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We used to over pack terribly when we traveled internationally and I typically ended up carrying my backpack and 2 heavy suitcases through sandy streets in beach towns, hilly and uneven streets in e.g. Hong Kong, and bumping into people right and left.
A few years ago, we flew to Providencia, which is a small Caribbean island belonging to Colombia. The flight there takes place in a small plane and, with the inexpensive ticket that we had, we were allowed only one carry-on per person weighing max. 5kg and that's it.
We debated if we should store our luggage at the airport in San Andres from where the only flight takes off or... pack light.
Well, we decided to take the risk and pack only what we needed - and we survived! I am proud to say that was the time when we truly learned to pack efficiently and we have done it ever since.
Gone are the days where we packed clean clothes for every vacation day plus a few extra ones, a whole pharmacy to ensure that we have something for every possible illness we could get. And guess what: We still wear clean clothes every day, have the medicine that we most likely need and now we save on fees for checked bags and we travel lightly and easily.
Below, I will explain what we do and why we do it and I will show you our packing list which is designed for adults traveling in warmer climates. If you travel with children or go to colder or rainy climates, then you will need to add more items.
...is that you don't need to bring a set of clean clothes for each day of your itinerary. Hotels typically have laundry machines and, if you are as stingy as I am, you can wash your clothes in the hotel bathroom yourself for free.
We typically bring clean underwear and shirts for 3 days. It is important to bring clothes that are light weight and dry easily. My normal office socks and many of my t-shirts are easy-dry that you can buy in any department store; we had to look a little harder to find easy-dry underpants.
If you are traveling light, (almost) nothing is worse than clothes that soak up water and need 3 days to dry.
Typically, every other evening, in the hotel we spend 10min to wash our clothes in warm water using the shampoo or soap that is provided by the hotel. Then we use extra hotel towels, place our clothes on a towel, roll it up and then wring as much water out as we can. Actually, this is a great game - see how lets go of the towel first when twisting it.
Afterwards, we use cheap metal hangers (the ones that you get with a garment purchase in some stores or at the dry cleaners) and some clamps and hang them in our hotel room over night, ideally in a place where there is some air movement from the ceiling fan or A/C.
In most cases, the clothes will be dry the next morning.
...is that you may not want to pack things that you think you may need or things that you will only need once.
Here are some ideas:
...is that clothes that you roll up need much less space. Therefore, I always roll up my clothes to maximize storage space.
I typically pack enough prescription medicine for the duration of the trip plus 3 days. As I don't want to carry the big orange containers that mostly have air in them, I put my medicine in a small medicine bottle.
Since I sometimes get headaches or migraine, I always put the headache and migraine pills together in a small container (e.g. an old Advil bottle) or alternatively you can use a small plastic zip lock bag. And I never take more than I think I will need.
Other than those, I only carry a few Tums and Pepto Bismo with me. Again, I put them in small containers or plastic bags and never take more than I will need. If you need more and you travel abroad, then you may find that they may actually be cheaper where you are.
I love my DSLR camera and my camcorder, but I need to admit that my cell phone camera is so good that it can often replace them. So, nowadays I only take my DSLR camera and its multiple lenses if I go to a place where I know I will take epic photos. If we go on a beach vacation, then I will leave it at home and only take my cell phone and my underwater camera.
Foldable bag for shopping or the beach
Reusable empty water bottle
Underwater camera with charger (if needed)
Breath mints and snacks
DSLR camera with various lenses and charger
Camcorder with charger
Large beach towel
Small umbrella or foldable rain jacket if needed
Rash guard (can replace 1 T-Shirt if needed)