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Friday, December 28, 2018

What To Pack For Your Trip Abroad, Pt. I

By Andy

Packing for a trip abroad, no matter the length of the trip, is a tedious process. If you're a perfectionist like I am, you don't want to forget to pack any items, and you won't want to leave anything to chance. It is challenging, but not impossible to bring everything you need for your trip that fits in a suitcase and falls within legal regulations. With advance planning and some research, you can spend a lot less time on your trip abroad, worrying about where you placed a much needed item or locating the nearest store, and more time enjoying yourself. I have used my many years of experience in traveling abroad to compile a list of what to pack for that next great adventure. 

This post will focus on the suitcase, your checked baggage, and a later post will focus on what you should pack in your carry-on baggage. I should mention that, in my years of traveling, I have yet to master bringing just one bag as carry-on, that will fit in the overhead bin and not checking in any baggage. I don't know, nor have I met any fellow travelers who have done this. The only exception is those who travel domestically or for a week or less. If you're like me and you take trips of at least two or three weeks or even a month or longer, you'll understand the need for carefully packing checked luggage. 

So, without any further screwing around, here's an outline of what you should pack in your (checked bag) suitcase.

The suitcase: Well duh, this is blatantly obvious. You need something in which to pack your belongings for your trip abroad. But what you want is something that is strong, versatile, yet doesn't weigh too much. You want to be able to maneuver around airports, bus stations, train stations, and even short walks down the street to your apartment, bus stop or hotel with ease. Multi-directional double spinner wheels at the bottom are a must, and go for additional packing capacity (only available with a soft shell suitcase); you're going to need it.       

Do not get any suitcase larger than 25" because if you get anything bigger than that, you're going to have a very tough time lugging that thing around. You do not want to sweat profusely, hauling a large piece of baggage at LAX, going between the domestic and international terminals just to get your connecting flight. Also, bigger suitcases will run you the risk of going over the weight limit for checked baggage which is 50 kg (just over 110 lbs.). You do not want to look like a fool while checking in for your flight, being told your baggage is over the weight allowance, then fumbling around in your suitcase, looking for items to empty just to drop some weight. To be on the safe side, get a portable travel luggage scale that you can pack in your carry-on, and weigh your suitcase after you've packed everything you need.

If you're a novice to traveling abroad, I recommend getting a suitcase from Samsonite. They are a well known and reliable brand, and they've been in the luggage game for over a century. They have a wide selection of luggage, so you are bound to find something that is the right fit for you. I have the Samsonite Expandable Leverage LTE 25" Spinner in blue, which is a color I like and is easily identifiable at the baggage claim. It has plenty of compartments and even has a removal interior zippered suitor in case you need to pack a nice set of clothes for business or formal (your date wants to go with you to the opera or play) attire.

Luggage tag: Most suitcases come with built-in, and rather inconspicuous luggage tags. But, I have an additional luggage tag that's slightly bigger in size that I place on the top handle. The advantages to this are that it is an additional identifier not only at baggage claim in case some some other travelers have blue suitcases, but in case the airline loses your luggage. I recommend getting something noticeable like the Roaming Gnome or, if you like football, a jumbo helmet luggage tag of your favorite NFL team. Just be sure to write your name, address, and phone number on the tags; common sense comes first.

Cable luggage lock: Ever hear of the luggage mafia? Go ahead and look them up. Now, you see why you need to lock the main compartment of your suitcase with a padlock. Also, with baggage handling, you want to guarantee that the compartments do not somehow become unzipped. Just make sure to set a combination that is easy to remember or, if you must get a key lock, not to lose the keys. Oh, and make sure the lock is TSA accepted/approved.

Toiletries bag: First, make sure there is enough space inside your suitcase for your toiletries bag. As you will be hard-pressed to find an apartment or hotel with sufficient countertop space, get a bag with a hook that can hang on a shower or towel bar. A dependable and sturdy toiletries bag should cost you no more than $20. What to pack in your toiletries bag: shaving razor, travel size shaving cream, travel size after shave, small container with floss, interdental brushes, travel toothbrush, mouthwash, small tube of toothpaste, triple antibiotic ointment (small), travel size petroleum jelly, pocket size sunblock, body spray/cologne, small first aid kit, bandages, eye drops, ear drops, body wash/soap, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, manicure kit, facial hair/nose hair trimmers, comb/brush, hair gel/spray/mousse, condoms, and a pill and vitamin case for over the counter/supplements NOT prescriptions. Prescriptions are to be packed in your carry-on. 

