When my boss told me that I was heading to Tanzania for a month this summer, I was so excited.
I have always wanted to travel to Africa! I imagined myself staring up in wonder at Mt. Kilimanjaro, riding in an open-air jeep through the Serengeti on a safari, and tasting fresh Tanzanian coffee beans straight from the plantation.
I made it through the first six songs of The Lion King soundtrack before it dawned on me: I’m going to have to pack for a month in Africa. A month of my life’s most exciting adventures crammed into one backpack. Fortunately, I’m no stranger to packing for extended periods of time. And, since I know that many of you are preparing for trips, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.
Behold: Sara’s packing tips!
Research the weather.
There’s nothing worse than spending weeks choosing the perfect outfits for your vacation only to find out that your destination is experiencing an unseasonably warm or cold season. Do your research, don’t be surprised, and avoid packing items you won’t use all by doing a simple weather check.
Take Packing Lists Seriously
If you’re traveling with a company, they likely have provided you with a packing list. And, if you’re not, there are many packing lists (written by travel bloggers who are likely taking a trip similar to yours) available online. Don’t take these lists lightly! Nobody who writes these lists is trying to make your pack/suitcase heavier than it needs to be. Their recommended items have proven useful to past travelers—consider these lists insider information!
Plan on Doing Laundry
Once you mentally commit to doing laundry while you travel, things are made so much easier! You’re not going to multiple weeks of fresh clothing in one bag- so, whether you bring 5 t-shirts or 10 t-shirts becomes irrelevant. Do yourself a favor and, if you can stomach it, bring 5.
Check vs. Not Check
For some people, checking a bag is not a big deal. But, for those more-frugal travelers among us (myself included), this decision holds some weight. Here are my guidelines:
– Domestic Trip (Under 2 weeks): Carry-On
Most domestic airlines charge you for each item you check, and carry-on sized toiletries will be large enough to last 2 weeks or less. And, let’s be honest- how many options do you really need?
-Domestic Trip (Over 2 weeks): Check
This is usually a game-time decision, but for full-sized toiletries alone I usually end up checking my bag in these scenarios. Plus, it’s nice to have a few extra options on longer trips.
-International Trips (All): Check
Simply for the fact that, usually, international airfare includes (at least one) free checked bag, I always check mine. Plus, when you’ve got long layovers it’s nice to not have 3 bags to babysit.
Rain Jackets Rule
Multi-purpose items, such as sarongs, scarves and digital watches, are perfect space-savers. My favorite is my rain jacket—it works for waterproofing, but is just as good as an extra layer on a cool evening. It’s also so thin that it takes up almost no space! Choose a basic color (mine’s black) to make the most out of this essential layer.
Will you be staying in one place for the duration of your trip, or hopping from hostel to hotel every few days? If you’re staying put, you have more leeway for over-packing. Hauling your luggage on trains, planes and automobiles all summer? Pack lighter than you think you need to! Bags are heavy, and transit stations have way too many stairs.
Pack in Color Schemes
If all of your clothing matches you can create more outfits with fewer articles of clothing. My favorites are black, gray, white and cream. If this depresses you, you can always wear colorful shoes, scarves or accessories.
Leave Room (or Leave Things)
I always try to leave ¼ of my bag empty in order to give myself space to bring home souvenirs, and also to accommodate for the fact that you are NEVR as good at packing on your way back from a trip as you are on the way there. An alternative? Bring along a few items that you don’t mind leaving behind if you need the space—old towels, sweatshirts, or books are bulkier items you might consider donating before you head home.
– Written by Sara McDaniel (posted by Brett Scuiletti)