Traveling is a time to destress, renew relationships with your friends and family, and experience new cultures and destinations. However, travel comes with packing, a thing which, we can all agree, is not as glamorous as traveling. No matter how many times you’ve checked your suitcase and ran through your list of must-have items, it’s almost impossible to leave without forgetting something important. And when this happens, you either have to continue your trip without it or buy a replacement. To help you avoid this, we compiled a list of the most common travel packing mistakes. Hopefully, reading about them can help you avoid them and make the most out of your trip. Let’s start!
Rolling instead of folding is one of the golden rules of minimalist packing. Not only does this help you cram more clothes in your luggage but it can also help prevent wrinkles if you do it right. You can also use rubber bands to keep all of your clothes in place and make everything more organized.
Not packing your toiletries properly
First of all, if something can leak, always assume that it will. So, whenever carrying hair gel, shampoo, mouthwash, etc. make sure to keep them separately from your other things, especially items that can be potentially harmed by liquids.
Also, when talking about toiletries, toothpaste isn’t a high-priority item but a surprisingly high number of travelers forget to pack it. It’s one of those things that makes you ask yourself, “why didn’t I just double-check to see if I brought it?” Most hotels will give you a travel-sized tube for free, but if you have a favorite brand or need toothpaste for sensitive teeth, you may need to scour the city for a convenience store. Or, if you went camping, you may be out of luck or have to drive to the closest town to buy some.
Throwing away your packing list too soon
A lot of travelers don’t like using it, but packing lists are always helpful when it comes to not forgetting some important items. Whether you’re a rookie traveler or a seasoned veteran, you can always forget something important. The first thing that comes to mind is sunglasses. Sunscreen can protect your skin, but it can’t protect your eyes. Before you embark on your excursion, make sure you have a pair of sunglasses to bring along. Instead of squinting and using your hand as a visor for a week, sunglasses will let you take in your surroundings without the sun blinding you. Remember, even when visiting winter destinations, the sun can reflect off the snow and be even brighter than in the summer.
Finally, no matter where you go, you most likely always have your cellphone on you. When traveling, cellphones are essential, as they allow you to Yelp the best restaurants nearby, get directions to your next destination, and call your family back home to reassure them you’re having a good time. To ensure your smartphone and other electronics are charged, make sure you pack a portable power bank especially when traveling to destinations where you won’t have access to electricity all the time (ex. Camping).
Taking two backpacks
Nowadays, I see a lot of inexperienced travelers traveling with two backpacks or even two suitcases. This is one of the biggest travel packing mistakes one can make and the reason is obvious. Why would you want to hassle carrying two bags around crowded airports and busy streets? When I moved to India, I left my hometown with one tiny stroller and I stayed in India for over a year.
Did I pack everything I needed?
Yes, I did.
Did I forget to pack anything important that I should have packed and couldn’t find there?
No, I didn’t.
Even if you need to pack more things, opt-in for a bigger suitcase with wheels and a bigger travel backpack that can pass as a carry-on. You can’t convince me that you’ll need more things than these two bags can fit. If you need some more inspiration, read this post on more tips how to travel light and our guide to extreme minimalist travel.
Bringing too many shoes
To put it simply, you can’t fold or roll shoes. You can’t do anything to make your shoes take less space in your bag. That’s why the best thing you can do is leaving a couple of pairs of shoes at home. Instead, consider packing flip-flops, especially when traveling to warmer destinations. While we’re at it, you should never…
Forget to check the weather forecast
You’d be surprised to see just how many people make huge travel packing mistakes only because they don’t check the weather forecast before traveling. Sure, if you’re traveling to a tropical island like Bali, you can expect warm weather throughout the year but there are also times of the year in which the island gets heavy rain. And if you’re not prepared for rainy weather, this can make the whole trip a lot more difficult.
Not sharing suitcases (for couples)
When you’re traveling as a couple, it’s logical for each one of you to have your own suitcase. However, there’s always that small probability that one of your suitcases gets lost or misplaced and you have to wait a couple of extra days for the airline to retrieve it. If you pack separately, one of you is going to have a very hard time. But if you divide your things into two separate bags, you’ll be prepared for the worse, and even if it happens, you’ll be sure it doesn’t spoil your trip.
Bringing too many beauty products but forgetting the essentials
A lot of girls don’t want to interrupt their skincare regime while traveling and that’s why they try to pack as many beauty products as possible. In fact so much, that they oftentimes forget essentials like sunscreen.
