The 10 Rules of Packing

When you’ve spent more than a decade on the road, you get asked some pretty interesting questions. The one query I get most, though, is about packing: what to take, what to leave, where to put it. I’ve taken scads of trips, but every time I get back, I know I could have gone even lighter. Let’s save you some trouble and start with the basics of my lessons learned.

The 10 Rules of Packing

1. The Golden Rule: Take half of the clothes you were planning to bring and twice the money. I cannot stress how true this is.

2. Take only what you can fit in a carry on. We’ve all lost luggage before, and it’s a pain. But when it’s 3 degrees in Poland and you’re rocking those horrible sweats you insist on wearing on long flights, hearing “as soon as we find your bag, we’ll send it to you” can really put a damper on your first day. And — no offense to the Polish — but having to buy an entire wardrobe in Warsaw might not be exactly how you want to spend your travel pennies. This also means you’ll have luggage with wheels, which is worth its weight in gold.

3. If you simply must check luggage, ask them to put a “Fragile” sticker on it, which helps ensure your bags will be put on top of the pile and be first off the plane. Also, yours is not the only black suitcase, so slap a sticker or red ribbon on it — anything that will help you pick it out in the crowd. Think airport security is scary these days? Try making it through customs with someone else’s bag.

4. Mix and match. Bring three shirts and three “bottoms.” That’s 9 outfits.

5. Books are sexy. So are vinyl records. But save yourself the extra pounds and fill your Kindle with every book/country guide you need and stick to your iPod.

6. Don’t be a diva. If you’re the type who has to travel with your own hair dryer (and won’t use the hotel’s), then I might suggest a weekend in the Smokies over the Alps.

7. Jackets and sweaters take up a lot of precious bag space and weigh you down. Unless you’re going to Russia in winter, layers work just as well.

8. If you can bear it, stay away from jeans. This is huge and I should have moved it up to number 2. They absorb dirt (and odors), are bulky and take days to air dry. Cotton and khaki are the way to go.

9. If it’s important and can’t fit into your daypack, leave it at home. Stuff gets stolen no matter where you go. As big as a pain as it is, I am constantly carrying my computer, cameras, etc. on my back — and in crowded places, as ridiculous as it looks, in front of me.

10. Every country I’ve ever visited sells soap. And shampoo. And socks. And t-shirts. I.e. What you forget, you can buy.

One last thing: those plastic gardening shoes that somehow made it into the acceptable mainstream of fashion footwear? Do your country a favor… and don’t.

Follow Aric’s adventures on The Good Traveler blog, and on Twitter @GoodTraveler.

Photo: Caroline Schroeder/My Shot

Comments

  1. Michael
    Washington, DC
    February 24, 2012, 12:34 pm

    Great advice! One other thing I consider when traveling is whether I will have access to laundry services/laundry machines wherever it is I’m going. Having access to a washer and dryer adds a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing what clothes to pack.

  2. Aamir wazir
    Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
    February 24, 2012, 3:55 pm

    i like

  3. Marilyn Terrell
    February 24, 2012, 5:37 pm

    Actually, I wouldn’t mind replacing my entire wardrobe in Warsaw: http://streetpeeper.com/cities/warsaw?type=street_peep

  4. Leila
    February 24, 2012, 7:48 pm

    thanks for the tip. I like the jean vs/ khaki hint.

    I would skip step 3 all together. we have to leave room for the real fragile items to be put on top. I prefer not to see a day that my fragile luggage goes all the way down because everyone else has the same sticker. ;-)

  5. Nichole L. Reber
    Phoenix & Peru
    February 24, 2012, 9:54 pm

    While most of these recommendations are agreeable, not all are suitable for those of us who are serial expats. However, until we determine we want to remain indefinitely in a country, your recommends are stellar. It’s when we return that we’re bringing back decor from home and more clothes, the books we reread, ‘scripts. We leave the country from our original trip, in my case this time Peru, to go home for a while. On that return flight we’ve got an almost empty suitcase, which we’ll fill with the stuff we now know we need and can’t get in our newly adopted country. The problem lies in the end of your stay in the new country. Then we require either cargo freight or one helluva lot of packages to check in at the airport.
    Above all, though, it’s imperative that anyone traveling to another country make a photocopy of your passport. See why: http://bit.ly/zNvsx4

    Cheers on your grand blog post.
    Nichole L. Reber
    http://www.architecturetravelwriter.com

  6. Tanya
    Singapore
    February 25, 2012, 2:46 am

    Completely agree that jeans take forever to dry – but they *never* look dirty and match with anything!

  7. susan
    florida
    February 25, 2012, 12:52 pm

    Take it from a former airline employee …. Do not check your bags …. EVER …. If you insist , make sure it is only stuff you are ok with possibly never seeing again. I don’t check…. Period .

