Everyone really knows by now. I love traveling – so much so that I have even opened a blog and made a profession out of it. Each year, I spend around 4 to 5 months on the move, on a combination of long and short trips. I have a countless number of suitcases, backpacks, daypacks, carry-on bags, trolleys and what not, of various sizes and different quality.
With all the traveling I do, I should have become a pro at packing by now, and have a consolidated packing routine. But guess what? If there is one thing that I truly, wholeheartedly hate about traveling is having to pack. I am terrible at it. I am poorly organized, so I always end up forgetting something. And I often end up carrying much more than I actually need – in proper unsuccessful backpacker style.
To find out why I think of myself as an unsuccessful backpacker, read my post “How to be an unsuccessful backpacker.”
Picking the best travel bag
One thing I have learned, though. And that is that, regardless of the length of my trip, having the best travel bag – one that perfectly suits the kind of trip I am going on – is a key factor when packing. I mean quality stuff here – and I do invest my money when it comes to good quality travel gear, because I know I need something reliable.
With all the travel bags I have, I pretty much carry a suitcase if I know I am traveling comfortably and someone else is going to carry it for me. This hasn’t happened very often in the last few years – actually, last time I did carry a suitcase was during my press trip to Indonesia.
I generally prefer backpacks, and I have a few of them actually. Backpacks don’t fit nearly as much stuff as suitcases, so I am forced to travel more lightly. But they match my kind of trip much better. Imagine me walking the tiny alleys of the Old City Varanasi, in India, trying to dodge the crowds, dogs, cows, cow poo, people on bikes and scooters, and garbage with a suitcase. It would have been impossible. I was glad I could move swiftly.
I also have a good selection of carry-ons. If I am traveling for a weekend or even for a week, I travel carry-on only and pack something that fits in the overhead compartment on the plane. I just can’t stand waiting endlessly for my bags to arrive and this way I can just get out of the plane and make my way to town. I have a fantastic travel bag that I can wear as a backpack, so that if I have to run through the terminals for connecting flights I can do that easily – much much better than having a trolley. I realized this when my sister and I were coming back from Mexico and we almost missed one of our connecting flights, and I could run much faster than she could, as I had a backpack!
My packing routine
So, picking the right kind of travel bag is pretty much the only thing I do right when it comes to packing. I have tried to overcome my hatred for packing in many ways, some of which have been working well so far. In an attempt to learn to pack more lightly, my packing routine now involves making an incredibly detailed list of what I may need – I even have it written down on a blog post, actually. Who knows that someone else may learn from my (err, let’s call it) experience.
To read more of my packing tips, check my posts “All The Useful Backpacking Essentials For Long Term Travel” and “My Ultimate Packing List.”
Except, at times I am so busy with work that I don’t even have time to write that list. So for example I am traveling to go to Israel and Jordan in 3 days and I have noted down nothing, and needless to say I haven’t even started thinking about what I should carry, or looked at what the weather may be like in the region. In fact, I am in a slight panic. Perhaps I should stop writing this post and actually write my packing list.
Anyways, back to my packing routine now. So… once I have my list down, I take every item I need and put everything in my living room. The table, chairs, coffee table and couch all get covered with every single item I think I may need.
That’s when I start panicking a bit more – because woaaa that is a lot of stuff, do I really need all of that? So I call my mom begging her to please come by and take a look at all my stuff and help me pick. Yes, I said that: I do call my mom for stuff like this. But don’t worry. My mom curbs my “italianity” by telling me off and saying she has better stuff to do – i.e. reading a book, filing her nails, petting the cats. You know, that sort of urgent stuff.
If my sister comes by my place, I beg her to please take a look. She’s usually a bit more willing – perhaps because she shares my passion for travel; and she even takes the initiative to tell me to drop a thing or two.
I then proceed to color match the outfit: I find that if I have stuff that can be easily matched, I end up carrying less. And this way, I start eliminating a good amount of items that go back in my closet. Then I start selecting shoes – I always wear the heaviest ones on my flight (usually my hiking shoes); the toiletries – which are the heaviest item on the backpack; and the pharmacy – which I always carry because I worry I may get sick (and I have asthma, and I may meet someone who needs assistance, and you never really know do you?).
When I eventually begin to actually stuff my backpack, I look like a nut. I play loud music – preferably some Gogol Bordello. I go back and forth placing items on my backpack, moon walking around. For each couple of items I get in the backpack, I take a break (this is hard job, you know) and go back to my MacBook to check my email or get on Facebook. I could lie and say it’s for work or urgent matters but the truth is that I simply need a distraction and a diversion from packing.
Eventually, I go back to packing, and everything comes together almost nicely. And once packing is over, I can finally relax with a much needed glass of red wine.
What’s your secret to packing efficiently?