If you’re a moderately experienced traveller you’ve probably already done the whole ‘take waaaaaay too much stuff on holiday that you just end up dragging around‘ thing.
I feel your pain.
But for the travel newbie, or the woefully unrestrained, this post could be just what you need to keep your luggage troubles, and kilograms, to a minimum.
The Golden Rule of travel packing
Less is more.
Or (perhaps more accurately): less is less goddamn annoying once you’re actually on your holiday.
I know it can be tempting to pack a lot. At home you live with all your stuff, all the time so it’s tempting to think you need a lot.
But let me tell you once you’re out on your holiday – seeing new sights, on-the-go almost all the time – needing that particular belt to compliment that jumper or a particular pair of socks to go with your shoes just doesn’t seem all that important anymore.
Don’t get me wrong there’s no need to go all ‘crocs, baggy tee, bumbag and visor’ on yourself either (unless that’s your thing!) but the function of your clothes becomes a lot more important than their appearance once you’re adventuring.
As such here are some basic tips that I think will help you to balance the need to not be naked (heh) with the need to travel relatively lightly:
1. For a long-ish stay (say 10 days or over) I would recommend dividing your days travelling by three and taking that amount of clothing.
So for our 14 day stay in Japan I should’ve taken about five days worth of clothing. I took more like seven to nine days worth and it sucked ass. I didn’t even wear some stuff and there is such a thing as a laundrette!
Taking a minimal amount of clothing will keep your luggage much lighter. Remember that your ‘clothes’ also include things like underwear, socks and tights that all add weight and take up room.
2. Choose clothing made from natural fibres that have a bit of stretch in them.
Once you’re off on your travels you’ll be doing a lot more physical exercise than usual so you want clothes that allow you to move freely and that also breathe/insulate depending on the weather.
I found ‘basics’ like cotton dresses, cotton tights and lightweight knit jumpers were great and you can mix and match them for a bit of variety.
3. Only take one of the ‘big items’
If you’re travelling somewhere cold like we did just take one big jacket, one scarf, one pair of boots, one pair of gloves and one pair of sunglasses. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you need multiples of these items.
4. Choose your shoes carefully
I have a pair of Doc Martens that I’ve had since I was 13 and, in my opinion, they go with everything. I took them to Japan because they are my ‘old faithful’ shoes and I’m a little disappointed to say that they failed me!
I went from walking a very average amount to walking a lot. One very busy day we walked for about nine hours all up and by the time we left Kyoto I had developed achilles tendonitis in my right ankle.
Just to let you know, achilles tendonitis hurts a lot and fucking sucks because the only thing that fixes it is rest, ice, compression and elevation, otherwise known as RICE. My main issue with this program of rehabilitation was the rest part.
Like c’mon! I’m in freaking Tokyo, are you kidding me!?
Unfortunately because I was wearing shoes that enclosed my ankle they actually made things worse.
So my advice to you is: take shoes with good sole/heel support that don’t enclose the ankle. Just in case!
5. Don’t worry about dressing gowns or slippers
Every hotel we went to provided us with these items.
Jewellery, Makeup and Accessories
Let’s be honest here: if you’re going on the sort of trip where you’re hiking through forests, sleeping in tents and peeing in bushes, vanity extras like makeup probably aren’t that important…at all.
But c’mon guys, we were going to Tokyo.
Arguably the biggest, fastest, most-neon, most-fashionable place on Earth. And let me tell you, Japanese people and particularly Tokyo residents, are very fashionable.
Even Grandmothers. Even tiny children. Nobody looks like they’ve left their house and just ‘thrown something on’. Everyone had their own unique look and, in my opinion, the right piece of jewellery or a smattering of makeup can jazz up even the most basic of basics.
So my advice here is:
6. Take ‘signature‘ accessories and makeup
That is: choose only one of each item and make them your signature travelling pieces.If you wear signature items you’ll find that they’re in all of your photos at all of the locations you visited. This is really cool because, when you get back from holiday, the pieces you were wearing or the makeup you were sporting will remind you of being in that new and exciting place.
The tactic of taking signature items also reigns in that voice in your head that convinces you that you need your entire makeup drawer, five pairs of earrings, six necklaces, three rings and maybe a few pins, brooches and scarves, when you really, really don’t.
7. I think for any trip you need at least something with music on it and something to read.
If you don’t use a Kindle or e-reader then that’s one less device to worry about. I personally still prefer the e-reader as they’re thinner than a book and carry a library.
To compliment these items, you’ll also need to pack headphones and chargers.
8. Consider your camera choice carefully
Ask yourself honestly: are you a photographer? Do you have any real interest in photography? Do you have any real interest in spending time setting up every shot? If the answer to all or most of these questions is ‘no’ then just take a decent point-and-shoot or, if it’s good enough, use the camera on your phone.
This is particularly true if you’re travelling with someone who has a DSLR and loves taking incredible pictures. In hindsight, Monique and I both lugging around DSLR’s with accompanying cables, chargers and delicate lenses, was pretty silly.
9. Consider even more carefully if you really need to bring a laptop
I have to admit I really thought Tokyo would be a mecca for free wifi.
It’s really, really not. I’ve never had so much trouble finding wifi and then connecting to it. In the end we actually paid for seven days worth of wifi in Tokyo and still had major issues using it. I also brought my laptop along because I thought I’d do a bit of blogging.
Even if there had been free, easy-to-access wifi I was travelling which meant I was super busy and generally super worn out by the end of each day. I mean I took a few notes but nothing I couldn’t have written down in a notepad.
Moral of the story is: you probably don’t need your laptop. If you need to use the internet on something bigger than a phone, take a tablet.
Toiletries and Medical
10. For the sake of sanity, you need to take at least roll-on deoderant, toothpaste and brush and face wipes (trust me).
Everything else: hairspray or mousse, body wash, spray deoderant, shampoo, conditioner, laundry powder, fabric conditioner and pads/tampons can either be bought or will be provided by your hotel. Don’t weigh your luggage or hand luggage down unless you really, really, really urgently need it (I’m referring to pads/tampons here).
11. Do make sure to buy or make a small first-aid kit
While I did bother to take some pain-killers, band-aids and disinfectant cream I definitely should’ve taken more medical supplies. Once my ankle was really busted I can’t tell you how much I wished that I’d bothered to pack a bandage to strap it with.
Miming your way through ‘hello, table for two please’ in basic Japanese is easy and fun!
Miming your way through ‘I’ve hurt my ankle and need an icepack to reduce the swelling and a bandage to strap it with please’ is much harder – close to impossible, in fact. And hobbling your way through Tokyo, going up and down every street trying to find a pharmacy, is also not very nice.
When you’re buying your travel sized liquids keep an eye out for the little first-aid packs – you might come to appreciate it more than you know.
So don’t do what I did, friends, and pack clothes and items that you’re not even gunna touch but still have to lug around! Pack smart. Travel light. Enjoy the ride!
Next post: From Home to Haneda
Until next time,
Kally & Mon.
[Feature Image Credit: Hostelling International USA]
Do you have any pro-packing-tips? Leave a comment, we’d love to hear them!