  8. Latifah
    NYC
    February 27, 2012, 11:22 am

    Number 10 was hilarious. I can’t stand those rubber shoes- get a pair of birkinstocks instead.

  9. Julia Hudsonq
    United States
    February 27, 2012, 1:41 pm

    I think 3 and 10 are the best tips ever — I will have a fragile sticker on my bag from now on!

  10. Linda
    UK
    February 27, 2012, 6:09 pm

    I’ve always adopted the policy of 1 on; 1 clean; 1 in the wash. Any more than that and it’s overkill!

  11. Cathy
    USA
    February 28, 2012, 9:21 am

    When you lose a bag being kind works much better than yelling. They spend more time checking and remember you. I’ve left with my bag in tow more than one time by using kind words.

  12. Meghan
    United States
    February 28, 2012, 10:18 am

    Michael’s point about laundry is excellent, but to take it a step further you can ALWAYS wash in the sink and dry overnight! If you’re in the USA Tide makes these great little packable portions of detergent (if you’re opposed to just using handsoap) that are small and wash a small load in the sink!

  13. Frank Fradella
    Sioux Falls, SD
    February 29, 2012, 8:47 am

    Fantastic article. And given that you’ll want to stick to one bag, make sure it’s a good one. I bought a rolling bag from a hotel shop in Shanghai on the way to the airport once (to carry back gifts for family and friends) and the wheels literally fell off before I made it to check-in. This was not the place to cut corners.

  14. Ahmed AlAreef
    Abu Dhabi
    February 29, 2012, 10:02 am

    This so damn true I just like how appealing to me it was I hope it does it’s magic on other readers because I like to travel and I face almost all what you have mentioned up there.

  15. Darrin McNeice
    February 29, 2012, 10:40 am

    Leave your Kindle at home. Take a book, you can read it the whole time you are on the plane, no need to turn it off for when they tell you to turn off all electronics. I hate it when there are delays and all you have is an electronic version. If traveling with others, put some of your clothes in their luggage and some of their clothes in yours. Then hope both bags dont get lost. I always carry a few days of clothes in my carry on no matter what the lenghth of trip I take. A week or more before a trip I set out a box and put things in I want to take with me as I think of them. I also save any old t-shirts and underwear to take on trips. Wear it and toss it so you have extra room to bring stuff home.

  16. Darrin McNeice
    February 29, 2012, 10:47 am

    Regarding the passport photocopy, I take photos of my passport, visa, credit cards, and other travel documents. Then I store that on my phone, online (secured with a password) and usually a usb drive (password protect the files) so that I have access to that info if needed.

  17. [...] Fuente IntelligentTravel [...]

  18. Debs
    England
    March 1, 2012, 11:08 am

    The last rule is the best one! Damn gardening shoes.

  19. MAA
    San Francisco, CA
    March 2, 2012, 12:24 am

    A little confused about number 8. Jeans material, denim, and khakis are almost always made with close to 100% cotton – sometimes blended with a low percentage of synthetic for stretch. I do have 100% synthetic hiking pants, and they dry very fast, but they don’t go with everything except on a very casual trip.

  20. [...] tips from some vagabonds who definitely know of what they speak. The fact that this comes from National Geographic Traveler should ensure that you click on this very helpful post.   And while there were [...]

  21. Ric
    March 2, 2012, 5:48 pm

    #5 — leave the gadgets at home. You’ll notice more new stuff if you’re not being immersed in the usual distractions

  22. light487
    Sydney, Australia
    March 2, 2012, 7:36 pm

    Just got back from China, it was very cold and we were lucky enough to have someone meet us at the airport with clothes we bought online weeks before we left and had delivered to them. You may not always be able to do this but if you can, it means you can pack lightly for the flight and get your clothes when you arrive.

    I have a Netbook computer.. it’s 3 years old and doesn’t do a heck of a lot.. it just sits gathering dust when I am at home. However, when I am traveling it is a godsend because it easily fits in my day-bag and does all the things you need on a trip: facebook, skype, offloading photos and videos from the cameras etc.

    We came back with 5 checkin cases (only were allowed 4 but we strapped two smaller ones together, which the combined weight was less than the allowance) and 6 carry-on cases.. haha.. :)

  23. Tanya
    new york
    March 8, 2012, 1:54 am

    These suggestions are boring and obvious. Anyone that has left their home town could figure this out. And, jeans are a must!

  24. Verena
    lots
    March 13, 2012, 9:54 am

    Laundry while traveling? For small items use the shampoo provided by most hotels

  25. Bonnie
    Bangkok
    March 13, 2012, 9:58 am

    Just returned this morning from two weeks in Myanmar(Burma), one back pack and one small carry on. Unbelievably, I saw many Travelers who should read you advice…Myanmar is not a place to worry about fashion, but apparently many do.
    I am a flight attendant who learned to pack some time ago.

