Pack This, Not That: Packing Secrets From Top Travel Bloggers

Buy a smaller bag, lose the extra outfits, but bring a portable charger and extra socks—6 travel bloggers share packing lessons learned from a life on the road.

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

So goes the quote most frequently attributed to writer Susan Heller, but the advice has been sage for as long as humans have journeyed. And though it perfectly sums up how everyone should pack, the reality is that few travelers follow this perfectly good advice. Shoes, casual clothes, cute clothes, jackets, electronics, toiletries, books, sunscreen, snacks, work—your packing list could go on and on, and sometimes the hardest part of leaving town is knowing what to pack.

For a little help from some seasoned pros, Where reached out to some of the top travel bloggers (these folks truly live on the road), and they generously shared what they always pack and savvy lessons learned from a life in planes, trains and automobiles. 

Dave and Deb of The Planet D

Packing tips from The Planet D
Dave hiking with his gear. (Courtesy The Planet D)

Created in 2008 by husband and wife duo Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbeil after cycling Africa, The Planet D chronicles their traveling adventures of more than 100 countries over all seven continents. It's one of the longest running travel blogs, and if there's a short list of who should be handing out packing advice, we think these two travelers should be included.

Top packing advice:  "Light packing makes for happy travelers," says Dave. "Besides our usual camera and computer gear, we always include our Belkin Mini Surge Protector, Gold Bond, Our Eagle Creek World Adaptor, and our Canada Goose lightweight Hybridge down jackets."

"The Belkin Mini Surge Protector keeps our electronics safe," he continues. "We travel to countries that often have very spotty electricity, so if there is suddenly a power surge, our computers and cameras are safe from being fried. Plus we can charge several things at once with three power outlets and two USB ports."

"The Gold Bond is always a running joke with us," explains Deb, "but we never do leave home without it. We often trek for several days at a time into jungles or backcountry and when you are sweating without a shower for days on end, things can become very sticky and uncomfortable. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but Gold Bond often does the trick."

"We made the mistake once of not bringing our down jackets with us when we traveled to India and we kicked ourselves when visiting Delhi in 3-degree weather," Deb says. "We always pack our down jackets because they are ultra lightweight and even if we don’t need them for warmth, they can be used on freezing air conditioned buses and trains or used as a pillow. However, even in tropical countries, our jackets have come in handy—for example, in a desert at night or when climbing a mountain. We never leave home without them."

Never leave home without: "Our iPhones. We can do a lot of our work and social media through them and answer emails etc. But we also love them for movies on the plane, music and games." [They use an iPhone 6-plus with the larger screen for movies.]

What travelers pack that they shouldn’t: "Too big of a first aid kit. Other than your prescription medication and a few staple items, you don’t need to have something with you for every ailment. Unless you are going into the backcountry or to a very remote destination, you can buy most of what you need if something should happen."

What travelers don't pack that they should: "An external battery charger is Deb's choice. "We see people looking for an outlet to charge their phones all the time. Instead, carry a portable charger and you can charge your cameras and cell phones whenever you need to."

Dave says that in this techie age, he'd recommend bringing a compact external hard drive. "I see too many people lose all their photos ruining their vacation. Download your photos onto an external hard drive to have back-ups of everything. You don’t want to lose your precious memories."

Michael Hodson of Go See Write

Packing tips from Go See Write travel blogger, Michael Hudson
Michael never travels without his laptop. (Courtesy Go See Write)

This former attorney took some time off on his birthday for a journey of a lifetime—to travel around the world without flying (commonly known as "overland" travel). Michaeul Hodson's journey brought him to 44 countries on six continents over a total of 16 months and led to the creation of his blog, Go See Write. Adding to his travel street cred is that Michael is a past president of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association; today, he mixes in his tales of travel with the creation of "virtual reality" travel videos for destinations around the world.

His top packing advice: "Wearing the same outfit three times in one week really isn’t a big deal. Pack light."

