Travelling is all about new discoveries. But some forces are almost the same, no matter where you are on Earth.
Market forces are also fairly constant. Check in for a flight with an overweight bag and, wherever you’re departing from, your airline will probably want more money.
Prepare carefully for your next trip, though, and you’ll be able to avoid excess fees and achy muscles altogether. Just follow these simple tips and you’ll soon be packing like a pro.
1. Use the one-week rule
Smelly clothes aren’t cool, and no one worth trusting wears the same pair of undies two days in a row. But you don’t have to pack a fresh pair of undies for every single day of your round-the-world tour.
However long you’re going to be away for, just follow the one-week rule. That is: don’t pack more clothes than you’d need for a full week at home. A seven-day supply of clean clothing gives you enough time to get settled in and travel around a bit before you have to worry about washing, and it won’t weigh you down too much, either.
2. Don’t join the rolling/folding debate
A lot has been written about the best way to pack a bag, and two main approaches seem to be favoured by travel experts on the internet: rolling and folding. There have even been experiments dedicated to finding out which technique is more effective (sorry, rollers: folding won).
But here’s the big problem: if you have to roll or fold your clothes in a special way just to get the zip on your bag closed, you’re taking too much stuff. Do you really want to play a giant game of Tetris every time you move from one place to another? And what happens when you find an amazing souvenir that you just don’t have space for? Leave a bit of room in the top of your bag, and you won’t spend your whole trip battling the bulge.
3. Remember that (nearly) everyone has the same needs as you
Unless your next adventure revolves entirely around visiting French nudist colonies, you won’t have any trouble finding new clothes when you need them. Run out of deodorant? Go to the local market or mall. Need mountain gear for your trek? You can always try to rent some, or even buy it outright and give it away when you’re done. People everywhere use many of the same everyday items you do, and it’s usually easy to get hold of what you need – and sometimes the local way is more fun.
4. Take bars, not bottles
The thing about plastic bottles and aerosol cans is that they stay the same size, even when they’re almost empty. A nice alternative is to buy solid bars of shampoo and/or shaving foam before you leave home. These soap-shaped smellies get smaller the more you use them, and they won’t get you held up in the airport security queue when you accidentally leave one in your bag. Depending on how often you wash your hair, a single shampoo bar could last you a couple of months, so you might even save some cash, too.
5. Go digital, but remember to have a detox
A smartphone can hold thousands of novels, and loads of the best guidebooks are now available in electronic form (Rough Guides has a whole range of them available here). But there’s no point in leaving your paperbacks at home and filling your bag with heavy gadgets. Do you really need a laptop, a phone and a camera, all with separate chargers? Leaving a couple of your favourite gadgets at home will make your bag a lot lighter. And who knows? Detoxing from the digital world might even make your batteries recharge a little faster.
6. Leave the travel gadgets at home
Not all of them, of course. But it’s good to remember that selling travel ‘essentials’ is an industry like any other, and there are people who are only too happy to sell you useless junk. There’s loads of stuff out there that might seem handy at first, but will actually just sit in the bottom of your bag until you get home.
You just don’t need that stretchy rubber washing line, universal sink plug, portable luggage scale or the deluxe, knife-proof fanny pack.