How do you pack for six months in a checked-bag?
No, really, I am asking you. Soon after New Years, I will be passport in hand at the airport leaving Florida for a six-month study abroad and internship program in London, England. Though I have traveled to over 18 countries, I still feel stressed by packing for trips.
In hopes of not waiting until the day before my flight to pack, I’m sharing my top five packing tips for travelers. Please use these tips to stay organized and sustainable during your next adventure.
- Know your bare necessity travel items
My mom likes to say that she only needs three items while traveling: her passport, American Express, and a bikini. It is very easy for her to decide what else to pack because she has already identified her essential items. Everything else she might need can be bought there. You might be thinking, “I don’t always need to pack a bikini!” I thought the same before our recent trip to Iceland. We wore our swimsuits under our hiking gear so we could float in natural hot spring pools while trekking past glacier covered passes. My mom’s bare necessities can be applied to any destination, but I encourage you to identify your own essentials. My essential items include a reusable water bottle, headphones, and a scarf.
- Keep travel gear together before you book the cheapest flight
The only way to survive last minute packing is by being prepared to grab-and-go your travel gear. I suggest keeping all of your travel gear in the same storage box or drawer, which will help you easily locate and pack these items. I like to store my outlet adapters, travel toiletry containers, and reusable plastic bags inside of my suitcases while I am not traveling. Now, these items are already packed once I pull out my suitcase the day before my flight.
- Pack older items to donate as you roam
My favorite packing tip is packing older or neglected clothing from my closet and then donating those items abroad. I like to come back home with a lighter bag and have room for souvenirs or new clothing items. I also recommend wearing these items multiple times before you donate them to conserve room in your bag. Adding several different scarfs or a nice jacket can mix up your outfits for your Instagram feed. If you’re staying in a hostel, there might be an option to donate your leftover toiletries or clothing to other hostel guests.
- Buy second hand what you don’t need new
Try shopping around at thrift or second-hand stores before you leave if you’re more inclined to sport a new outfit while abroad. Shopping second hand is cheaper than purchasing new retail items, plus you can donate the items once you’re done with them abroad. I recently purchased a London Fog waterproof trench coat at a Goodwill to bring on my study abroad. This coat has a retail price over $100, but I purchased it gently used for only $5. I plan on hiding from the cold London rains in this coat before donating it to a shelter after my program ends. I’ve saved money, avoided fast-fashion waste, and donated to charity by using this packing tip.
- Take a picture of everything you’ve packed laid out
Finally, I recommend creating an online packing list to stay organized, and then taking a picture of everything laid out on your bed or floor for a quick reference while traveling. I was quickly able to remember whether or not I had packed a particular sweatshirt while I was in Peru by looking at the picture I had taken of all my gear. It is also fun to do a before and after photo with all your gear to see how much you’ve donated!
I hope these packing tips help you stay stress-free before your next trip. See you on the roam!