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Unpacking List

What is on your “Unpacking List”?
Travel advice is full of packing lists: essentials to take, advice for traveling light, the perfect bag, and multi-use items.
Let’s share our unpacking lists.
What items have you learned to leave at home? Perhaps some item that you carried with you for years that you later learned you can happily do without.

SUMMARY OF THIS THREAD

People had fun with this topic. We learned a lot from experienced fellow travelers.
Here is a consolidated list of the items most often taken out of the suitcase.
Anyone want to add to the list? What have your learned to leave at home when you travel?

And a bit of light verse for the light packer at the end.

Personal Care
Hairdryer (biggest vote getter)
Electric razor & charging cord (Use small electric razor running on two AA batteries.)
Norelco electric shaver, pre-shave, and after shave
Shampoo or a bar of soap (hotels provide)
Quick-drying towel (never used)
Curling iron
OTC medicines (but there)

Clothing & Related items
Full-length raincoat for summer travel
Heavy travel pants with the “secret” pockets
Beaten-wool jacket
Second pair of shoes (warm debate over the need for a spare pair)
Sport coat
Jewelry
Travel iron
Clothesline
Laundry soap

Electronics & Devices
Smart phone has replaced: calculator, flashlight, MP3 player, and travel alarm clock.
Travel alarm
Computer
Tablet
Voltage Converter
Immersion coil

Luggage & Travel Gear
Luggage rack
Heavy suitcases
Airline Pillow
Water bottle
Umbrella
Bottle stopper

Money
Travelers checks
Less cash and rely more on credit and debit cards.

Photo Equipment
Digital camera & USB flash drive - use my phone & iCloud
Downsized my binoculars
Downsized my camera
Multiple camera lenses
Digital camera

Books
Phrasebook
Guidebooks
Paperback books (Use an eReader)

Special Lessons – Leave home:
My budget (spend more – live it up)
My husband

The Poetry of Packing
A traveler was careful to pack
Only tried and true needs in his sack.
Now, light on his feet,
More people he’d meet
More memories he could bring back.

Posted by
20810 posts

Things I no longer take:

  • hairdryer (available everywhere I stay, even though I'm a budget traveler)
  • bottle stopper (no longer necessary since everything is twist-off now)
  • immersion coil (no more dehydrated soups for me)
  • luggage rack (bags now have wheels; what will they think of next??)
  • full-length raincoat for summer travel (rain jacket and water-shedding slacks will do)
  • beaten-wool jacket (fleece is warm enough, much less bulky and far lighter)
  • second pair of shoes (not worth the weight/bulk for something virtually never worn)
  • traveler's checks (duh)
  • clothesline (had trouble finding places to attach it; I now manage without)
Posted by
21655 posts

That is not much of a list. And a clothes line is near critical for us and only 3, 4 oz. But we take a hand full of various size hooks and other attachments. Always find a way to attach between something.

The big item that was always thrown in last by the wife was a five pound, traveling iron. One year it accidentally disappeared. On the first trip wife took a "train case" for cosmetics. That too disappeared.

The luggage cart to strap on our non-wheeled suitcases. First trip. Left in the trash can at the Milan airport since it was complete broken down.

Dropped my electric razor and charging cord in favor of an small electric razor running on two AA batteries. Saved at least a pound, maybe a bit more.

The sport coat unless we are doing a cruise in the middle.

I will think of some more items later.

Posted by
4341 posts

This first item is said a bit in jest but also a bit in truth: my husband! On some trips to Europe, he has stayed home. We’ve had some honest conversations to realize he loves to golf and I love to travel, and that’s perfectly okay. I don’t want “to carry” someone who would rather be doing something else. During my last trip to France, he joined me for the last week of a 3-week trip, and all three weeks were very nice.

Things I don’t bring that were on our first RS packing list in 2003:

Quick-drying towel - no need
Clothesline - I just bring the small rubber braided one for underwear
Laundry soap - just use hotel shampoo
Travel alarm - use my phone
Ear plugs - none of them will stay in my ear canals; thankfully, my husband has a CPAP now
Hair dryer - never brought it. I decided on a great haircut to wash & go.
Digital camera & USB flash drive - use my phone & iCloud
Water bottle - I’ve found that when I’m tired & thirsty, it’s a benefit to sit at an outdoor cafe and enjoy the ambiance (took me several years to realize this!) along with a beverage instead of continuing to walk with a water bottle.

I also bring less clothes overall - four nice outfits are sufficient.