There’s nothing like coming back from a vacation with bronzed skin that tells everyone you went away on a trip. However, it’s also important to make sure you take care of your skin to prevent wrinkles, sun spots, and even melanoma down the line. As you pack your suitcase, make sure you pack some sunscreen, too. Even better, make sure your sunscreen is free of oxybenzone. This harmful chemical can hurt your endocrine system, cause cancer, and is also bleaching the world’s coral reefs. Instead, opt for a natural sunscreen that uses minerals to maintain healthy skin.
Alternatively, if you still want to take a lot of your beauty products, consider bringing travel-size products that are also multi-functional.
Packing an entire a pharmacy
You never know when accidents are going to happen. Maybe you went on a tropical getaway and jumped off a boat and hit your heel on a rock. Or perhaps you were partying it up and took a tumble and ended up with a gash on your leg. Whether it was minor or major, you might want to bring along a first aid kit you can easily get to in order to stop bleeding and disinfect any cuts, scrapes, or bruises. However, this isn’t very likely and if your destination has an airport, it will also have pharmacies and hospitals.
Poor itinerary planning
Having some kind of itinerary will give you a bit of space, as you’ve already made some of the decisions for yourself. Moreover, it can also help you with packing because if you know your schedule, you’ll know what you need to bring along too. If you don’t know where to start when planning activities to keep yourselves busy, you can often find guides for vacation planning through the companies you book with. Wyndham Vacation Rentals has put together guides on things to do for popular U.S. destinations and these can be really helpful. They use the knowledge of the locals to select the best places to eat in and things to do and try to balance downtime with go-time, so you will have the perfect day-to-day schedule.
Forgetting a laundry bag
Your luggage will very likely be filled with dirty clothes when you’re coming back. And no one likes their dirty clothes to get mixed up with clean clothes. That’s why taking a laundry bag is very important and surprisingly, one of the most common travel packing mistakes a lot of travelers do.
Not respecting the 3oz/100 rule
Photo by SlimVirgin CC by 3.0
When talking about making travel packing mistakes, we just have to mention the TSA regulations. It’s surprising to see just how many people bring shampoo, large bottles of toothpaste, hair spray, and liquids in packages that exceed the regulations. Always adhere to the 3oz/100 rule unless you want to say goodbye to some of your items.
Forgetting about local culture
When packing, it’s very important not to disregard the local culture and the way people dress over there. Knowing a few things about the culture can only make your trip better and help you pack the right things. You don’t want to wear something too flashy in a country with a more conservative culture. Additionally, if you’re planning to tour temples and other holy sites, most of them will have a strict dress code that needs to be respected. Knowing this can help you make some good decisions when it comes to packing the right outfits for the trip.
Taking more books
Don’t get me wrong, I love books. Without them, I wouldn’t have become the travel writer I am today and I always carry a book when I travel. However, taking more than one or two books on a short trip is completely unnecessary. First of all, you’ll probably do a lot of exploring and won’t have a lot of time to read. And if you can’t think of things that you would like to experience more than reading a book in your hotel room, maybe you should reconsider taking that trip.
Not using smaller bags to organize your things
When camping, I always use compression bags and packing cubes. However, these are good for all kinds of trips. They keep your things organized and protect your clothes from the rain.
Packing cubes are just amazing and I don’t remember how I was living before I started using them. You can use one for your shirts, one for your pants, one for your accessories, etc. Additionally, you can use them even when you’re not traveling if you want to store your off-season clothes and keep them under your bed or in a separate closet.
Compression bags work in a similar way like packing cubes; their purpose is to help you store your clothes in a small zip-lock bag that can be sealed and rolled out until all the air comes out, making your clothes take far less space than what they would take if you just fold them. Surprisingly (or not), sucking the air out can get you up to 50% more space in your suitcase.
I know I mentioned that taking two backpacks on a trip is a mistake but when I say day backpack, I’m referring to a small pack in which you can store your map, compass, camera, extra clothes you need for the excursion, and perhaps a bottle of water. The size of the day pack you bring depends on your style and your needs but personally, I always say, the lighter, the better. Especially if your day trip includes a lot of movement.
To sum up
Researching the culture of the place you’re going and the weather are of utmost importance. Nothing messes up your trip realizing that your clothes aren’t favorable to the climate there but don’t overthink it and don’t overpack.
What are some of the most common travel packing mistakes you did in the past? Did you find yourself doing some of the things on our list during your trips? Let us know in the comments!
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