Posted by: Corina Paraschiv | July 2, 2009

Pack up that suitcase!

It’s vacation time, and that means, too, it’s packing time.

When about to go on a trip around the world, I had about three days left to decide how to pack and get everything to fit in nicely into one little auto-sufficient suitcase, and so I learned tricks here and there to pack efficiently and intelligently.

Now that I am about to go on vacation again, I thought of consulting my article which I wrote back then on packing on my leadership blog (, and then I thought it really did remind me a thing or two, so let’s share it on The Gifted’s Hub too!

I hope you enjoy it!
Pack well and enjoy your vacation!

The Packing List: A Must

First you need a list of things you want to take along.  You need one because otherwise you’ll go thinking “oh I need that” and “might need that too” and “oh forgot about this one” and well your entire house will try to fit in your little luggage and it just won’t work.  Specially if you are going on a longer trip the last thing you want is to be like a snail with a heavily overpacked luggage.

Clothing: What to Bring, and What to Leave

We can cut the chase already – the hardest item to leave aside is clothes. We’re all paranoid about being too hot, too cold… or even too “out-of-fashion”.  Here’s the rule of thumb : pick colors that match together so you can create a few combinations with the same clothes and pack only “layered” clothes (instead of “warm” and “cool” clothes, think from t-shirt to sweaters, adding up layers).  If you live in Canada you probably remember this from when you were a kid.  You can always wash your clothes, and as long as you pick things that dry within a day, you don’t need an entire wardrobe.  The thing you SHOULD be packing in great quantity are underwear and socks because these are more complicated to find and if you wet them and don’t have any dry spare ones you can become very cold and it can otherwise be very uncomfortable.

The Kind of Clothes to Bring – and Why

Now what kind of clothes should you bring?  If you’re going in a warm-wheather destination, you may think that the heat is worth bringing short-sleeve items only.  Bugs however can be deadly in some parts of the world.  Insects can bring illnesses like dengue, plaudism, yellow fever and japeneese encephilitis.

Depending on the regions you are traveling to, you will be exposed to various illnesses :

1.  Dengue – mosquitoes active mostly in the morning and late afternoon, in urban settings, near human activity and indoors (Asia and South America)
2.  Japeneese enciphilitis – early on sunrise, in rural areas, close to rivers (vaccination available for trips to South-East of Asia)
3.  Plaudism -early on sunrise, both rural and urban areas (South America, Africa and South of Asia
4.  Yellow fever – during the day, in rural areas and jungle, but also in urban settings on the African continent  (there is vaccination against this for Africa and South America which is recommended)

Wearing some insect repellent is therefore a must (specially since not all illnesses have vaccines to prevent them), and the best kind to wear is one with 30% diethyltolamide, which offers protection for about 6 hours at a time.  To apply it, you must first put the sunscreen on, wait about 20 minutes and then apply the bug repellent, and you can apply it everywhere except your face.  This offers protection but it isn’t complete.  The clothing therefore can complement your protection; bugs are attracted to dark colors, so it would be wise to pack in some lightly colored clothes, long-sleeved, and long pants.  Avoid dark socks too, an not-so-obvious fact when you’re packing.  There is one thing you should consider as well whenever you are packing : try to choose natural fibers, such as wool or cotton rather than synthetic clothes.  First off, they have less wrinkles when you fold them.  Second, they allow you to spray bug repellent with diethyltolamide on them without destroying the fabric (unlike synthetic materials which don’t survive very well to those chemicals).


A word about shoes.   Resist the temptation bring in too many pairs.  A pair of closed running shoes is probably most convenient for traveling.  Don’t bring in your new pair – only to spoil it walking through streets and trails.  The most important feature is for them to be comfortable and for you to have tried them on prior to the trip.  Don’t buy a pair last minute only to get blisters while abroad.   Also consider the type of activities you will be doing.  Are you going to the beach?  Hiking?  On a business trip?  Different occasions may ask for different footwear.  For hiking, it is highly recommended you enter the socks in your pants so that tics and other insects don’t crawl in.

