The Best Travel Advice: Pack Light!

I’ve written about this before, but it really bears repeating: people carry too much crap with them when they travel. Every time I go to the airport here on Maui, I see them getting off the plane with several huge bags. Why? They’re only going to be here for a week or ten days. And most of the time they’ll be wearing shorts and a T-shirt or in a bathing suit.

Dragging huge suitcases around on a pleasure trip is just crazy. On my upcoming trip, which will be almost exactly a month long, I’ll be traveling with one rolling suitcase, small enough to fit in the overhead bin on a plane, and a tote that slides down onto the handle of that suitcase. It fits under the seat in front of me on the plane. Everything I need for 30 days will be in those two bags.
The key to my method, and there’s no reason it won’t work for almost everyone, is packing plenty of polo shirts which need little or no ironing. (Ladies, think “tops”.) I usually pack seven or eight of those shirts. Wear jeans most of the time, but pack one pair of nice, wrinkle-free slacks. I’ll include five undershorts and five pairs of socks. The idea is to have a fresh polo shirt (or top) every day, but who’s to know or care if you wear everything else for a couple of days in a row?
I also pack a pair of soft gym shorts and a T-shirt, which is what I wear to bed on the train. When I have to make a trip to the lavatory in the middle of the night, I just slip my feet into a pair of rubber slippers and off I go down the hall.
Also packed: one light sweater (or a heavy one if the weather’s going to be chilly) and a lightweight waterproof jacket.
I have just one each of everything else. That means only one belt and just one pair of comfortable shoes (they aren’t packed; I’m wearing them). All my toiletry items are the smallest size. After all, you can buy all that stuff anywhere along the way.
I always try to schedule one non-travel day every seven or eight days while I’m gone. That’s when I collect all the stuff that needs washing and have the hotel take care of it. (Yes, it’s expensive, and I sometimes find a local laundromat, but I hate taking time away from my touring activities).
Obviously, a lot of how you pack depends on what the weather’s going to be like where you’re going. Several years ago, I took VIA Rail some 1100 miles north from Winnipeg to the shores of Hudson Bay. Of course I don’t own a coat that would be adequate in really cold temperatures. So, while in Winnipeg, I went to their equivalent to a Goodwill store and bought a down-filled jacket and a pair of heavy boots—both used—for $40. Both served their purpose perfectly when I was in Churchill observing polar bears in the wild and, when I returned by train to Winnipeg, I took both the coat and the boots back to the same thrift store and donated them back.
The best advice to follow when packing? Be ruthless about leaving stuff out. And bring lots of tops.