Going Away? Don't Pack These 8 Things

Updated 09/26/16
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a well packed travel wardrobe
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When we're busy gallivanting the world, nothing weighs us down like too much luggage. It's cumbersome on public transport, inconvenient to haul across town, and expensive to check on flights. Think about it: we haul your suitcase up and down multiple flights of stairs—walk-up dwellers will attest; we stress when approaching the check-in counter—praying that our bag will fall just short of the weight limit, and we shamelessly ask our friend or S.O. to zip our bag while we clumsily sit on it—praying that our holiday shopping will not break the zipper. Yes, we are over packers, and we have a problem. 

The truth is: once arrived at a destination, we use approximately 10% of what we initially packed. Heels go unworn, hair wands go unused, and we realize we would have been perfectly happy packing only a bikini and a cover-up. Suddenly, the "what ifs" that worried us while packing start to feel silly. To treat our packing addiction, we came up with a list of items you should definitely not pack on your next trip. Consider this your 8-step program to overpacking recovery.

All hotels (and the majority of hostels these days) provide towels. And if they don't, you can typically rent one for a small fee. Not only is a travel towel bulky, it never seems to be quite dry when it’s time to pack it up. The last thing you want on the road is musty luggage. A good alternative is to carry a sarong; it takes up far less room, can be used to dry off in a pinch, and doubles as a scarf, cover-up, light blanket, and beach towel. Multi-purpose for the win!

Rather than bringing full bottles of every medication you might need, stash a small amount of each in a divided container. Pill dispensers (with a compartment for each day of the week) are the perfect device for sorting headache meds, allergy pills, and seasickness tablets. Round stacking organizers are great, too. Mark the medication types and expiration dates with sticky labels, and you've got a compact emergency kit at your fingertips.

If a bed is so gross that you don't want your skin touching it, you should probably just spend a few extra dollars on a nicer hotel. We hate to break it to you, but if bed bugs are your concern, a sleep sheet isn't likely to protect you. Those little guys will get into your luggage just as easily as your linens. A travel sheet takes up valuable room in your bag, it's a chore to launder while traveling, and can't possibly be comfortable to sleep in. I've never met anybody who actually found these useful. Skip it.

You won't wear them. You just won't. They'll sit at the bottom of your bag, taking up an annoying amount of room and feeling neglected. For days when you want to dress up a bit, you're far better off with a pair of cute, flat sandals. They are more compact, easier to navigate all kinds of terrain, and will help you stay on your feet all night long!

I've witnessed many a traveler being forced to cut a lock or worse, damage a bag to gain access to belongings after losing the key. It's a great idea to secure your zippers to keep your stuff protected, but stick to combination locks—ideally, ones with the TSA logo, in case airport security decide they need access to your bag.

I get it. You are really particular about the type of conditioner you use. But after a few weeks on the road, you’ll be even more particular about what takes up precious space in your bag. Resist the urge to pack enough toiletries for your entire trip, and stick to a few travel-size items to get you started. And remember: they sell toothpaste all over the world!

Nothing screams "valuables" like a money belt. It’s usually visible under your clothes, and it’s certainly obvious when you're reaching into it, so it isn't fooling anybody. There are mixed opinions about this, but I personally believe your passport and credit cards are safest in your accommodation, locked inside your luggage (or a safe, when available). The old money-in-the-bra (or shoe, or sock) trick is just as secure as a money belt and far less conspicuous. And, of course, only carry out what you plan to spend that day/night. That way, if worse does come to worst, you won't lose much.

You will not need more than one pair of jeans. Or another dress shirt. Or one more sundress. We all love to have options, but you won’t love carrying them. A fellow traveler once said, “You can change your outfit every day, or just change your city!” When packing for a big trip, lay out everything you think you want to bring, and then cut it in half. You’d be amazed how quickly you fall into a routine of wearing the same few things anyway, regardless of how much you carry. Besides, you’ll want a little extra room in your bag to enhance your wardrobe along the way!

What would you add to this list? Let us know so we can all travel a little lighter.

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