Let's start with the basics.
Packing is a skill that you get better at the more you travel but there is no denying that the way you pack can have a massive impact on your trip (positively or negatively). That being said, there tend to be two types of travelers -- those that pack light and those that wish they had.
So, how do you pack for a whole trip in just your suitcase or backpack? You may not want to hear this but the answer is actually pretty simple: pack very little.
Don't think in terms of what could come in handy, think in terms of necessity. When in doubt, leave it out. Remember, if you forget something or realize that you need an item during your trip, you can buy basic necessities at virtually any travel destination. Although it may seem counterintuitive, you shouldn't pack for the worst case scenario. Pack for the best case scenario and handle any issues as they come up.
Furthermore, plan on doing laundry regularly during your travels. We promise, it is the better alternative to carrying more stuff. Whether you are traveling for a few weeks or a few months, you should pack the exact same amount.
Now that we've covered the basics, Here are our tips for packing like a pro:
1. One bag, that's it
The importance of packing light can't be overstated. Carrying a lot of luggage identifies you as a typical tourist, moving around becomes a large-scale undertaking and pick pockets are drawn to your helplessness. By restricting yourself to only one bag, however, you are back in control.
Sure, you can bring along a day pack or tote bag, but only one suitcase or backpack should be allowed. While we're at it, make sure it's within carry-on restrictions for the most economical and hassle free travel experience.
2. Do some research
If you want to be comfortable, maximize your travel wardrobe, and/or blend in to your new destination, doing some research before packing is a must. Plan ahead for specific activities, expected weather, as well as any cultural norms that you should be conscious of. Most activities that impose a dress code will make sure that the dress code is clear, predictable weather conditions can easily be found by a quick Google search, and virtually any guidebook has important information on cultural norms to keep in mind.
When it comes to packing, start the process at least a few days before your departure so that you have enough time to put together a complete packing list and purchase any items that you still might need for your trip. Creating a packing list is the easiest way to ensure you're bringing everything you need (and nothing more!), and provides some nice peace of mind.
4. Packing aids
Packing cubes help keep items separate in your bag and make accessing a specific item easier and more efficient. Compression bags are great for saving space but keep in mind that they can make quickly accessing a specific item slightly more of a challenge.
5. Pack dual purpose clothing
Bring versatile clothing that you can wear in several different outfits or styles. Remember, if a clothing item can be worn in multiple ways, that is less that you'll need to pack. Bringing earth tones that can be worn together is usually a safe move and you can add style with accessories such as scarves or hats.
Packing for dual purposes is especially important with shoes. As the heaviest and bulkiest items to pack (typically), make sure you are maximizing the use of each pair you decide to bring. Bonus pro tip: rethink bringing bulky hiking boots in favor of running or cross training shoes that you may bring anyway.
Packing clothes that can be easily layered, adds versatility to your travel wardrobe and reduces the need to bring larger, bulkier items. By layering, it's easy to modify your outfit to match the style and comfort level that is fitting for a particular moment.
Packing for colder weather can present an even bigger challenge, but if you pack clothes that can be layered you will save tons of space and be better prepared for unexpected temperature changes. This is especially important for extended trips where you'll encounter varying climates and temperatures.
7. Roll, don't fold
To save space and protect against wrinkling, roll your clothes. This actually results in quite a bit of extra space and your clothes will be less prone to getting wrinkles and fold creases.
8. Fill out empty spaces
Pack smaller items in your shoes, a packed purse, or an unused pocket in your backpack. Rolling your clothes helps in this area too because those tightly rolled clothes can often fit in places where they couldn't if they were folded. The most important takeaway is to utilize the spaces that are often overlooked.