Packing for a trip? 9 common dilemmas

From your purse to your suitcase, packing tips to make traveling easier and much less stressful. Enjoy your trip!

GOING ON VACATION? Make sure you bring just enough. All photos by Anna Ignacio

MANILA, Philippines – Are you an over-packer or an under-packer? 

Over-packers will be tempted to bring the whole wardrobe with them, “just in case.” If you’re an over-packer, you’re very likely to return home from a trip with at least a portion of the clothes you brought remaining unused. 

Under-packers, on the other hand, tend to run out of clothes or toiletries halfway through the trip. “I’ll just get more there if I need to” is a common sentiment. 

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you find that elusive balance between bringing too much and not having enough in your suitcase while you’re preparing for a trip abroad: 

Dilemma 1: How many outfits do I bring? 

Short answer: Plan your everyday outfits and add two more outfits to the pile. 

If you’ll be out for more than a week, choose pieces that you can mix and match together to make new outfits. Make sure you add some dressy clothes because you’ll never know when you need to dress up for a fancy place. A jacket or sweater, and swimwear, too. 

Dilemma 2: What about my shoes? 

Short answer: Bring at most 3 pairs of comfy travel shoes/walking shoes, dress shoes, and a pair of slippers. Bringing too much footwear will just take up more space in your luggage and you won’t even get to use all of them. If you think you can, just bring the one pair you wear on the plane, to save space.

Dilemma 3: A gigantic shampoo bottle, or several small ones? 

Short answer: Find time to get those small toiletry bottles to put in enough amount of shampoo, conditioner, and liquid soap you will use for your whole trip. 

Be resourceful and use those small bottles they provide in hotel rooms for future trips. Just refill them with your preferred shampoo and conditioner. Sometimes, we tend to just bring the whole bottle, but you will realize how much space and weight this can save you. 

Dilemma 4: I can never find what I need in my huge travel bag 

Short answer: My best solution to this is to get a see-through zipper envelope that can fit your passport, boarding pass, tickets, baggage stubs, all other important documents and a pen. A bright one may help too so it is easier to find in your carry-on.

A note on passport sleeves: Most of the time, they tell you to remove your passport sleeves when you reach the Immigration counter. Sure, passport sleeves can be stylish and can keep your passport and documents organized, but once they ask you to take it off, it’s all going to be a mess. 

Dilemma 5: Do I buy medicine there when I need it? Or should I bring my own? 

Short answer: Be sure to pack a complete medicine kit as it is hard to purchase medicine in another country especially when in a place where most people don’t speak English. Save yourself the trouble.

It is also helpful if you have a list of usage and dosage of the medicine so you don’t get confused. In this medicine kit there are pills for: indigestion/antacid, diarrhea, fever, colds, cough, and allergies. I also have bandages and eye drops.

Dilemma 6: I have way too many chargers and cords 

Short answer: I like putting my charging devices and gadgets in airtight containers because it’s a big space-saver and it keeps your things organized. Also, it doubles as a waterproof case for all your expensive gadgets when you hit the beach.

Here are some things you might want to consider bringing: 

  • Portable chargers
  • Extra phone USB cords
  • Earphones
  • Car charger
  • Portable charger cords

Dilemma 7: My everyday wallet is a little bulky for travel

I still bring my usual wallet when I go out of the country, but I bring a small wallet, too. As much as possible, I only go out with my small wallet when I tour because it’s more handy and you only get to bring the important ones. Find a small wallet that can carry cash, credit cards if any, room key card, and your ID. If you lose it, you don’t lose everything.

Dilemma 8: Do I bring it all (camera, smartphone, camcorder, tablet, bluetooth headset)?

Short answer: Bring at most two electronic devices that can do it all. 

I take a lot of pictures when I travel, and more often than not I keep my service on to get in touch with family back home so battery life is a big concern for me. I always keep my portable charger with me because I hate that feeling when my battery is dying and I’m just halfway through the day. 

It’s a good idea to invest in an original portable charger so you know it is reliable. I recommend getting one with a high capacity, too. 

Dilemma 9: What if I shop way too much abroad? 

Short answer: If you know you’ll be shopping, allot extra space in your suitcase and bring reinforcements in the form of foldable bags. 

All airlines give you limited baggage weight and size, and if you’re like me and don’t like to pay extra for overweight luggage, always bring your own extra foldable carry-on bags. These will help when you’ve gone shopping too much and would rather hand-carry them on  the plane than pay for overweight fees.


Editor’s note: A longer version of this article was first published in the writer’s blog,

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