We’ve heard about the wonders of the spoon and more in the list of my favourite items to take travelling, and now here’s the next part in Suzy’s Suitcase! This time we take a look at the things that in hindsight I really shouldn’t have bothered with, and what was better off left behind when packing for a long trip away!
What Not To Take :
Too many toiletries: I took a nice, wide range of painkillers, first aid kits, and other general toiletries that I really needn’t have bothered with. The obvious reason for these taking a cut in packing, is that I didn’t even use half of what I was carrying around with me. While small sachets of antihistamines and water purifiers don’t seem like the biggest deal to have with you, they are a nuisance when looking for things in a hurry, and all that rustling around for toothpaste is just annoying after a while. Not to mention, I had a particularly disastrous event involving an exploded shampoo bottle, ALL my dissolvable tablets, and resulting in a LOT of ants. I’ll say no more.
It may seem like a great idea to be fully prepared for any and every encounter, I quickly realised that if I didn’t need it at home, and if I was sensible about thinking where I was going, then chances are I wouldn’t need it travelling. I’m looking at you Piriteze, I’ve never taken one in my life.
Of course, bug spray, bite cream are essentials for travel despite the lack of necessity in dreary old Blighty, so it just takes a little bit of common sense. And of course, anything you do end up needing but find yourself lacking, in certain places it’s not going to be too hard to get your hands on a few bits and pieces. If it is proving more difficult, a friendly fellow traveller somewhere is bound to have what you’re looking for. The top offenders that took a free trip in my toiletries bag are: hand cream, savlon, rehydration sachets, Piriteze, and Strepsils.
Too many clothes: tl;dr: I overpacked clothes and I only ended up buying more.
It’s so so easy to pack more clothes than you need. I’d say I wasn’t quite as bad as I thought and wore around 75% of the items I brought with me at least once. The problem I had was the kinds of clothes I was packing. Too many of the same/similar things, and forgetting that I’d be spending time in autumn in some destinations where the evenings started to get chilly. Due to my neglectful packing I had to purchase a pair of jeans, and eventually a full length sleeve jumper. Although it was annoying to buy these while I was out there, they are now pretty staple pieces in my home wardrobe so I definitely don’t regret the purchase.
I packed waaaay too many t-shirts and tops, when I think I probably wore the same 3 over and over again, and the same goes for shorts. When you’re only in a location for a night or two, you have to seriously consider the likelihood of unpacking your entire bag. There’s a really strong chance you’ll just pull out the top item, and save a repacking session for another time. Shoutout to the bag of forgotten items that were crushed for months on end in the pits of my rucksack, I’m sorry you were abandoned, it was nothing personal.
A book: I might be in the minority on this one, but I don’t think I even cracked open the book I carried with me for SIX MONTHS. Instead, I was happy to get involved with book exchanges and donations, from people wishing to offload their top reads onto a willing fellow traveller. I’m not great at reading in cars, so my activity of choice was something to listen to, a sudoku, or a nap, which might explain my lack of reading on my travels. Obviously if you’re an avid reader then this is one that’ll be at the top of your list, but for me I was just far too busy to read all the much. I did however read a couple of great books given to me from people looking to get rid of theirs, because bulky heavy items aren’t really ideal for packing light!
Sleeping bag liner: It seemed like a great, back up plan idea from the beginning, but I barely used it so I’m sure I could have made do without (BOTH) of them. Yes, I took two. I’m not sure why, I don’t even know why I own two but there you go. Hostels provide you with adequate bedding, and if you’re still cold then just ask for more. Alternatively, layer up! I slept wearing a hoodie or leggings in the cooler nights at times, even in Asia where the air-con is almost too good and you can’t figure out the controls! The only time they ever made an appearance were at homestays, where bedding was limited and storms brought cold air through the open rooms. Other than that, they just clogged up precious packing space!
Socks: when you’re wearing nothing but flip flops for months, you don’t need more than 2 or 3 pairs maximum. For heavier walking days I’d wear trainers, but honestly I’d say 80% of travelling in hot countries was sandals and sock-less footwear, especially where you have to remove shoes to enter temples, who can be bothered with laces?! I did pack hiking socks as I knew I’d need them for a couple of major hikes planned, but if you’re not planning anything like that then be rid of those clumpy sock balls and make room for something else!
Liquid shampoo and conditioner: I can’t count the number of shampoo and conditioner related explosions we encountered. They’re just not worth the hassle, and take up such a large and awkward amount of space you really have to reconsider how necessary they are. Instead, the marvellous Lush shampoo & conditioner bars offer an easy, space saving, and mess-free solution. The conditioner bars do get sticky and slimy in the heat, but who cares about conditioner when your hair is full of sand and salt water anyway?
The shampoo bar can be bought for a range of smells, colours, and requirements. I got mine to combat frizz, and it lasts AGES. Like, probably an entire 6 months. It’s genius and I can’t believe I didn’t know about it before I left. Lush – I’ll take my commission now for how much I plug this product.
Flimsy padlocks: I took a sturdy, combination padlock but it turned out to be less useful when it got lost/may have fallen off its chain. As a back up I had a cheap and cheerful key padlock, and it did nothing. I’d say anything with a key you should try and avoid, they just have so many more issues than it’s worth. A combination lock is a good idea, but clearly I hadn’t locked it properly and hence losing it. I’m still torn about how useful padlocks are while travelling, I’m lucky because anything I lost was my own fault (RIP bikini), but I imagine if you’re the wary type, you’ll want to keep your belongings as safe as possible.
Cheap shoes: While it seems like a good money saving idea to buy cheap shoes to use while travelling, even on the pretence that you’ll get rid of them before you return, it’s not worth it. I bought a cheap pair of trainers to wear, and with all the walking around cities, galleries, museums, landmarks they were pretty ruined within the first month. I then had to buy a new pair, and was left wondering what to do with the first ones.
It’s worth investing a little bit in the things you’ll spend nearly every day in, and I think this is especially important for flip flops. Mine were AMAZING (as previously mentioned here) and lasted the whole journey with zero issues. People I met along the way were often complaining of blisters, toe-post issues, and having to buy more flip flops than meals. It’s worth not taking a pair that are too brand new, so you’ve worn them in a little already and you know what you’re in for.
Too many electrical items: It’s not so much that I took too many, it’s that after a couple of camera disasters, I was left with THREE cameras, two of which were useless. So excessive amounts of cables, chargers, cameras just became annoying, and I couldn’t wait to get rid of them.
I think the summary we can take away from my excessiveness in packing is that you need much less than you think you do. Life as a traveller is so much more condensed than normal life, so it’s important to take into consideration what really matters to you while you’re away from home.
Whatever you’re packing, just remember to leave some room for souvenirs, and if you’re really tight for space, keep those sentimental items like ticket stubs, leaflets and you’ll still have plenty of memories to take back with you!
What are your packing mistakes? Let me know if I’m not alone in over-packing for long term travel!
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