How to Pack Like a Champ

Nothing can bring a trip down like too much stuff. Best case scenario is some good-natured teasing from the bellhop as he heaves your giant rolling suitcase from the taxi’s trunk. Worst case? Do you know how many of the world’s hotels don’t have working elevators? Or bellhops? Or cars with large trunks?

I learned to pack from my grandmother, who never takes anything more than a good-sized Mary Poppins handbag worth of stuff, no matter the length of the trip. She knows when to add a scarf to mix things up and when it is time to do a little hand washing in the sink. She has never complained about missing something from back home because she gets that traveling isn’t about bringing everything, but bringing just enough.

Real Simple (or, as Stacy calls it, “How to Be an Adult Magazine”) already has a video on how to roll and fold your stuff to maximize space. Instead, I’m going to focus here on what to pack, and, more importantly, what not to pack.

1. Know the climate

Chances are the weather is going to be fairly consistent wherever you roam, so rarely do you need to pack for every season. (The exception to this being the Bay Area in the summer.) If you are headed somewhere warm, but fear a random chilly night, take one sweater and a pair of yoga pants that at the very least can double as pj’s.

2. Know yourself

If you don’t wear that short black dress or those uncomfortable shoes in real life you will NOT wear them on a trip. This is not the time to break out the stuff you’ve been meaning to wear, but the stuff you like to wear.

3. Trust that Cambodia will have deodorant (among other essentials)

My mom likes to say that beyond your keys and medications, you can buy everything else on the road. Of course, pack toiletries, but don’t obsess over taking your whole medicine cabinet. Besides, I can’t tell you how much you can learn about a place by roaming the aisles of a local pharmacy. (For example, Thailand has the biggest oil blotting paper selection I have ever seen ever.)

4. Watch out for your traps

Pre-Kindle, my trap was books. I have some major scarcity issues about running out of something to read. I know some of you like to pack a lot of underpants, or a million t-shirts, or every accessory you own. Here’s the thing, though: you probably won’t get to half of these things. If you don’t believe me, do a count of unused items at the end of your next trip. Then tell your therapist about it.

5. Edit, edit, edit.

Sure, you’ve heard to take a few things out, but do you know why? You’ll have less stuff to carry, but you will also have some room in your bag for the inevitable expansion that happens as soon as you take out a single item. Plus, you need the room for the gifts and oil blotting papers and Thai chili paste you accumulate along the way.

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