Packing only what you need can be difficult. Before you know it, a five-day vacation can turn into clothing for a week and a half. At that point, you’re carrying way more than you need. “Just in case” items aren’t a bad thing to take with you, but keep them to a minimum.
I actually really enjoy packing… it’s the unpacking part that I take forever to do. But I’ve certainly overpacked on quite a few occasions. The benefit is that by doing so, I’ve learned my lesson. Here’s your ultimate guide to what you need to pack no matter where your next trip takes you.
Things you need no matter what
Regardless of where you’re headed, these are things you’ll need to bring with you on any vacation.
1. ID/Passport – So crucial if you’re flying, but a must-have no matter where you’re going.
2. Money/Credit Cards – Well, because things cost money.
3. Tickets of any kind – Boarding pass, theme park tickets, and confirmation numbers are all things you’ll need.
4. Keys – If you’re driving, make sure you have your car keys. And make sure you have your house keys for when you get home.
5. Glasses/Contacts – If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure you have them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to take my glasses to a friend’s house for a night, and that’s only a night. You don’t want to be without these items for a longer period of time. Also, if you do wear contacts, bring a spare pair. It never hurts to have a backup.
6. Toothbrush/Toothpaste – Stay hygienic. ‘Nuff said.
7. Deodorant – Last thing you want to do is go your whole vacation without it.
8. Phone & Charger – Chances are, you won’t forget your phone. But you may forget your charger, so make sure you pack this with your basic essentials so you’ll be sure you won’t forget it.
9. Daily medication – If you take any medicine every day, and it’s something that’s prescribed, make sure you have the amount you need to go away with. I usually put any medicine I have to bring with me in a small pouch so it’s all easily accessible.
Hot or Cold? This is the first thing to consider when you’re picking out your clothing items. Be realistic. If you’re going to a place that will be colder, there’s no need to worry about shorts, tank tops, etc. If you’re going to a place that’s supposed to be 80+ degrees every day, leave the sweaters at home.
Here are some key things I keep in mind when packing clothes:
1. Pack outfits – This will make your life so much easier. Not only do you ensure that you have something to wear every day, but you also have your clothes ready to go. That means more sleep and less decision-making in the morning.
2. Shoes – If you’re going somewhere you’ll be walking a lot, pack sneakers. You don’t want to have to deal with blisters and painful feet at the end of the day. Trust me, I once went to Disney World and strictly brought sandals. Huge mistake. We had to go to Wal-Mart one night so I could get a pair of sneakers.
3. Pack for a night out – If I’m going somewhere where I know there’s a chance I’ll want to dress a little nicer (i.e. Not a tank top and shorts), I’ll usually opt for a romper or casual dress of some sort with a pair of sandals. It’s an easy way to still be comfortable but go out to a nicer restaurant for dinner. Or whatever the case may be.
4. Extra outfit – I know, I know. I said the whole goal here was to not overpack, but that’s still the goal. You may wake up one morning and not want to wear any of the outfits you originally packed. I like to have one, o-n-e, extra outfit with me that I can use as a backup. Sometimes I use it if I don’t feel like wearing something I originally planned for. Other times, it comes in handy later in the day if something happens to my original outfit. The point is, it never hurts to have an extra with you. It only hurts if you pack more than one of ’em.
5. Socks, Bras & underwear – Okay, no one should ever forget this and it doesn’t require an explanation, but yes. Make sure you have these with you.
6. Swimsuit(s) – If you’re going somewhere where you’ll be in the water a lot, pack at least one of these with you. I usually take one if there’s a day I know we don’t have anything planned but may hit up someplace water-related, so it never hurts to have it with you just-in-case.
7. Light jacket – Night’s can get chilly depending on where you are, so it’s never a bad idea to pack a light jacket that fits into your suitcase easily (or one you can wear on the way) just in case. Also, airplanes and airports can be cold, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Other things to consider bringing along
Everything you may need from toiletries to technology, all in one list.
1. Vitamins – No, it won’t be the end of the world if you forget your multivitamin at home, but I’ve become so accustomed to incorporating one into my daily routine, along with Biotin and Vitamin D3, that I would certainly feel like I forgot something.
2. Additional Medications – I always like to take Advil with me no matter where I’m headed. You never know when a pesky headache is going to arise and attempt to ruin a day.
3. Makeup – What makeup I take largely depends on where I’m headed, but over the years I’ve started to pack only my necessary products. I’ll be doing a post on these in the near future, so look out for that.
4. Laptop – I like having my laptop with me wherever I go, even if I know I won’t be using it a lot where I’ll be. Everything from work to school, to this blog, exists on there and it gives me a place to back up pictures and clear some storage from my phone or camera while I’m away.
5. Camera – And my laptop makes a nice little segway into this. Depending on where I’m going, I’ll sometimes take my DSLR, but in most situations, I’ll opt to use my phone, especially if I’m headed to a theme park. Or, I’ll pack a smaller camera or GoPro since I love making video montages of trips.
6. Small bag – Whether you’re a fanny pack type or person or someone who prefers a small backpack, take a small bag with you to walk around with. I personally prefer a small backpack since it allows me to carry extra sunscreen, my wallet, and anything I decide to pick up wherever I am.
7. A book – Sometimes I’ll read on the plane, sometimes I’ll watch a movie. It all depends on my mood. If you have a book you’ve been reading and can’t put down, taking it along with you as you travel isn’t a bad idea. The biggest mistake I’ve made in the past is packing a handful of things to preoccupy me, like coloring books, a book, sketchbook, and end up using none of it.
8. Shampoo and Conditioner – If you’re someone that uses what the hotel supplies, skip this step, but I usually take small travel bottles of my products with me. If you’re sticking them in a carry-on, make sure they follow TSA guidelines (3.4 ounces or less in a quart-sized bag).
9. Headphones – You’re not going to want to listen to a crying baby the whole flight, so always make sure you have a pair of headphones with you to throw on some music or watch a movie.
10. Straighter/Hairdryer – Personally, I don’t bring a hairdryer with me when I go away. My hair dries fast enough that I can get away with solely taking a straightener. Once my hair is dry, I can use it to either curl it or make it as straight as I’d like it to be, so it’s a versatile tool that takes up less room than if you were to carry both/a curling iron as well.
11. Sunscreen – I burn very, very easily so sunscreen is a must-have. Whether you burn or not, make sure you have some with you to protect your skin. I usually like to bring a small bottle to take with me and a regular bottle to leave back in the hotel room.
In terms of what you should pack, that list should cover you pretty well. Obviously, things vary from person to person, so customize it to you. These are just some basic things to keep in mind.
Pro-tip: Most people know this, but roll your clothes. It lets you utilize as much room in your suitcase as possible. If you’re taking an extra pair of sneakers, stick rolled pairs of socks in them. Basically, use every inch possible.
Obviously, there are some items you can get in a local store if you forget them, but if you can prevent spending money on things you forget by bringing them, isn’t that the way to go?
Regardless of how you pack, the important thing is that you have everything you need to enjoy your trip and you arrive at your destination safely.
Happy traveling, and remember, only pack what you need.
Photo by Rui Silvestre on Unsplash