Let me be completely transparent: I’m hardly a “light” packer by nature. The suitcase I took on a recent trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, weighed in at a hefty 64 pounds. Want to see me lose my cool? Ask me to magically find a home for 14 pounds of shoes at 4 a.m. in the airport.
When you spend six weeks traveling Europe with a standard 45-liter backpack, you have to get very creative with your limited space. So, over the years, I’ve adapted out of necessity. For my fellow dental students suffering from the same chronic, incurable wanderlust that I do, I have a few tips on how to pack light when traveling.
Make a list. As dental students, we are inherently detail-oriented and so we are essentially pre-programmed to make note of important things. Professional travelers have perfectly itemized lists seared into their brains, but for the rest of us, it’s always a good idea to write things down. I think the most important things to include on this list are the items you need to pack last minute, especially those things included in your morning routine. You don’t want to forget your contact lens solution because you forgot to put it in your bag!
Always have a plan. If you are going to be in the Swiss Alps, and two weeks later, on the beaches of Croatia, you’re going to have to be creative about the clothes you pack. Pack items that can serve dual functions on your adventures. Trust me, you don’t need a fur parka in Switzerland. Instead, layer on a puffer jacket that can pack down to nothing, the Under Armor shirt you work out in, and the scarf you used to keep warm on the plane. If you are going to be gone for a while, it’s always a good idea to choose solid pieces that can be worn with multiple outfits. Ladies, your Lululemon leggings will look great on that hike and also paired with a sweater for dinner!
Two words: Packing. Cubes. Your loan money is definitely worth the investment in these glorious inventions because they function as major space savers. Whether you choose to roll or fold your clothes, packing cubes keep your belongings organized into easy-to-access categories. I like to organize my packing cubes by outfit so I have a cube containing all my nicer dinner outfits and another one holds athletic wear. These things majorly upped my packing game.
Travel size. You can get anything in a miniature form these days. That big bottle of shampoo you just packed probably weighs five precious pounds – definitely not worth it. Instead, try packing mini shampoo, Febreeze, lotion, deodorant and one of those mini perfume samples you’ve been hoarding. A mini bottle of bug spray did wonders for me on a recent mission trip to Honduras!
The bottom line: if you find yourself on a fantastic adventure, don’t be weighed down by unnecessary stuff. Leave extra room in your bag and you’ll find that by the end of your trip, that space will have somehow filled itself up with Parisian macaroons, Greek pottery, Colombian coffee and more memories than you started out with. Onward adventurers!
~ Ashli Holland, Ohio State ’17