Traveling with Medications & Oral Vaccines

Alright you need some protection, vaccines, and coordination for the regular medicine you may already be taking.  Pay attention to this because it is probably the most stressful coordination you’ll have to make.

You should make sure before leaving the country for a long period of time that you see a doctor regarding your trip, get the proper vaccinations, and find out about what kind of services you can get abroad if you fall ill (and what your insurance covers in that regard).  One thing you should absolutely not forget to pack is your vaccination booklet to have a record of all the protection you’ve already had – both because it can help doctors treat you more accurately if anything goes wrong during your visit, and because some countries simply will not let you in without the proper vaccinations (some countries will actually offer vaccination options right at the boarder to allow you to be immunized, so although it is not recommended you take that option, if you’re really stuck and must leave, find out if you can get the shots you need at the immigration as you will arrive in the host country).  Most international study programmes will also require official documentation of your health status so plan that into your schedule – and don’t forget to bring the documentation along (a portable medical file).

For medication you already are taking, check with your pharmacy that they have enough supply on hand for the duration of your trip and that your prescription covers the length of your stay.  Try not to come into the pharmacy at the last minute because if they don’t have them onhand you’ll be stuck having to visit a clinic in the host country and buying medication there (often more expensive than at home).   If you’re considering oral vaccinations like the one against traveler’s diarrhea, make sure you have the proper papers to cross the boarder with those and have them kept in the cabine’s fridge during the duration of the flight (and don’t forget them when you board off!).

Contact lenses are another consideration.  You should always have at least one extra pair handy and if possible a copy of your prescription.  Even if you don’t like wearing glasses, bring them in a solid case just in case something happens, and don’t forget the liquid for your lenses as well.  I speak from experience that it is a real drag to get access to any of those when visiting another country.

Ideally it is also recommended that you have a little more medication than the amount needed for your trip because you never know if you are being held unexpectadly in a country (political disturbance, missed flight, identity theft, etc.).  If you’re traveling with others it’s also a good idea to give them a little dose of the medication you are taking so that in case you loose your bags, you can at least have a little onhand.  As a habbit, I always pack any medicine I need (including aspirines, immodium, etc.) in my handluggage.  You don’t want to learn that your medication got lost somewhere together with your luggage when you arrive to another country.   Don’t forget to have the prescriptions and a list of all your medication onhands in case you’re asked questions, either at the boarder or at the doctor.

Other Considerations

Other things we should think about are official documents (passports, credit cards, etc.), business cards (you never know who you will be meeting), medication, personal care items (including towel and toilet paper – not always available in public washrooms!!), electric plugs, electronic devices and entertainement.  I’ll be talking mostely about entertainement things you might want to add.  Because here is the thing : this whole clothes business, and the entertainement business, can become pretty heave a load and take a lot of space.

Using the Digital World to Lighten the Suitcase

So here is an idea for you : if you bring your computer, you can turn it into any necessary thing you need.

The camera can be replaced by a digital camera like the Sony T series, which caries most of the advantages of a SLR camera.  They even have a GPS integrated tracking system, underwater cases and wide-angle lenses you can add on.   The beauty of it all is the size of those cameras are the size of a little wallet.

All-in-one: your Precious Laptop

Next up, what can you include on your computer to avoid taking most of the things you would typically take along.

