Pack light. This is not news. When I see another woman thumping an overstuffed suitcase or unable to lift her own luggage into the overhead compartment, I want to scream, “You will survive with fewer shoes!” Similarly, to the soulless drones who mindlessly wield those black suitcases with wheels like horse trailers behind them and take up the entire overhead compartment with two bags, I want to shout, “Get a backpack! Or a weekend duffel bag!”
Besides being annoying, overpacking limits your options and mobility. And if you pack smart, you won’t bring extra items that you don’t wind up using anyway.
This is what I packed for a 9 day trip to California, in warm weather, on a business trip with a few extra days for fun. I probably would eliminate even more if I weren’t renting a car. This is everything except the camera I used to take the photo, including what I will wear to the airport tomorrow:
2 button down shirts
tech stuff: laptop, cell phone, camera, navigation system (yes, I know I could have these last three items in one if I had a smarter phone) and chargers
pen and pencil
business cards and work materials
toiletries and medicine (including sewing kit and neti pot)
A few tips I’ve learned:
- Make a list and refer to it before you pack. This helps me to remember items I might otherwise forget, to add and modify items that I wished I had brought the last time, and to pack very quickly. Review any items suggested by your host.
- Put cords or chargers and toiletries in one gallon zip lock bags. It keeps everything organized and accessible. I have never found a toiletry bag that I liked; these bags are cheap, and can take abuse and spills. (I learned this one from a co-worker.)
- Travel exposes you to lots of germs (in airplanes, at convention centers) and no one wants to get sick. I started traveling with a neti pot so I could flush out my sinuses and now I get far fewer bugs on the road. And– perhaps a sign of getting older– I also bring items that will help if I start to feel sick.
- Make yourself a sewing kit. Fewer hotels have them these days, and it’s great to have if you lose a button or have a wardrobe malfunction. I like lots of safety pins so I can pin my shirts.
- Duct tape is magic. Wind it a few times around a water bottle or sunscreen so you have some just in case. This is an old camping trick, and was indispensable to me once when my hiking boots disintegrated in the Amazon.
- Bring a water bottle and a tote bag. You’ve already increased your carbon footprint by flying, there is no sense in buying water bottles and accumulating plastic bags.
- Keep reading materials and take notes on your laptop. If you’re traveling for work, you will acquire enough papers along the way if you need to take notes on the move.
- You will want options, especially if your trip is a mix of work and fun situations, but relax. You don’t need to have every single option you would have at home. And if you need an extra layer or forget something, you can generally buy it.
Ready to go!