  26. Yirgach
    Vermont
    March 13, 2012, 12:36 pm

    Yes, bring plenty of money. A t-shirt in Vilnius costs $35 at the Rimi supermarket when all other stores are closed.
    PS – Don’t fly Air Baltic unless absolutely necessary…

  27. ed
    canada
    March 13, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Rule 10 is not for me. My feet can only feel ok when in the Crocks. I have $220 insole in $ 300 special shoe and the most I can walk with those only 5 minutes on a hard surface.

  28. Africafan
    Springfield IL
    March 13, 2012, 1:23 pm

    A great list, but I’d like to make a few suggestions. I don’t take much money unless I’m going someplace like Burma with no ATMs; a better exchange rate and safer to carry less cash. Absolutely take copies of your passport and put one in every bag; they were helpful when we had our passports stolen in Paris. I take some old or ready-to-donate clothes and leave them on the way–it also frees up space to buy new stuff. Microfiber, microfiber, microfiber + gortex jacket. I now pack less than 20 lbs; microfiber is lightweight and dries quickly. DO take Kindle, iPad, or Nook–you may have occasions other than on the plane to read. About those rubber shoes, it all depends; on a river trip in a hot climate they are perfect and lots of other people take them too. I like the advice about carrying everything on the plane, but it’s not always possible. As a back up, pack clean undies and shirt in carry-on. Finally, if you can afford it, buy some of the new ultra-lightweight luggage.

  29. Kirti Manian
    Hong Kong, China
    March 13, 2012, 9:31 pm

    I think its impractical not to wear jeans especially when you are traveling to cold places. We are heading out to China this weekend and going to be carrying our thermals as well. Cottons and khakis would just make it worse in the cold as compared to jeans imo.

    I liked the Kindle suggestion. Will follow it I think.

  30. Fay Devlin
    Clayton, Ontario
    March 14, 2012, 10:59 am

    Bring paperbacks and leave them on the train, in a restaurant, in a hotel room, when you finish: I love to spread Canadian literature — and Canadian Geographic magazine — in this fashion!

  31. Lesley
    Malaysia
    March 16, 2012, 4:03 am

    When we travel, we usually take one checked bag (in case we decide to support the local economy) as the airlines are getting pretty sticky about the weight of carry-ons. I always remove at least half of what my ‘other half’ lays out and he doesn’t even miss it. I can usually get away with a lightweight wheelie bag & backpack each (cameras, tablet, spare undies) and my handbag. Oh, and a big smile. The plastic shoes do come in handy if you have to dry trainers that are soaking wet.

  32. Craig Andersen
    United States
    March 16, 2012, 11:14 am

    O.K. I admit it, I love TV…. shows I miss and most new movies get downloaded and stored on Micro SD chips and along with several extra battery’s, turn my Blackberry into a TV. Well appreciated at times (rainy nights in my tent)… I also carry an ultra lite sleeping bag, pad and tent. The bag and pad are contained in a tupperware wash basin which occupy the bottom two thirds of my carry on bag. The bag is built with both wheels and real back straps…. equally at home on the trail as wheeling through an airport or lobby. One change of light, super- fast drying, synthedic cloths and thanks to the wash basin and large wash cloth, I can bath and wash clothes and hang dry them in a couple hours. One bag, carry on legal, wheels- back straps….. 35 Lbs.

  33. Stacy
    United Kingdom
    March 17, 2012, 6:54 am

    I can pack for a family of 4, international travel for 2 weeks in our carry ons. Each person has one carry on to bring. 3 pairs of jeans, 6 shirts, 6 pairs of underwear, 7 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of pajamas. Tennis shoes in bag, boots on feet. We pack foldable toothbrushes, travel size toothpaste (1 tube for family, buy new if needed on trip). No make up, no hair spray etc. Only a scrunchie or two for the girls for hair. One small hairbrush. I put all the passports in a plastic ziploc in my purse. My kindle goes everywhere with me. Kids bring DS’s for the trip. Small, compact and can fit in the carry ons without issues.
    We also pack am expandable duffel bag in our carry ons. This makes sure that we have an extra bag when we are coming back for anything that we’ve bought on our trip. When we pack to come back, all the old dirty clothes go into the duffel and the new stuff goes into our carry ons. If I can do it with a family of 4, transatlantic flight, you can too!
    For diva girls, you can usually get your make up done at department stores for free if you are going out on the town and absolutely need it done! Otherwise, give you face a vacation too!

