Almost three months ago, I wrote about how to pack lots of outfits from from few clothes. Now, having actually traveled, I have a better, more extensive list of packing tips. They’re geared toward women travelers, but men are more than welcome to read and heed the advice.
1. Febreze It
Buy a small spray bottle and fill it with Febreze. Eventually, your things will stink. Even clean things smell bad after being in a pack with dirty things day after day. Your traveling mates and the locals will thank you for packing this.
(The best thing about traveling is that no one you meet knows your past. You’re free to reinvent yourself– or to just rewear that shirt you wore two days ago … and two days before that. My rule: if it doesn’t have gelato spilled all over the front of it, it’s fair game for several Febreezings.)
2. Shout Wipes
There’s hope even if you do spill gelato. I used half a dozen of these babies on my five-week trip.
3. Spray-on Wrinkle Remover
You can find small cans of this at travel stores. Unless you want to look like a nasty bum, this stuff is pretty necessary. It works amazingly, too. Just spray it on the wrinkles, smooth them out, and watch them disappear.
I used the store-bought stuff, but there are also recipes for cheap, home-made wrinkle releaser. Try a dryer sheet in a small spray bottle of water. Or, mix 1 cup water, 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol, and 1/4 cup fabric softener. I haven’t tried either method, so make sure to test in an inconspicuous spot, first.
4. Packing Cubes
If you’re trying to catch an early train, packing speed is crucial. Packing cubes keep everything organized, making it easier to stuff it all back into your pack without leaving it hopelessly wrinkled. I brought one for bottoms, one for tops. Also helpful: a bunch of ziplock baggies of varying sizes, for wet clothes or mementos or receipts or whatever.
5. Think Ahead about Washing
In winter, I wouldn’t bother with bringing Woolite and a clothesline to handwash clothes. The heavier clothes you’ll be wearing won’t dry quickly. But definitely don’t plan on finding a laundromat. Instead, when you’re booking hostels, plan to stay once a week or so in a hostel with washing facilities. (You can even use an advanced search on Hostelworld.com to ensure that you pick a hostel with laundry facilities. On the “Book Your Bed” panel, click “Additional Search Options” and then “More Facilities.”)
6. Choose Your Shoes
They’re heavy. Choose a good, comfortable pair for walking around the city. Flats, which are stylish, light and compact, can supplement for nights out on the town. During the summer a pair of flip-flops can serve as both shower shoes and streetwear. Also, even though boots are super-cool, it would be pretty ridiculous to pack a pair.
7. … And Socks
If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking in cold places, thick woolen socks could be key to keeping your toes happy. But! make sure your shoes will still fit around them. For formal occasions, I brought little thin, nude-colored, super-low-cut socks. Those were a lifesaver when I didn’t want to look like a dork with my little white athletic socks, but also didn’t want my shoes to smell bad and get all sweaty and give me blisters. Get a cheap pair at any department store.
8. Panty Power
I brought seven pairs of nylon/lycra panties. They dry really fast, so if you’ve desperatly run out of undies you can wash them in the hostel bathroom, wring them out, and they’ll be dry by the next morning, if not sooner.
9. Bring Some Bling
Bring a fair bit of cheap fashion jewelry — stuff you don’t mind breaking or losing. It ties outfits together and makes you look like a real person on days when you just feel like an exhausted traveler. It also helped me keep from getting bored wearing the same small set of clothes over and over again.
10. Pick a Prudent Purse
Bring a purse with a strap, not a clutch. Out on the street, the clutch is too easy to snatch from your hands. Also: bring your driver’s license. It isn’t valid for driving abroad, but it has your birthdate on it and will let you get into clubs or buy alcohol without having to bring your passport around town with you.
11. Buy Pashminas Abroad
Throughout Europe, there are tons of cheap (about $5) pashminas for sale — and people really wear them! (As neck scarves, especially.) You can buy two or three of different colors. That way you’re warm, the pashmina ties your outfit together, and when people at home tell you how great you look, you can tell them you got it in Europe! They’re also good, light compact presents.
12. Ditch the Hoodie
Sweatshirts are really bulky in your pack, and they’re worthless when they’re wet, so you may want to invest in more high-tech, waterproof medium-warm layer.
13. Saving Space vs. Saving Money
If you’ll be abroad for awhile, you may consider bringing a box of tampons with you, because they’re expensive over here! O.B. tampons are the smallest and lightest choice, if you’re willing to live an applicator-free lifestyle. Bringing a few of those personal wipes is also worth the trouble.
14. Pack for a Picnic
Dining out can also be vicious to your travel budget. To save what you can, eat out at lunch and make picnic dinners. Many hostels have guest kitchens. A fold-up plate and a set of good plastic cutlery makes impromptu picnics simple.
Downloadable audiobooks from Audible.com add absolutely no more weight to your pack, but they still give you something to listen to on long train rides. One paperback book is advisable, too, though, because reading a book in a restaurant or cafe looks a lot more normal than staring off into space with your headphones on.