Posted by
18235 posts

Jean, you beat me to it. I was going to say, "my ex-wife".

But really, my thinking is pretty similar to Acraven.

Hairdryer: I don't think I've seen German hotel, pension, etc, that doesn't show having a fon (their word for a hairdryer). In the 80s my hair was long enough to need a hairdryer. Today, I keep what's left short enough not to need one.

Luggage Rack: you've got to be kidding. At 12# my carryon is light enough I don't need no %#& wheels. Anyway, they would just add unnecessary weight.

Umbrella: Rick says if you need to, buy an umbrella over there. I've never needed to.

Second pair of shoes: My normal winter "shoes" are a pair of high-top hiking boots. Once, for a formal Sylvester dinner, I brought along a pair of dress shoes. Wore them once, carried them for two weeks.

Clothesline; I'm halfway between Acraven and Frank on this one. Only used it a couple of times in 11 trips, but it's light so I always bring it along, just in case I find a way to use it. In the beginning, I had a clothesline with hooks; I could never find places to hook it. Then I got one with Velcro - still no. Then I got one with suction cups. Next trip (3 nights) I had a big tile bathroom where I could use it - never since. I bring some "drip-dry" hangers for underwear, and a couple of inflatable hangers for shirts.

Posted by
3789 posts

Every trip I try to shave off a little weight on my luggage, so have left home many of the things already mentioned, and aim to more solid 'cosmetics' that may be multi use - as I use apartments, I can't rely on any supply available. Downsized the binoculars this year, and camera in past years. Trying to decide if I can drop the camera altogether and just use a phone - but it has to have a really good zoom. No, I don't use iPhone, iPad anything. Android all the way for me, and Samsung does have a good phone/camera now...but the cost!!!
Every trip I fill in a list of what I took, and when I get back, I assess how much of it I have used and mark what wasn't used. However, few trips are the same so isn't always useful.I at least review them.

Posted by
1735 posts

When we first started traveling, it was before we had the benefit of the RS packing list. We traveled with the idea that we should take everything we might ever need. That voltage converter never made another trip. The iron, curling iron, hair dryer and cameras have followed. I bought that microfiber towel but never figured out how to use it properly. My husband ditched the heavy travel pants with the “secret” pockets.

Posted by
1520 posts

Ooooo, I love your topic BillP! I made a new packing list after Italy but keep tweaking it. My goal is to cut 5lbs. And on paper I’m almost there. I’m looking at and considering everyone’s experienced ideas.

Years ago when I traveled for work, I’d pack a hair dryer, iron and luggage wheels just for overnight. And when a friend and I went horseback riding in Ireland in 1992, we each brought a huge suitcase and carryon that held tall riding boots, paddock boots and 1/2 chaps, helmet and breeches besides “civilian” clothes and shoes. We bought so many souvenirs that we found a box on the sidewalk in Kilkenny to pack everything in and check on the plane.

Packing has gotten so much easier since then. No voltage converter, no travelers checks, no iron for wrinkling clothes.

Posted by
2336 posts

First it was the computer, which I used to have to carry for work trips combined with vacation. Then I used a tablet, which also got left home eventually.

Posted by
1837 posts

Trying to figure out how to ask a supermarket cashier where the AA batteries are became less and less fun (fyi- pilas AA in Spanish; piles in French) so I stopped carrying my Canon PowerShot zoom - the newer one also needed its own bag with memory cards ands a flexy tripod and a polarizing filter etc etc -- the photos were definitely better than what you could get from iPhone snapshots but it wasn't worth the effort and attention, since iPhone snapshots are reminder enough. If I was curating a website or producing a photo album then maybe it would be worth it, but most snaps hardly get looked at later on anyway.

Posted by
2336 posts

So true, Avirosemail. I brought my point and shoot on my trip to Denver and it's not left the suitcase once.

Posted by
2681 posts

Umbrella. I never use them at home, why did I think I’d suddenly become an umbrella person in Europe? A hooded coat is fine. If I’m hiking I don’t want an umbrella, obviously, and if I’m in a town I can wear a hood and spend more time indoors that day.

Multiple lenses for my camera. I like photography but I’m not a pro just an eager amateur. The weight cost of a full kit is just too inconvenient for my needs. I’ll bring a good general lens and maybe something better for nighttime that stays in the hotel unless I’m going out to photograph after dark.

Hairdryer. Curling iron unless I’m going to a special event.

Phrasebook. I find these not all that helpful because you can’t understand the response! Google translate, online lists of essential words, and sign language/patience work well enough.

