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How to Pack for Hassle-free Travel

Updated on September 9, 2015
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Xeng is a researcher at the University of the Philippines where she is working on a dissertation for her Masters in Communication.

I have recently gone on my first overseas travel and I hope it isn't my last. It was a trip for a four day conference. We left Manila on the evening of July 3, 2013 and then left for Jogjakarta in the morning of the 4th. Basically, I was away for five consecutive days as I went straight to the airport from work on the 3rd. I only had one rolling luggage with me containing all my clothes for the trip. It was just the right size for the cabin stow-away. I also had a backpack for everything else. I had 15 kilos prepaid check in baggage and my luggage with wheels only weighed 10 kilos but could very well fit 15 kilos in it.

I almost gave in to my urge to bring the whole house for the trip but my boyfriend reminded me to just bring what I need and through packing for this trip, I realized a lot can be done wrong when packing for a trip abroad.

Tip # 1: Plan your outfits

When I first packed for the trip, I had about 6 dresses, 2 pants, 5 shirts and then about 5 sets of comfy clothes for sleeping. But they took up all the space and I could hardly zip my luggage closed so I had to take out some of them.

My boyfriend told me to just pack one dress for each day of the conference then 2 sets of comfy wear for sleeping during the 4 day trip and then just 1 set of extra clothes for the tours.

Tip # 2: Roll your clothes

Clothes, especially those that are made of soft fabrics don't always have to be folded. Sometimes, it's better if they are rolled to avoid creasing. Clothes with soft fabrics tend to get wrinkled even with the littlest movements and changes with the other stuff packed in the bag. rolling also saves space.

Avoid wrinkling your clothes by rolling them instead of folding. :)
Avoid wrinkling your clothes by rolling them instead of folding. :)

Tip # 3: Bring a clutch or a small pouch for your flight essentials

The clutch/pouch should contain your passport, one other valid ID and all your tickets and boarding passes. I even put my cash in there. This is to ease the process in the airport. That way you won't have to search everywhere for your passport and tickets because they're all in one place.

I put the following in my clutch:

  1. flight tickets
  2. boarding passes
  3. passport
  4. one other valid ID
  5. cash (in the required currency, for airport terminal fees and/or travel tax, as well as tips for the porters, taxi drivers, etc.)
  6. pen - you never know when you have to write something

It's best to keep all these in one place so as to ensure a hassle free boarding at the airport. Just imagine having to rummage through your backpack or hand bag just to look for your boarding pass or passport. It will save you the time and energy.

If you're worried about your manlihood by bringing a small purse/pouch/clutch bag, a small and clear file case or document holder with ziplock will also do the trick.

Tip # 4: Keep a clean set of clothes on your carry-on

Whenever you check in your luggage, you should keep in mind that it can be lost anytime so better be prepared. Keeping a clean set of clothes whenever you board the plane, especially when boarding for your destination and not on the way back, can ensure that you don't get stinky if the airline lost your luggage. It will give you peace of mind. If there's not enough space in your carry-on, even just a spare set of underwear will be fine. You'll be shopping for clothes at your destination anyway, right?

On a more serious note, there are more and more cases of lost luggage and it would just be better to come prepared.

Although wearing a bikini out in the snow might seem like a good idea....
Although wearing a bikini out in the snow might seem like a good idea.... | Source

Tip # 5: Read up on the country/place you'll be visiting

Research is an often overlooked part of travelling. Sometimes we have certain strong preconceptions about places that we forget to validate these preconceptions. Like if we were led to believe that the place we would be visiting is cold, we might pack heavy winter gear only to find out that it's summer there or that it's a tropical country after all. Before throwing all those coats or shorts into your luggage, better do research on the following:

  1. climate - When are you visiting? What season would it be then? Pack your stuff accordingly to ensure you won't be "freezing" in the sun. Bring thermal wear if it's winter and light and breezy clothes for summer.
  2. predominant religion - In order to not offend the citizens of the place you'd be visiting, you should pack, and dress accordingly. I almost wore shorts to this mostly-Muslim country and wouldn't have changed had my boyfriend not reminded me. Be culturally sensitive to these people as you are the tourist and they are the locals. You should adjust to them and not the other way around because you are the visitor to their home. I don't expect them to impose on tourists but it would still be better to be more culturally sensitive.

