I would like to thank Mari for publishing this article. Her site is a fun place to keep up with her adventures and learn about the places she’s been and the lessons she’s learned on the way. After reading this, I highly recommend you check out her article, commenting on a photography series of some of the world’s last indigenous tribes.
Packing and planning for a trip is an important part of any journey away. Once you’re out the door, and on the plane, there’s no turning back or re-doing any of the decisions you’ve made. We’ve all been there, grabbing our baggage from the conveyor belt and wondering if we really needed that extra suitcase, guitar, surf board, air mattress or whatever other ludicrous item we decided was really essential before we left.
Don’t worry; it takes time, but after traveling for a while, you start to create the perfect packing and planning strategy. Fortunately, for those who don’t have the time or energy, these five tips are great places to start optimizing your pre-vacation preparation from someone who’s been there, done it, got the T-shirt—and realized she probably didn’t need it anyway.
Read on to find the best packing and trip prep hacks from a full-time traveler!
Aim for Hand Luggage
This is a great place to start because, alongside saving a massive amount of money, it means you have to think really carefully about what you need to bring. After attempting to shove an outfit change for everyday, numerous blankets and towels and a pair of shoes for every occasion into a 10kg bag, you’ll soon be able to decipher the essentials from the superfluous.
Consider the place you’re going and the appropriate clothing for that climate. If you’re going to spend a week in Bali, it’s unlikely you’re going to need that thermal jumper you’ve packed “just in case”. Check weather forecasts and seasonal reports. If it’s rainy season, then it’s definitely worth investing in a mac-in-a-sac. A few good cotton T-shirts are better than many different synthetic tops, and although they might look less stylish, you’ll definitely appreciate them once you’ve been in the heat for a few days.
Other tips include avoiding packing things that you can buy there, such as shower gel and sunscreen, and checking your accommodation’s facilities so you don’t end up doubling up on towels, hair dryers or blankets.
After you’ve narrowed it down, there are some great space saver tips that will help you to compact even further. Rolling clothes instead of folding them is an essential practice as not only does it somehow bend the laws of physics and drastically reduce the amount of space that each item requires, it also prevents things from getting creased during transit.
Before starting to pack, make sure you set all your underwear aside. This isn’t because you are about the start a commitment to go commando for your whole vacation; although that would be a great space saver. Packing your underwear last by shoving them into all the nooks and crannies left over makes the most of the space available and ensures none of it goes to waste.
Finally, wearing as many layers as possible as you board the actual flight is another top tip. Sure, you may look like a slightly insane person boarding a flight to Asia with two jumpers, a coat, several pairs of leggings and sweatpants on, but you’ll be the one laughing when you get to swing straight past baggage claim and out the door at the other end.
Anticipate Security Protocols
Everyone knows that getting through security in an airport is a long and arduous process. Not only is there a very real chance that you got up very early to get to the airport on time, you now have to deal with a group of stone-faced security guards who are looking at you like you may have robbed a bank because you forgot to take a tube of mascara out of your opaque make-up bag. Fortunately, with a bit of tactical packing you can whizz through in no time.
Firstly, sort your liquids into a clear container at home. You can buy zip-lock sandwich bags from most supermarkets, fill them up with the necessary products and store them at the top of your hand luggage so you can whip them out and drop them in the tray while throwing a smug look back at the poor woman who’s attempting to transfer the entire contents of her toiletries set into the airport-provided bags.
The same goes for technology; storing everything together in an easy to reach place means you can drop it on the conveyer belt and glide through with no problems.
However, it’s important a good idea to make sure all devices are fully charged as occasionally you may be asked to turn them on and having to find somewhere to charge your powerless laptop under the glare of security personal is a time-consuming and stressful ordeal.
Be Smart With Flight Booking
Flights are by far the most costly section of most trips abroad, and unfortunately, it usually takes a good few years of being ripped off before you master the perfect flight booking scheme. It’s a well known fact that flight prices can change, seemingly before your eyes, and in truth, I doubt there’s anyone in the world who can truly understand the thought process behind these pricing. The final fee can change drastically depending on when, how and even where you make the booking.
However, there are a few tips that will help improve the situation drastically. First, choosing when to fly has a big effect. Try to go out of peak season (June – August), and aim to fly on a Tuesday, which has been discovered to be the quietest day of the week and therefore has the cheapest tickets. Next, being tactical about whenyou book is also a game changer. Some people say aim for six weeks before, some advise to get in as early as possible. If you’re really feeling brave, prices go down drastically just before the flight date, so leaving it till the last minute, contrary to popular belief, can actually be the best option.
Finally, the last point is for the professionals of travel planning. It’s a little known fact within the travel world that, if you use a VPN (Virtual Personal Network) to book flights, you can mimic being in the country of your destination and book as a domestic customer, which is usually a whole lot cheaper!
Currency Exchange Like A Pro
The last point on the list is a great money saver. What better way to save than with money itself? Many travelers wait till they’re at the airport to exchange currency, as they believe it’s the simplest and easiest way to do it. While it may be the most convenient, airport exchange rates are extortionate and prey on those of us who are known for our last-minute decision-making.
Buying elsewhere is sure to save you a whole lot. If you can’t be bothered to do the research, ordon’t care that much about it, heading down to the local post office or supermarket is still sure to save you a few dollars compared to airport buying. If you’re really dedicated to the money-saving cause, there are plenty of sites—such as moneysavingexpert.com—where you can easily compare options and find the best deal for you. This may not seem like a big deal before you set off, but when you’re lounging at the beach bar on your last night watching the sun go down, you’ll wish you’d made the effort to get a bit more out of your dollars so you can afford just one more round of cocktails!
Do you have any more tips that you think should be on this list? Or have you had experiences with any of the above? Be sure to share them with us in the comments below!