  34. Muhammad Saber
    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    March 17, 2012, 10:02 am

    Great tips and excellent ideas, thank you,

  35. New Mexico Enchanted Hikes
    Albuquerque, NM
    March 20, 2012, 10:51 am

    I once startled airline employees by traveling from France (cold in December) to Honolulu (warm in the winter) with nothing but the clothes on my back and a daypack…They kept asking me if had more luggage to check in…. In my bag, I had a pair of linen pants, 3 tee shirts, a pair of sandals, 3 bikinis and 2 changes of underwear. A camera and a book, my passport and other IDs. And that was it!

  36. KL
    Florida
    March 21, 2012, 11:01 pm

    Rohan makes some really good travel friendly jeans that dry quick. I’ve had a pair for awhile and they hold up well, while letting me blend in.

  37. Snowbunny
    Pacific Northwest - WA and B.C.
    March 22, 2012, 5:08 pm

    Went extra light 2011/12 – Spent last 4 months in NZ, Fiji and Hawaii…went to thrift stores for books, t-shirts, extras, etc. Even beach towels. Leave them behind for the next light travelers.

  38. Gus Deadman
    March 22, 2012, 5:58 pm

    There is only one tip here, don’t take too much stuff. You’re not going to get very far with the three tops and three trousers and the ones you have on. As a seasoned traveller I’d say just be sensible, take enough but not more than you need and if you have a favourite jumper and want to be photographed wearing it in front of the Eiffel Tower, then take it. Also you can buy toiletries anywhere but is that how you want to spend your holiday? Trudging around a strange city practising the Hindi for “tampon” or “spot cream”? Take what you need but only enough and you can spend the time bungy jumping.or whatever. A good tip about having a change of clothes in your hand luggage though.

  39. punampal
    New Delhi (INDIA)
    March 28, 2012, 1:11 am

    No. 9 – I do it most of the time. When visiting crowded places, Instead of carrying trendy handbags, I carry smaller shoulder bags and wear them front of my body. Safe and Convenient.

  40. Ian [EagerExistence]
    Australia
    April 1, 2012, 12:32 am

    I don’t agree with this list, and I’ve travelled non-stop for over a year… MANY flights.

    I never lost luggage. Jeans are a saviour! So verstatile, they replace up to 3 other pairs of pants… you hardly ever have to wash them…

    The rest of the tips are good and valid though. Especially daypacks and security, not taking too many coats, books, and everywhere has markets to buy stuff.

  41. [...] 10 Regeln des Packens NatGeo gibt uns paar grundlegende Packregeln mit auf den Weg, die einem das Leben auf Reisen erleichtern [...]

  42. [...] National Geographic Traveler explica las diez reglas del viajero experto para preparar el equipaje perfecto. Ahora que se acerca [...]

  43. SusiQ
    Tampa Bay, USA
    April 3, 2012, 1:13 pm

    I buy a magazine for the times when I have to shut Kindle off. I own a no slash, across the body purse that has a pocket for a bottle of water and a small umbrella and many zippered pockets. I pack using those mesh cubes and take two pairs undrewears, two tops rolled up in my carry on. One cube with two days’clothes goes in hsuband’s bag and his in mine. Most camera rechargeable battery chargers and iPad and iPods are dual voltage, no need for heavy converters. In very warm climates, I always pack something like individual packets of Gatorade or Powerade.

  44. Real Cheap
    Close to an International Terminal
    April 5, 2012, 11:13 pm

    I take a polyester “Camp towel” and use it to dry off after a shower. .

    The hotel provided “cotton towel”… why I use it in the evening… doing my laundry and then rolling up my “self laundered“ damp socks, underwear, and other clothing including jeans. Stomping/stepping on the towel draws the excess water into the towel before hanging items in the closet. Socks and underwear will be dry by morning, and jeans should be dry within 24 hours. You will need to “hand press” any wrinkles out of shirts & pants between “The stomp” and hanging the garment up for final drying.

  45. sraya
    new jersey
    April 14, 2012, 11:25 am

    All i pack with me are bathing suits!! thats it

  46. NatGeo 10 rules of packing | bountii
    April 24, 2012, 3:59 am

    [...] for travel is always tough. There just never seems to be enough space! Intelligent Travel recently posted this article on their blog-10 rules of packing. Photographer: Cyndi DiMicco [...]

  47. [...] empty handed. I usually take 4-5 copies of my favorite book for these occasions (if you follow my 10 rules of packing, you should have plenty of room); ink on paper lasts a lot longer than the predictable bottle of [...]

