuck with one pair of dress shoes, I still packed very different outfits for each day. But in this case, I would only sleep at the hotel and only needed one pair of jeans and a tee-shirt for dinner each night. But I still fit in one set of workout clothes as my Cuba triathlon was just around the corner.
Three weeks in South America and my packing list looked like what you would read on a traditional blog. I used a backpack because I wanted my hands free and to be able to keep my bag on my lap if transportation got tight (it did). I did laundry in the hotel sink and only wore a couple of tee-shirts. I layered. I mixed and matched. And because the weather was colder than anticipated I didn’t even wear everything I brought and I didn’t need anything I didn’t have on me.
I could go on and on…
My point is, don’t let anyone tell you there are rules. Or that you should pack (or really do anything) one particular way. My only advice is to think through what you want and your own personal goals. Some things to think about — Do you want to travel light and fast? Are you moving around frequently or staying in one place? Will you be charged extra fees that you want to avoid? Do you want options? Do you have time and flexibility for laundry? Is appearance important? Are there things you can buy there if you need them (and do you have the time and money to do it)?
But as with most things in life, you can’t have it all. So spend a few minutes thinking through each trip. What do you want and what do you need to have it. At the end of the day, it is just stuff and it is the trip that counts.