The first question to ask yourself is “Will I be checking a bag or taking a carry-on plus hand bag (ie. backpack, purse, business bag, etc)?”. This will matter in how much you pack and what you may choose to bring. Whether you decide on a checked bag or a carry-on it is important to check with the airline for their luggage regulations, sizing and weights. For example the allowed carry-on size in America is typically 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 56 x 36 x 23 cm (including handles and wheels) with weight usually not being reviewed. However many European airlines are 22 x 16 x 8 inches (55 x 40 x 20 cm) with weight up to 17.5 pounds (8 kg).
What should I pack? We determined that there are some staple items that should always be in a packed luggage and/or hand baggage. Then there are the items that change based on type of trip, activities planned, location, and length of stay. And lastly there is the art in how you strategically pack your luggage (we will save that for another blog post).
A lot has changed in the world of packing such as non-wrinkle clothes, shoes that work for business and casual, travel kits, packing cubes, self-stowing pocket jackets, and luggage.
The minimalist approach: Start with a focus on wearing versatile clothing by packing clothes that can be layered and are in more neutral colors. This allows you to wear these items more than once when you’re tight on space. Clothes that are multi-use such as multi-use wraps, moisture wicking clothing, crushable hats, non-wrinkle clothing, UPF-proof clothing, temperature controlled clothing (merino wool), and self-stowing pocket jackets can be valuable.
Next give thought to the shoes you pack. Consider what you need based on your itinerary. This may include sneakers, unisex sandals such as Birkenstock, ballet flats, dual purpose (leisure and casual) shoes and flip flops (we prefer Rainbows or Sanuks).
Another option to aid in packing less is knowing if you’re able to do laundry (and if you want to do laundry) on your vacation. For trips over a couple of weeks we would recommend this. You can pack a travel laundry kit or ask the front desk or your local host for assistance for local laundromats. If you are traveling for business, find out if your company’s travel policy covers dry cleaning.
Extra Tip: Over our years of traveling we picked up this trick that allows us to free up space in our luggage during our trip. When we know we have a trip coming up we hold onto clothes we would be getting rid of. Things we are close to buying new items of. Think older t-shirts/undershirts, worn jeans/shorts, pajamas, underwear/bras, dresses/skirts, worn out but still capable tennis shoes/flip flops. We then pack those and leave them behind. This frees up room for us to buy new clothes/shoes and/or souvenirs..
While using the below Traplanz Packing list or creating your own, keep in mind how long your trip will be and what events you will be partaking in, then decide on the quantities you need and what multi-use items you can pack.
Essentials for Your Carry-on or Hand Bag
If you choose to check a bag there is a chance you could be separated from your bag. With that in mind we recommend you have the following with you in a carry-on or hand bag: Government Issued ID (Driver’s License, Passport, etc), wallet, house and car keys, medications, valuables (jewelry), camera/lenses, phone, laptop or tablet, earbuds, chargers, pen/paper, cash and cards, glasses (reading and sun) and/or contacts, and copy of your itinerary.
Depending on length of flight and airline, some will have in seat monitors with entertainment. However there is no guarantee and you may not care for the selection. With that in mind you may want to preload your iphone, laptop or tablet with movies, e-books, and music. As well as a charger (some planes won’t have USB or outlets).
Here are some additional items that may help you stay comfortable on the flight; a pashmina and/or blanket, pillow, empty water bottle to fill post-security, a change of clothes (in case you check your luggage and you get separated from it), stain remover wipes, and snacks (depending on airline and length of flight you may not have snack or food options).
If it is a long haul flight you may want to bring make-up, face refresher spray (planes can be dry), lotion, toothpaste (save the ones from your dentist) and put your toothbrush in your handbag, contacts/solution, and lip balm in your toiletry bag. It helps to feel a little refreshed when stepping off the flight. Ensure they meet the TSA Requirements or International Security requirements (based on airport).
We also recommend you travel with a copy of your passport, credit card, and bank contacts, as well as a list of medications and your emergency contacts. If your physical items are in your handbag then place the copies in your carry-on or checked luggage. Although many things are done on our phone or laptop now, in case something happens to those you will want to have a copy of your passport for the local embassy, know how to contact your bank or share with a pharmacy your medications.
Medications and Toiletries:
You don’t want to be without your essential medications which is why we suggest you pack them in your handbag. In addition, we recommend setting aside a little time to write out a list of your medications and the quantity needed for the length of your trip and also prepare them for packing. And in case your trip gets extended for any reason consider packing a few extra days worth. Also remember your contact lenses and solution. Fortunately many airports or places you are visiting will have a store that will have some items if you forget something non-essential (including contact solution). In addition, many hotels will have items such as a toothbrush, razor or comb if you forget yours.
With that said, if you are staying at an airbnb or VRBO property check with the host to see if they include toiletries. You may need to pack or plan on picking up shampoo, conditioner and bodywash/soap if they don’t.
It can also be worthwhile to have a travel first-aid kit or bring a few first-aid essentials. First-aid ointment, bandages, sanitizer, tweezers, etc. Things you may buy at your destination will be sunscreen and/or insect repellant.
TSA and International Travel:
Guidelines for medication can change so it is important to check TSA guidelines, as well as the policies and regulations at your destination.
When traveling internationally it is key to remember your passport and any needed visas. Make sure that your passport is not expired, has at least six months of validity, and has enough blank pages for any stamps (check the country you are visiting for page requirement). It is also important to understand the wait time for passports and/or visas and ensure you apply in plenty of time. There could also be vaccine requirements for some countries. Give yourself time to know what is needed and to make an appointment to get your vaccines and refills on any medications. You should also familiarize yourself with any COVID restrictions/policies at your destination.
We traveled many times during COVID and experienced the ever changing requirements in the United States, European Union, and Africa. Because we can not be sure of how governments will continue to treat COVID we recommend you check the State and Country requirements and carry a few items with you. These include: a few face masks, TSA size sanitizer or travel wipes. And if required, your vaccine card or negative COVID test results and entry paperwork (passenger locator forms).