What Are Your Rules for Packing?

Our November issue hit newsstands last week, and features a super-handy Travel Intelligence manual, the ultimate in trip-planning tools from National Geographic’s experts — like Traveler‘s Digital Nomad.

Andrew Evans spends more than half the year in far off places (right now, he’s circling the globe with National Geographic Expeditions on their Around the World by Private Jet trip), and has learned a few rules to pack by along the way.

Here are his top five recommendations for how to travel smart in the digital age:

1. Buy it there: Your favorite hair gel isn’t worth the hassle at the airport.

2. Color code: Electrical tape matches up gadgets with cords and chargers.

3. Think beyond the roll-aboard: Go with a soft duffel bag on safari, a garment bag for formal dress, or one shared suitcase for a couple.

4. Take two (pairs of shoes): Wear the heavier ones on the plane.

5. Live recyclable: Donate old clothing and books after using them.

>> What are YOUR tried-and-true rules for packing when you travel? Send your stories and photos to Travel_talk@ngs.org or tell us about them in the comments section below, and your response just might make it into an upcoming issue of Traveler magazine.

Keep up with Andrew’s adventures on the Digital Nomad blog and on Twitter @WheresAndrew.


  1. Jen
    May 22, 2013, 2:37 pm

    I was given this advice many years ago and it’s done me.
    Lay out everything that you want to take. Halve it. Halve it again. Pack that.

  2. Christian Rene Friborg
    November 27, 2012, 11:01 pm

    For me the most important rule in packing is to pack light! Especially if the trip is going to be a long one. It’s difficult enough to bring clothes and other stuff that you don’t really need or will not use during the vacation.

  3. Heather
    November 1, 2012, 10:08 am

    We just got back from a cruise, and the one thing that actually helped was packing light (non wrinkle prone) clothing in zip lock baggies, then you can push the air out of it. It’s a cheaper way than buying those larger travel bags. And it makes your suitcase that much larger to pack more things. I also agree with the layering up when you are on the plane. We flew down to Miami, and obviously it was warmer than the North East. but I still had a sweatshirt on. It came in handy as a pillow at one point.
    I also really like the first idea to buy there! We weren’t planning on checking a bag at the airport. So our plan was to bring travel sized everything and buy razors in Miami. This worked out perfectly! Then before the flight back we just tossed them away and went on our way!

  4. Dixie
    Ozark Mountains
    October 23, 2012, 10:08 pm

    1. Carry on only, even on long trips. There are washing machines all over the world.
    2. Take multi function garments. Black tights and be used to keep warm under pants or worn with a skirt that also works as a strapless dress. A light weight cardigan sweater can be layered or buttoned up and worn as a shirt.
    3. You do not need your whole make up case! Only take the basics and try to stick to powders to avoid issues with airport security.

  5. www.travelwithkevinandruth.com
    October 23, 2012, 9:02 pm

    Number one rule? Pack light. You can wash socks and underwear daily in your room and it takes only minutes. We just spent four and a half months touring Czech Republic and Slovakia and only had a small carry on rolling backpack each. Even then, I could have left several items behind. We wore good quality comfortable hiking boots, and brought a pair of cheap flip flop sandals. No jeans! Lightweight cotton pants, that zip off to become shorts, as well as a couple of pairs of shorts. If you need something warmer, you can buy it at your destination.

  6. Telelanguage
    October 23, 2012, 7:53 pm

    Don’t be afraid to wear the same outfit multiple times. Traveling isn’t a fashion show. Better yet, if possible, pack items that you can mix and match.


  7. JAK
    October 23, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Besides what’s said in the other comments, I always layer it up on the plane, That way you can bring more clothes, stay warm on the flight, and if it gets too warm on the flight, you can always take off a layer and use it as an extra pillow (sweatshirts are great for this).

  8. Ailsa at wheresmybackpack.com
    The blue planet (right now, the US)
    October 23, 2012, 7:22 pm

    One indispensable item I bring everywhere is the humble sarong. It takes up almost no room in your case and has a myriad of uses, from beach cover-up to clothing to a makeshift bag. You could even fashion a tourniquet out of it in an emergency if you had to. Thankfully, I’ve never had to!

  9. Chijersey
    New York
    October 23, 2012, 6:44 pm

    If I can’t carry it on by myself then I’ve packed to much.
    This is my general rule of thumb but it is easier when I travel with my wife to pack more. We can split up the gadgets and clothes more effectively. Depending on the length of the trip we often drop off laundry along the way when we spend two or three nights in one place on a 7-14 day trip.

  10. MDBurgos
    South Florida
    October 23, 2012, 5:44 pm

    1. Don’t take what you never use/wear at home now.
    2. Leave the laptop at home (if not on business), and use that tablet. Ditto for books and mags. Load on tablet.
    3. Get towelettes. For face, etc. Great for refreshing, light, great when little or no water around.

  11. Dinosaur River Expeditions
    Vernal, Utah
    October 23, 2012, 5:24 pm

    At Dinosaur River Expeditions we take people of all ages, from all around the world on four to five day white water river rafting trips. There are a lot of important items to bring, extra shoes, extra sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. The one area that I have found critical to a successful vacation is rain gear and warm clothes appropriate for the weather conditions you may encounter. Our guide staff pays very close attention to the weather forecasts and helps our guests pack appropriately for their trip before departing. Dinosaur National Monuments Green River and Yampa River offer great white water, incredible scenery, awesome camps and a lot of fun. When the weather turns nasty it can go from beautiful summer weather to very cold almost winter like storms quickly.