  48. Ginger
    June 12, 2012, 12:17 pm

    I cannot stress the number of times while I was travelling Europe that I was grateful I had a backpack and not a wheelie suitcase. Ever tried to wheel things over cobbles? Not fun. Sure I had to carry everything, but it also made me double think every souvenir purchase. Jeans were also a saviour for me… who cares how many times you wear them? i find they actually take a long time to stink (I went 3 months across Europe without washing mine, alternating with one other pair of shorts), and it takes a LOT for them to be smelled by passers by… as long as you keep spills to a minimum, most spills won’t be noticed on a dark pair of jeans. Only exceptions? Mustard and milk. The first shows really well, the latter starts to smell after a while.

  49. [...] John Edwin Mason, with whom I’ll be staying in Charlottesville this week, posted a link to this article about packing for travel. One of the tips is to not bring jeans, but to instead go with cotton or [...]

  50. Peter
    Perth Western Australia
    June 13, 2012, 1:09 pm

    Have a think about this, if you want to take extras you can wear two or three sets of clothing on to the plane. If your a photographer you can carry DSL’s, telephoto lens etc by your straps or on a belt on your person if need be. The only problem is taking a tripod it has to go into the hold as in the eyes of security it could be used as a weapon.

  51. AndyTiger
    Canton, GA
    June 13, 2012, 4:46 pm

    I am getting lots of great ideas just reading comments.

    Unfortunately, I am apparently not so seasoned as most as a world traveler but I have done quite a bit of backpacking and should know better. I did just a horrible job of packing for my last trip. I won’t divulge all my screwups. One was just having a piece of luggage that was too large. But the scope of the trip also made it awkward. Business, after hours socializing, sight seeing, hiking, 2 almost 3 different weather considerations.

    Planning is the biggest factor, I think. Give yourself time to make the right decisions and do some research. Inevitably I wait till the last minute and pack poorly.

    #10 is great. any chance to tell people not to wear those things is great. I actually hate flip flops as well. But if comfort and functionality are issue I use handy Teva type sandals.

    I always carry a daypack for traveling comfort and security, but I otherwise loathe bringing carryon and always check baggage. It’s an incredible pain to sit there and watch everyone scramble for overhead space and delay boarding. This also allows me some levity with packing constraints. As another user mentioned there is no need to waste time or money if you can bring with you within reason.

    Good luck on your adventures!

  52. morgan
    oregon
    June 20, 2012, 1:22 pm

    Bags with wheels are the last thing you want when travelling…

  53. [...] national geographic nous donne les 10 règles à suivre pour voyager léger : [...]

  54. MARGO
    scotland
    July 7, 2012, 2:00 pm

    Clearly a guy saying don’t take your hair dryer. Cant imagine the trauma if I got to the accommodation and the hairdryer was naff or worse there was no hairdryer. Loved all the other tips though.

  55. C. Quast
    Illinois
    August 14, 2012, 12:00 pm

    Make sure you carry a photo copy of credit cards, insurance cards, driver’s license and passport with you. I cannot stress how important this is if they are lost or stolen. This will expedite the recovery process.

  56. AuntyE
    Australia
    August 16, 2012, 1:21 am

    Most places have post offices – if I am somewhere for a week or so, I take stock and usually find there is stuff I can mail home instead of carrying it home.

  57. Members Alliance
    August 17, 2012, 6:55 am

    The next time I travel, I will try bringing three tops and three bottom wardrobes. I’ll see if I can survive. I think the idea is really cool.

  58. [...] Je ne suis pas d’accord avec tous les points, mais cette liste est tout de même intéressante : « The 10 Rules of Packing ». À lire. [...]

  59. [...] dritte e consigli da chi viaggia spesso e per tutto il mondo AKA da un reporter del National Geographic che regala dritte e spunti su cosa portarsi, e cosa non portarsi dietro. Qui la versione [...]

  60. | {Sir} Koala Londinese
    October 8, 2012, 3:49 am

    [...] dritte e consigli da chi viaggia spesso e per tutto il mondo AKA da un reporter del National Geographic che regala dritte e spunti su cosa portarsi, e cosa non portarsi dietro. Qui la versione [...]

  61. Alice
    Germany
    October 18, 2012, 5:26 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! I spent 8 days in Cameroon in 2010 examining eyes on an Optometric mission and the only bag that arrived with me was my hand luggage. I survived and enjoyed the 8 days with only 2 outfits: one for working the day and the other for the evening: lightweight blouse, and khakis during the working (sweaty) day; and jeans, cotton sweater, jeans and bike rain jacket for the evenings. I wasn’t the fashion queen of the trip but I am since a supporter of 3 tops 3 bottoms and you’re sweet for every occassion if you choose these well.
    My super tip is Merino wool Icebreaker tops from New Zealand. They are lightweight, warm in winter as undergarments and cool as cotton in summer as t-shirts, dry quick and the best part is: the do not smell. Wore my T-shirt everyday biking over the Alps and nothing stank. The look sleek and are fantastically versatile.

