Packing Essentials - Tips on What (and What Not) To Bring

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Sep 09, 2016 / 4 comments

We've all been there - packing and looking at the huge pile of STUFF on the bed, and looking at the very small suitcase. How to reconcile the two? It's stressful! Add to it the fact that we work on the road (and thus our Crumpler bag is already filled with laptops and cords, and another with camera equipment), and we REALLY have to pack light. For the record, we LOVE fishpond and lilypond bags. They last.

Here's a caveat - we either drive somewhere, or rent a car when we fly in, because of my disabilities. So, public transportation isn't really an option for me. If you're backpacking, you'll take even LESS of the essentials - and probably have a much longer list of things to NOT take!

lilypond luggage in Ireland

Packing our car in County Kerry, Ireland

Without further ado, my top 5 essential things to pack  - and 5 non-essential items, as well.

Packing essentials - tips on what (and what not) to bring

Don't forget:

1) Stuff to entertain your kids. Our daughter always has: art supplies (small pad of drawing paper, charcoal and colored pencils), her itouch loaded with audiobooks and her favorite games and music (and headphones), her small stuffed animal that somehow makes it into every single photo with her, and usually a barbie.

2) Mosquito Spray - of whatever kind you prefer (natural, DEET, etc.). We usually travel to water - lakes, oceans, rivers. They all have some sort of biting bug. We just spent the weekend at our cottage, and just as at our lake home, we were swarmed by mosquitos. They love warm bodies, and they thrive near water. Thankfully, I stock up on bug spray so we can actually BE outside. When we were in Scotland, on Loch Ness and the River Tay, those midges were FIERCE. My travel size of OFF was gone quickly and it wasn't easy to find a replacement.

3) Ziplock Bags, clothespins. These small things save the day - clothespins to hold things shut, or dry things overnight, or hold receipts together. Get bamboo ones, and take 3 or 4 - they are light and VERY useful. Ditto with ziplock bags - take a few of each size. From holding wet swimsuits to shells collected on the beach to snacks, they are something you will find you can't live without.

4) Snacks. I pack high protein snacks and we are always grateful. I don't like airport food. I don't like fast food. So we have trail mix, and high protein energy bars, and beef jerky. We take powdered protein water in little packets, and then just empty them into our water bottles (or bottled water we buy). It's so much healthier, and keeps our energy up.

5) Your sense of humor. It will make even the roughest situations bearable, and will create memories and good times. It will also help you through sticky situations, and create goodwill around you.

fishpond luggage at Shannon Airport

durable fishpond luggage at Shannon Airport

Don't Pack:

1) Extra shoes. Because, really, 2 pair are enough. Three if one of them is a pair of running shoes. Shoes can be heavy. Take ones that have multiple uses.

2) Super Glue. Don't laugh. One time I did, because I was SURE I'd need it. It ended up squished, thankfully still in the bag. If you need glue some time, somewhere, I am sure you can go out and buy it.

3) Too Many Clothes. For a month in Ireland and Scotland, we took 4 outfits. It was still too much - granted, we had laundry facilities at every house we rented. But's no fun carrying around a heavy suitcase filled with things you don't need.

4) Hair care/beauty products. You can fill up your bag with these, and they are heavy! Or, you can be smart and just use what's at your hotel - OR, even more fun, go to the store and buy some. Find out what you like in different countries! When I lived in Japan way back in the day, I loved Biore face wash. I even brought some home to the US. Now, of course, it's sold here in our grocery store. You might be surprised at what you'll learn and love!

5) Unrealistic Expectations. You know, the ones where the weather is perfect, and everyone you meet is smiling and happy to see you. Where the food is always gourmet, and there are no mosquitos. This will guarantee you an unhappy trip. Instead, be open to possibilities and joy.

Packing Essentials: Tips on what (and what not) to bring. Do you have any to add?

This is part of a families on the move blog carnival, on 5 essential and non-essential things to pack. Read on for more great family travel tips:


5 Essential and 5 Useless Items We Carry, from Livin on the Road

5 Essential & 5 Useless Items to pack… or not!, from Edventure project

Five Essential Items For Family World Travel, from Wandermom



Comments (4)

  • Marilia Di Cesare

    13 years 3 weeks ago

    Your sense of humor is really the more powerful ¨item¨to bring on a trip, I loved this one.

  • Kerry Dexter

    13 years 3 weeks ago

    Like your ideas, Jessie, especially about the sense of humor and the expectations. I usually travel on public trans, and you are right, even fewer items are always a good idea, but then again you have to factor in where you will be. lovely article, and I like the view you had packing your car in Co Kerry

    Kerry Dexter

    Music Editor,

  • lisa Shusterman

    13 years 3 weeks ago

    OK Jessie; two of us wrote it and one of us thought about writing it - Ziplock Bags.  I think that S.C. Johnson should be paying us a commission or sponsoring us or something!

    We also had similar ideas about shoes, personal care products and expectations - clearly great minds think alike.

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    13 years 3 weeks ago

    Too true, Lisa - those grocery bags don't cut it. I'll take the Ziplocks any day!! :) LOVED your article.


    Jessie Voigts, PhD


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