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Vacation Packing List and Tips

Updated on July 19, 2012

Packing for Vacation: A Guide

Packing for a vacation is every-one's nightmare, although many of us love to travel, very few of us love to pack! Packing usually comes at a bad day too - people often finish work one day and fly the next, or even later that night! Packing is squeezed into the time between, when you tend to be at your most stressed. Knowing how to manage your Vacation Packing List is critical. As with most things - if you have a plan things will be easier and less-stressed - I'm sorry I can't promise stress free! Efficient packing should ideally mean that you return from holiday having used everything you took more than once! So lets start with what to take.

Top Tips to Pack: What to Take


  • Choose clothes appropriate for the climate. If you are going somewhere warm and leaving a cold climate consider leaving a set of warm clothes in the car if you are leaving it at the airport, or with friends if you are being collected.
  • Stick with one basic colour scheme preferably a dark one which won't show marks and wrinkles so much.
  • Make clothing items do double duty, men's shorts can be double as swimming trunks, a woman's tankini top can be an evening top. A shirt can layer over a dress in place of a jacket.
  • Take multiple thinner items which can be layered instead of one bulky heavier piece. Thermal underwear is fantastic for cooler climates.

  • A sarong can be the most useful item you take doubling as a skirt, dress, shawl, beach towel, top sheet and a tablecloth. You can even use it as a bag in a pinch!
  • Shoes are always difficult: heavy and bulky. Try to wear your heaviest/bulkiest pair on the plane. I try to limit myself to 3 pairs: a pair comfortable for walking extended distances, a pair of sandals or flip flops and a dresser pair for evening!

Other Items

  • A travel alarm if you don't have the function on a watch or cellphone that you are taking with you.
  • Prescription medicines and a copy of the prescription in case you loose your bags. If you need glasses to see make sure you have a back up: an old pair, contacts or prescription sunglasses.
  • Toiletries: take a minimum. If you are only going on a short trip take sample sizes or buy small containers and decant some to take with you. If, however, you are traveling for a long time then don't take 6 months supply - you can buy almost anything anywhere these days.
  • Liquid soap and shampoo can be used interchangeably - you don't need both. You can buy solid shave soap which is lot more compact than carrying a shaving foam aerosol.
  • If flying don't take brand new bottles of liquid - the liquid will expand slightly as the lower pressures on the plane and leak - use each bottle once to avoid this problem. Creams and aerosols are OK.
  • Make sure your toiletries bag is actually waterproof - a surprising number aren't and bottles do break.
  • Credit cards -preferably two in case one is lost or broken or eaten by the ATM.
  • Details of your insurance policy. Important phone numbers or email addresses of medical specialists, family, work, anyone you may need to contact if something occurs to delay your return.

What Not to Pack!

  • Anything you are taking "just in case". If you happen to get a last minute invite to the Queen's Garden Party in England ladies will need a hat - take the opportunity to go shopping!
  • A cellphone unless you know it work at your destination and you know what the roaming charges are.
  • Anything electronic unless you are sure you can plug them in / charge them at your destination.
  • Anything you are sentimentally attached to or is particularly jewellery - you may have it stolen but far more likely you may just misplace it or leave it behind.

Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)
Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)
My book on Vacation Packing - the last packing book you will ever need
These ladies will sell you a cheap bag if you need it!
These ladies will sell you a cheap bag if you need it!

Top Tips for Packing for an Overseas Vacation

  • If you are used to the US generous luggage allowances on planes beware that on most overseas flights not departing/arriving in the US you are restricted to 20kg per a passenger. Trust me that is not very much, fortunately you are not moving overseas permanently!
  • Remember that if you bring anything that needs electricity e.g. hairdryer,electric razor, camera battery charger, you may need to bring adaptors as well. Do you really need to carry the item: even a cheap hotel often provides a hair-dryer and iron on request. Can you use disposal replacements for razors or batteries?
  • Baseball caps and tracksuits scream "American Tourist" - if you want to blend in consider alternatives.
  • Clearly mark your luggage with a distinctive tie or other mark so you can retrieve it easily from the luggage carousel.
  • Be familiar with the security restrictions for carry-on items particularly fluids. However make sure that you carry essential items such as prescriptions with you, in quantities that will see you through 48 hours if your luggage is mislaid.
  • Make sure you carry on to the plane your ticket, or E-ticket receipt, passport and a pen - you will invariably have to fill in an arrival form and customs declaration form - which are normally distributed in flight.
  • Consider local customs when choosing cloths: don't pack shorts and singlets, regardless of your sex, if you are traveling to the Middle East or other Muslim countries such as Indonesia Malaysia and Turkey. You won't be allowed into key churches in European countries including Italy and Spain dressed in them either.

