Packing for an extended trip can be one of the hardest things a traveler can do. Examples of extended trips are things like studying abroad, summer internships, and even backpacking around the world. Whether your trip is to one place or many, any trip over 3 weeks long poses a specific set of challenges when it comes to packing. How often do I want to do laundry? Can I repurpose pieces so I am not repeating the same outfits over and over for 3 months? How much of this actually fits in my suitcase? All of these are questions you have to answer when packing for an extended trip and hopefully I can help you answer them!
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Step 1: Make a List
The first step to packing for a long-term trip is to make a list of all the items you will need. Do you need to bring towels and sheets? Are you packing toiletries or buying them on arrival? What climate(s) will you be in? What makes extended trips different is you often need extra items that you wouldn’t on a short trip. You may need extra medications, you may need linens for the place you are staying All of these questions will help you determine what needs to come with you in the general sense and then you can move on to specifics in your next step. If you are on my email list, you have access to a great list via the resource library on this site! If you aren’t on the list, you can always join here. Then you have access to the great resources available to my subscribers!
Step 2: Lay everything out
Now that you have made a list of all the things you need to pack, lay out the items you need to bring, such as a coat, sheets, shoes, etc., and then lay out all the things you want to bring. When choosing clothes specifically, I recommend following a color scheme or specifically choosing things that can be interchanged into different outfits. Pinterest has some great resources for outfit planning. At this stage, you don’t have to think too much about space, so just lay out all the things you would bring if space wasn’t an issue. Pick out your shoes, purses, and even books you want to take and add them too. I recommend keeping everything organised by categories at this point. Place all your tops together, your dresses together, and so on, as this helps you in our next step.
Step 3: Eliminate the Excess
This is probably the most important step in the packing process for any trip, but especially for extended trips. There are very few cases where you will have unlimited packing space, so get in the mindset that you have to limit what you bring. For toiletries, eliminate anything that you can either buy on arrival or you likely won’t use but once or twice. Save yourself the space and the hassle at airport security by opting for limited liquids.
For clothes and shoes, try to find the right combination of different pieces so you can mix up your outfits without taking your entire closet. You should be sure you are packing with the weather in mind so if you are going to be in a place for several months you are prepared for temperature changes. I recommend items that can be layered so that they have more combinations and uses. Think you have finally eliminated enough items? Move on to step 4.
Step 4: Start Packing
Yay! You finally reached the step where you get to put things in a bag. You should also carefully select your bag at this stage. If you are going on a trip just to one place, I recommend a great lightweight rolling suitcase. For trips where you are changing cities often, invest in a great backpack because it makes moving around a lot easier. Once you have picked your bag, it’s time to put things in it. Everyone has their own method for packing(I’m a roller personally) so use your preferred method to start putting things in your suitcase. Does it all fit and your suitcase weigh in under the weight limit? Cool you’re done! In most cases though, this doesn’t happen. When you inevitably run out of space or go over the weight limit, it’s time for step 5.
Step 5: Cut Down Again!
You thought you eliminated what you needed too, but alas you didn’t. It’s time to go back over everything you are thinking about packing so take EVERY item out of your bag and lay them back out. This time instead of categories, lay them out in different outfit combinations. See how versatile each piece is. Ask yourself, “do I really need 3 going out dresses…” and think about how often you are really going to wear those heels you packed for your backpacking trip to Thailand. Now cut more things from your bag.
Now look at your non-clothing items and think long and hard about them. Do you really need a towel for your semester in England? Or can you buy a cheap one there? Be savage at this point because you can always add some things back in if you have space in the end. If there are 2 or 3 things you want but aren’t sure you can fit, set them to the side and those can be the first things you add back if you have space. Now move to step 6.
Step 6: Pack it all again
Hopefully you cut the unnecessary stuff and now you can be done! Pack just as carefully as the first time, taking care to use space efficiently. Now if you find that everything fits perfectly with extra space, this is where you can add back in your maybe items. If you are still over, either consider shelling out for the extra bag, or repeat step 5. But once that bag is zipped, you are ready to get going!
From one Misguided Millennial to the world, this has been my tips on how to pack for an extended trip! Enjoy your travels!