Long-term travel is an exciting adventure and part of the thrill is the unknown journey ahead. This can lead to the desire to bring everything you could possibly need. Anyone else build “what if” scenarios in their heads? In reality, though, you will need to pack a bit smarter than that. I am going to share 5 essential packing tips for your long-term travels to help you get started.
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Packing Tips # 1: Separate your “need” and your “want” items.
Let’s remember that there is a weight limit to each checked bag, which is standardly 50 pounds (23 kilograms). That might seem like a lot of space, but it goes quickly! Those books you want to read? 4 pounds. Your make up bag? 3+ pounds. 4 pairs of shoes? 5 pounds. Camera gear? Yikes. That space and weight goes in a blink of an eye and you have some hard decisions to make. My first packing tip is about differentiating your needs and wants.
You need items that are irreplaceable, or you absolutely cannot buy wherever you are going during the time that you are there (either due to availability or budget). Examples include medicine, glasses/contact lenses, camera, phone charger, at least one jacket, and a versatile pair of shoes.
You want items that would be convenient to have in case of hypothetical scenarios or maybe you want to have a lot of options for clothing. Examples include extra pairs of shoes, unrealistic amounts of clothes, too many books, or food items and toiletries that you can also purchase there.
I know that we have products we feel attached to. My first time coming to Turkey, I brought every brand of soap, shampoo, conditioner, facewash, moisturizer, and even toothpaste that I loved, because I thought I wouldn’t like anything there. Mind you, I was moving there to live for 10 months! Looking back, it was such a rookie thing to do but I didn’t know any better. Don’t make my mistake!
You will not have to remove everything from your “want” list, but chances are you will not be able to bring all of it. Decide what items are most important to you and take those. Only you can make that decision, but remember to ask yourself, “Is this a want or a need?”
Packing Tips # 2: Bulky and heavy items go at the bottom of your suitcase (on the side with the wheels), and lighter/more sensitive items go at the top (by the handle)
As your suitcase lays flat, nothing is squishing anything yet. However, when you zip that baby up and it goes vertical, whatever you placed at the bottom of your suitcase will now be under the weight of everything at the top.
You don’t want any important documents or things that could get smashed easily at the bottom. You may also want your toiletries and make up at the top, so they are not smashed under heavy weight. Things like shoes and clothes are usually safer at the bottom. Books are another good choice if you place them correctly, so the pages do not get smashed.
You want to make sure you have sturdy, reliable suitcases. I have shared a fashionable, yet sturdy luggage set below to get you started!
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Packing Tips # 3: Roll up all of your clothes
Do not fold them like you would when you place them in your drawers at home. This is another rookie mistake. If you roll up your clothes tightly, you can really maximize the space in your suitcase! I am talking burrito-style rolling here.
Packing Tips # 4: Buy a hand-held scale so you can easily measure the weight
When I prepared for my first long-term trip, I did not have a handheld scale. So, I decided to get creative and weigh myself on a normal scale to check my weight. 63 kilos? Got it. Then I would try my best to lift up my heavy bag, stand on the scale again while holding my heavy bag, then ask my mom to look at the scale to see what the number was. I couldn’t see it because of my heavy bag (are you seeing a pattern yet? Looks like I needed to revisit tip #1). Then I would do a little subtraction and figure out a ballpark estimate of my suitcases weight. This was not an ideal strategy! Make your life easier and purchase a hand-held scale. You simply hook it to your luggage’s handle and pick it up. It will tell you the weight of your bag, sans hopping on a normal scale.
Packing Tips # 5: Fill in empty spaces with small items
You really don’t want any part of your suitcase to be empty (assuming you have more to pack and have not exceeded your weight limit). It helps to do one layer of larger items, like rolled up pants and shirts. Then you can fill in some of those cracks with rolled up socks or underwear, or small sensitive items like a favorite cup or souvenirs from your travels. Socks can fit into just about anywhere! You can even hide them inside your extra pairs of shoes. Another good trick is to even out your light and heavy items. Place some of your books or camera gear with your light clothes, so you don’t have one really light bag and one really heavy bag.
Packing is somewhat of a trial and error process. It all depends on your trip, what things you’ll need and what type of luggage you want to bring. I’ve done this numerous times and I still have to rearrange things after I pack the first time. However, I’ve always found each of these tips helpful in maximizing my space! As a side, one article I really enjoyed about packing tips written from a unique perspective is this “What Not to Pack” List by travel blogger Lia at PracticalWanderlust.com.
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I hope you enjoyed this short essential list of packing tips! Want to save it for later?