Regardless of how many countries I’ve visited, or trains I’ve ridden, or steps I’ve negotiated, I always think I will need more clothes when I travel. Packing light remains my Achilles’ Heel.
I’m going to want that flowered blouse. Those yellow shoes look so cute with that skirt! Who am I trying to impress anyway? Certainly not my kids; my husband could care less if I look pulled together.
The good news is, I’m getting better. I’m actually beginning to follow my own packing advice. In May, we’ve scheduled our 13th home exchange in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. My goal: one carry-on, nothing checked. If I can do it, so can you.
10 Packing Tips from the Home Exchange Expert
1.Luggage –You want high quality luggage that’s easy to transport. For air travel the current luggage size limit is: no taller than 22”, no wider than 14”, no deeper than 9”. Depending on the type of travel you enjoy, adventure or luxury, choose either a backpack or 360°spinner suitcase.
In many countries there are more steps than elevators; sometimes the streets are ancient and rocky. That’s why I encourage backpacks. Even if you’re not strong-like-bull, a backpack might be easier, because a “rolling” suitcase becomes a “dragging” suitcase when trying to pull it up some of those aforementioned steps.
Backpacks free up your hands and you’ll never have to worry about somebody putting down their suitcase to buy a train ticket or a pack of gum. Most importantly, you’ll have a free hand for a loved one. Check out: www.luggageonline.com
2.Dress like the locals - Research the local standards of dress for your destination. If you’ll be visiting churches, wear a long sleeve top or bring a scarf to cover your shoulders. Years ago, I made the mistake of wearing a sundress in Jakarta. As I walked down the street, I felt a bit exposed. Doris, at www.babyboomerstraveling.com says, “Wearing shorts and sleeveless blouses in Morocco will result in uncomfortable stares by the locals.” Yup.
3.Season determines your attire – Research the weather for your destination and pack accordingly. A great site is: www.weather.com. But always be ready for surprises. Two years ago my daughter and I flew to Germany in July for a hospitality home exchange. It rained the entire trip. (OK, we had two days of sunshine over a 14-day visit.) Additionally, it was unseasonably cold. I wore my one pair of long pants most of the time. Thank goodness they were black and made of a quick-dry fabric.
4.What clothing to choose - Select clothing in basic colors. For example, choose bottoms in black or khaki; this leads to fewer clothes. Tops are generally lighter than pants, so you’ll be able to pack more without adding extra weight. For a two-week trip, I suggest the following packing list: 3 bottoms (casual pants, dress pants, jeans or skirt), 3 long sleeved shirts, 1-2 sweaters, a rain jacket, a few t-shirts/tank tops to layer under clothing, 2 pair shoes, 1 scarf, pajamas, underwear and socks. Remember, outside of the U.S., shorts are considered beachwear.
If you’re unsure about bringing something, travel pro Rick Steves says, “Don’t ask yourself, ‘Will I use them?’ but ‘Will I use them enough to feel good about carrying them over the Swiss Alps?’”
If you’re traveling with little ones, checkout the great packing lists here: www.travelmamas.com
5.Fitting it all in - Clothing that is rolled takes up less space than folded clothing. Try the “bundling” technique. I like Eagle Creek packing cubes, they maximize space and help keep me organized. Or pack items in zip-top bags; press to remove excess air. Always, always, always, pack liquids in a plastic bag, even if you check your baggage. www.eaglecreek.com
6. Safety clothes – This is a security tip, not a fashion tip. Dress like the locals. In general, shorts are not a good idea. (I know I’m repeating myself, but this is important.) When you wear shorts, you look like a tourist; tourists carry money and expensive devices. Pack long pants and/or skirts.
7.Buy personal care products there – If toiletries are available at your destination, buy them there, and only pack a few days supply with you. If you’re flying and only bringing carry on, you’re limited to 3 oz. or smaller supplies anyway. My husband’s favorite soap in Germany was Rei; he liked it because a German phrase on the container made him laugh. We brought a tube of it back with us and it’s still in our laundry closet. Look at the photo and see what’s so funny. This is one of the reasons why it’s more fun to buy your necessities over there.
8. Read your labels – Add identification tags to the outside of your luggage and inside too, tape a business card or label to your electronic devices, include the phone number of the phone you will carry with you on the trip.
9. Purchase guidebook in your home country – When my family traveled to Italy a couple years ago, I decided to wait and buy the guidebook there. Never again! The English language options were dismal; the books included dated photographs and a paragraph of history. I longed for insider tips, museum hours of operation, a few popular Italian phrases and restaurant suggestions. We tried to check the Internet but Wi-Fi was not plentiful. Learn from my mistake and purchase your guidebook at home.
10. Carry on – Bring these items onto the flight with you: medications, lightweight blanket, one change of clothes, reading material, pen, deck of cards, journal, healthy protein snacks, extra pair of glasses. Questions about larger liquids? Check with Transportation Security Administration http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm
Those are my top 10 packing tips for when you do your next home swap or home exchange!
Do you have any tips you’d like to add? Leave it in a comment below!