Don’t overpack!

Unfortunately, overpacking is way too easy. It’s difficult to know what’s important to pack and what can be left at home, especially if it’s your first time abroad!

Don’t worry, we are here to give you some packing tips to help you avoid that impossible-to-close suitcase and leave you with the right amount of luggage to make your travels this summer a breeze.

1. Get ready to pack and roll!

Many people assume folding their clothes is the best way to keep everything neat and wrinkle-free, but rolling your garments will actually help prevent wrinkles AND provide more space. This is one of the best tips to compress and fit all of your belongings!

 2. Layers

Layers are the key to traveling. In one day you might be out in the hot sun, inside an air-conditioned room, visiting a church or temple requiring coverage, and out at night during a cool evening. Layers are how you will get through the day feeling comfortable and at ease.

Even if you are traveling to a warm destination like Asia there are still going to be times you might want some warmer clothing. Airplane rides can get chilly and sleeves are the best prevention against bug bites! Don’t make the mistake of assuming you won’t want one or two items to provide coverage or warmth. We recommend a light sweatshirt or jacket, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and breathable pants.

3. Make Cuts

Maybe you start out with 12 of your favorite shirts. Take a moment to evaluate all of them. Which ones could you do without this summer? Do you really need that dressy top you might wear to dinner at some point?

Lay out everything you are taking. Before you pack it, ask yourself why are you packing it. If you aren’t sure, or if you are packing it for a “what if” occasion, it’s probably best to leave it out. You want to focus on items that you NEED, not items that you think you might want.

4. Remember: You can do laundry!

Don’t assume that because you are traveling for two weeks that you need to pack 14 days of clothing! There will be plenty of opportunities to wash your clothes so keep in mind that you will get more than one use out of each item you pack. A good rule of thumb is to pack for seven days. You can easily do laundry once a week!

5. Pack versatile clothing

Bring tops that can be worn with more than just one pair of shorts or a certain skirt. Avoid “outfits” and pack mix and match pieces instead. This will provide more variety and make the 5 shirts you pack feel like two weeks’ worth of different outfits!

Think about function when packing. For example, take a sarong. This could be used as a beach cover-up, a towel, a shawl for your shoulders, a headscarf to shade from the sun, or even a blanket on a cool flight! It takes up hardly any space but serves multiple functions. Packing items like this are the key to a light suitcase.

Bottom Line: Each clothing article you bring should meet at least three of these requirements.

  • Comfortable for the day time, but can be dressed up for the evening
  • Doesn’t show stains/doesn’t wrinkle
  • Folds up small
  • Good for multiple weather climates (ex: works in warm or cool weather)
  • Coordinates well with most items you are bringing

6. Shoes: The dreaded space stealer.

Here’s one area where it’s easy to take up a ton of space in your luggage, especially if you’re a girl! The rule of thumb is one pair of sneakers for outdoor activities like hiking or biking, and one comfortable pair of walking shoes. Bonus points if your sneakers can double as walking shoes! It’s also a good idea to bring one slightly dressier pair of shoes you can wear out to dinner. Just make sure that they are comfortable to walk in. And please, no heels or wedges!

Tip: Store your socks, underwear, and jewelry inside your shoes to create more space! It’s also a smart idea to pack your shoes in plastic bags so they won’t get your other clothing dirty.

7. Don’t bring a huge suitcase! 

It’s tempting to want to bring a full sized suitcase to fit everything, but please please avoid this! A medium-sized or carry on sized suitcase is perfect and will be easy for you to maneuver. It also means it will be harder for you to pack “too many things” which you want to avoid. Trust us; you’ll thank us when you don’t have to lug a giant suitcase around with you all summer!

8. It’s not a fashion show, but you will want to look presentable!

This is one of the most important pieces of advice we can give to help you avoid over packing. It is NOT a fashion show. No one is judging how your top matches your shoes or if you are wearing designer clothing. What’s important is you are comfortable and dressed appropriately for the country you are visiting. Short shorts and crop tops are not appropriate for touring around Europe, and wedges will get you nowhere in Thailand.

You ARE representing your country. So please be respectful of cultures and different dress codes. Some places it’s a sign of respect to keep your shoulders covered, some places it’s important to take off your shoes before entering a building. Please be aware of this! Don’t be the American tourist with the cut off shorts and tank top trying to get inside St. Peters Basilica!

9. If you aren’t prepared to lose it, don’t pack it!

Expensive watch? New fancy shoes? Don’t bring them! Expect the unexpected when you travel. Anything from lost luggage to bags getting damaged can happen. So pack smart and don’t bring anything that you would be devastated to lose!

10. Leave a little extra

Don’t stuff your suitcase! You will want to make sure you have enough space for your return home to fit any new purchases and souvenirs. Telling your mom you are so sorry you couldn’t bring her back that Murano glass she requested because you didn’t have room probably isn’t going to fly… so make sure your bag is a little underweight and that you have some extra space!

And lastly…

Pack a water bottle! Seriously! The one item you should bring with you no matter where you are going. Staying hydrated is the best way to make sure you have healthy and happy travels, so don’t forget it!

Maggie Valz

Maggie is from Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Education. She spent many years working as a camp counselor and enjoys tennis, reading, and being outdoors. Along with teaching abroad in Australia, South Korea, and Spain, she has backpacked extensively throughout Europe and Southeast Asia. One of her favorite things to do while traveling is to try the local food, and she is always excited about her next adventure with TFT!

Maggie TFT Team Member

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