Well this post is only for those of you who might be doing what I’m doing at some point, so feel free to skip this if you just aren’t interested in PACKING.
I took a healthy interest in packing as soon as I decided to go to a foreign country for six months, and packing just wasn’t hard enough for me, so I decided to go backpacking for 18 days with my carry-on and leave my luggage in storage before reclaiming it to fly to the University of South Australia.
So here’s a list of tips that you’ll probably encounter elsewhere on the internet, but never with the kind of zest and sly humor you’ll find here.
Tip #1 THINGS THAT ARE NOT LIQUIDS
When packing one’s quart-sized back for our friends at the TSA in your carry-on, remember that soft solid deodorant, face wipes, and bar soap are not liquids. They make some super strong hippie shampoo that you only need like, a dime of if you’re really pressed for bag space. My aunt told me about it. She guaranteed your hair would be clean, though not angelic-looking. My friend Liza told me oatmeal takes the grease out of your hair, too, so there’s that. What is this girl packing in said quart-sized bag that is pressing her to these extremes, you might ask?
Tip #2 50 lbs is a lot.
Most international flights let you take a bag that’s 50 lbs. This is more than you think. Items included in my suitcase that were extravagantly heavy include my cowboy boots, an elephant sweatshirt, three pairs of shoes, and copious amounts of liquids such as hairspray and sunscreen and bioelements contact solution. And after I’d packed everything I thought I’d need and then some, my suitcase only weighed 32 lbs. Yay.
Tip #3 Filtered water bottle.
If you, like me, lived all of your life in one state or one house or something, you probably don’t know whether you’re sensitive to water changes. Let’s not chance it, eh? When I moved, the only time I moved, I was hugely sensitive to the water change and I moved all of three hours away.
Tip #4 Filters
Hey, if you get the water bottle, might as well get a filter. Totally easy to forget.
Tip #5 Money
AAA has awesome travel Visa cards that are reloadable. I’m taking one, and if I run out of money on it and need more, I’m leaving money here in Fort Collins with my Grandma and I will call my always-accommodating and wonderful Grandma to refill it from FoCo at the AAA here. I’ll do another post on how I’m doing all of my money logistics.
Tip #6 AAA is a boss at everything travel.
So ask them. They can hook you up with everything you never dreamed you needed but totally do.
Tip #7 Zzzzquil (or other non-habit forming, knock-you-unconscious sleep aid)
My sister had an awful time of it going to Italy, mostly because she could not sleep on the plane. No shame in weakness, I say, so I will be taking some Zzzzquil for that 15 hour crossing of the Pacific.
Tip #8 TRY THE ZZZZQUIL BEFORE YOU GO.
This goes for anything you might be doing out of the ordinary. Try it before you go.
Tip #9 Snacks on a plane.
This could be the name of a cool band, or it could be saving your life as you sit staring hungrily at the always-prepared super mom and her stuffed cooler three seats up from you on the plane. The TSA does allow snacks on a plane, just not liquid snacks.
Tip #10 Water.
Bring your bottle, fill it up after the checkpoint. Thirst not, friends, thirst not.
Tip #11 Check out the cost of living where you’re going.
So for me, Australia is really expensive, so I’m trying to bring everything I need, including things like sunscreen and toothpaste and all of my basic clothes. But, if you’re going somewhere where costs are comparable to the US or even cheaper, pack light and buy some bulky, awkward things over there, or plan more space for new clothes, etc.
Tip #12 Leave some healthy space in that suitcase.
You’re going to buy a lot of things and stuff, and stuff and things.
Tip #13 For all my backpackers out there.
Efficiency. I can’t say how well I’m doing with my packing quite yet but I’ll post a follow up when I’m finished with mistakes I made. I can tell you to get a quick dry towel (microfiber, for instance), to buy a silk sleep sack (repels bugs and spiders and is SOSOSOSOSOSOOOO small), and buy some backpack locks. Liza (she’s an expert, guys) told me to pack your stuff, unpack it, and then repack half. You’ll still have too much. I did this, and I have to say I think she’s right. Did I really need that extra skort? No. No I didn’t. I’ve heard good things about bringing dry shampoo, too, for those days you don’t have time/are too tired/showering is straight not an option.
And finally, you don’t need to buy an $800 backpack. You can, and I’m sure it’s nice, but I fit all of my stuff and then some into my SCHOOL BACKPACK which I will subsequently be using for school in Australia after New Zealand. It cost me all of $60 and fits nicely. My big old camera bag and towel and everything is in there!
Packing for six months of your life and 18 days of roaming is no joke, but you can do it! And it’s kind of fun 🙂