Pack light, no, really

Carrying your bag everywhere? Get serious about taking less stuff. 

  • Learn to roll or compress to manage volume and wrinkles, but most of all get the weight down. 
  • You might tell yourself you’ll wear your heavy shoes on the plane; maybe, but eventually they have to end up in the pack. Don’t take them. Go with the lighter ones. 
  • Get road-washable clothes. 
  • Pack paperback books or get e-books for your electronic device. Go with the smaller headphones. 

Understand that even a moderate backpack or suitcase is always, always going to be a giant pain on public transit and staircases. 

Carry-on only? That’s going to be tricky for a trip that goes past a few days and might involve changing weather. And don’t forget that for a multi-stage trip it can be better to let someone else schlep your bag from place to place. Really, they don’t lose bags all that often; but you will of course put your cannot-must-not-lose stuff in your carryon: medications, camera, iPad, phone, etc.  


If you’re the kind of person who’s read this far, you probably walk a lot when travelling. 

If you walk a lot, AND go to museums etc. where you walk and stand and walk and stand, you need to give your feet every advantage you can.  

All those people who travel for 10 days with a carry-on are NOT packing a spare pair of men’s size 11. So read on.

Don’t take your dress shoes. If necessary, have a plain dark pair of good walking shoes. No one will notice, and if they do you won’t care. And at our age most people don’t notice us anyway! And …

  • Wear your heaviest shoes on the days you’ll be schlepping your suitcase
  • Remember to balance support (for walking) against cushioning (for standing). 
  • Think about your shoes in the month before your vacation. Set aside any that pinch or get uncomfortable after a while, especially later in the day as your feet swell. 
  • Going somewhere hot? Wear shoes that breathe. Good sandals can be surprisingly effective. Some days you may have to wear socks with sandals (gasp!) to get airflow without friction; geeky but better than blisters or stinkfoot. Also, note that your feet may swell more and sooner in the heat, so don’t wear your snug pair. 
  • Going to an Old Town somewhere, especially in Europe? Remember the cobblestones. This is the day to wear the shoes with good support. 
  • Tim’s Third Law of Travel: The more your feet hurt, the less chance you have of finding a seat on public transit. 

Small but effective things to take

  • A tiny compass – zipper, bag clip; especially useful when coming out of a subway entrance in an unknown direction. Can be easier than using your phone and finding the Compass app.
  • A carabiner on shoulder bag + hat with a loop (you can’t have too many carabiners! they hold jackets, shopping bags, …) – BUT keep your compass away from them!
  • Clear plastic envelopes, one per day or trip section plus a “today” envelope. 
  • A laminated map so it’s waterproof. Other maps on your devices.
  • Superlight rainjacket, Tilley hat or equivalent
  • Hand-washable quick-dry socks and underwear
  • Comfortable pants, and I mean that. No pants or shorts should go in your bag until you know you can do a long walk in them, maybe on a hot day. 
  • Electrical adapters. Most chargers and portable devices can handle foreign voltages, but in most countries you’ll need a simple adapter to convert the plug prongs. Look online to see what plugs you’ll need.   

Technology – see the Technology on the Trip page.

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