Riding the subway is often a stressful experience, especially in a foreign country. The crowded platforms, rushing people, confusing signs, fast stops and sardine packed trains make for a nerve-wracking experience. But there is nothing worse than trying to navigate the London Tube with a 50lb suitcase. Trust me, I have done it. Two years ago my family visited London after three weeks in the United Kingdom. Here we were trying to enjoy London, but instead we were lugging our suitcases through the underground. Just imagine four exhausted travelers working in teams to carry 50lb suitcases up and down the many flights of stairs that led to the trains. I built some serious arm muscles! After that trip, my family and I vowed, we would NEVER take that much stuff on a trip again. Over the next few international trips I took, I practiced and improved my packing skills. Last time I went to Europe, I fit everything I needed for 10 days into a carry on bag and small backpack. I thought I would share with you my best packing advice.
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If you remember just one thing, remember this – MULTIPURPOSE. You want everything you bring to serve as many purposes as possible. Bring a sweater that complements your fancy dress but is warm enough to serve as a light jacket every evening. Bring shoes nice enough for the restaurant but comfortable enough to walk in all day. Never take a piece of clothing that is suitable for just one occasion or matches only one outfit. Packing this way is harder to do than just jamming all your stuff into a huge suitcase, so when you are packing it is important to plan exactly what you will need when. Write out the days you will be traveling, your anticipated activities and what you plan to wear. Don't forget that you can make different combinations and plan to wear each item more than once.
To make multipurpose packing work, you must do one of two things. One is to re-wear your clothes several times without washing them to sweeten the air around you. Or, if you value proximity to your fellow travelers you could follow my second key to traveling light. It is a secret most of us never even think of, DOING YOUR OWN LAUNDRY. I know, most of you don't like doing laundry at home and are probably thinking, “No reasonable person does their own laundry by hand while traveling and wears the same thing over and over!” Okay, so maybe I am not normal. Maybe I grew up hearing too many stories about how my great-grandmother traveled for weeks with just two outfits, one to wear and one to wash. But, if you want to pack light for a long period of time, you need to wear your clothes at least twice, if not three or four times. Take less than 100ml of laundry detergent and clothes that will dry fairly quickly, learn how to hand-wash a shirt in the sink and you will be fine.
It really isn't that hard to pack light if you choose clothing that serves several purposes and do your own laundry. Remember, it is much easier to wear that sweater more than once than to drag 10 sweatshirts and all your other stuff through the subway! I promise!
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