  62. Karen
    Brisbane, Australia
    October 19, 2012, 7:55 pm

    Great list, but if only carrying a carry-on, check the airline policy for weight restrictions. Some allow 7kg only and others will charge you for carry-on and still have a weight limit. Also remember countries that have liquid and gels under 100ml policies. Take small sizes or risk losing it at security.

  63. travel tips
    traveleasyproducts.com
    October 21, 2012, 4:14 pm

    Good information. I try to pack clothing items that go together so that I can take fewer and have more combinations. I wear mostly dark. Seems in many cities locals wear dark. I also put in one tee and leisure pant that can be sleep wear as well as relaxation wear.

  64. Laura Parslow
    USA
    October 22, 2012, 8:59 am

    I am 65 years old and have never lost a bag at the airport. Why not only stuff that old shirt and half used hair oil in a bag and check it. I am so tired of people bringing the kitchen sink from home and then trying to stuff it under my feet or banging my head as they try to drag it down the isle.The only things that should be allowed are a big purse and Art or musical instruments.

  65. Cathy
    Vancouver BC Canada
    October 23, 2012, 9:34 am

    Interesting article and I agree with most of it. 20 years ago my husband and I went to the UK for 3 weeks with a carry on sized back pack that also incorporated a removable daypack. Since then, airline size and weight regulations have tightened up with resoect to carry ons, as has security. Not to mention that we are now seniors with various problems that go with age and can no longer carry heavy back packs or suitcases so are stuck with wheelies. These just do not have the interior space of backpacks, and once you expand them they no longer qualify as carry ons. So for us it is almost impossible to pack a carry on with everything we need (unless we are just visiting family!) especially if a formal night is anticipated! And yes, I do use the “one to wash, one to wear and one spare” rule, and take only light weight layerable clothes. The best rule is not to take more than you can handle alone!

  66. Dick Bulova
    Virginia, USA
    October 23, 2012, 10:46 am

    Just returned from 17 days in Portugal and Spain. I packed 9 pairs of undies and socks that were getting ratty-looking. Wore each set for two days, then left in the hotel waste basket. I’m sure the maid recovered them, washed them, and probably got some more use from them. Best part of all, as that corner of my suitcase dwindled, it freed up room for souveniers.

  67. amy
    tokyo
    October 29, 2012, 9:50 am

    I have the airlines put my suitcases in plastic cargo bags. If you find an airlines that can provide the bags, stuff a few in your suitcase. The cargo bags are great to protect the exterior of the bag, keep the contents dry, (in case it is pouring….), if the cargo bag as been removed upon arrival, you know that the bag has been opened. In reference to “locking the bags”, I use long, thin plastic bendable strips with tiny teeth on one side. The strip can be made into a loop, and made smaller by putting one end, with teeth on one side,,into the little square at the opposite end. These plastic ties are inexpensive, and can beopened with a strong pairs of scissors. Basically it is an inconvenient deterrent for TSA , at a marginal cost.

  68. susan
    USA
    October 29, 2012, 12:47 pm

    Agree w/ most of the above, especially the versatility of jeans, and use of kindle. But many hotels and b&bs have books in one’s given language w/ the understanding of leave-one-take-one, so it’s possible to take only one book w/ you to start. I also concur it’s TOTALLY easy to have no more than 3 of each clothing staple, including socks and underwear, so that handwashing underwaer every night in rotation ensures clean each day, even allowing for wet stuff.
    I never bring totally dressy stuff; the few times it might be worn does not balance out the stress of it taking up space, unless it can be extremely light weight or made less dressy for every day wear with a sweater or overblouse, as in the case of a 2-piece blouse set that could be scrunched to the size of my palm, and flattened, they took up no more rooom than tissue paper!
    I remember taking the train in Switzerland and the ease of stepping on and off the train easily with my small wheelie while other people were struggling w/ multiple big bags.
    This also is something to keep in mind when coping with hilly and mountainous walks to lodging, again as in Switzerland and Austria.
    For walking/ hiking long distances in these kinds of areas, I love my lightweight mesh and leather Merrils for comfort

  69. Barbara
    USA
    October 30, 2012, 10:05 pm

    I save two or three Readers Digest and an old paperback to take to read, then leave along the way. Also Merrils are great walking shoes and a little more versatile than athletic shoes.

  70. C
    October 31, 2012, 7:56 am

    I agree with #9 completely, wholly, utterly. Stuff like your passport, your computer, your camera and other god expensive electronics should be surgically attached to your person. Never ever EVER check them in. And when leaving them in hotel rooms, put them in the goddamn safe. I am a freak when it comes to my electronics during travel. Short of showing them up where the sun don’t shine, they do not leave my sight; I lug ‘em all with me wherever I go.

