Packing Tips for Long Trips

Thursday, January 15, 2015

 After lots of road trips and overseas backpacking trips I think I've gotten this whole packing thing down to an art. I've learned a lot by trial and error, but there are a few rules that don't seem to change. 

1) You will almost always over pack. Remember that in most countries you can buy a "just in case" item if you really need it. 

2) Pick one color scheme and stick with it! Choose your neutral color (black or brown) and one accent color. I picked black and blue, so that included white, black, gray and any shade of blue. This allows you to mix and match because all of your clothes work together and can be layered in different orders. 

3) Leave the heels at home. I pack one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals, and one nicer pair of walking shoes (usually skechers like these). No one is looking at your feet when you travel and you are usually walking all day.

4) You can never have enough ziplock bags. Whether they are holding snacks, wet clothes, sandy shells from the beach or accessories, they are so useful! Packing extras takes up almost no space and I always end up using them. 


I'm a visual person, so for our New Zealand, Australia & Fiji trip I decided to try something new. I laid out the outfits I was going to pack and took photos. I mixed and matched, considering what we would be doing each day (beach, hiking, museums, etc.). When I figured out what I would wear it helped me rule out tons of extra items I didn't really need. 

This might be an extreme way to do it, but I packed way less than I originally planned because I knew exactly what I needed and how I could use each item. Two scarves and a couple necklaces helped make each outfit look different.   


When you have to carry everything with you, over packing quickly becomes a thing of the past. I needed enough clothes and toiletries for three weeks. We had a chance to do laundry at a hostel I booked midway through the trip, but we also dealt with vastly different climates. The first half of the trip was in New Zealand and the temperatures ranged from 40 to 60 degrees (Fahrenheit), while Australia was in the 70s and Fiji was closer to 80 degrees. 

So the key was layers! I got a warm black fleece jacket and then packed t-shirts, tank tops and long sleeve shirts that could easily be layers. I packed a pair of leggings for our trip to the glacier and a swimsuit for Fiji. Scarves were essential; they keep you warm and can make the same outfit you wore 5 days earlier look completely different.

My bag (see above) is a Victorinox E-Motion 360 Degree 22" Trek Pack PlusWheeled Backpack with Docking Daypack. The Huz got it for me in 2008 when I did a month backpacking through Europe. It's fantastic for long trips, with side pouches that snap in and out, backpack straps and a roller handle and wheels. It has a front zipper pouch for shoes and a small backpack that zips off for day trips. I named mine Charley as a nod to Steinbeck.


There are a few items I bought specifically for this trip. With each one I researched my options before picking the final item and was happy with all of the purchases. 

Derek Alexander Top Zip Front Organizer: I needed a travel purse that would hold a lot without becoming ridiculously awkward or heavy. I was beyond happy with this one. I got it in black (see above) and it held a kindle, camera, chapstick, journal, passport, etc. with extra space. It was a bit taller, so there was plenty of room. The material was slick, so any time I spilled something on it I could easily wipe it off. I'll be using this one for years whenever I travel. 

Lewis N. Clark Pressure Reducing Ear Plugs: I have serious ear issues. My ear drums have burst on two separate plane rides, which always makes for a fun trip to the ER in a foreign country. These little wonders help prevent that issue. I've also used Earplanes, which you can get at a drug store and have worked well.  

Eddie Bauer Horizon Skort: It looks like a nice skirt, but it has shorts underneath and works well for hiking or long days walking in the city.

Havaianas Women's Freedom Flip Flop: I bought these in black. They look nice enough that you can wear them in a city or on the beach. They are also plastic, so they work in hostel showers and take no time to dry.  

Gillette Venus Snap Women's Razor: This razor is just so tiny! 

Merrell Women's All Out Fuse Trail Running Shoe: Ridiculously light, these sneakers dry quickly and are comfortable. They were wonderful for hiking without weighing down my bag the rest of the time. 

Travelon Jewelry Roll: This was perfect for holding jewelry, q-tips, dental flossers, etc. It took up very little space and was easy to find in my bag.

**Side note: I watched a few of these items for awhile and waited to buy them when they were on sale. Eddie Bauer has a semi-annual sale, Skechers usually has promo code or two available and the purse was on sale for $20 when I got it.

I hope these tips were helpful if you're packing for an upcoming adventure. Feel free to email if you have any questions! 

Trip pics are here, here, here and here.

6 comments:

bkclubcare said...

Fabulous! Wish I could have gone with you - what fun. I consider myself a professional packer, almost. I'm always on the lookout for travel items in my travel-color (purple). I like to have everything match but don't buy the sets, ya know? I'm still upset about the blanket/scarf/shawl I left on the plane to England. It was red/purple so I thought it was the airlines when I groggily debarked the plane. Just thinking about it makes me sad...

These are great tips and products. THanks for sharing and looks like you need to hike the Blue Ridge Mts. Will meet you!

52booksorbust said...

I used to be a notorious over packer, but recently I've ruthlessly cut down ... to my detriment. I need to find the balance somewhere!

annieb said...

I'm printing this out for the next time I take a long trip. Very helpful.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

bkclubcare - We definitely need to meet up! I can still remember different things I've lost of trips. That's why I have a strict rule to never take jewelry or clothes that have sentimental value on any trips.

52booksorbust - It's such a hard balance to find! I'm still struggling with it.

annieb - I hope it's helpful!

Jillian said...

Love it! I actually enjoy packing, and always try different ways to do it efficiently. I agree that you always need ziploc bags, in all different sizes!
I love Merrells as well, they have never let me down. And that jewelry roll is so great!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jillian - I love packing so much. I finally made a rule that I couldn't pack any further in advance than doble the length of the trip. So if it's a 3 day weekend, I can pack 6 days in advance. Clearly I have issue. The Huz on the other hand throws everything in a bag the night before :)