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16 Things You Should NEVER Pack


The 16 things you should NEVER pack for long-term travel.


I expect a lot of hate for this article... but in my semi-professional experience, and based on years of travel, these are 16+ things and 16 mistakes I see people make when packing for trips.


Item 1 - Water Bottles


Blasphemy!


I know... it seems like everyone has a personalized stickered water bottle these days, and I get that they are environmentally friendly.. when you're at home, filling it up with tap water or utilizing filtered water from your fridge.


But here's the deal.. many, if not most places you visit will have questionable tap water, so you're going to be buying bottled or jugged water anyway.. bringing a water bottle isn't changing anything, it's just packing more stuff.


I know some of you will argue that you can pack filtered water bottles, but I'm guessing you've never traveled with one, because they're bulky, low capacity and you have to change the filters, which is a pain in the butt when Amazon over-night isn't an option.


There's a simple, environmentally friendly solution to all of this..


Step 1) Buy a bottle of water on the first leg of your journey (ideally glass, since it's easier to recycle, but plastic is fine if you're worried about dropping it).


Step 2) Go to the grocery store when you get to your first city and buy the biggest jug of water you can find.


Step 3) Fill up your "trip bottle" and reuse it for the rest of the trip.


How is this different from just bringing a refillable water bottle? It's not.. at all, but it's one less thing to pack, one less thing you can lose, and you won't feel nearly as guilty if you forget it somewhere and have to buy a new one.


If you're absolutely adamant about bringing a water bottle, consider a space-saving collapsible or foldable water bottle.


A portable water bottle


Item 2 - Portable Chargers and Power Banks


More blasphemy! Bring on the hate.


Listen, I don't care if you bring a portable charger, it's your back; I'm just listing all the things I think are overrated or nice to have but not necessary, and here's why:


Portable chargers are heavy, often bulky, prone to getting wet and often create more problems than they solve. You would know this if you've ever traveled with one and had to decide what to charge with the one working plug in your room. Do I charge my phone or do I charge my charger? And then charge my phone later... hmmm..


Then you're sitting by the pool, your phone is at 25% but you're getting ready to go out for the night, do you stuff that bulky charger in your pocket or do you deal with a low battery.. If you do stuff it in your pocket, will you even actually plug-in your phone while your out? Or will you be taking pictures and texting..


Portable chargers are one more thing to manage, one more thing to lose, and one more thing to charge when you could just charge your phone. Yes, they're useful on trains, planes and buses, but these days, most long-haul transports have plugs; couple that with super fast wall chargers that can charge your phone in <30 minutes, (which you should bring), and you shouldn't have many, if any, battery issues.


Old portable power banks


Item 3 - Tablets and eReaders


Everyone should know by now not to bring physical books, but I'm arguing for even less, leave the eReaders and tablets at home.


Why? It's one more thing to charge, one more thing to worry about, and one more thing to manage. What does a tablet get you? A bigger screen to watch shows? You can suffer with a small screen for the miniscule amount of time you'll be watching TV, and airplanes have TVs. What does an eReader get you? Okay, you got me here, reading is cool and you should do it, but will you even be reading that much? Could you suffer through an audiobook or burn through some podcasts instead?


To each their own, but I'll keep returning to my golden rule; if you're not sure if you'll need it, don't bring it.


I doubt you'll think twice about it once you hit the road, there's too much to see and do.


Item 4 - Portable Bluetooth Speakers


I'm not sure if other people struggle with this, but for a long time I debated packing a Bluetooth speaker; for beach days, park days, pool hangs, etc.; it seems to make sense, but here's what I've found:


Every rooftop pool you visit is already going to have music, every park you go to will likely have someone blasting local jams, every beach you go to will either have music playing at a beach bar, or you'll actually be trying to get away from the music, and finally, that phone in your pocket can get the job done in a worst case scenario.


They're just not super useful, and if you're goal is to minimize your pack, this is an easy drop.


A portable bluetooth speaker


Item 5 - Beach and Bathroom Towels


Woah, now he's crossing the line, towels are universally useful!


Yes, this is true, but they're also universally available, at every hostel, hotel, and Airbnb; and they're bulky, like obnoxiously bulky.


I've noticed two things while contemplating the pros and cons of towels (yes, I've thought about it way too much).. 1) Towels get wet and dirty faster than anything else (especially if you use them as more than bath towels), so why not use the provided towels and leave the laundry to the host? And 2) Towels are always the last thing to get packed when you're checking out of a hotel/hostel (assuming you shower before you go); do you really want to pack that wet, smelly towel in your backpack before you hit the road for 8 hours? Probably not.


Towels are universally useful, but I find it much more convenient (and space-efficient), to borrow and return them when done.


Items 6/7/8 - Hats, Sandals and Sunglasses


Wait, what? How could he say that?


Okay, this one could be a stretch, but hear me out.. Hats get lost, sandals are cheap, and sunglasses break; these are all great reasons to leave them behind, until you need them. What am I saying? I'm saying leave them, and then buy them when you get to your tropical destination. They're all cheap and easy to find, they're a great excuse to go shopping, and if you manage to hang on to them all the way home, they'll make for a nice keepsake. And if you do lose them, you won't care.


