Sunday, April 12, 2009

Travel Tips: Packing Light

The photo below includes everything I took with me to Europe for 16 days over Christmas in 2008, minus what I was wearing.

I can't stress enough how important it is to take as little as possible if you are going to be traveling to more than a couple of cities.

I almost never stay in the same place for more than three days, and lugging around a cartload of stuff I don't need makes it very hard to get on and o
ff trains, subways, taxis and airplanes.

Taking only a carry-on suitcase and a backpack also means I don't need to check any luggage on the airlines, so there's really no chance of my bags being lost before the trip even starts.

And yes, women can travel just as light. My mom and sister each carried everything they needed for the trip in equally small packages.

In the picture above, I have my digital SLR camera with a flash and an extra lens, an iPod, a GPS unit, a pair of shoes, a camera tripod, three novels and a guide book, 12 shirts, four pairs of pants, my snowboarding jacket, a beanie, boxers and socks for 16 days, my soap, toothbrush, shampoo, razor, shaving cream and a bottle of water I forgot I would have to chuck before boarding the plane.

Thats obviously not enough clothes to sustain me for the whole trip, but that's what laundromats are for. Knowing you're going to be buying souvenirs, thus adding to what you're carrying, it's best to bring as little as possible.

One guidebook author recommends setting out everything you're going to take on a trip, getting rid of half of it, then doubling the money. I think tha
t's great advice.

Look at the two pictures below. The first is Paris' Metro. The second is Rome's. When you're worried about pickpockets and keeping all of your luggage with you, along with that bag of sandwiches you just bought at the corner market, the last thing you want to do is try to negotiate the crush of people getting on and off at each stop with more bags than you can carry.

Traveling in winter meant I was taking some bulky clothing. I had a full-length coat and a pair of bulky waterproof shoes for hiking around muddy trails up to castles and through vineyards. The best solution for transporting the bulky clothing is to wear it.

Since my bags are always full when I go, I either bring a collapsible duffel bag or buy one wherever I'm headed to make room for souvenirs. It invariable becomes the place for dirty laundry that I end up checking for the flight home. I won't shed any tears if my dirty laundry gets stuck in Chicago for a couple of days anyway.

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