Packing is not a science. It is an art.
It is also a process of figuring out what works for you and not every trip will be the same.
When traveling for work or to see family friends (usually just one destination) I tend to pack heavy. And I don’t care!
When I am packing for a trip, with multiple stops and forms of transportation, I like to pack light.
Step 1: Start a running list of notes as soon as I start planning the trip. As an example, as soon as I bought my tickets to Taiwan during the summer typhoon season, I started my packing list and put rain gear at the top. For an upcoming trip home to see family and friends, I started a list and made a reminder to bring the gifts I have bought over the months and stored around the house so I don’t forget them. I add to the list as I think of things.
Step 2: Check the weather
This seems obvious but serves a few purposes…
Don’t just check the weather for the days you will be there (they might be an anomaly and they might be wrong). Also check out the weeks prior and after your trip to get a sense of the trend. If you are going to bring something extra do you hedge your bets for warmer, colder, rain etc…?
This will help you decide on extra items like sunscreen, a hat (winter or summer), shoes, extra socks (if rain or snow), extra underwear (if unbearably hot) etc…
Step 3: Before packing, run through a mental (or actual) list of day by day what you are doing to figure out what you actually need. This will significantly help you from over packing. Also, during this step, determine if you have space in your trip for laundry. Are you spending more than 1 night in a single place so you can wash things in the sink? Do you have an Air bnb half way through your trip so you can do a load of laundry? Most places in Asia, if staying in one place more than one night you can send your laundry out very cheaply.
Step 4: Lay out everything. I do this no more than 1 week out but no less than 1 day prior to the trip. If you start too early then the weather predictions are too far out, you might steal something from your pile to use at home (and forget to replace it) etc… If you don’t give yourself enough time then it is more likely you will be rushed with other last minute preparations or may not have time to find something you need, buy something, wash something etc…
It may be a step too far for some, but I put them in the order I will use them to make sure I don’t forget something.
Step 5: Actually pack your bag. As you pack, think through one more time your timeline and plans. Resist the urge to throw in anything extra. Look at the below tips in how to minimize any “just in case” items.
Step 6: Stop! Don’t add anything extra unless it is something you legitimately forgot.
Two other tips:
I keep a separate stock of toiletries so I can pack early.
In order to keep your bag light, keep your “just in case items” as versatile as possible. Some examples:
- A hat should keep you warm if the temps drop at least 10-20 degrees below what you expected. Additions of a scarf and gloves are easy to pack and also help with an unexpected cold front. Also, if really worried about the cold, one pair of leggings or long underwear can help layer.
- A sweater can be worn again and again. It doesn’t touch your skin and rarely really gets dirty. If trying to pack light, you can pack just one sweater (or sweatshirt) and layer appropriately underneath.
- For hot locations, I have a couple of favorite sun dresses that I wear with a cami. I switch out the cami every day, but the dress is good for several wears even in 90 plus degrees.
- One pair of pants with a new tee shirt or long sleeve shirt. A pair of pants or shorts is usually good to wear at least 3 times (often more) – just switch out the top.
- If you want to have a different look each day – scarves, hats, and jewelry are all great options. They are easier to pack, more versatile, and can be dressed up or down.