There is nothing like a change of scenery for expanding your horizons and renewing your enthusiasm for life. All too often, however, travelers undercut their adventure before they leave by overpacking. An overweight suitcase can limit your mobility, force you to keep close to well-trodden paths, and turn travel into a chore. After all, being prepared for every imaginable contingency is one definition of staying at home.
This is not to say that experienced travelers don't give careful consideration to the contents of their luggage. They do. They meticulously think through their trip, day by day, to make sure that they understand what they will need to bring along. But they consider local alternatives and set limits. If you plan on snorkeling for a day or two over the course of a two-week trip, find out if you can rent equipment at a local dive shop rather than lug it along. And plan on doing a little laundry as you go along so you don't have to take so much of everything.
In other words, veteran tourists think in terms of what they can do without—not what might turn out to be handy. Their watchword: "When in doubt, leave it out." When it comes to making that final selection, here are questions you should ask of every item you are considering taking:
- Is it versatile? Pick a color scheme for your trip and ruthlessly coordinate all your clothing. If nothing else, this cuts down on the bulky pairs of shoes you have to stuff into your suitcase. If you're traveling in winter, select a dark color, which has the added virtue of not showing stains. Also choose items that can dress up or down, so you can mix and match outfits for different occasions.
- Is it compact? When you travel, small is beautiful. Take along travel versions of the toiletries you use. Wear a wristwatch with an alarm, rather than packing a travel alarm.
- Is it synthetic? Clothes made from synthetics are not only lighter, but wrinkle less and dry faster. Some synthetics, like COOLMAX, wick to keep you cooler in the summer, while others, like Polartec fleece, provide more warmth than wool on a pound-for-pound basis. Plastic bags in different sizes are useful for packing liquids in your checked luggage. Use two-gallon jumbo bags to help you organize your clothing and keep it clean and neat looking.
- Is it essential? When traveling overseas, pack a photocopy of your passport and extra ID pictures. They will save you a lot of grief if you lose your passport. You should also take adapter plugs that fit the sockets in the countries you will be visiting. If you wear glasses, take an extra pair.
Inevitably, you are going to leave something home that you really need on your trip. Unless you are going on a wilderness vacation, the great thing is that you can always buy it—and get yourself an unusual souvenir that you might even use after you return home!