Packing Like a Pro : The Basics
Your trip is just around the corner and it’s time to start packing. If you’re like me you’re an expert procrastinator and you’ve waited till the last minute to get started.
No worries we got your back!
What’s in your pack is largely going to depend on what kind of trip you’re going on.( climate, activities planned, length of trip, etc) So, of course, this list should be tailored to meet your travel destination needs. But remember the key is to KEEP IT LIGHT.
This bag is going to be apart of your body for the duration of your trip and nothing is worse than being stuck carrying around a 50 lbs bag on your back for hours at a time. It has taken me many years and a herniated disc to really commit to packing light and it really makes all the difference!
So hopefully this list will save you some time and back pain.
This is probably the most important item on your list, this is essentially going to be your home while you’re on the road.
You’re going to want a bag that is durable, strong, and comfortable. But there are so many backpacks in all different colors and sizes so how do you choose?!
Remember we want to keep it LIGHT!
My ideal backpack is going to be 40 Liters. This size is great because it usually fits carry on regulations, which saves you money, and prevents you from packing too much.
However, if you’re a photographer like myself you might need to go up in size to make room for all your gear, for that I recommend a 60 liter.
If you’re looking for something with little more durability, comfort, and strength REI has some great options and friendly staff to help you pick the perfect bag for you.
The bag I use and love is the Gregory Deva 60 Pack, I’ve used this bag on all my trips for the past 4 years and I love it. I named her Ol’ Blue and she has been my faithful travel companion.
These have helped me sooooo much! It helps keeps things organized and helps you avoid the nuisance of having to dump everything out of your bag to find that one pesky item at the bottom of your bag
Another great organization tool. I like to pack a couple of these to use for snacks, spill-prone containers, and small electronics. Make sure to bring a couple of different sizes. You’ll be surprised how often you use these while on the road.
These come in super handy if you have a lot of cable and cords for your electronics. I usually put my cables, memory cards, external hard drives, and chargers in them.
You really shouldn’t go anywhere without some durable rope or string in your pack. Need to make a line to hang up your wet clothes? Rope. Need to tie you and a friend’s bags together for extra security? Rope! Can’t find your hammock ties? Rope. Need a quick leash for that puppy on the side of the road that stole your heart? Rope. It’s lightweight and portable and can be used in a variety of ways.
I never knew the greatness of duct tape until I start traveling. I’ve used it for things like patching a bag, fixing a hole in a raincoat, taping the soles of shoes, making friendship bracelets for local kids, making labels for my food in hostels, or to tape the mouth of person sleeping in your dorm that magically transformed into the horrid Snore Monster in the middle of the night.
This nifty piece of fabric is very useful while on the road. It’s perfect for making a curtain in your hostel dorm to give your bed some extra privacy, it can be used to keep yourself warm on those ridiculously cold overnight buses, to cover your sketchy mattress at that low budget hostel, or as a picnic blanket for you and the foreign boo you met at the bar last night.
I know many of us melanated folk have been raised to believe the myth that we don’t need to use sunscreen. Even though the saying “black don’t crack” might be true, it certainly does burn and blister. OUCH!. After learning the hard way I use sunscreen EVERYDAY. On cloudy days, in the snow, and especially in those tropical climate zones. You’re going to want to purchase sunscreen at home because it can be very difficult to find overseas and might cost you an arm and a leg. Also if you are planning to go diving or snorkeling please be sure to be using biodegradable sunscreen its safe for the environment and won’t pollute the ocean.
Please please please do the proper research and figure what threat level the insects are wherever you are going. Dengue, Malaria, and Zika are diseases that are to not be messed around with. They are life-threatening and are spread by mosquitoes. In areas where these diseases are present, you are going to want to drown yourself in bug repellent. This is one of the times where DEET is your best friend and you’ll want to get the strong stuff. I’ve also used the mosquito repelling bands that can be worn around your ankles and/or wrist. They work great and are perfect if you are only taking a carrying on and need to avoid liquids.
It's 2019 so there is no way that you shouldn’t have a reusable water bottle already. They are eco-friendly and keep you from buying plastic water bottles, which helps you save money and the environment. Investing in a water purification system will ensure that your water is clean and safe to drink. There is no better way to ruin a trip than being sick for a week with explosive diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and severe stomach cramps, all because you drank contaminated water. I’ve been there and it is not the move! So get yourself a lifestraw or iodine tablets for your water sanitation needs.