Posted by
2183 posts
  • Something new for my next trip is taking less cash and rely more on credit and debit cards. I've always taken a wad of cash with me.
  • I don't bother with a camera anymore and just use my phone. I love taking photos and I'm still on the fence on this one, especially when I need to zoom.
  • Less clothes-but that's actually my wife's decision for both of us after convincing her we could likely do with less. But type of clothes has definitely changed. As I get nearer to retirement and visions of more travel gets real, I pay a lot more attention to the materials of the clothes I buy with significantly more wrinkle free options. I used to be a sucker for silk or rayon shirts from Tommy Bahama, but no more, my allegiance has been moving toward Eddie Bauer.
Posted by
17 posts

Great topic! I gave up toting my Norelco electric shaver, pre-shave, and after shave around ages ago. Now I use a disposal razor and shaving oil and shave, well, once in a while. One pair of good, all purpose shoes. Period. I've never had situation where I needed dress shoes while on vacation. My wife, on the other hand, packs for every contingency, but I've learned to be tolerant.

Posted by
14777 posts

My budget! I would often take instant meals and a small (2 cup) electric kettle to save on dinners. Forget that. It took a long time, but I convinced myself that I can afford to eat one meal a day at a restaurant, and even an afternoon drink as well.

My trips are usually 3 to 3.5 weeks, so I want my comforts - things I could live without but don't want to, like slippers and my preferred shampoo and a reasonably good camera (so much better for difficult conditions than my phone). So I check a bag and wait for it (with 🤞 that it arrives with me). It's worth it to me.

Posted by
8196 posts

All of the items mentioned (except an umbrella - bought a German travel umbrella that weighs about 1 oz and is very sturdy) plus guidebooks and heavy suitcases. Three trips ago I bought TravelPro which are super light and made a big difference.

Posted by
18235 posts

One thing that will never get removed from my packing list is my small travel computer (currently an ASUS Transformer pad). It has a large enough screen to see things, a real keyboard, and charges with a USB phone charger. At 2½ lb, it's worth it's weight in gold to me. Today almost everywhere I stay has Wifi (over there they sometimes call it "WLAN") so I have a place to store and sort photos, access to online maps and train schedules, can send emails, check my bank account, keep track of expenses, etc.

Posted by
3789 posts

@Susan, that's an amazing umbrella! An ounce?! a slice of bread or a pencil weighs an ounce... I need that umbrella. I do always travel with one. (great sunshade for my anticipated 3 months in SEAsia).

Posted by
569 posts

Many of the items already listed, but also a guidebook. I used to take 2-3 of them with me, but now just my phone.

We don't even own an umbrella here at home, so I certainly don't need one while traveling.

Posted by
1738 posts

Multiple camera lenses pretty much all. My wife’s list is always expanding - probably still a consequence of my only allowing her one change of clothing when we were cycling !

Posted by
242 posts

Great topic! I have a question for those who said they only take one pair of shoes: is that a problem if your one pair of shoes gets wet? Or is your one pair Gore-tex or water-resistant? (I normally travel to England annually, so I expect wet conditions on some days).

Posted by
5519 posts

Elizabeth, that’s a good point, and why I’ve always taken two pairs - on on my feet and another in the suitcase. Even when I’m not hiking in the rain, which has sometimes happened, my footwear gets damp from sweat, and being able to air out one pair while wearing another is critical.

Hairdryer and big SLR camera (and multiple lenses) have stayed hone the last many, many trips. And not as many outlet adapters are needed anymore - so many electronic devices use USB ports now, and pretty much everything handles both American and foreign voltage now, so no voltage converter. Oh, travelers checks went by the wayside a long time ago.

Regrettably, trekking poles have usually had to stay home, unless we’ve taken, and checked, a longer bag.

Posted by
8677 posts

For those that only bring one pair of shoes, what would you do if your shoes were damaged and there was nowhere nearby to replace them? When I was in Germany two years ago visiting family, the bottom of one of my aunt’s shoes just disintegrated. It became totally unwearable. We were staying together in a small town and there wasn’t anywhere to buy a replacement pair. Thankfully she had thrown an extra pair of shoes into her suitcase. My family are generally the opposite of light packers. I remember the first time they saw our carry on sized suitcases for a 4 week trip and they were amazed and appalled at the same time. My cousin and aunt each had suitcases that I think were either 26” or 28”. This was for 5 days.