"I’m always working while on the road. Taking my work with me is extremely important so I always have my laptop, phone and any other equipment I might need. Additionally, I always include the proper footwear for wherever I am traveling to. There’s nothing worse than having the wrong shoes on your feet!"

Never leave home without: "My laptop. It has everything I need on it!"

What travelers pack that they shouldn’t: "There are a lot of things we think we have to pack. Most of the time, we travel to places where we can purchase necessities so don’t waste packing space on things you can easily pick up when you arrive." 

What travelers don't pack that they should: "A first aid kit."

Jessica Turchik and Laurence Norah/Finding the Universe, Independent Travel Cats

Packing tips from travel bloggers Jessica and Laurence
Since he's a photographer Laurence never travels without his camera. (Courtesy Finding the Universe)

Couple Laurence Norah and Jessica Turchik have been traveling together since 2014, cataloging their adventures through Laurence’s Finding the Universe blog (and his popular Finding the Universe Facebook channel where he showcases his photos) and on Jessica’s travel blog, Independent Travel Cats. Laurence has earned recognition from USA Today as a top 10 travel blog, and currently he's serving as the president of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association. They're getting ready for another mammoth trip to Europe, so packing strategy and smart travel are second nature to these two.

Their best advice for travelers: "As a couple, we find the most important thing on the road is to be able to compromise and of course communicate about what we want from the trip," says Laurence. "While we tend to spend most of our travel time together, spending some time apart so we can explore our separate interests can result in a better trip overall."

Laurence always packs his cameras (he's a professional travel photographer who also teaches photography). Jessica's needs are simple: a passport and a pair of sunglasses.

Never leave home without: Laurence says he could never travel without his headphones; Jessica says she'll gladly accept the bulk and weight of a book (she says she loves the feel of a real book and hasn't gone the way of an e-reader yet).

What travelers pack that they shouldn’t: "Too much stuff! If you’re going on long term trip, we find about 10 days worth of outfits suffices—after that you can start getting laundry done. You can also find nearly everything you need on the road. One of our little pleasures when traveling is going into stores and seeing what kinds of brands they have to buy."

What travelers don't pack that they should: Jessica loves to pack duct tape, a couple of carabiners, and a few trash bags; she says these few items have proved useful in many situations. For doing laundry on the road, Jess packs a sink stopper, Woolite travel packs, and a laundry line; as part of their budget travel ethos, she tries to save money by washing items in the sink.

Laurence always packs a multi-tool, whether that's for a quick repair or to open a bottle of wine.

Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt

Packing tips from travel blogger, Nomadic Matt
Something Matt always makes sure to pack? Dental floss to make sure his pearly whites stay that way. (Courtesy Nomadic Matt)

After taking a trip to Thailand in 2005 and meeting fellow travelers who showed him how to travel on a budget without a desk job waiting for him, Matt Kepnes decided to quit his desk job and travel. Through his popular blog, Nomadic Matt and his book "How to Travel the World on $50 a Day," he shares with fellow travelers reports on destinations plus his advice for traveling on a budget. His advice after roughly 10 years of professional traveling is to think small.

Top packing advice: "Get a small bag. If you get a small bag, you force yourself to pack light and only take the essentials. It shortcuts our desire to want to fill space. If you have a big bag, you'll over pack. I also write down a list of everything I think I'll need and then start cutting it. Stick to the list and you'll avoid over packing."

Secondly, he says pack lots of socks. "It seems silly but I always seem to lose socks when I travel so I take a bunch of extra with me."

Never leave home without: "My iPhone. It's my music player, phone, camera, note device, map, and everything in between. I would be lost without it. I hate being dependent a piece of tech, but it really is a handy device." 

What travelers pack that they shouldn’t: "I would say that most travelers just over pack. It's not one specific thing but they take big bags and they fill them because people have a tendency to want to fill up space. Most people don't wear half the clothes they take with them."