Even if you’re the type of traveler who packs a mere hot second before it’s time to head to the airport, there are probably some unnecessary items you toss in your luggage just in case... that you know you'll never really use. That approach is OK in a pinch, but if you're practiced, you can avoid it every time — and in turn, avoid overweight baggage fees and general unnecessary discomfort. Take these tips from frequent travelers and digital nomads on the items they wish they brought... but wish they'd left back home:
1. Two sets of tech
Of those items that feel the most indispensable, your iPhone, laptop, and various other electronics required for working often top the list. But if you’re only traveling for a week or so, you really can keep it just to the basics, according to a writer and consultant who traveled the world for a year while working on the go. “Tech can be heavy and bulky, and almost any cord or gadget you need will be available in airports or stores abroad, so you can buy what you need if you later realize it's actually important,” she said.
2. Expensive, heavy camera gear
Sure, you want — even need — to create quality content for Instagram, but is it worth the extra weight to lug around lenses and other gear? Traveler and kimkim founder Alex Buri says it's not worth the shoulder ache. "Unless taking photos is your main objective for your trip, it's almost always better to leave your giant camera and ultra-telephoto zoom lens at home. Carrying expensive camera gear around can make you more of a target for thieves. And if you're on a super active hiking or backpacking trip, you're also more likely to break or damage your fancy equipment,” he explains. “If you opt for a lighter smartphone (with a waterproof and bounce proof case) or small point-and-shoot camera, you can still take great photos and you're much more likely to get the shot, rather than missing it, since smaller devices are more readily accessible.”
3. Synthetic sleeping bags
If it’s been on your wanderlust bucket list for — well — forever, to go on serious, extended outdoors excursion, Buri also recommends trading your traditional go-to synthetic sleeping bag for a travel-friendly, lighter-weight version that will provide the same comfort and purpose. “Synthetic sleeping bags are bigger than their down counterparts, which means that you give up valuable space for other necessary items. If you pack a sleeping bag, invest in a down bag that packs up smaller and is lightweight,” he notes.
4. A bath towel
Sure, we all may crave comforts of home when we’re away from our beds, but if you’re toting around a plush bath towel because you’re unsure if your Airbnb will offer a nice one, you’re wasting valuable space in your bag. As nomadic travel blogger Natasha Alden explains it’s not worth the plush when you could buy a travel-appropriate one instead: “Travel towels are made to be portable, quick drying, lightweight, and anti-microbial. They don't take up much room in a suitcase, can be used as a bath or beach towel and also dry in just a few hours,” she says.
5. Filtered water bottle.
If you’re traveling to Mexico, much of South America, or Asia, you might find yourself constantly on the lookout for bottled water since the tap isn’t safe to digest. While a seemingly simple solution is to pack a filtered water bottle that’ll cleanse any dubious water for you, most options aren’t as trustworthy as they appear and can add extra pounds. Graphic designer Kirsten Quisenberry used to pack one for safe keeping, but after collecting countless passport stamps, she realized they were unnecessary. “It’s easy enough to find a plastic water bottle anywhere you travel, and if you’re staying in an established hotel, they’ll usually offer them free of charge,” she says.
6. Fitness or sports equipment.
For frequent traveler and freelance recruiter Jacob Nelson, part of experiencing a new part of the world is participating in the sport culture. Regardless if it’s surfing in Nicaragua, tossing a frisbee in the parks of Prague, or joining a pickup game of basketball in Croatia, mingling with locals in their preferred method of fitness helps him feel part of the community. While athletic shoes are a must for packing, he doesn’t BYO his own ball. Why? It sparks more conversation to borrow, or if you need, rent, the gear when you’re abroad rather than packing it. Plus, those pounds add up. “You can get a surfboard, a basketball, a football, a paddleboard anywhere [those sports are practiced] — there’s no use in packing it when it could spur a connection you wouldn’t have had if your packed your own,” he says.
7. Several pairs of jeans
A good rule of thumb, according to digital nomad and education consultant Matthew Williams? For every week of travel, pack one pair of jeans. Yep, that means if you’re gone for seven days, you don’t need more than a pair. With access to laundry at hotels or in urban environments — or even just access to a sink to wash and a window to dry, you can usually find a way to give your pair a good rinse... and jeans tend to hold up a long time before they even need one! “Jeans are one of the heaviest items in your suitcase, and if you pack several for a single week of travel, you won’t have room for other essentials you need — or for the finds you’ll want to bring back stateside,” he says.
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