*  Journaling and scrapbooking can be done using Journal on your tablet PC (or other free softwares like Scrapbook Flair)
*  Put all sorts of music on your machine – grab some friends’ and leave space for new music so you can grab that from the people you meet.  This will make a great database of songs for any mood you’re in!  Bring mini-speakers.
*  If you own a GPS system by sony for your digital camera (compatible with most brands of cameras) make sure you INSTALL it before you leave.  That way, as you upload your images, they appear on the map already.  Think of installing MapSphere – free software which can help track movement and record entries synchronized with locations and pictures for blogs.  Schmap is also great for viewing maps of your destination in advance and touring places through free video documentaries.
*  Do all your movie editing, slideshows and photo editing on the computer – great memories to bring back home!  (bring memory stick for your devices, electricity plugs with converters, lenses for the camera, mini kodak guide if you adjust exposure manually)   Also remember that pictures from every day life scenes from home – which may seem plain to you – can seem quite exotic to the travelers or locals you’ll meet at the other end of the world.
*  Personal planner with organizer (like freeware Kaplan Personal) for addresses both of your friends back home and those you meet, with also slots for placing in your appointements and your courses.  Some open source software are very good at integrating features all-in-one such as personal to-do lists, calendars, binders to stick in your notes, etc.
*  Art tools like Art Rage and Story Wizard to write travel stories or to paint something in the free time
*  Ebooks instead of textbooks – very useful
*  Consider downloading podcasts either for learning the local language or for pure entertainement – might come in handy if you’re in transportation mode a lot and there are not too many people around.
*  Games for groups (like you don’t know Jack or Who wants to be a millionaire) make great interaction, and so do DVDs of good movies.
*  A software like Guitar Pad where you can enter all your favorite songs with the guitar tabs – and when traveling you can expand your repertoire by adding new songs.  Similarly, if you like cooking, there are freewares out there for gathering recipes so you can build your own database of new tastes, and share your own recipes!
*  This will sound strange but bring your project management software too if you’re the leadership kind.  Because you know what – you never know if you arrive in some port and want to share or exchange on some basic management concepts for simple project planning to local groups, or if you will actually end up using the software on the trip itself for your own group.   Also bring a copy of team-building activities that can be conducted in big or small groups.  It can always be fun for ice-breakers.

A word of advice, be careful not to actually isolate yourself with all this material.  It is good to have it on-hand if you do end up being on a long train ride on your own, but engaging with locals is more important;  tomorrow, your computer will still be there, but your travel companions and the exotic setting might not.  If you’re in a scenario such as a ship for a long period of time, I’d recommend trying to use technology as a tool (and only a tool!) to help build a community.  Think of your computer not as a personal entertainement center but as a facilitator to community life.  Also try to use it in a sharable way – ennable others to make you discover their culture by providing them with the support to play the CD of their traditional music or to show you on a big screen what home is for them.

Last Thoughts

It’s always said that you should bring half the clothes you need – and have double the amount of money you think you’d need.  Which works well if you’re in a place where you can buy commodities – and less well if you’re in the middle of the ocean for a very long period of time.  However, remember nothing is truely as vital as you may think it is.  My iPod was stolen a few months ago, and my internet had stopped working for a period because the school server had lost the database of authentification passwords.  When those two things happened, I thought I would miss both the Internet access and the music on my iPod very much, but it turns out you don’t.  After a day I was already discovering new ways of entertaining myself, discussing with students waiting for the bus, doing “people watching” and sketching when waiting in lines, and now I am even wondering whether I should get another iPod in the first place because it turned out to be not so necessary after all.  Our dependency to routine is only a matter of habbit.  You’ll probably forget things while you’re packing – I know I always forget about two things every trip – and you’ll soon discover it ultimately doesn’t matter because once there, you’ll have a lot of new opportunities you hadn’t considered.  Take is as a positive event and make the most out of the otherwise stressful situation.

Additional Resources

There are very good resources you may want to consult regarding the packing preparations.

Some of the recommendations in this article have come from a very useful site called OneBag (, which talks about every step from choosing your bags to washing your clothes when abroad.  It even has a demo packing list to get you practically everywhere.  Another good resource is Sanofi Pasteur traveling guides, full of information about the vaccines you’ll need.  Lastly, by visiting a specialized travel clinic you’ll often have access to locally published brochures about the risks specific to your trip.

Now you’re all set for traveling!



  1. When I go on a vacation I love getting new clothes !! CHECK out my blog when you can


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: