Usually my packing represents the worst of both worlds: I bring way too much, and I still don’t have anything good to wear. But, for the past few trips I’ve made an effort to follow Ashley’s advice to pack light and rewear things. In order for that to work, though, you’ll need to bring only good clothes that you won’t hate yourself in.
It’s a cathartic process —ruthlessly evaluating one’s clothes and their wearability. As for me, I realized that I should probably just reduce my whole wardrobe to only those items that pass the trip test. But, as I said, it’s a process. It worked pretty well when I packed my favorite blue and brown tops to layer and mix with my favorite jeans (going with a single color scheme: advice from Cup of Jo), and maybe a dress or two that roll up nicely in my bag.
Other things to keep in mind:
- Wherever you’re going, they probably use toothpaste, wear clothes, and style their hair. . . as Clark Griswold says in European Vacation, “Europeans go to the bathroom, don’t they?” So if you forget something, don’t stress. You should be able to pick it up at your destination—which will add the cultural bonus of a genuine, non-souvenir shopping experience.
- My mom pointed out that no one knows you, so there’s no big need to worry about how you look. Feel free to experiment and take fashion risks. In Cholula, I wore a couple of scarves in a kind of French-y fashion that I wouldn’t dare to wear here. They protected my sunburned neck, and some German tourists asked me if I spoke German. European chic. (Are Germans known for that?) To me it was a WIN.
- On the flip side of no one knowing you, I shouldn’t be embarrassed when my dad wears his ID and wallet in a pouch around his neck, as if he’s a young child who can’t be responsible for carrying a note home to his parents. The good news is that he will NOT be pick pocketed, and perhaps someone will strike up a conversation when they see a Tennessee driver’s license. I should let it go, or like my brother said, just think of it as an homage to Flava Flav.
- Here’s a post on packing light from the old Bonobos blog (with packing list, for dudes). They also once posted travel tips, that I can’t find, including: leave something awesome behind for your host (think: rugby shirt, scarf, glasses), and remember what the “true bottom” of your rolling bag is when you pack.
- Finally, I recommend trying out a Turkish towel. They’re great in general, but for traveling, they take up less room and dry way more quickly than a traditional towel, and can double as a blanket. In DC, find the Turkish towel stand at the Eastern Market flea market. Salt and Sundry at Union Market carries them, too, and it’s worth visiting the store to see how well they curate everything. But, insider tip!, Salt and Sundry buys their Turkish towels from the woman at Eastern Market, so, obviously, their prices are higher. Here are some similar online.
Are you a professional packer, or what?