As a travel agent, I often get asked for my opinions on what to pack and general safety tips related to how I pack. Especially when people are fairly new to travel or are traveling solo. After digging through old emails to remember all my random words of wisdom a few times, I decided to finally get this info organized into a blog post. Like anything, this is just my two cents from my personal experiences.
The worst thing you can do is overpack. Confession, I still overpack a little. , and if you are an overpacker, I recommend not rolling clothes. If you have a bad habit of overpacking, this is going to get your luggage overweight in a hurry. If you’re not like me an manage to pack light (seriously, life goal for me), it’s a pretty awesome space saver. However, it would be a good goal to roll clothes in outfits that you can wear multiple times and mix and match tops and bottoms.
When it comes to fabrics to re-wear, I freaking love linen. I love other natural fibres as well, like wool, and I’ve recently been introduced to a silk/hemp blend. These wonderful fabrics have natural antimicrobial properties. We all get a bit stinky after racing to catch flight connections, spending hours (or days) on planes, then jumping into a hot cab at the end. It’s nice to have comfortable, breathable, yet warm, clothing, and it’s a bonus when it’s naturally antimicrobial. If you’re looking for some linen awesomeness, my absolute favourite is a designer on Vancouver Island: Moss Grey https://www.mossgrey.ca I have a few of her pieces and love how stylish and versatile everything she makes is, these are my travel go to for everything from day wear, plane comfort, to an evening out. Great linen, I love supporting slow fashion, and so comfortable at the same time. Some of her dresses even have pockets!! What more could anyone want? The designer, Destanne, is a sweetheart as well.
For wool, I am a fan of the Icebreaker brand, it’s a big brand but they are great at standing behind their product and simply, they make great clothing. Readily available at places like Atmosphere, Valhalla, etc. There are other great brands who are fair trade and organic as well, I also love building my collection of long lasting travel articles. My personal philosophy is to buy a quality item that will last, rather than buying crap to throw away after a few wears because it’s already falling apart. At least I try to build my wardrobe on this philosophy 🙂
Laundry facilities are available almost everywhere really, they just vary in type. Many hostels and hotels have washing machines and dryers available for use with coins. Hotels also often have laundry service available, usual priced per item so it can add up quickly. One thing that almost all places have, is a sink. I travel with a laundry line and individual tide packs. Hand washing things in a sink can be a little messy (it’s just water), it takes some time as well for both the washing and more-so the drying. If you happen to be tenting across Africa for example, you’ll definitely want a laundry line. For the small amount of space they take to pack, they’re so helpful to have.
Luggage & Bags
I always travel with a little cross body passport holder made by Pacsafe. It has metal within the string so if for some reason someone tried to cut it off you and steal it, that’s not going to be easy. They have a new one out that has RFID blockers as well, so thieves can’t swipe your ID and credit card details from within your vicinity. Honestly, I’ve never had either of these things happen or even personally known anyone who has had this happen but I just love the design of this and I figure it doesn’t hurt to have some added security features. I can slip my headphones and lip balm into the little middle pocket, my money and cards in the back, zippered pocket, then my passport, phone, and flight boarding cards accessible in the front. It’s worked perfectly for me for years. I also like my little RFID blocking wallet by Sea to Summit, I don’t need most of the things in the wallet I use day to day at home so I only put the essentials in there, then it tucks into my Pacsafe passport holder perfectly.
My preference is to travel with a duffel bag, though I occasionally take a hard case with wheels. The duffel is so much lighter and the one I like, the North Face Duffel, comes with backpack straps if you like. It also comes in ever changing fun colours… which is fun of course. You have to take them off for flights but they’re easy to maneuver. Inside my duffel, I put my clothes into awesome compression or stuff sacks. My fav, is the Outdoor Research compressible dry-sack. I keep one empty to throw dirty laundry into… the things that will not be re-worn until they are washed.
In addition to separating my things in dry sacks, I keep my toiletries in a little hangable toiletries bag. The toiletries bag that I’ve been hauling around for years is a light little Sea to Summit Hanging Toiletry Bag. It’s got enough room and some separate little pockets, even a handy little mirror. I’ll often throw a couple large ziplock freezer bags in my luggage as well, just to take that extra step to hopefully not have a shampoo explosion.
On the plane I always have a backpack of some sort, usually my camera bag (more details below), but sometimes I change it up and go with something a little more hiking backpack like. I have a Gregory Backpack that has a really nice fit. I also always throw in a little grocery bag or duffel that folds up into itself. I use this for airport magazines and snacks. It saves me from having to use a plastic bag at the airport, and is super handy to use for whatever I want to have at my feet so I can stash my backpack in the overhead. Things that often go into my little collapsable duffel include my laptop, a book, my travel pillow, some sleep aids, and most importantly, SNACKS!
As you must know, I am a photographer! So I also travel with photo gear 99% of the time. The camera backpack that I still travel with has been discontinued for a few years now and I’m not a fan of the new one. The company moved their manufacturing overseas and I feel that their product has really gone downhill… I’m quite sad about it but my beat up bag still has a few more years in her. Additionally, their customer service leaves much to be desired. So, I used to like F-Stop and wish they would just bring back the original Loka bag, oh well. That’s the bag I still use most of the time though. Not on my latest trip though. I took the F-stop internal compartment and put it into a nice fitting Gregory backpack, it has super nice breathable setup and I love that bag. The F-stop bag will make your back sweaty if you hike with it and some lenses, I almost guarantee it!
For day touring with light gear, I do like the Lowepro Passport Sling Bag. The one shoulder setup does get heavy in no time though. I need to do some more bag shopping, the search for a perfect camera bag seems to never end.
The Other Stuff
Other things that I always pack include:
(Please note, I'm not a medical professional, you should always seek medical advice from a licensed professional. A doctor or a travel nurse. These are just things that I pack and have worked for me)
- Travel sized hand sanitizer, it really does help when you have to touch things on the subway and such. I LOVE all the yummy scents at Bath and Body Works, they even have some manly scents for the dudes 😉
- Chewable Pepto Bismal: you don’t want to overdo it but sometimes if you get a bit nauseas, or anything else mentioned in the pepto jingle, these are quick and easy to have. A word of caution though, sometimes it’s best to let something run it’s course. I’ve heard that meds like Pepto and anti-diareah can just block you up and make you sick for longer. Most importantly, if it’s real bad, don’t wait go to a doctor! As my mom would say “you can die from that”.
- Medications: if you have prescriptions that you need, such as asthma or something, make sure you have a bit extra. Also, it doesn’t hurt to get a cycle of travelers diarrhea meds to have just in case you really need it.
- We keep our Dukerol up to date when traveling most places and I feel like it has helped us avoid bugs.
Lastly, remember that whatever you forget, they sell in most places that you will travel. People live there full time and you really don’t need to stress about not having little things. If you need bandaids, you can run to the store, just like at home.
I hope this post has helped you pack! I plan to edit to add things I may have forgotten but always feel free to send me a message if you have questions!