Traveling can be the most eye-opening and captivating experience. Not the vacation-type of traveling, but the let’s-explore-this-place kind of traveling. The one where you don’t just lie on the beach mat to get a bronze tan, but the one in which you have to find your way through specific attractions and end up discovering others along the way.

Whenever I travel (usually with my parents) to some foreign country, it’s always very exciting. But because we plan our trips from top to bottom, a lot of research is done beforehand. What places are we going, and how should we buy the plane tickets to get the best price? What hotels or Airbnb should we stay at during that time? What transport system are we going to use, and how does it work? Where should we eat for each meal, what places are we planning to visit, and should we buy tickets to certain places beforehand?

So many questions, and oftentimes many of these are not answered until you get there. I learned a lot about my naive travelling skills when I last visited Tokyo. The subway system there got my mom and I going nuts, and let alone the frustration of not being able to communicate in Japanese (I could barely understand their English because of their heavy accent! Shame on me). As much research as I tried to do prior to going to Tokyo, I didn’t truly learn until I made the mistakes myself.

After all, we don’t learn from others’ mistakes; we learn by making the mistakes ourselves.

An important part that you can prepare for is the stage of packing. The following are 4 steps that I currently follow in order to pack lightly and wisely:

1. Research the weather, your accommodation, and specific places

You can’t pack without knowing what weather to expect in your travel destination. If you’re going to more than one place (e.g. different cities within the same country), the weather may vary drastically, so you’ll need to pack different kinds of clothing accordingly.

Looking up and knowing what your accommodation place offers – whether it’s a hotel, Airbnb or friend’s place – can help you decide what type of clothing and how much to take. If it’s a hotel, chances are that you’ll be able to wash your undies and hang up your clothing. If it’s a cheaper hostel, you’ll probably need to pack light as there won’t be so much space for your luggage/things. If you’re staying longer, it’ll be very important to know beforehand whether you’ll be able to do some laundry or not.

Noting down specific places and attractions before your trip is a given. For instance, if you plan to go hiking, you must pack appropriate clothing and shoes. If you’re anticipating a formal dinner, make sure you have at least one formal attire.

2. Make a packing list a week prior to the trip to see if you’re missing anything

My current packing list consists of:

  • Essentials (e.g. documents, phone, chargers)
  • Toiletries (from toothbrush to face cream to shampoo)
  • Accessories (bag, sunglasses, etc.)
  • Clothes (self-explanatory)

Your list may consist of more sub-lists, depending on what you need. There are lots of sample lists online that you can use as reference, too. A helpful thing to do is to keep your old packing lists saved in a Word file (or somewhere safe), as you can pull them out for your next trip and make the necessary adjustments. This will save you the burden of creating a full list all over again.

3. Pack bearing in mind that you could buy more clothes if wanted

As a girl, I tend to want to dress nicely when I’m traveling, as I’ll most likely take a lot of pictures to keep as memories. If you’re that kind of person, then packing may be a challenging task at first.

What I do is I plan an outfit for each day, combining outfits so I wear each piece of clothing more than once. I’ll usually take an extra pair of socks and underwear and a few extra essentials that don’t take much stpace, but I’ll try not to pack more outfits than necessary. Whenever I have the urge to do so, I remind myself that I’ll be able to buy more once I’m there (though I don’t think this has happened – yet).

4. Pack the KonMari way.

just picked up the KonMari book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up yesterday, and when I got to the chapter of folding clothes today, I tried it out on my closet and the results are amazing. Folding clothes and packing is such a seemingly monotonous and tedious task, but it doesn’t have to be. I would recommend reading or listening to the book, but I also recommend this article (or just google the KonMari method) to get you started.

The KonMari method will allow you to organize your clothes neatly (both at home and when traveling), as well as encourage you to use your space as efficiently as possible. I urge you to give the book and this method a go.

Good luck!