The Art of Packing


Traveling on international trips most of my life has taught me one thing-as you grow older and develop more needs, you need to pack more. I first learned the importance of packing smart in high school. The suitcases back in the day just came out with rolling wheels, but I had not thought to get one. Needless to say, my trip to Washington D.C. was a pain because of trying to carry a carry-on bag and a large suitcase without any wheels through the hotel lobby and everywhere else is not easy. From that moment on, I vowed never to leave packing last minute, but instead plan it down to my toothbrush what to pack and where to pack it into.

After a lesson learned, I began to travel smart. Now, I start a packing list weeks before and whenever I think of something to take, I add it to the list. Then a day or two before a trip I actually start packing and think about what I would need when. Now with all the TSA regulations, travelers have to take extra precautionary about what they can take and how much of what they can bring on.

Due to my upcoming trip to Pakistan, packing is going hard and steady. So I decided to post on traveling smart by packing smart. Here goes:

Think of packing in form of categories: 1. what you need at the airport 2. what you need while traveling on the plane and 3. what you need on your trip.

Items You Should Always Carry On

Checked- Luggage can get delayed or lost. So be sure to label each carry-on item (even a purse). Keep these essentials in your carry-on bag:

  • Passport
  • Airline Ticket (Electronic AND Paper)
  • Money
  • Eyewear
  • Medications
  • Change of clothing including underwear
  • Socks (to keep you warm on the plane)
  • An extra sweatshirt
  • Travel-size toiletries (depending on the length of your trip, extra toiletries can be packed in the checked-in luggage).


  • Batteries are needed for cameras and you should always pack extra for that reason. Make sure they are packed in the checked luggage in a Ziploc bag.
  • If you are traveling internationally, chances are you need a voltage converter for your electronics. Research online the voltage requirements of your destination and purchase a reputable one from Amazon or Fry’s. Make sure the converter is in your carry-on because of you lose it, they are difficult to find overseas.
  • Cameras/Laptops are also suggested to be carried rather than packed in the luggage.  The TSA allows laptops to remain in bags that meet “checkpoint friendly” guidelines. Not all laptop bags are “checkpoint friendly.” A checkpoint-friendly design is one that provides an unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing X-ray screening. This helps to streamline the security process and better protect your laptop.

Clothing Tips

  • Think layering. Pack only versatile layers that mix and match and provide insulation, ventilation and/or weather protection.
  • Before your trip, make sure your outer layer fits easily over your inner layer(s) without binding or bunching up.
  • Cotton can be fine in warm weather; but once wet, it drains your body heat. Synthetic fabrics are recommended; they wrinkle less and dry faster.
  • For 1 week or longer trips, plan on doing laundry rather than packing additional clothes.
  • Stick to 1 or 2 colors that mix and match well.
  • Dark colors look cleaner longer than light colors.
  • Men: A polo shirt is dressier than a tee and is easily layered.
  • Women: A sarong can be beachwear and evening wear.

Footwear Tips

  • Trail-running shoes offer maximum versatility (good for hiking, walking or running).
  • Stuff items inside shoes to consolidate space.
  • Put shoes in a plastic bag (or cloth shoe bag) to keep dirt off of your clothes.
  • Highly suggest wearing flip-flops or ballets or any easy slip on/slip off shoes due to security reasons. The heavier or dressier shoes can be checked in, but wear comfortable shoes at the airport. It saves a lot of trouble and time when your shoes can easily be pulled off and put on at the security point.


  • Always pack toiletries in Ziploc bags in case of leakage.
  • Pack sun screen.
  • No need to change your routine, just pack all your toiletries you need in the checked-in luggage. Take as much as you need. You will save a lot of time searching for stores for toiletries in foreign countries and use that time for traveling instead.
  • Carry a travel-sized toothbrush/toothpaste, a comb, and small facewash in the carry-on if your flight is long and have layovers.

Luggage Dimensions

Rick Steves recommend carrying one bag with you. Now, I am not that big on roughing it when traveling so I won’t be a proponent of that. What I would say is to think long and hard about the nature of your trip. For Pakistan, for example, I just travel to one city and stay at a relatives house. Due to that, I can take up to two large suitcases, a purse, and a carryon with no trouble at all. If you were traveling in Europe or hiking in China on the other hand, then do pack no more than one checked-in luggage.

Also, your carry-on bag should be of a size you are comfortable with. Practice by walking around in the store before you commit to one. When you carry your own luggage, it’s less likely to get lost, broken, or stolen. Quick, last-minute changes in flight plans become simpler. A small bag sits on your lap or under your seat on the bus, taxi, and airplane. So think about that when purchasing a carry-on bag or suitcase with certain dimensions.

Rick Steve’s’ Packing 101

“Spread out everything you think you might need on the living-room floor. Pick up each item one at a time and scrutinize it. Ask yourself, “Will I really use my snorkel and fins enough to justify carrying them around all summer?” Not “Will I use them?” but “Will I use them enough to feel good about hauling them over the Swiss Alps?” Frugal as I may be, I’d buy them in Greece and give them away before I’d carry that extra weight over the Alps.”

Don’t pack for the worst-case scenario. Pack for the best-case scenario and simply buy yourself out of any jams. Think in terms of what you can do without — not what will be handy on your trip. When in doubt, leave it out. Go casual, simple, and very light. Remember, in your travels you’ll meet two kinds of tourists — those who pack light and those who wish they had. Say it out loud: “PACK LIGHT PACK LIGHT PACK LIGHT.”

I hope this helps. Happy Travels!

Note: I will be traveling for two weeks so I won’t be posting as regularly as I do now. I hope you understand and return in two weeks for more proverbial good-e-ness.

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