Posted by
146 posts

O traveling tribe and venturers, who ponder and maybe sometimes fret
about all things stuff and such one might overlook and forget.
I, too, have a need for the quixotic combination
of the least that must be packed,
so that in my wandering and ambulation
never, or hardly ever, wished for something I had lacked.

If it is not obvious, I am in the packing is a huge part of the enjoyment of going away camp and thank you BillP for the topic. Love making a list of Every. Single. Item. I choose to tote on my journey. Thrill at finding the lighter version accoutrement. Over the moon gleaning tips and tricks from others sharing their discovery of a useful something or strategy, so thanks all. My aim is the best balance of peak efficiency with premier sufficiency. I diligently seek sturdy but light footwear and utilize a quality insert that transforms a 'cheapy' pair to long wearing comfort and allows for an extra pair to boot.

Posted by
13 posts

The Poetry of Packing
A traveler was careful to pack
Only tried and true needs in his sack.
Now, light on his feet,
More people he’d meet
More memories he could bring back.

Posted by
8196 posts

Maria, I bought it at a very nice umbrella store in Paris and I swear it feels like 1 oz ... took me a while to find it online and I did just now, they say it weighs 99 grams (3.49 oz). I love this umbrella. Here’s the link to it:

https://dopplerschirme.com/en/7106-zero-99.html

Posted by
3053 posts

Susan I have a Doppler umbrella too. Took me awhile to find such a light weight one but I found mine in a Goslar shoe store. Highly recommend this brand! Even if you don’t typically travel with an umbrella this one is worthwhile to have in your car, home, etc.

EDIT: I just weighed mine and it is 3oz/89g without the sleeve. It’s barely discernible in your pocket or purse.

Posted by
6520 posts

Andrea, I'm one of those that only brings the shoes I wear on the plane. Duct tape is good for emergency repairs on many things. Not pretty, but I gave up on pretty a long time ago..

Posted by
5519 posts

Then I’ve come home from France with two new pairs of Mephistos, during the short summer sale, and so much cheaper than they ever are in the USA. Funny how the bag’s often fuller coming home than leaving there.

Posted by
8196 posts

Mona, what a coincidence we have the same umbrella! Good point that the umbrella itself is lighter without the sleeve. Friends are always amazed at how light it is, and yet it works so well.

Posted by
11 posts

I no longer bring shampoo or a bar of soap. Every place I've stayed had shampoo and shower gel, and I'm not particular. I still bring conditioner, but have switched to a solid bar conditioner from Ethique.

My phone has replaced the following items: calculator, flashlight, MP3 player, and travel alarm clock. I still bring a small point-and-shoot camera because it has a lot better zoom than my phone's camera.

I was bring 2 or 3 paperback books on my trips (besides the guidebooks)! My loaded up e-reader takes up a lot less space, though I could read books on my phone if I really wanted to.

One time I brought an inflatable seat cushion wedge. It was semi-helpful with airplane seat comfort, but it wasn't useful enough to make up for taking up too much space in my luggage even when deflated.

Posted by
60 posts

OTC Medicines—I used to bring a PHARMACY with me!
Voltage Converter
Quick-drying towel
Clothesline
Travel alarm clock
Hair dryer
Digital camera
Jewelry
Airline Pillow
Guidebooks

Posted by
27433 posts

christina's sneaky link sent for review

Posted by
684 posts

Thanks Bill for starting this thread. It is really interesting to see what people unpack. I have added some thoughts that are not already covered in the posts to date. I love the unpack list, but still find I need the following for an international trip:

  • Extra pair of shoes: after I soaked mine in a hike in the English countryside and had wet shoes for a day, always bring an extra pair.
  • Quick dry towel: I have used this several times on trips when going to the beach, picnics (makes a great blanket)
  • Flashlight: Phone replaces expect when it doesn't (power outage, forget to charge). I small penlight flashlight has worked for me
  • Computer: Only when I have to work on vacation and do something other than email. Otherwise, I don't bring.
  • Water bottle: I bring a collapsable one. Water is super expensive at the airport and it is small enough to warrant bringing

Sandy

Posted by
785 posts

Slight repacking diversion for this thread: Like everyone else, my iPhone has replaced several items. But I have always include a tiny flashlight and I have reverted too carrying a tiny point'n'shoot camera. I take the mini-torch because, umm, reasons for light, and I carry a little camera because my iPhone is no longer a nice thing, it's necessary -- irreplaceable, even -- and I do not wish to waive it around whenever I want to shoot photos. I've seen them dropped and much worse just around town. My phone stays in a secured pocket unless and until I need its many mission critical capabilities.