The Portable laundry bag is something out of a dream. It’s not only a place to store your dirty laundry but you can actually wash them in the bag.GENIUS! All you have to do is fill up the bag with dirty clothes, add some water and soap, let it soak for a bit, and then beat the bag. This also serves as the perfect opportunity for releasing some of that built up frustration. Sometimes I like to pretend that the bag is the face of one of the many cat calling douche bags that you will, unfortunately, encounter while traveling. Once your spirits are lifted and the bag is properly beaten all that is left to do is drain, rinse, and dry.
This also can serve as a dry bag! Which comes in clutch when storing electronics like cameras, phones, and other valuables when doing water-based activities. Gotta love those multipurpose items!
This is small, light, and very useful for patching up holes in your clothes, small rips in your bag or hammock, reattaching buttons, and more. Some hotels may provide these kits so be sure to pick one up if you didn’t bring your own.
This is an absolute must! Having a small med kit in your pack can make all the difference in emergency situations. You know what your body needs, therefore, your kit might consist of slightly different items but make sure to put a conscious effort and thought into what goes into your kit.
For my kit I usually like to pack, bandaids, antiseptics, colloidal silver, Tylenol, acetaminophen, antihistamines (Benadryl), Midol, diotame tablets (works like Pepto Bismol), tweezers, gauze, alcohol wipes, bandage wraps, hand sanitizer, tiger balm, and tea tree oil ( acts as natural disinfectant)
Pocket Knife/ Multipurpose tool
Needless to say, you can use this for a multitude of things. It’s got a knife, scissors, a screw tightener, tweezers, pinchers, a parcel hook (has anyone ever used this thing?! ), and most importantly the wine and beer bottle opener. It small, light and portable and I always keep it in my day bag.
A large, quick dry, microfiber towel is great when staying at a low budget hostel that will charge you per day to rent a towel or for that cheap B&B that doesn’t provide any. These towels are fantastic and they dry REALLY fast like 30 minutes fast but after a while, your towel might begin to smell a little funky between washes. I’ve found that leaving it dry out in the sun helps eliminate some of that funk.
Multi - country Adapter & Converter
You want to get an adapter that works in most of countries in the world. It's lightweight and easy to use. Find one with multiple ports so you can charge various devices at the same time. Make sure it has the ability to convert the current output so your electronics don’t fry!
Now there are 2 types of people in the world, those who over pack and those that don’t. It has taken me quite some time to transform myself from the former to the latter but I think I’ve finally done it!
This list is going to be a basic outline for what to bring when you’re planning on traveling long term ( 3 months or more). For these kinds of trips, you are more likely to encounter a wide range of weather so this list has a little bit of everything. However, tailor this list to match your destination needs and fashion sense.
My guideline for packing is to keep it to about a week's worth of clothes. You’re going to want to pack clothes that can be layered ( makes all the difference in cold environments), and clothes that can be mixed and matched to make different outfits. Normal wear and tear seems to happen at an exponential rate while traveling so you may want ditch the janky clothes and buy new items as your trip progresses. So avoid bringing clothes that have a lot of sentimental value.
🌟 Pro tip
Try to blend in. While traveling I like to avoid having too much attention drawn to myself. I typically stay away from crazy colors and flashy clothes. In my experience, if you look like an obvious tourist you are more prone to intense and sometimes uncomfortable stares, unwanted pictures, and theft. Do some research to get a sense of how the local people dress wherever you are going.
You are going to want a fabric that is breathable, dries quickly, and helps keep odor to a minimum. Nothing makes you feel the opposite sexy than having full on swamp ass while flirting with your future Italian baby daddy.
Even though I’m all about freeing the nip. Going braless on a regular basis is not an option for me. I like to have my girls supported when doing intensive activities like hiking, climbing, or drunk dancing. Even if you do prefer a braless lifestyle having a couple of bras in your pack is still a good idea.
This is the second most important item on your list. You will be doing a lot of walking and I mean A LOT. On my travels, I’ve tracked my miles and I would average anywhere from 3 to 10 miles in a day. Walking in a great way to get to know your surrounding get Needless to say you are going to want to make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes.
From sneakers, vans, to my personal favorite Tom’s pick a pair of shoes that you can walk in all day. You want to make sure it has good support and that they are well broken in. If you need a little extra support get a pair of inserts they make a world of difference. I like Tom’s because they can be easily dressed up if you are going out to a bar or a club that doesn’t a
If you are planning on doing a bit of hiking and are limited on space you can get a pair of hiking sneakers like Terradora Hiking shoe by Keen. They are durable enough to use for multi-day treks and stylish enough to use as an everyday walking shoe.
