Well Designed Travel: How to Pack Lightly

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Written By DanielHaldeman

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Have you ever brought too much on a trip? There’s nothing that can make you feel more like a bumbling tourist than waddling down a hot, crowded, cobblestone street with heavy, overstuffed bags hanging from aching shoulders while frantically searching for the hotel you were sure was on this corner. My goal when packing for any trip is to never have more luggage than I would feel comfortable carrying for an entire day.

To stay nimble, I travel with a 9″ x 14″ x 19″ rolling bag, (sized for international carry-on) and a medium-sized laptop bag. The photos below show almost everything (sorry, no skivvies!) I brought with me for 3 months in South and Central America. Since it’s summertime here, I can leave the snow boots behind, but I’m ready for most weather between 45 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Without further ado, here is a look at everything I own!

Clothing and Shoes:

1. A light jacket: This is kind of a bulky item, but I have needed it more than a few times here.

2. Comfortable, slip on shoes: These are great and go with pretty much everything I have (although they are getting close to being replaced!)

3. 3 t-shirts.

4. Lounge/yoga pants.

5. Striped top.

6. Large, thin scarf: This is great for a chilly night, a travel pillow, or an over air-conditioned bus ride. Plus it dresses up an ordinary outfit.

7. Boots: These are bulky, but durable and comfortable, so I wear them during travel.

8. Thin, black cardigan: I wear this tons.

9. A pair of jeans.

10. Cotton skirt.

11. Sandals.

12. Work out/lounge shorts.

13. Leggings: These are great to throw under a dress if it gets chilly in the evening.

14. Another lightweight cardigan: If I need to, I could layer several colder weather items together if the temperature happens to dip.

15: 6 dresses: These are basically what I wear everyday. I’ve talked a lot about keeping warm (I like to be prepared!) but mostly the weather in Buenos Aires has been quite hot.

Not pictured: Socks, under garments and a bathing suit.

Tech, Toiletries and Miscellany:

    • 1. Keys: I’ll need those when we return to the U.S. to raid my brother’s fridge.

2. Cheap airline headphones: Luckily I picked up a pair on the flight here as my favorite ones recently died!

3. Travel-sized umbrella: This has come in super handy as December was quite rainy here in Buenos Aires.

4. Sunglasses.

5. E-reader: This is probably the most treasured item in my luggage. It’s so nice to have your entire library at your fingertips and the ability to download new books as soon as you want them.

6. Makeup kit.

7. Camera cord, charger and extra battery: I always have a backup battery ready to switch out when one dies.

8. Universal adapters: These are a little bulky, but it’s really useful to not have to buy a new adapter for each country I visit.

9. Small cross-body purse: Great for heading out to dinner when I don’t need to carry much. The cross-body strap is nice because I never have to take it off, even when sitting. This helps deter would-be purse snatchers.

10. Zipper tote: I use this bag almost daily. It’s great for grocery shopping, carrying water and snacks around or other miscellaneous items. I stowed this in my suitcase for the trip here.

11. Toiletry kit: I only brought travel sized liquids so that I could carry-on all of my luggage. Since we’ll be in one place for two months, I bought regular sized items here.

12. Bike light: This tiny light has come in super handy. I’ve used it as flashlight, to search through bags and as a reading light at night. Most bicycle rentals usually don’t include lights, so if I rent a bike along the way, I’m ready!

13. Computer power supply.

14. Zipper baggies: I can’t tell you how useful these have been. I’ve used them for everything from food storage, to filing receipts and sorting currencies. A must-have for long term travel.

15. Print outs of tickets, itineraries and maps: Perhaps not the most green solution, but it can be really helpful to have a hard copy of your e-ticket in case things go awry at the airport.

16. Tablet and stylus: This is a slim, easy to pack item that means I don’t have to use my laptop trackpad all the time.

17. Power supply for phone and e-reader.

18. External hard drive: You gotta have back up!

19. Android smart phone: I’ve imported my U.S. number to Google Voice so I can make and receive calls/texts on my U.S. number as long as I’m in wifi range. I also have a local SIM card to make calls and SMS locally.

20. Computer.

21. Small notebooks and pens: These are great to keep in your day bag to write down directions, phone numbers and suggestions on things to do.

Not pictured: the camera, of course! I travel with the Canon S95 which is what I use to shoot all of my images on Apartment Therapy. It’s a great solution for those who want the fine-tuning of a DSLR without the weight and bulk.

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