Cultural Experience | United States

10 Commandments of Packing

Packing Can Be Hell… But It Doesn’t Have to Be


There are things I love about travel. There are things I hate about travel. One of the latter is most definitely packing. It can be overwhelming trying to cram everything into one or two bags. However, it doesn’t have to be. I’ve developed a simple list of ten commandments to make packing a little easier:

Thou Shalt Not Forget Thy Passport:

The most essential of all essential travel items, your passport is your ticket in and out of every destination you visit. This should be the first thing you pack. If you’re not sure where it is, start looking well in advance of your trip. When you’re abroad, know where your passport is at all times. You may want to carry it with you or keep it locked in a safe.

Thou Shalt Learn to Use Space Wisely:

Check out different packing strategies. I like the “roll it” method. You save a lot of room by tightly rolling clothes instead of folding them. You will be amazed by how much fits when you can condense items into their smallest size rather than laying things flat and piling them. There are plenty of methods out there, so search around, and pick what works best for you.

Thou Shalt Not Overpack:

Think critically about what you’re going to need. Do you really need eight pairs of shorts, eleven dresses, four pairs of shoes, and fourteen tops, for a seven day trip? No. It is really easy to overpack for lengthier trips. When I went to Ireland for two and a half weeks with one suitcase, I had to be practical. I understand wanting to have options, but pack just what you need. Don’t be afraid to reuse items and combine them. You can wear a t-shirt one day and layer it under a cardigan another day.

 Thou Shalt Check the Weather:

Know before you go. Yes, weather can be unpredictable, but you should be able to gather some general information. If you’re taking a quick trip or a holiday, you can check the weather right before you go. If you’re going to be abroad for a lengthy amount of time, just search what the weather’s usually like. I didn’t know what to fully expect when I went to Ireland in the early summer, so I searched “Ireland Weather in June.” Then I was able to pack accordingly.

Thou Shalt Remember to Respect the Local Culture:

When you’re abroad, you will definitely learn a lot about the culture you’re visiting. However, it does not hurt to do a little preliminary research before you go. One of the wonderful things about style and fashion is that it differs all over the world. I’m not suggesting you completely copy the style of the people at your destination, but you should be aware of social conventions regarding dress. In some culture, it isn’t appropriate for anyone to wear shorts that go above the knee; others don’t like to have their arms exposed. Standing out can be a good thing in fashion with the right accessories, but you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb in an inappropriate outfit.

Thou Shalt Remember the Essentials:

Everyone has their own essentials. For me, it’s a sturdy bag, a cozy sweater, a great pair of boots, a fashionable scarf, my iPad, and a notebook. Whatever your essentials are, make sure you pack them. These are the items you absolutely must have with you…personal mementos or your favorite accessories. Essentials also refers to the items you’re going to use every day. Don’t forget toiletries or any of your personal travel favorites. While most hotels are accommodating, you’ll be much more comfortable using your special shampoo or your preferred toothpaste.

Thou Shalt Not Neglect to Plan Ahead:

I already mentioned checking the weather, but there are plenty of elements involved in planning ahead. Know what you’re going to be doing abroad. Think about weekend trips. Will you be hiking or hitting the beach? Will you be attending any formal events? Have an idea of what you want to do and pack accordingly. I also have another trick for planning ahead: plan each outfit. When I pack, I put together outfits rather than just throwing random articles of clothing. It gives me a better idea of how much I really need, and it makes things easier for when I get to my destination.

Thou Shalt Leave Room for Souvenirs:

You have to bring something back to remember your trip by. You also can’t forget to bring items for friends. You may even pick up a few clothing items when shopping abroad. Sometimes souvenirs can take up a lot of room. Think about this when you begin packing to head to your destination. I almost always leave with more than I brought, so I account for this when I begin stuffing my suitcase.

 Thou Shalt Not Bring Prohibited Items:

Anyone who’s been through customs knows that there’s a lengthy list of hat you can and cannot bring into the country. Likewise, there’s an even longer list of items you can and cannot bring on an airplane. Don’t hold up your fellow passengers or risk getting yourself in trouble. Know what’s allowed and what isn’t. Remember to pack small travel size toiletries in a clear plastic bag. Be smart about what you pack in your carry one.

Thou Shalt Make a List:

Almost everything is easier with a list: grocery shopping, working through projects, or even College Tourist articles (this just got very meta). Packing is no exception. Lists make sure you don’t forget anything both when you’re packing and when you’re returning home. On a quick trip to Wisconsin, I didn’t make a  packing list because I was only going to be there overnight. Guess who forgot to pack pajamas? No matter how long or short your trip is, a list will make sure you have everything you need.

Courtney Guth

University of Maryland | 31 stories

Courtney Guth is a senior English major at the University of Maryland College Park actively seeking an answer to the age-old question, “so what are you going to do with that?” Her answer currently involves working in communications and development for a small non-profit in Washington, D.C. If she’s not exploring the nation’s capital, she’s probably watching an old movie, attempting to cook, or losing her voice at a Maryland Terrapins’ game. She believes the adage that “the world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page” but why just read when you can write?

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