Readers’ Rules of Packing

Last Friday’s “The 10 Rules of Packing” post got our readers (and our staffers) talking — on the blog, Facebook and Twitter — so we thought we’d publish a few additions to Aric S. Queen‘s original list. If you have anything to add (or beg to differ), toss in your two cents in the comments section below.

1. Start early: Keep a box in your bedroom so you can drop in items you’ll need as you think of them. This passive activity is easy and painless. (Norie Quintos, executive editor at National Geographic Traveler. Check out Norie’s blog post on how to pack for a big trip.)
2. Always bring a 30 gal. or larger trash bag for dirty clothes. This way you can pack them back in the same suitcase without getting your clean clothes smelly. (Lisa M.)
3. Have 2 ziplocs w/ extra cash and IDs in separate spots! (@TheScenicRte)
4. Refill hotel-issued shampoo, conditioner, and lotion bottles with your own products. They’re already labeled correctly, small enough not to be checked, and the environment will thank you for recycling. (Carolyn Fox, senior producer for travel, National Geographic)
5. 3 pairs shoes only=pack 2+wear 1 that takes up most space. (@FoodWineFinder)
6. Download movies on your smart phone or tablet before your flight so you’re not stranded on the plane watching a movie you’ve already seen (or never want to). (Zain Habboo, director of digital content at National Geographic)
7. Put the big stuff in first, then the little stuff on top or squished in between. (Kimberly C.)
8. Always pack swimsuit & LBD. (@michellepestano)
9. Pack an empty duffel bag. I always end up with more as my trip goes on. (Bernard R.)
10. Don’t bring anything you’re not willing to lose/get stolen! (@DCaroNY)

Here are a few bonus rules from Aric, who just finished sailing through the fjords in Patagonia, and is getting ready to head off to Buenos Aires:

1. Always, always, always carry a “dummy” wallet around with you [keep $20-$30 and a few business cards in there so it doesn’t seem fake] and hide the bulk of your money and your passport somewhere else. If you’re mugged, quickly throw it to the mugger. I’ve been mugged many times, and no one’s ever waited around to go through the wallet. They’ll take it and run.
2. There’s no need to keep a copy of your passport on you. Scan it, save it in your email, and you’re good.
3. Wet wipes should be issued with passports. Take them everywhere.

Our more rugged travelers should be sure to check out 2007 Adventurer of the Year Andrew Skurka’s advice on how to pack light on our Adventure blog. He’s so hardcore he uses a cat-food can for a stove!

Homepage photo: Mary Baxter/My Shot


  1. Don Frazier
    June 3, 2014, 11:17 am

    Box idea pretty good.

    But make sure you log everything you throw in! I’ve driven myself crazy searching for stuff I’d already packed…

  2. Steve Mungle
    May 4, 2013, 12:56 pm

    Here’re some great ideas about packing for a safari –

    Pretty essential when you need to travel light and have heavy cameras and photographic kit to tag along.

  3. Steve Ingle
    October 23, 2012, 1:35 pm

    If Aric has been mugged multiple times and he has seen that the muggers grab his wallet and run without looking inside, why does he continue to reward the muggers by putting in $20-30? I have a dummy wallet full of business and restaurant cards so the wallet is a bit bulky and put in five $1 bills with the edges of the bills sticking up out of the wallet’s top so they can see that there is money and not be tempted to stop and look to see if there is money inside while I’m still there, plus as Aric said, most muggers take the wallet and run.
    I also have sewn an extra pocket into the front top of my briefs with a zipper to keep my valuables safe. Most muggers are not going to take the time to frisk you there around your crotch as they might around your socks or by making you take off your shoes or even frisk you for a money belt around your waist-those seemingly safe places that everyone knows money is commonly hidden.

  4. PeeJay
    Toronto canada
    October 22, 2012, 12:53 pm

    1 pack for max 4 days. Even business stuff
    2 carry small packets of laundry detergent and wash undies, socks etc… If you have dress shirts, pay more to get the wrinkle free still have to iron but easier
    3. Max 2 shoes. One on feet and one in carryon. Jogging around hotel is great to see the neighbourhood. Instead of jogging for exercise, learn yoga!
    4. Buy one generic power adapter that can handle computer, ipad and blackberry (cell phone of your choice). Bring a splitter.
    5 bring meds and first aid – allergy pills, band aids, advil, tide to go for mishaps
    6 yes to small notebook and record flight, hotel etc info. Some airlines use booking reference or etkt number and not names for etkts. Less paper to carry. And you can show taxi driver the address. If you do not speak the language, get a few phrases wrtiien down to say “take me to , ” in both languages and glue to your notebook!
    7 split cash and cards in different pockets
    8 no jeans, too bulky unless you really need
    9 buy lulu lemon t shirts. One will do, never seem to stink up
    10 minimize paper, it is heavy

