Packing Tips for Travel: Make Smarter Clothing Decisions

packing tips for travel

I love making lists of gear recommendations. Content like the best travel gear and cool travel accessories highlights some of my favorite packing tips for travel, but focuses more on the gear itself than the thought process behind making smarter packing decisions in the first place.

Packing a piece of luggage for weeks or months boils down to using common sense and visualizing scenarios on the road. Spend five minutes imagining a sore back straining under the weight of that bigger pack and extra t-shirts quickly become a nonexistent priority. I think it’s important to build an educated opinion about what constitutes smart packing so habits become second nature and time or money isn’t wasted mulling over different gear and how many pairs of shoes to bring.

Clothing takes up the large majority of anyone’s luggage and seems like a great place to start. Consider these big-picture ideas when formulating packing tips for travel as they pertain to clothing and shoes:

#1 – Doing Laundry Trumps Packing Extra Luggage

One of my first posts on Wanderlust Dispatch discussed methods of doing laundry in a hotel room. The reason is simple: I don’t want to break my back lugging around two weeks worth of clothes when one will do just fine.

(1) The best DIY option involves cheap packets of detergent, a clothesline, and enough time in one locale for drying.

(2) Also consider an Aloksak Bag for washing clothes, especially in regions where sinks are traditionally smaller.

(3) Laundry services in hotels are generally expensive and best avoided by budget travelers.

(4) Laundromats on the side of the street are readily available, but usually require leaving clothes with an attendant for pickup the next day.

(5) Hostels often offer traditional self-service, coin-operated machines.

I have no problem shoving tons of clothes in a box or large duffle bag when I’m jumping in my car to drive somewhere. Once flights are involved, however, I want to be minimal and efficient. Think laundry is too time consuming? Spend a couple hours once a week to catch up on emails or read a book in the down time.

#2 – Adjust Standards for Clothing

While I don’t condone wearing the same pair of underwear for days at a time—unless it’s the ExOfficio Give-N-Go series, a different set of rule should apply to outerwear like pants and shirts. Plenty of people already wear jeans multiple times before a wash, but adopt—or extend—the strategy to virtually every item of clothing. Social protocol at the office or on date night might make it less than ideal to wear that same t-shirt twice in a week, but strangers on the sidewalk in Toyko are probably not going to judge the fashion faux pas.

#3 – Pay Attention to Clothing Material

Packing a smaller number of clothes only helps so much. An equally important factor is material; consider forgoing large amounts of 100% cotton t-shirts and other material that is not only bulkier, but less versatile for varying climates. My previous post on the best clothing material for travel offers a few important observations:

“A long-time favorite of travelers, [merino wool] is thinner than cotton and much less prone to wrinkles. The material also does a great job of regulating body temperatures and doesn’t get itchy. Two long sleeve t-shirts packs down to the same volume as one standard cotton tee. The added space simply means more changes of clothes fits into the same space.”

The other big tip? Ditch the jeans! Everyone loves a good pair of jeans, but the material is bulky and doesn’t dry easily. “Light and easily packable, the non-denim lineup of pants can range from surprisingly classy-looking dress slacks to tactical, cargo pocket-laden pants for intense days of intrigue and finally track bottoms for working out and staying comfortable on flights.”

#4 – Solve the Shoe Conundrum

Active people like myself run into a dilemma when trying to exhibit minimal packing practices. Plenty of nicer shoes are “okay” for long walks around a city, but for people with a relatively grueling travel fitness routine or love for early morning runs need a legitimate pair of athletic shoes. By the same token, some athletic shoes are “okay” for casual nights out, but don’t work for dress codes or times when impressing someone is of the highest order.

Wanderlust Tip

Remember to stuff gear inside of shoes—especially if a bulkier pair is a must-have item for a trip.

The punch line? Two pairs of shoes are an almost certain requirement for travel. People traveling to warm or cold locales might want sandals or boots, respectively, as well. Since even one pair of bulky shoes in a piece of luggage ruins any chance of keeping packing volume to a minimum, look for shoes with smaller profiles. Running shoes come in a variety of minimal form factors nowadays and men’s dress shoes can be slip-on moccasins with flexible soles that can literally bend in half if necessary. Always pack the pair not being worn in a shoe bag and try to avoid shoes with rigid backs that can’t be squished down.

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Packing Tips for Travel: When Common Sense Prevails
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Packing Tips for Travel: When Common Sense Prevails
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Useful packing tips for travel start with clothing—the biggest volume eater in anyone's bag. Read tips and tricks for smarter packing decisions on clothing.
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