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Expert Guidelines for Travel Packing

Are you familiar with either of these experiences? You return from a trip, unload your bags and ruefully realize just how many things that you packed and lugged around but never used. Or, maybe your trip that was supposed to be full of sunshine and warmth turned out to be gray and cold ¾ all the while, you were stuck shivering in short sleeves. To avoid such situations, keep this list handy as you fill your bags before your next journey.

Pack half as many clothes and bring twice as much money. This nugget is familiar to experienced travelers everywhere, and it rings especially true for long-term trips. Checking out weather reports will never allow you to judge your needs as well as you can once you arrive. When it’s time to head home, you can donate any pieces that you don’t fit in your luggage. You can be sure the locals will appreciate it.

Bringing along your gadgets? Buy electrical adapters at home. Other countries have different electrical standards than the United States. If you wait until you’re on location to pick up an adapter, you’ll probably end up either paying an arm and a leg, or buying a “budget” option that might damage your precious device.

You’ll need three plastic bags. One bag is for your shoes (unless you take only the pair you wear). You don’t want foot order or sole debris on your clothing. The second bag is for your dirty laundry. Bag No. 3 should be waterproof and is for your important documents and papers.

Leave the liquids at home. Unless you’re going way off the beaten path, you’ll have no trouble finding toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner just about anywhere you go.

Never forget your swimsuit, even if you don’t like to swim. You never know when a hot tub or other recreational aquatic opportunity will arise, and you don’t want to be left out. Similarly, always bring at least one warm item of clothing, even if you’re heading somewhere with beautiful weather. Mother Nature has a penchant for gleefully punishing the unprepared with surprise rain and record-low temperatures.

Take your pack on a test run. Does your trip involve backpacking through a city or mountains? your pack for a test run. Fill it up with everything you think you’ll need, then spend a day walking around your city or the local trails (or at least your neighborhood). After a couple hours, you’ll have no trouble determining which items are unnecessary.

Mail services are your friend. If you absolutely must have your special brand of shampoo, you can avoid the hassle of TSA liquid rules by shipping it (or other small stuff) to your hotel. As long as you contact concierge ahead of time (but after you book) and time the shipment, you should have no problem. This strategy also works in reverse for souvenirs you’re worried won’t fit in your luggage, as long as you have a friend or relative at home to receive them.

Embrace elegant minimalism. By selecting only black-and-white clothing for your travel wardrobe, you’ll be able to maximize the number of outfits you can get from the least amount of clothing. Bonus: you’ll dodge the “frumpy tourist” look.

Finally, figure out what to do with all the free time you’ll have while your travel companions are busy managing extraneous possessions or hunting down forgotten items.