When it comes to packing for a trip abroad, even the most organized among us can get a little discombobulated. Stay on course with these tips, tricks, and hacks, honed over nearly 2 million miles in the air.
Color coordinate your clothes. Planning outfits around a single color scheme means fewer shoes to weigh down your suitcase and fewer pieces of jewelry to potentially lose. Add panache with scarves.
Include a quick-dry outfit. Jeans are a travel staple but can take days to dry. Consider lightweight knits, which dry in a flash, whether you get caught in the rain or need to rinse them in the sink. Be sure to pack a hooded raincoat, too, since umbrellas can be challenging in crowded tourist sites.
Pack for your destination. Women traveling to a conservative destination — such as Turkey, the Middle East, and India — should avoid any revealing attire, including such items as miniskirts, short tops with leggings, tank tops, and low-cut blouses. Carry a scarf that can double as a head covering or cover your shoulders if you plan to visit religious sites.
Choose the right shoes. Give your feet a break with thick-soled shoes such as Dansko clogs or European-style trainers, which will get you over cobblestones, through hard-floored museums, and straight to lunch or dinner.
Bring your own electrical adaptors. These days, with most of us traveling with multiple electronics, the single adaptor that you might be able to borrow from the front desk of your hotel just won’t cut it. Throw several adaptors into a plastic bag and keep it in your carry-on. If you get stuck in a foreign airport, you’ll be glad you did.
Think of your carry-on as an emergency kit. No matter what class you’re flying, a medium-sized duffle that you can stuff under your seat, where it can serve as a footrest, can be a lifesaver. It should contain a just-in-case outfit that can get you through your first day; prescription medication; house keys; eyeglasses in a hard case; snacks; a water bottle you fill before leaving the plane since some foreign airports don’t have water fountains; a wrap; a travel pillow such as a Trtl, which is supportive and warm; a toothbrush and toothpaste; and a sleep mask. Waterproof STNKY bags keep dirty clothes separate from the rest of your gear, both on the plane and throughout your trip.
Use your quart bag wisely. Even if you’ve packed your liquid toiletries in your suitcase, it’s smart to have a few things with you on the plane, including toothpaste, liquid cosmetics, lip balm, moisturizer, and contact lens solution, which can be expensive outside of the United States.
Know the rules about duty-free. Those large bottles of liquor, perfume, wine, and olive oil that can be purchased at duty-free shops may be great bargains but only if you plan carefully. The reason? Since you have to go back through security after customs to board the plane to Columbia, South Carolina, the 3-ounce rule goes back into effect, meaning that if you can’t get it into your suitcase — you’ll have a chance when you pick it up at customs — you’ll need to leave that big bottle of EVOO behind.
Pack to stay healthy. While most OTC meds like Tylenol or Paracetamol in Europe are widely available, it’s smart to bring your own mini medical chest that includes Pepto Bismol; alcohol wipes; Compeed blister covers, which are applied directly to a blister and stay on for several days; a sunscreen stick or powder; and a tube of Neosporin. If you’re prone to certain illnesses, like pink eye, UTIs, or sinus infections, ask your doctor for a prescription, fill it, and take it with you.
Keep your identity and personal belongings safe. Today’s thieves use hand-held radio frequency identification scanners to glean personal information from credit cards, passports, and other chipped cards. Foil them by placing yours in an RFID-blocking wallet or pouch. Women should invest in a handbag with a sturdy zipper — snaps and magnetic closures just won’t cut it against pickpockets.
Don’t forget the Bubble Wrap. Stash Bubble Wrap in your suitcase to wrap fragile items or bottles of wine or olive oil that you purchase during your trip. It’s surprisingly difficult to find overseas.
Bring an extra bag. In some countries, there’s a charge for bags for groceries or other purchases. Nylon Baggu bags fold into a tiny pouch, are nearly weightless, hold a lot, and can be slung over your shoulder.
Share suitcase space. If you’re traveling with someone and taking separate suitcases, stash an outfit or two in each other’s bag. That way, if one suitcase gets lost you’ll at least have a few things to wear.