5 Packing Hacks From A World Traveler

5 Packing Hacks From A World Traveler

Jetsetter tips for when your entire closet won't fit in a suitcase


How do you pack for six months in a checked-bag?

No, really, I am asking you. Soon after New Years, I will be passport in hand at the airport leaving Florida for a six-month study abroad and internship program in London, England. Though I have traveled to over 18 countries, I still feel stressed by packing for trips.

In hopes of not waiting until the day before my flight to pack, I'm sharing my top five packing tips for travelers. Please use these tips to stay organized and sustainable during your next adventure.

1. Know your bare necessity travel items

My mom likes to say that she only needs three items while traveling: her passport, American Express, and a bikini. It is very easy for her to decide what else to pack because she has already identified her essential items. Everything else she might need can be bought there. You might be thinking, "I don't always need to pack a bikini!" I thought the same before our recent trip to Iceland. We wore our swimsuits under our hiking gear so we could float in natural hot spring pools while trekking past glacier covered passes. My mom's bare necessities can be applied to any destination, but I encourage you to identify your own essentials. My essential items include a reusable water bottle, headphones, and a scarf.

2. Keep travel gear together before you book the cheapest flight

The only way to survive last minute packing is by being prepared to grab-and-go your travel gear. I suggest keeping all of your travel gear in the same storage box or drawer, which will help you easily locate and pack these items. I like to store my outlet adapters, travel toiletry containers, and reusable plastic bags inside of my suitcases while I am not traveling. Now, these items are already packed once I pull out my suitcase the day before my flight.

3. Pack older items to donate as you roam

My favorite packing tip is packing older or neglected clothing from my closet and then donating those items abroad. I like to come back home with a lighter bag and have room for souvenirs or new clothing items. I also recommend wearing these items multiple times before you donate them to conserve room in your bag. Adding several different scarfs or a nice jacket can mix up your outfits for your Instagram feed. If you're staying in a hostel, there might be an option to donate your leftover toiletries or clothing to other hostel guests.

4. Buy second hand what you don't need new

Try shopping around at thrift or second-hand stores before you leave if you're more inclined to sport a new outfit while abroad. Shopping second hand is cheaper than purchasing new retail items, plus you can donate the items once you're done with them abroad. I recently purchased a London Fog waterproof trench coat at a Goodwill to bring on my study abroad. This coat has a retail price over $100, but I purchased it gently used for only $5. I plan on hiding from the cold London rains in this coat before donating it to a shelter after my program ends. I've saved money, avoided fast-fashion waste, and donated to charity by using this packing tip.

5. Take a picture of everything you've packed laid out

Finally, I recommend creating an online packing list to stay organized, and then taking a picture of everything laid out on your bed or floor for a quick reference while traveling. I was quickly able to remember whether or not I had packed a particular sweatshirt while I was in Peru by looking at the picture I had taken of all my gear. It is also fun to do a before and after photo with all your gear to see how much you've donated!

I hope these packing tips help you stay stress-free before your next trip. See you on the roam!

Popular Right Now

I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.

After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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