    As for the jeans thang; well I like my jeans. Yes, they can be heavy and a pain to dry but they are good travel clothes. Hardy and durable.

    Another tip? Try and pack everything into one bag. There is nothing worse (or more ridiculous) than trying to lug multiple pieces of luggage through a crowded airport. You’re just giving yourself grief. One piece of luggage and one backpack. That’s all you need.

  71. The 10 Rules of Packing | secondsite
    November 4, 2012, 10:46 pm

    [...] Aric Queen has been travelling the world for more than a decade. Here are his top 10 rules published on The Good Traveler blog. [...]

  72. Amber Headlights
    December 1, 2012, 10:39 am

    It’s exceedingly inconsiderate to _not_ check your luggage. Airplanes are increasingly packing more and more people onto the planes, which means less space per person. When you bring a suitcase on the plane, you’re taking up precious carry-on space. This is inconsiderate to passengers who board after you that may have difficulty finding space for smaller items. Additionally, if too many people bring suitcases, then the flight attendant will just make you check your luggage on the plane anyways, which delays everyone’s take-off. Be responsible and considerate: check your luggage when you board and just bring one set of emergency clothes in a small backpack or duffel bag in the very remote likelihood that your bag gets lost. If you’re really worried, buy a distinctive looking bag so no one grabs your bag by mistake.

  73. Andy
    UK
    December 2, 2012, 8:48 pm

    For the trekkers/mountaineers, wear heavy boots on the plane, use short telescopic walking poles. For camping, I have to disagree about ‘Crocs’ – they are ideal for trudging around wet campsites, tent-to-loo but they are unnecessarily bulky I agree.
    Wear a light jacket with deep pockets – these take documents you can misplace at shops and immigration etc. they help avoid the one bag rule as you can stuff a lot in them, and when the a/c is too cold you can put it back on.
    Andy

  74. Paul
    Vancouver, Canada
    December 7, 2012, 10:33 pm

    I really liked the list. I use many of those tips myself. On my last trip to Mexico I got complacent and forgot to bring a change of clothes in my carry on. Wouldn’t you know it, they lost my luggage and I had no change of clothes for a few days! I always use http://www.CustomTravelChecklist.com to create my packing list. It seems to have the largest number of items on it and it is customizable.

  75. susan seifert
    Bismarck, N.D.
    December 11, 2012, 4:38 pm

    I have found that quart size ziplock bags are handy for EVERYTHING!!!Roll your underthings and put them all in a ziplock, same with your socks,toiletries,belts.Suck the air out and make them as flat as possible. It helps to keep your bag organized,screeners can see your thing without touching them. Its just so organized. Plus you can use the bags for other things when you get there.

  76. Doris
    Toronto, Canada
    December 15, 2012, 4:12 pm

    I wear black jeans, t-shirt and cotton jacket with a nice scarf on the plane which then goes into the SMALL rolling carry-on upon arrival when I switch into the skort and sandals that I brought in the carry on. In my suitcase are quick-dry white tops/blouses and khaki skorts and pants ( not shorts )and a couple of colorful scarves that can double as a head and shoulder cover if visiting religious sites. Good walking sandals and a pair of water proof sandals round out my small suitcase which is expandable if necessary. My travelling purse has room for water,camera,small umbrella etc. and fits in my carry-on which fits over the handle of my small suitcase. Tips are very good, but depends on whether one is backpacking thru Europe or on an adventure tour. Flexibility is the key, and of course a smile.

  77. Bianca
    Philippines
    December 16, 2012, 2:24 am

    Go to hot countries, no need to bring a lot of clothes but your Bikinis , flip flops and a cover up.

  78. [...] The 10 Rules of Packing [...]

  79. Nisha
    Mumbai, India
    January 18, 2013, 12:42 pm

    Nice tips but I don’t agree with all of them.
    Agreed, Jeans takes days to dry but they never look dirty. Wear them on your flights to avoid weight issue. They can go well where you are not allowed to wear capri or shorts.
    I’ll also not agree with Fragile thing though I tie a red ribbon to identify my luggage.

    Stuff your socks in your shoes while packing, shoes remain in shape & your socks don’t occupy any space. :)

    It depends on where you are heading to. I generally carry just a backpack & it contains my laptop, camera, 1 pair of footwear, clothes, medicines and almost everything.
    Simple rule, wear your heavier shoes, clothes while flying to avoid weight issue.

    http://www.lemonicks.com/

  80. Leslie
    Dover, Vermont
    January 28, 2013, 11:29 pm

    Overall a good list.

    Love the rule of three outfits!