Travel/ Hiking Sandals
I always bring a pair of hiking sandals because they can be used as water shoes, shower shoes, are great for hiking, and when clean can be cute enough to wear on a night out on the town. My sandal brand of choice is Chaco’s. They come in all different colors and styles and gave great arch support for all-day wear. Another awesome thing I love about this company is that they will repair your worn down Chacos back to their original glory. I had my Chacos for 3 solid years and I wore them almost every day before I had to send them in to get the straps fixed and within 2 weeks I had my shoes returned to me looking brand spanking new! It's hard to beat customer service like that!
If you’re like you’ll probably end up losing all of your socks about a week into your travels. I have a strong suspicion there is a tiny sock troll that lives in my backpack and steals and hides all of my freaking socks. So I’ll typically bring a couple of pairs but almost always have to buy a couple of new pairs when I get in the country.
However I ALWAYS make sure to bring a good pair of thick wool socks. I hate having cold feet and so I use them to keep my toes warm at night or on the plane and they also add some nice padding for my feet when hiking.
Hygiene is very important, especially while traveling. No one will appreciate you walking around the globe smelling like a green Chile burrito with extra onions. Not only is it a poor reflection on yourself but many cultures will also find this extremely disrespectful. So make sure to brush your teeth, use deodorant, and shower every once in a while. If you can’t find a decent shower, which can be a reality while traveling, baby wipes are your best friend. There is nothing wrong with taking a ‘ ho bath” just remember to get clean the essential ladies pits, tits, and slits!
🌟 Pro tip
Dr. Bronners 18-in-1 Pure Castille Soap is travelers gold! It has 18 different uses and is good for almost any cleaning task. It can be used as a face wash, body wash, shampoo, dish soap, and laundry soap. It’s extremely concentrated up to 3x more than most liquid soap to be sure to dilute.
Just because you're on vacation doesn’t mean your skincare regimen takes one as well. While traveling your skin is exposed to harsh winds, sun, sweat, sand, hard water, and all kinds of air pollutants that can leave your skin looking disastrous. Being someone that suffers from acne from time to time it is important to keep up with your daily skin care routine even while on the road. You know what works for you so make sure you bring enough to last the duration of your trip because it may be difficult to find your specific brands abroad.
Hair care is one of the areas that can prove to be difficult for us natural hair beauties. Finding the right products abroad has proven to be quite a struggle. So my advice to you curly crusaders is to bring enough to last your trip or research some DIY recipes that you can make on the road. One of my go-to creations for a DIY leave in conditioner is a recipe for a Honey Balm Butter that I found on Kinky Curly Yaki’s blog.
Honey Balm Butter
1 oz. shea butter
1 oz. coconut oil
A few drops of essential lavender oil
1 tsp honey
Melt shea butter and coconut oil together. Mix well. Add honey and lavender oil. Mix them together and refrigerate until it is the consistency you desire.
She has a few different recipes for a variety of hair types. Click here to find the right recipe for you.
For more on natural hair care while traveling check out our post: Traveling While Natural: Hair Care Tips While On The Go
🌟 Pro tip
Transfer your shampoos and conditioners into flexible travel bottles. They take up less place and do a better job of not opening up and spilling all over your bag.
Periods can be just the worst, especially while on the road. Cramps, bloating, nausea, and leaking are just a few of the many unfortunate things we may experience when it’s that time of the month. You are going to want to make sure you are properly packed and prepared to make your time of the month go as smooth as possible.
I am a strong advocate for the menstrual up. Tampons create a lot of waste and are surprisingly difficult to find overseas. When you do find them they are expensive and usually sold without the applicator which provides a whole set of obstacles that you might not be ready for. That’s why I switched to the cup. I was extremely hesitant at first but I can't believe I waited so long to try it out. It took a little getting used to but once I got the hang of putting it in it was a game changer. It’s environmentally friendly, reusable, and barely takes up any space. However, I will always pack a stash of tampons for emergency situations.
Everyone women own’s a pair of old looking granny panties that are solely used when on your period. Pack a couple of pairs so you won’t accidentally ruin your good ones.
Don’t forget to pack your birth control. You don’t want any unplanned pregnancies while on the road. Also, bring some condoms with you. There are some lying ass men out there that like to pretend that condoms overseas are “too small” to fit them * cue the most the dramatic eye roll ever* DON’T BELIEVE THEM! Avoid that whole situation by supplying him with one from your own personal stash. STAY WOKE LADIES!
Self-love is important ladies!! Bring a personal massager to help you in those times of need. It’s one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. This will also you help you to avoid hooking up with that dude you met at the club last night only to wake up and realize how fugly and annoying he really is. DAMN YOU DRUNK GOGGLES!