Admittedly, this is coming from a guy who's lost every single pair of sunglasses he's ever owned, so maybe I'm a bit jaded, but the point remains; there's a case for leaving space.


Sunglasses by the pool


Item 9 - Big Expensive Headphones


You know those huge Beats by Dre headphones? Yeah, those, leave them.


I'm all for pristine sound and noise-cancelling headphones, but if you're looking to minimize your pack, this is an easy place to save. Inexpensive, in-ear Bluetooth headphones can be found at almost any convenience store, anywhere in the world, so you won't be without your tunes, and you probably won't notice much difference; plus you probably won't care if you lose a pair of cheap headphones; and you definitely will care if you lose your Beats by Dre.


Save yourself a small headache and drop the beats...


A woman listening to headphones


Item 10 - Neck Pillows and Head Bob Stoppers


Hmmm... I can't decide how I feel about this..


People love their travel pillows and neck braces and face slings and jaw holders, and I love that they love them, because I get to laugh at how silly they look with their mouths agape and drool dripping every so slowly onto their gently tucked in, baby blue airline blanket.


These are all great things, but here's the catch, neck pillows, face braces, and forehead holders are only really useful on that first long flight overseas, and that second long flight home; outside of that, they're just taking up space. There are better uses for that space, like coconut bras and dinosaur crocs.


Plus, pillows are provided on international flights; they're not perfect, but then again, neither are you.


A man sleeping on a plane with a neck pillow


Item 11 - Thick Comfy Hoodies


Hoodies are great, hoodies are cool, pack a hoodie for travel and feel like a fool.


I don't know if that's true, but I do know that thick hoodies are about the worst thing you can pack (right next to towels) if you're trying to save space.


Few things in this world are as nice as a big comfy hoodie - I don't envy your decision - but thick hoodies are right up there with neck pillows and chin twisters; they're great for long flights and chilly evenings, but that's about it; there are better ways to stay warm... like traveling to a warm climates, or having a drink.


Leave the thick hoodie at home and pack a lightweight version instead, you'll get most of the benefits and all of the space.


woman in a comfy hoodie


Items 12/13 - Umbrellas and Rain Jackets


Umbrellas are like hats, sandals, sunglasses and playing cards, easy to find if you need them, so don't pack one. Rain jackets could go either way, on one hand, there are super packable options that are great for travel, on the other hand, why spend the money when you could just buy a cheap poncho, or stay out of the rain completely?


When in doubt, leave it behind.


Item 14 - Watches and Jewelry


Watches, jewelry, necklaces, rings, and earrings - I probably don't need to mention these, but just in case you were wondering, leave them all behind; they're easy to lose, often expensive, and can draw unnecessary attention; if you're really looking to accessorize, buy some while traveling, but don't pack anything you'd be afraid to lose, it's not worth it.


Item 15 - Smart Watches


Smart Watches are like eReaders, tablets, and any other extra electronics that are nice to have, but not necessary; it's just one more thing to worry about, only you won't know you're worried, because you won't have your heart rate tracker, well... that's a conundrum.


a smart watch


Item 16 - Specialized Sporting Equipment


This one is tough, if you're trip revolves around some specific activity, like rock climbing, snowboarding, scuba diving, etc., it does make sense to bring your equipment, but since this blog is geared towards long-term, multi-month, multi-destination remote workers, travelers and digital nomads; let's assume your travel is more generic than that.


It's good to remember that any tour-guide or instructor-led activities you sign up for will already have all the equipment you need, often-times it's required that you use the onsite outfitter; so you probably don't need to worry about packing extra equipment - outside of generic hiking gear.


If you do end up doing your thing, like camping, kayaking, canyoning or croqueting, there's a 99% chance you can find equipment rental in every major city; if you're worried about it, do some research before you leave and ignore everything I've said so far.


A person kayaking on vacation


Items 17+ - Honorable Mentions


Extra Shoes - While these are a big ticket item, I'm putting them in the... foot notes, because it would take a whole article to explain, and I've already written it: Oh My God, Shoes!


Excessive Clothing - Unpacking what I consider "excessive clothing" would take days, 2.5 days to be exact, it was written yesterday, and you can find it: 9 Tips for Packing Fewer Clothes


Playing Cards - I was told long ago to always pack a deck of cards, so I did, and I never needed them; these comfortably fall into the "buy them if you need them" category.


Flashlights - There's something about travel that makes me think I need a flashlight, I don't know why, and I've never needed one, it just... seems like you should have one, just in case.. and maybe you're in the same boat; but alas, after years of travel, it's time to admit it, flashlights are rarely necessary and can safely be left behind... unless it's a keychain flashlight, those are always a good idea.


Summary


There you have it, 16+ things people frequently travel with, but often don't need. Obviously these are all debatable, but when it comes to packing for long-term travel, less is always more.


If you're aware of any other often-overpacked items or ways to minimize, let me know in the comments and I'll add them to the list!


And if you're interested in getting monthly travel tips in your inbox, feel free to join the mailing list below.


As always, happy travels.



photography equipment

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