Jacket: This largely depends on when and where you travel. Ideally, a lightweight, not bulky jacket that can be folded and can fit with the rest of your clothes without taking up too much space should do the trick. For example, if you travel to South America in September, the seasons are reversed from the Northern Hemisphere. So, a packable jacket that can fit in your carry-on and even a day pack will be a lifesaver during those rainy expeditions in Brazil. But if you're attending a tango show in Buenos Aires, you might want to go with something a little nicer

On the other hand, if you're traveling to Europe in autumn or winter, you'll want to take something a lot warmer. Don't skimp on warmth and please, keep your coat or jacket with you. Do not pack it in your bag; one is all you need in this case. You can put it in the overhead bin after you've boarded. In colder climes, you're going to need to have your jacket on shortly after you land. 

Shoes: When you travel, you are likely to be doing a lot of walking. So, it is of the utmost importance to be good to your feet and have comfortable walking shoes. If you're the person that likes to exercise and run along the river or in the park, you can pack some running shoes in a shoe bag and place them in your suitcase, as long as there is enough space. You'll save space if you can find good walking shoes that can double as dress shoes. 

Sandals: This will depend on the locale and the season. If you're heading to someplace tropical, pack a pair of sandals that you can take with you to the beach. You don't need expensive ones, just a cheap pair from Wal-Mart will do the trick. 

Socks: Pack no less than five pairs of socks. If you're going to be doing laundry, then you'll want plenty of clean socks while the others are in the wash and drying. Pack no more than two pairs of dress socks. For cold weather travel, Darn Tough Merino Wool socks will keep your feet toasty. Like I said, you're likely to be doing a lot of walking, so take good care of your feet. 

Pants: One to two pairs of jeans and one pair of cargo pants. Hint: If you wear your cargo pants on the day you travel to and from your destination, you'll save space in your suitcase. Plus, you won't have to worry about sitting on your wallet. Duluth Trading Co. and Wrangler are best for cargo pants.

Shorts: Depending on location and season, pack these in your suitcase. Two pairs should be fine, preferably cargo shorts. Head over to your local Wal-Mart for these if you don't have some already. 

Shirts: Depending on the location and season, pack two undershirts, and four t-shirts if traveling to warmer climes, a couple henley shirts that can be long or short sleeve. For clubbing or more formal outings, one polo shirt that can be long or short sleeve depending on season, and/or one dress shirt.

Sweater: One v-neck sweater that can be worn over a dress shirt for more formal outings and one half-zip fleece.

Swim shorts: Two pairs should be fine, and you don't have to wear a sunga. Speedo makes decent trunks that don't resemble diapers, and you don't have to wear the Water Polo briefs.

Gym/exercise: Two tank tops depending on location and season. Two gym/running shorts. If you like to be outdoors during colder weather, pack a running jacket and running/warm-up pants. If you want, you can use the half-zip fleece for those cold morning runs. Be sure to wear a beanie so body heat does not escape from your head.

Gloves: Depending on location and season, you'll want to keep your hands warm. You can also pack these in carry-on if you wish.

Hat: Keep the sun from beating down on you and avoid or minimize sunburn. 

Beanie: Keep your head warm during the colder months.

Underwear: DO NOT underpack on underwear. Again, pack no less than five pairs. Duluth Trading Company Buck Naked Underwear works wonders and is worth the price. 

Pajama bottoms: Pack these unless you want to sleep naked or in your street clothes.

Handkerchief: Pack four of these. Fold them up and they won't take up too much space.

Lint roller:  Get the lint off of your clothes before heading out. 

Travel TowelPack the larger one in your suitcase and the smaller one in carry-on. That way you are never without something with which to dry off. 

Travel size laundry detergent:  Just in case you stay in an apartment that has a washer, but no detergent, and you don't want to search for any at the nearest convenience store.

Laundry bag: Keep your dirty laundry in a separate foldable bag until you have time to do laundry or until the hotel staff does it for you.

Wash bag: Pack this in a side compartment just in case you stay in an apartment that does not have a washing machine.

Souvenirs: Pack a lapel pin or something small from your hometown to give to locals.

Documents: Make multiple copies of your passport and/or birth certificate and place a copy in a side pocket or inside compartment of your suitcase. This helps with being another identifier in case your luggage gets lost. If you take prescription medication, be sure to get a doctor's note from your primary care physician, make copies of that, and place a copy along with your passport copy in one of the compartments. 

Okay, so that about covers what you should pack in your suitcase. Hopefully, you have a starting point on things you should take on your next trip. My next entry will cover what to pack in your carry-on. Until then, happy travels.