If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. —Glenn Clark
In response to my recent post, Practical Tips for Travel to Italy, I received a few questions about how and what I pack, especially when packing for baby. I thought I’d expand on my answers here. In a nutshell, the best piece of advice I can give in regards to packing can be boiled down to two essential tips: pack light and make a packing list. Savvy travelers realize the advantage of smart and minimalist packing. Efficient packing is truly an art form and it is a skill I try to hone with every trip I take!
Packing light requires a great deal of practicality. Not only should you carefully and thoughtfully consider what items to bring, but you should also be strategic about how you organize them in your luggage.
I remember my first trip abroad as an adult. I went to Brazil to spend a semester of college teaching English at a small school in the Amazon. When I think back on the TWO large suitcases I brought—both stuffed with unnecessary clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc., etc., etc.—I still cringe. I would have been fine with one fourth of all that I had brought. It turned out to be so hot there that I really only needed a few items of light clothing and since it was so humid and I had no air conditioning (nor electricity), most of the excess I brought quickly grew mold and I had to get rid of them anyway. Suffice it to say, lesson learned! Trust me, over-packing can turn into one heavy burden.
Many years ago, when I lived in Guam, I met a couple from Europe who were at the tail end of their 15-month trip around the South Pacific. I was first amazed that they had been traveling for 15 months and then I was both amazed and intrigued to see their travel gear. They each carried just one small and narrow backpack. Remarkable and brilliant!
I’ve had my share of packing mishaps–either overpacking or under-packing. When I travel now, I try to pack the essentials and buy any needed supplies when I reach my destination. Although it can be challenging when also packing for a baby/child (or children) it is still possible to pack light. Think carefully of what you really need, what you can pick up at your destination and what you can travel without and edit accordingly. It will be a liberating experience!
For luggage, I use a carry-on expandable upright suitcase from Briggs and Riley. I use the one bag for both my things and baby’s. Its small size helps me to pack minimally. The bag is pricey but I find it worth it for me since I travel so often and it has a lifetime guarantee. Inside I pack a toiletry bag and use packing cubes for clothing and other supplies. I love to use packing cubes! They help to keep everything so neatly organized and easily accessible. They also are great at the end of a trip if you need to separate dirty laundry. I also carry a tote bag (it doubles as a bag for my laptop), another carry-on bag that is basically used as the diaper/baby stuff bag and a small bag for my SLR camera.
Whether I travel for a holiday to somewhere like Europe or a work trip in a developing world country, I try to remember to pack using the same philosophy–pack only the essentials and pack as light as possible. Admittedly, this requires advanced planning and a certain degree of organization. This is when a packing list becomes of considerable help!
Make a packing list
I regularly use a packing list to help me get organized and would highly recommend a list for every trip. A packing list forces you to differentiate between what’s essential and what is not. Write down exactly how many items of clothing (shirts, pants, dresses, shoes, etc.) you (and baby) will need, taking into account the climate of your destination. Use practical numbers to determine necessary clothing — for example, the number of dresses or shirts you will bring probably should not exceed the number of days you’ll be away. If you’ll be able to wash garments on your trip, reduce the number of articles of clothing. After you’ve thoughtfully considered what to pack, cross off each item as you pack them in your bag. Ignore the urge to add any extra articles of clothing at the last minute.
I generally have one master packing list and alter it slightly based on the climate, destination and purpose of the trip. Below is the general packing list I used for my recent two-week summer vacation to Italy. A day after I arrived in Italy, I went to a local grocery store and bought more diapers, wipes and food for my 11 month old baby.
Travel Packing List (Summer)
Travel tube of shampoo/body soap
One bottle, nipples and caps
Powder formula travel packets
Two pajamas (PJs)
Seven outfits (I washed his clothing by hand)
Bathing suit and swim diapers
10 diapers and one pack of wipes
Travel size barrier cream (diaper cream)
For plane ride (in diaper bag)
Diaper changing pad
Woven Wrap for mom to wear baby
Change of clothing for mom and baby just in case baby throws up on plane
Six diapers, wipes
Formula travel packets
Two very small food containers (2 oz)
One small toy
Electronics | Technology
Converter/Adaptor and chargers
Camera and two card disks, (tripod?)
Five summer dresses (including one black and one jersey dress)
One scarf and one light sweater/cardigan
Bathing suit and cover-up
Toiletries and small makeup bag
Some cash (US dollars and Euros)
Bank, credit, and ATM cards
Passports for baby and me.
I still had room in my bag in case I did some souvenir shopping while away.
Practice Makes Perfect
Even the most seasoned traveler occasionally has disastrous episodes every once in a while. Remember, packing is a talent. Like playing an instrument, doing it repeatedly helps you hone the skill. I hope to continue to take more trips to master the art! If you have questions or would like to comment with your tips, please share. Until then, bon voyage and bonne chance (good luck) to you!