What I’ve Learned About Packing for International Travel

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“This is fine”, I attempted to convince myself as I wheeled my two suitcases and one carry-on bag to the top of the stairs. I had only gotten my bags out of the Parisian studio and was already breathing harder than someone who just ran a mile. Now I just had to get them down the flight of stairs, which would bring me to the fifth floor where I would then have to fit my bags and myself into an elevator, a fourth of the size of those back home, and wheel them through the courtyard.

I had anticipated taking the RER to Charles de Gaulle, where I would catch a flight to Dublin. I did not end up taking the RER.

Big props for reasonably priced cabs in Paris.

I don’t know what was worse, the “Oh, those are ALL yours?” I got from two experienced travelers the day I landed at Charles de Gaulle from New York, both of whom were able to fit five weeks of necessities into one bag; or the hassle I would soon experience trekking my bags around Ireland.

I know I’m not the first to overpack on an abroad trip and I’m sure I won’t be the last. But if I could go back in time, I would have definitely given myself a much needed kick in the shin and some helpful advice.

  1. Remember that girl on Instagram who seems done-up in the cutest outfits every single day of her trip? Yeah, that won’t be you. Leave the over-the-top outfits at home, and pack one simple, slightly-more-formal dress for when you really need it.
  2. You will not wear all of that. I definitely over thought how much clothing I would need for a three week trip. I packed approximately 3/4’s of my closet and wore maybe a third of that. This shouldn’t have surprised me, considering I only actually wear about a third of the clothing I own. There is a tip I’ve gotten from some experienced traveler friends which says to lay out everything you want to bring.. and then bring half of it. This is easily up there in the best advice I have ever received on any topic. And remember, you can re-wear things.
  3. Refer back to number one. You will not be the girl on Instagram who looked as if she popped into the salon every morning of her trip. When it comes to hair tools, I’m the absolute worst, and have had to adjust to leaving my loyal straightening iron at home. Of my entire trip, I believe I actually did my hair once. My main focus each morning ended up wanting to get up and out as early as possible to see as much as I could. Embrace you natural hair, even if you have a lion’s mane like myself.
  4. If you have to sit on your bag to close it, you probably packed too much. While I’m not a huge souvenier buyer, I should have assumed I’d be bringing some things home with me. The two hours it took to empty out and then reorganize everything to fit in already stuffed bags before my flight home was not worth the hassle and time wasted.
  5. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. I am guilty of this almost every time I travel, and it is definitely a huge factor in my overpacking. Packing + Stress = More stress cause you friggen’ overpacked.
  6. Remember that layers are a thing. When I was researching the weather for my trip, I was seeing 90 degree weather in some locations, then 50 degree weather in others. I chose to “solve” this problem by packing multiple long sleeve shirts, and multiple short sleeve shirts, AND multiple thick long sleeve shirts and pretty much multiple everything. In reality, I could’ve packed a few select shirts, and then a sweater or two. It would have saved me a load of space.
  7. You don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe for your trip. This is something I try to drill in the heads of some of my friends when they’re preparing for their next getaway. Windbreakers, hiking boots..if you legitimately need something new for your excursions, buy it. I get that some things are essential. But I guarantee you that your year old jeans are probably just as awesome as a brand new pair, and are probably way more comfortable anyway.

The moral of these slightly repetitive pieces of advice are:

Nobody cares what you’re wearing. You are there for experiences, not too look cute in an Instagram photo. As long as you’re weather appropriate and culturally appropriate depending on where you’re going, you will look great as long as you’re having the time of your life.

When it comes to what you eliminate from your suitcase during your next trip, just ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need it?
  • Is it appropriate for the location I am traveling? (weather-wise, culturally, necessary for my excursions?)
  • Did I already pack something similar to this?
  • Have I worn it at home within the last two months?
  • Does it pack easy? Certain materials come out of a bag looking wrinkled and awful. And since a portable steamer is most likely not on your “I need it” list, you should probably leave it.

 

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14 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned About Packing for International Travel

  1. HAHAHA point two is so on point. I’ve mastered packing at this point in my life. I’ve been living out of a carryon for the last 9 months and I still somethimes wish I took less stuff.

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  2. I can’t stress how much I agree with you on point 7, I don’t understand why people feel the need of nearly redo they whole wardrobe just for a trip. Needless to say that all the money spend could be use for much more interesting activies during the trip.
    I might be guilty of taking a bit too much stuff though sometimes ahah. But using smaller bags helps to focus on the essentials 🙂

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  3. I’m the worst with #7!! I’m heading to Hawaii next February for my birthday, so I’m thinking “oooh.. I should get a new dress for a luau…and a bikini…and a coverup too.” Realistically, I probably only need a cover up.. (tip: white swim coverups are a bad idea), and maybe swimsuit bottoms.

    Unless I find them super cheap 😉

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  4. I’m the number 5! I ALWAYS pack the last minute! but once someone said it’s because I’m optimistic! 😀 (’till I’ll arrive to late to catch a flight or a train haha :D)

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  5. Love it! I relate so much. I did the same thing on my trip to Germany and trying to carry all that stuff through the subway was a nightmare. Now I bring one carry on and that’s it. Great post!!

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  6. LOL number 2!! Hahah that’s my method for everything. Just leave it at home! Although I’m a notorious last minute packer. It’s actually quite bad. However, I like to keep a a running list on my phone of what I need then I check and recheck the list. It helps a lot!

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  7. Lol! I love your writing voice its so funny and on point! I couldn’t agree more with the questions to ask yourself prior to packing – thats the moment you know if you actually need to take it with you or not haha safe travels! xoxo – Mariella

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  8. I love your list of questions to ask yourself! I’ve become a pro at minimalistic packing, and can definitely attest to these tips! I’m a carry-on only kind of girl, and have even somehow managed to do it while visiting Northern Europe in the winter.

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  9. I packed so many times in my life you could think I am an expert but yeah I always overpack! And I dont even wear those cute Instagram clothes anyway as they most likely uncomfortable for whole day of sightseeing . But I guess I like have many choices. Thats why one of the good part of travelling with your husband is he always have extra space 😀

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    • I love havig options as well, but end up doing exactly what I do at home; “jeans and a cute shirt” LOL. I have actually convinced my boyfriend to use anlarge suitcase as oposed to a carry-on just so I could sneak in a couple more items. Great advice!

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  10. It’s so easy to over pack. Even when I pack light I find myself only using half of what I brought. My last long solo trip through a few countries, I pre planned an outfit for each destination just so I wouldn’t overpack.

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  11. These are great tips! Hubby and I learned the hard way on our first trip to Paris, when we each brought a HUUUUUGE suitcase. The only advantage is that we had lots of extra space to bring home wine 😎

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