We've all toiled over what to bring, and all too many times we just throw in that extra item only to have it sit like a rock at the bottom of the bag for the entire trip. This is what I call packer's remorse. It's got all the regret of buyer's remorse, but you end up lugging the useless item around the globe as opposed to shoving it on the back shelf of the closet, dropping it off at good will, or regifting it to that unlucky relative. Don't get me wrong, we love to pack and write about the best travel goodies
. That said, we'd never encourage you to pack that underwater, fireproof camera simply because you might
need it when the 2% chance of a hurricane combines forces with the 1% chance of a meteorite. When that day comes, we'll gladly admire your flickr photos.
So, since I usually have two small shoulders and one action-packed carry-on (no pun intended) when I travel, "what not to pack" is more important to me than "what not to wear." I haven't always perfected the art though, so in hopes that you don't have to go through the same mistakes I did, here are my top 8 items to leave at home.
- Extra Batteries - I've been to quite a few places, and even where there is no clean drinking water, there seem to be batteries. I've also had battery acid leak slowly throughout my bag, so this is one thing I tend to buy not bring. You can combat the battery acid issue with a system of Ziploc bags, but then you have to differentiate the old batteries from the new, and by the time you're done, you remember that you're in a place that doesn't sell batteries. That means you're probably in a place with no reception and not much use for batteries or your particular electronic gadget. Still need an alarm set in the middle of the desert? How about putting in a new set of AAA's before you pack the alarm. This is, after all, a device that will get no reception so shouldn't need much power. Still not convinced? How about you forget the alarm and sleep in? You're on vacation.
- Books - Ok, I'm taking a risk here. Cassi is a teacher, and books are more important to my family and friends than just about anything. I'm not saying don't read when you travel. I'm just saying that there's no need for books. Here's the deal, if it's a long trip, you can't take all the books you'd want to read, so load them on to a kindle or any other piece of technology you prefer and save yourself money in baggage fees to pay for it. If it's a short trip, you may have room for that one book, but you may be better off enjoying your whirlwind trip. You may talk me into that one guidebook, but just one, and only if there's no ebook version, and only if you promise not to have your nose in it while you're walking down the street. And don't worry, you won't need the extra battery: you've got a month with out electricity before you'll have to recharge.
- Jeans - It's hard not to take your favorite pair of jeans with you when you take off. They're perfectly worn in, and they're oh so comfy. Unfortunately, you can't sleep in them, they take up a lot of space (well, maybe not those European skinny jeans), they're too hot for many vacation climates, and most importantly, they don't dry quickly. So unless you plan on going the whole way without washing your pants (I would guess you're traveling alone...or will be), then I'm sure your trusty pair of jeans will be waiting for you when you get home.
- 3oz Bottles - Oh TSA em>sigh>, you've limited us in the strangest ways, and now everyone is flocking to buy 3oz of everything. I fell into this trap and ended up with an assortment of liquids leaking into an ever-stickier and bubblier Ziploc. Now, I forget the whole mess. You can get shampoo, liquid soap, and the rest of your facial goodies in most overseas pharmacies and corner stores. If you're willing to take things one step further--come on, you won't regret it--I'd say go for the solid(ish) soap that works like an over-sized breath freshener and the sunscreen wipes. And just to reassure Al Gore and all of the motherly figures in my life that I've been listening, I'd strongly recommend the sunscreen wipes. You don't always know what you're getting with sunscreen and sunglasses abroad, so if you don't want the sun to get the best of you, throw these compact items in your bag and then sip your Mai Tai in peace.
- Hiking Boots - Hiking boots sound like a good idea, right? Who wants blisters and sprained ankles on vacation? Unless I'm doing some serious trekking though (in which case I probably know exactly what to pack), they're a little over the top. The most important thing is not to bring too many shoes. For me, flip flops and tennis shoes with a good amount of tread are a must (I learned that the hard way), so the boots will have to take a hike.
- Hoodies - These are in the same category as the jeans. Infinitely comfortable, increasingly difficult to jam back in your back on check-out morning, and impossible to hang dry. If you're going somewhere cold, I'd suggest investing in a fabric that's both warm and quick-dry. It'll beat the pants off of your old hoodies. Smartwool has been getting some pretty good reviews lately, and you can find just about any type of clothing (socks and underwear included) in Smartwool. The sweater below would be perfect for a wintery trip, and it folds into about 1/5 of the size of your college sweatshirt.
- Toilet Paper - But some places don't have toilet paper in public restrooms! This is all too true, but it's still no excuse for you to lug a giant roll of paper around. Just bring a pack of tissues that work for your face as well as your...well just pack some tissues. It's rare that even in the worst of the worst bathroom situations you'll need a full roll by the end of the trip. Also, western toilets are getting ever more popular as is toilet paper in public restrooms, so if you had a problem 10 years ago, you may be surprised by the streaming white TP that greets you.
- Travel Pillow - Honestly, I just never got this one. You've likely packed your super soft Smartwool sweater, so why not rest your head on that? I've never found sleeping on an inflatable anything to be that comfortable, and the plush neck pillows tend to be a bag-hog. Hey, why not make your new super-compact, super-cool, fast-dry towel double as a pillow (or a blanket) when you need a nap and the hammock isn't cushioned?
There they are, the 8 items you're least likely to find in my bag. I anticipate that everyone will not agree with my list, so feel free to take issue and post a comment so that your fellow travelers get the full story. I just hope to bring you one step closer to having packing in the bag!
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