  5. Olga
    Naberezhnye Chelny, Russia
    March 14, 2012, 9:06 am

    For those who travel light or backpaking:
    – Only take clothes which need no ironing or clothes which even by itself by wearing it for the short time.
    – Never take clothes or shoes you don’t wear often at home thinking you will wear them while traveling (for example a nice but uncomfortable dress) – in travel you will prefer even much comfort than at home. Only take old time-tested favorite stuff.
    – Don’t waste your luggage space and weight by bringing shampoo, soap, shower gel etc. which can be found in large amount at almost any place of earth. Better buy a local one (if yo are not staying in a hotel which provides it all) and leave it there. Better use your precious luggage space for really memorable and precious things. Always bear in mind luggage space and weight is worth gold

  6. Marilyn Love
    New Jersey
    March 13, 2012, 10:09 am

    I pack all underwear in zip lock bag, all Tshirts in another, all socks in another, etc. Then lay on them as you zip them up to
    squish out the extra air. Eliminates space and refolding and packing when stuff gets mixed together, makes it easier to find what you need.

  7. Tiffany Hsu
    San Francisco, CA
    March 6, 2012, 11:17 pm

    Notebook and a pen. I’m always constantly writng something down, a name of a restaurant I want to check out, my email to give to new friends, an “I’m safe and just wandering” note to sleeping travel mates, or notes about food I’ve tried that I want to serve in my future cafe. They take little space and are low tech enough to not worry about losing.

  8. Megan Snedden
    New York
    March 5, 2012, 12:36 pm

    I like the idea of the dummy wallet, good idea! Here’s a couple more tips: For backpacking, I roll my shirts to create more space then pack them in a ziplock bag with dryer sheets to keep things smelling fresh. If you sit on the bags while you zip them, you compress the air out making additional space. Silly but true!

  9. Ryan Long
    Austin, TX
    March 4, 2012, 11:26 pm

    I know the tip above said to wear the biggest pair of shoes and pack the smaller ones. I often pack the bulkier shoes on the front end of the trip and wear them home. It means that on the way back, I’ll have extra space in my bag. Extra space makes it easier to pack for the return trip, especially if I have acquired more things during the trip.

  10. […] and Twitter — so we thought we’d publish a few additions to Aric S. Queen‘s original list.Via addthis_url = […]

  11. Diana
    Doha, Qatar
    March 4, 2012, 1:30 am

    First, if you aren’t worried about weight/space in your suitcase, pack your clothes still on their hangers. They go into the bag first and flat, with everything else on top. Just fold the hangers over and you’re good to go. Unpacking’s a breeze, too.

    If you travel often, or maybe even if you don’t…
    There are certain items you need ONLY when you travel. Keep them together in your empty suitcases. It’ll help you remember some items you might otherwise forget, and save you a ton of time when you pack and unpack.
    Things like: motion sickness pills – why have them in the medicine cabinet?
    Cosmetics cases – why have them take up space in the bathroom?
    Shoe bags and a colorless shoe polisher
    Address book or list for postcards
    travel iron
    lint brush
    travel umbrella

  12. Miles B
    Los Angeles, CA
    March 3, 2012, 11:00 pm

    I often try to pack in the smallest bag as possible, and a trick I learned that helps a ton is to roll your clothes. It takes up much less space than folding. If you are staying at a hotel, just use the iron to remove any wrinkles you don’t want. If you are backpacking, you probably will not be worried about wrinkles.


  13. Arlade Lotum
    Antibes, France
    March 3, 2012, 3:22 am

    Always, always remember a towel ;-)

  14. Debbie
    Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
    March 2, 2012, 7:40 pm

    I made a travel vest out of an old coat I bought at Goodwill. It has large pockets and can fit over 40 lbs of stuff in the pockets. I waddle through the airports, but, hey…who cares? I can get my stuff to Nicaragua without paying for it. Mainly I made it to transport children’s books because I am starting a library in Nicaragua. It’s really expensive to ship books, so this solved my problem.