What Luggage to Take it all In

  • Having decided what you are taking on holiday then choose the appropriate luggage, not the other way around.
  • Your bag should fit what you need to take, don't pack to fill your bag. Decide on how much you will need to carry your bag :are you hoping on and off European trains, or unpacking once of a cruise vacation? Are you most physically capable of carrying a bag on your back, across your shoulder, or pulling it along.
  • People with bad backs assume that a roll-along will be best - not necessarily - you end twisting to pull a bag along which can be agony. Consider instead a well fitting, comfortable backpack which is a) not too heavy and b) backed correctly so the weight is carried on the hip belt and through the back of your legs.
  • Over the shoulder bags are quick and convenient but again not good for long distance carrying when heavy. How much space do you have at home to store your bag when its not being used :soft-sided luggage will take a lot less room than a backpack. However a backpack or duffel back are poor and preventing wrinkles in our clothes.
  • Any soft sided bag can be more vulnerable to theft than a rigid, locked suitcase. A rigid suitcase will probably give the best protection for delicate items - but seriously consider why you need to take anything delicate.

What luggage to Bring Home

What you took you might be thinking? Normally though I return with quite a lot more than what I left with! Although I normally travel light, I invariably come back with more luggage than I left with. If you plan to do some shopping on vacation, delay it until the end of he trip and then just buy a bag along with your purchases. This saves you from carrying an over large bag in the first place In many countries where there are excellent buying opportunities for those with US$ there is a secondary industry of bag suppliers. I must say to date none of the bags purchased to date have actually survived more than the trip home but they have made the trip home OK

Packing for Family Vacation in Florida

How to Pack your Bags

  • Before you start lay everything out on a spare bed or other space so that you can see it all. Now might be a good time to reassess what you actually need to take!
  • Start collecting items a few days early - particularly if you are taking out of season clothing this is easy to do. If you are taking items you are regularly wearing it will remind you to add them to the pile as you launder them and to stop you accidentally wearing them before departure! Remember that what you are wearing on departure day is included in the pile too!

Tips for Packing a Backpack

  • To get the correct weight distribution heavier items should be near your back and higher in the pack.
  • Use plastic bags or packing cubes to keep similar items together.
  • Pack electronic and breakables near the centre padding them with clothing. Putting small items inside socks can work.

Packing a suitcase

  • Place heaviest items at the bottom, especially for pull along bags this adds stability.
  • Pack fragile items towards the centre.
  • Fold similar clothes together e.g. all trousers, all shirts folded together to minimise creasing and pack efficiently

What to Carry on the Aircraft

  • Check what is provided by the airline before taking a lot of stuff on board. Many international airlines, particularly Asian carriers, provide an enormous number of TV channels, movies and audio options, even in coach class. There is no point bringing the DVD player or Ipod on board with them! Others typically American carriers and budget airlines provide nothing, but entertainment can be hired for a reasonable fee -which might save you carrying a DVD player all trip just to entertain the kids for the return flight!
  • Also check for food and drinks service - same applies - its struggle not to over-eat on airlines such as Singapore Air, Cathy Pacific and Thai
  • Be cautious of bringing food on flights into Australia and New Zealand, there are substantial fines for importing banned items, even inadvertently, they take their agriculture industry seriously there.
  • Carry on sufficient clothing in case your luggage goes AWOL for 24 hours. If you are going to a beach location or a hotel with a pool you might want to include your swimsuit as well
  • Carry on essential prescription medicines and their prescriptions, spare glasses if you need them. A book or two in case of delays.
  • If you are taking a laptop you will need to carry it on Also make sure that you can power it up if you are requested to do by security. If you have a camera or video I carry those on two just to protect them from damage or theft

Pack Smart for a Beach Holiday

Other Tips before Leaving Home

  • Arrange for mail to be held or collected by neighbours. Let your neighbours know if you are going to be away.
  • Inform your insurance company you are going to be away - you can void your policy if you leave the house unoccupied without telling them.
  • Think about any bills that may come due while you are away and make arrangements - you don' want to come home to discover the power has been cut off!
  • Check the fridge / kitchen for perishables and dispose of them. Take the garbage out!
  • Clean- there is nothing worse that coming back to a dirty house - especially if you are already depressed about coming home! Even better arrange for cleaning service while you are away!
  • Arrange for suspension of services you are paying for but won't be using: pay-TV, broadband Internet and the 2 obvious ones.
  • Consider your home's security - consider a timer to turn lights on/off, ask neighbors to park their car in your drive, use your washing line. Arrange for a security patrol. Inform your security monitoring company that you will be away. Leave an emergency contact number with key people.

Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)
Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)
I have 30 years experience of packing and traveling. This is the last Vacation Packing book you will ever need
Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)
Vacation Packing Guide For Worldwide Travel (Non-Boring Travel Guides)
Vacation Packing List by Lissie - herself - check it out!

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