Tip # 6: Compartmentalize

The obsessive-compulsive in me was the one who packed for the trip. But it's really more convenient when you compartmentalize while packing. Keep all your toiletries in one place, all the underwear in another. Most travelling bags have compartments for used clothes so better utilize that.

Compartmentalizing in terms of money is also very beneficial. For example, I made use of a different wallet for my US dollars (I figured it would be safer if I brought my money in dollars first then just have it changed in Indonesia), and another one for those in the local currency which was Indonesian Rupiah, and another still for my Philippine peso bills and coins. Doing so lessened my stress during my stay in Indonesia as I only need to bring one wallet at a time without fear of losing all my money all at the same time. It also enabled me to monitor just how much more money I had left, both in IDR and in USD. It was also relatively easier as I only had to bring out one wallet while I was in Indonesia and a different one when I got back in the Philippines. It also avoids the mistake of pulling out the wrong currency while out shopping. That adds to the stress.

Currency holders found on ebay can also be a good alternative for the macho guys who don't like whipping out wallets.

Tip # 7: Pack less than your prepaid baggage and buy a bag for your new acquisitions at your destination

I had 15 kilos prepaid baggage but my bags only weighed 10 kilos. When packing, I figured it would be safer to just put 2-3 kilos allowance on the baggage weight as the airline might be using a different weighing scale or something? Packing less would also mean that you've have more space for stuff you acquired during the travel. More importantly, it would save you from the hefty fees for additional baggage.

I'm grateful that my bag can only hold 10-15 kilos of stuff. I was thinking of buying a bigger one so that I'd only have to bring one bag to and from, but my boyfriend suggested that I buy the bag for the new acquisitions at my destination. This way, I didn't have to bring a heavier suitcase just to fit all my new acquisitions. And I got a new bag, too! It's a win win for me!

Bought tons of stuff during your trip? But now, how will they fit?
Bought tons of stuff during your trip? But now, how will they fit?

Tip # 8: Invest in a luggage scale

This will save you from having to spend tons and tons of money at the airport paying for your excess baggage. At least if you have a scale with you, you can buy prepaid baggage online at lower costs before checking in for your flight, right?

Check out these awesome scales on amazon found below:

Tip # 9: Write a list of what to pack

Most people overlook this really simple packing advice. But normally, when we pack for travel, we get too excited that we forget to put in some stuff. Just imagine how in your haste, you forget to pack your underwear. EEEEK. Major blunder. Avoid that by making a list of what to pack and then double-checking everything when you're done.

Here is a list of some of the stuff I often bring while travelling:

  1. underwear
  2. clothes, kind depends on what I'm travelling for (formal wear for conferences, casual clothes for shopping, comfy clothes for sleeping, swimwear--because you just might want to take a dip)
  3. footwear
  4. toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, comb, soap, lotion, towel,etc.)
  5. valid IDs
  6. travel documents (tickets, boarding passes, passport, etc.)
  7. pen and planner (because you never know)
  8. plastic bag for wet clothes
  9. mesh bag for soiled clothes
  10. money
  11. gum, especially when taking the plane
  12. my phone and gadgets, because what use is travelling if you don't have awesome photos or can't tell your loved ones about it?
  13. jacket and socks, because the plane might get too cold or i might have a hard time falling asleep

Tip # 10: Bring a camera

A small and compact digital camera will do. Heck, even your smart phone will do. With the technology now, one doesn't have to bring a DSLR to take good pictures. What matters is that you have a camera to document your fun fun fun.

But always remember to be careful with your gadgets because there can be bad guys when we least expect them.

Packing checklist

My packing checklist
Plan outfits
Roll clothes to avoid wrinkling
Bring clutch/file case for flight and travel essentials
Keep a clean set of clothes in your carry on
Research on your destination
Pack less than your prepaid baggage
Invest in a luggage scale
Write a list of what to pack

Print out this table for reference while packing. ;)

What item do you always bring with you when you travel, aside from your clothes and money

See results

Tip # 11: There Is No Tip # 11.

All these packing tips will be for naught if you forget to have fun. So after packing, stop worrying and focus on enjoying yourself. It's gonna be a great day.

Tell me about your travel packing tips. I'd love to hear about them!


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