One of the most challenging things about traveling, whether for business or pleasure, is knowing how and what to pack for your trip. I have been traveling abroad for over 10 years, and am only now seeing things I pack (and steps I take to pack) that really are unnecessary. I have tips and tricks that I do now that help me breeze through security, feel at home while away, and keep me fully prepared for any occasion. As a travel expert, I can show you the typical packing mistakes to avoid on your next trip abroad.
Whether you’re thinking of adventuring through Europe, exploring Southeast Asia, or going on an excursion to South America, I can assure you these tips will allow you to bring the necessities, without going over the coveted weight-limit. Overpacking is not only cumbersome, and unnecessary. (Once you're abroad it’s also extremely expensive!) Baggage fees for overweight luggage can often be as much as the ticket itself, which should make you rethink the fourth pair of heels you're packing that you swear you can’t live without. Just stick to these guidelines and you should have no problem checking your bag, carrying your things, and having exactly what you need while you’re abroad.
1Packing Your Whole Closet
I put this first on the list, because it’s honestly the biggest mistake of them all. You’re not exactly sure the situations you might find yourself in, so you inevitably pack for anything by throwing in everything you know and love, “just in case." Suddenly, you’re mindlessly throwing in 25 crops tops, and 15 pairs of jeans into a suitcase without even a second thought. While great in theory, what ends up happening is you add individual pieces that don’t necessarily go with anything else, thus causing frustration once abroad. This will make you eventually opt for the same, throw-on sundress, that’s not even your favorite, because you don't have the energy to play stylist with what's currently in your luggage.
Surprisingly, this situation can be avoided with a proactive mindset. The best solution for the “throw-it-all-in-mentality” is to try on outfits before for your trip. Suddenly, you’ll realize, “that top is too faded” or you'll remember, “this orange skirt always rides up” — thus saving you time, energy, and suitcase space. Preplanning outfits also allows you to properly allocate your best accessories. Place outfits together in your suitcase for an easier time navigating.
After trying it on and loving it, lay the outfit, along with any accessories, on your bed and snap a photo. This allows you to remember exactly what you had envisioned for those pieces, which takes the guessing game out of getting dressed once you're there.
2Bringing Way Too Many Beauty Products
It’s great to have a skincare regime that would make any beauty-junkie jealous, however, when it comes to traveling, less is more. I’m guilty of this as well, because I’m constantly on the road, I envision all of my anti-aging creams just sitting on a shelf collecting dust while I simultaneously collect wrinkles.
There are ways around packing your entire vanity. Travel-sized products that are multifunctional is a total win. Instead of an SPF lotion, a face cream, and a foundation, find a tinted moisturizer that does all three. Coconut oil is another fabulous product to knock out multiple beauty items in one swoop (ie. moisturizer, shaving cream, tanning oil, anti-frizz serum, and perfume). Done and done!
Stock up on small samples of night creams, eye treatments, and serums at the beauty section within duty-free. It’s easy, convenient, and a great way to kill time before boarding. While I’m there, I also mist myself with a facial spray before the flight, whether a rose water or bamboo sap. It will help keep your face dewy during a long-haul international flight.
3Packing Expensive Jewelry Or Valuables
This is always a good one to keep in mind while packing. Family heirlooms and engagement rings are sometimes better kept at home. It's better to be safe than sorry as you never know who will be handling your luggage. While, yes, there are typically safes in most hotel rooms, I've forgotten more things in safes than I care to admit (as they're normally hidden in a closet somewhere, making it easy to forget).
This also holds true to bringing money on your trip. Most bank cards work at ATMs worldwide, making it rather unnecessary to carry large sums of cash at any given time. If you do have more than you're comfortable losing on you, be sure to split up where you put the cash to spread your risk of all of it being misplaced or stolen at one time.
Many times, people keep valuables in their carry-on bags. I prefer to keep any valuables in a purse or backpack that I would never check. Oftentimes, inter-Europe flights have very limited overhead cabin space, forcing you to check your carry-on bag. In the moment, you may forget your valuables are in there, making a purse or backpack an even greater alternative.
4Shoes, Shoes, Shoes
Shoes are not only clunky, heavy, and hard to pack, but they also take up so much valuable space. I try to narrow it down to one pair of flats, a pair of neutral heels (that are comfortable), and a pair of sneakers or workout shoes for any activity. Trying on outfits before also allows you to see which shoes go with what outfit, helping you hopefully narrow down your options.
I always pack my shoes in my carry-on bag ,because they’re the heaviest and the airport typically doesn't weigh your smaller suitcase. This helps keep your larger checked bag under the weight limit.
5Not Researching Where You Are Going
I can’t stress enough how important this one is. Nothing messes up your packing abilities more than not realizing the climate, culture, or environment of a destination you’re going to. For example, if you are headed to the Middle East, you need to pack conservative clothing. Headed to the Galapagos or Brazil? These tropical environments require gear for all kinds of weather (think rain boots, camera covers, etc). There is nothing that makes you feel more ill-prepared than not packing appropriately for the weather or culture of the country you’re visiting.
This is also true with power outlets. Make sure you research all the places you’ll be going to, as the converters will change. I recommend getting a universal converter with two additional USB ports. This way, you can charge multiple devices in any country.
Don’t forget to also check the news at the destinations you are looking to visit. Rain storms, public strikes, or protests, or even an election can quickly impact your trip. I researched Thailand just before going and realized their King had just passed away, requiring all locals to wear black. I really appreciated knowing this information, and was happy to pack accordingly to show my respect.