The Survival of Packing

The Survival of Packing

By Nick P. Mendoza III

October 13, 2019


          I am embarrassed to admit it now, but when I first started traveling, I was a veritable packing disaster on legs. My back protested as I lugged 60 lbs of hard-shell suitcase around England – what was I thinking? When I downsized for a long weekend to Madrid, Spain, I took with me a fabric-like bag whose narrow straps cut into my shoulders as I trudged miserably to my hotel. Six years later, I’ve learned from my mistakes, and so can you. Here are five packing mistakes you’re making and how to avoid them.

1. You pack every item of clothing you've ever owned and literally wear half of it.

          A bit of self control at the packing stage will pay dividends later. Think about what goes together. The goal is to pack a capsule wardrobe where each piece is sufficiently versatile to work with several outfits. Stick to a simple color palette of three or four complementary colors and classic pieces that can work for different occasions. If it can only be worn once, it doesn’t go in. Opt for easy care fabrics that don’t crease, roll T-shirts and tuck socks into shoes.

2. You've forgotten that they have shops where you're going.

          Unless you’re headed to a remote island hideaway or mountain retreat, here’s absolutely no need to pack everything. Who’s guilty of prepping for a city break by carefully placing the entire contents of their bathroom shelf in their case? Don’t do it. You can always pop to the drugstore or supermarket when you arrive and buy it there. Your life is not going to be over if you switch shampoo brands for a week. The same goes for sunscreen, hair driers, even beach towels. Most good hotels will provide you with the basics, and a quick pop to the store will get you the rest. 

3. You've mixed up your prohibited items.

           Most of us have figured out the 4 oz. rule when it comes to airports and hand luggage. But after that it gets a little more complicated. Should you pack your spare lithium battery in your carry on or your checked luggage? (That’s carry on, by the way, as there’s a risk they’ll catch fire, so they go in the part of the plane where someone’s more likely to notice the smoke.) Read the airline’s instructions carefully and make sure everything is in its proper place.

4. You think it's a case of one-size-fits-all when it comes to luggage.

          Different types of luggage suit different types of trip. If you’re planning to take a quick trip on a train, make sure it’s not too wide to roll down the aisle. Booked a light aircraft transfer to an offshore island or an inaccessible safari lodge? You’ll need something small and preferably soft-sided, like a holdall. Heading off on a gap year adventure? Test out that backpack with a load to assess comfort, capacity and weight. Don’t assume you can take the same luggage every time.

5. You don't check the whether.

          There's nothing worse than arriving in a foreign country expecting flip-flops and t-shirt weather and instead getting hit by a storm. Weather predictions aren't always reliable, but doing a little research before you pack could save you from getting caught off guard. Check seasonal averages as well as 10 day forecasts. Even if it looks like everything will be clear, you may choose to throw in a lightweight rain jacket, just in case. The reverse is true too — add a short-sleeved shirt to your bag in preparation for a sunny day. Worst case scenario, you can use that shirt as a base layer for the rest of a chilly trip.

           Hopefully these five things I've mentioned will help you get started in your travel adventures. I am an avid traveler and don't take traveling lightly. I prepare for the best and I also prepare for the worse. Best of luck and travel on!