    Jeans – Depends on the trip (length, location, season, etc)

    #10 – I got stuck at Big Bear Mt in Cali and brought Crocks b/c I was staying in a hostel and like to wear shoes into the shared shower. Sneakers got soaked, ski boots wouldn’t do, but I spent 2 days walking through ice and snow in Crocks (with toasty socks). They are slippers for all seasons, and work in any sort of weather. Wear them to the pool or beach. Yes, ugly as hell, but you’ve got to admit that they are practical. And stuffed with undies and socks, they don’t take up as much room in your bag as you would think.

  81. Duct Tape
    February 10, 2013, 6:47 am

    Greetings! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Vegas. Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  82. ssd
    February 14, 2013, 11:41 am

    You could certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  83. I love lists « Sleepwalking
    February 17, 2013, 12:20 pm

    [...] good to know and because it’s summer and everyone’s going off somewhere: The 10 rules of packing. I think I’m a good packer, though I belong to the “bring it — you never know, you might need [...]

  84. Eva
    Philipsburg, St Maarten
    March 16, 2013, 2:25 pm

    Nice list! one thing I learned the hard way, if I do have check-in baggage, I always take a picture from all angles on my camera or phone that goes with me on the plane. If the bag does not arrive with me, I can easily show airline/airport people what it looks like. Also for ladies: cotton pareos/sarongs can be used as clothes, towel, head protection and even bedding. This of course goes for gents as well, maybe minus the clothing.

  85. David
    March 18, 2013, 11:52 pm

    Cet article m’a éclairé sur ce sujet. Je ne connaissais pas du tout cette façon de voir ce genre de problématique, j’ai la sensation que je vais améliorer mon ouverture d’esprit. J’ai adoré!

  86. Lisa
    MA
    April 8, 2013, 4:47 pm

    I pack light, never bring jeans, always layers and wash clothes in the sink. Easy – bring a bar of Naptha soap. It lasts a long time, rinses out of your clothes easily, and no liquid to carry. Perfect!

  87. The 10 Rules of Packing | CV Tourist
    April 25, 2013, 4:16 am

    [...] Read More:  CV Tourist @ Intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic [...]

  88. [...] Aric Queen has been travelling the world for more than a decade. Here are his top 10 rules published on The Good Traveler blog. [...]

  89. The 10 Rules of Packing
    June 8, 2013, 11:36 am

    [...] Read More:  CV Tourist @ Intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic [...]

  90. Vivienne
    Bangalore, India
    June 25, 2013, 7:04 am

    On an aircraft, I always travel in a trouser and jacket with multiple, deep pockets. Keeps important documents, cell phone, currency, etc. close to me (!) and I don’t worry about mislaying anything. But watch out for security checks when you have to empty your pockets. For this I carry a large transparent ziplock or regular plastic bag. I also pack multiple light weight scarves in different sizes to jazz up an outfit, cover shoulders and as an emergency shoulder bag. Camisoles are light and help extend a travel wardrobe when worn under a shirt, by itself or with a shoulder scarf.

  91. Amin
    germany
    July 7, 2013, 6:08 am

    Thanks for your good article
    I really need this article
    thanks and
    I have question how can i join to national geographic group?

  92. going abroad for the first time ever have been told that my handbag has to go into my suitcase is this true as i need somewhere to keep my passport and my asthma puffas plus my euros am taking one small case and was planing to keep my hanbag with me durin
    United Kingdom
    August 14, 2013, 12:31 pm

    please answer my question

  93. Camping and kite centre
    Wales UK
    August 19, 2013, 6:25 am

    Great advice and nice tips thanks for sharing. Before leaving to a camping tour we must have to follow these advice and then we can make our trip more enjoyable and memorable.

  94. […] John Edwin Mason, with whom I’ll be staying in Charlottesville this week, posted a link to this article about packing for travel. One of the tips is to not bring jeans, but to instead go with cotton or […]

  95. […] Friday’s “The 10 Rules of Packing” post got our readers (and our staffers) talking — on the blog, Facebook and Twitter — so we […]

  96. Sewa Mobil Solo
    Surakarta, Indonesia
    March 24, 10:35 pm

    I think, we can bought clothes at the destination because we do not need to carry a lot of bags. We can bring one or two shirts.

  97. Robert Leonpacher
    Houston, TX
    April 4, 3:13 pm

    If your debit/credit card gets stolen call the company and have them cancel it. The number to call is on the card. duh… But you don’t have the card! So record that number, and the credit card number, especially if you are in a foreign country. In Berlin I left my card on the counter at a shop. Got to the hotel and realized what had happened. Got my list out, called and had it canceled promptly. On the list was my passport number too! Carry on list and pack a copy!