What Not to Pack

The goal is simple: to visit your destination without a suitcase so stuffed that you emit strange animal sounds trying to heave it into the overhead compartment — and with plenty of clean socks and underwear. But if only it were that easy! If you’ve struggled over which clothes to bring or how many gadgets is too many, you’re certainly not alone. Packing for a trip is often a struggle to distinguish what we want to bring from what we need to bring.

When we’re forced to choose between our favorite things, we’re sometimes tempted to just bring it all and to hell with it — but overpacking can cost more than extra suitcase space and a free hand. Checking more than one bag, exceeding your airline’s weight limit or even checking a bag at all can cost you. Most airlines charge a $25 fee each way for checking one piece of luggage on domestic and some international flights, with fees climbing into the hundreds of dollars for anything beyond two checked bags.

Everyone’s packing style is different and we all have our own travel needs, so before you get upset at the idea of leaving behind your beloved toothbrush sanitizer, remember that these are only suggestions. Leave out a few of the following items on your next trip and we promise you won’t miss a thing!

For more packing help, see our Interactive Packing List.

Don’t Pack Your Entire Beauty Routine
If you use eight different products to tame your wild curls or have an elaborate face-washing regimen down to a science, let loose a bit when you travel instead of carrying an army of beauty products with you across the globe. Trust us — you won’t look like a cave woman in your vacation pictures if you use a shampoo/conditioner combo for a few nights. If you’re adventurous enough to leave home and explore an exotic destination, we bet you can also handle leaving behind a few hair products.

Top Tips:

  • If you are staying at a major chain hotel that will offer complimentary toiletries — use them! Don’t bring your own 24-ounce shampoo and conditioner bottles to the hotel and then stuff the hotel ones in your suitcase to take home. If you don’t use them on the road, you’ll probably never use them at home.
  • There are lots of products that have multiple uses. Opt for a shampoo/conditioner combo. Bring a tinted moisturizer with SPF. Let your moisturizing body wash double as a shaving cream. Share your shampoo, soap or toothpaste with your traveling partner. Buy a make-up compact that contains more than one color, such as an eyeshadow quad.
  • Lose the bulky containers. Instead, try zip-top bags. We stuff and pour everything we can into them, including hair products, lotions, cotton balls and even sunscreen. (Note: Do not put large liquid-filled zip-top bags in your carry-on luggage; according to TSA regulations, liquid-filled containers may be no larger than 3.4 ounces by volume.) To prevent spills, put all of your liquid-filled baggies in a larger plastic grocery bag — and be sure not to pack it next to any fishing rods or freshly sharpened pencils.

    Don’t Pack More Clothes Than You Need
    Clothes tend to make up the bulk of most travelers’ suitcases, and reducing the number of outfits you pack can lighten your load significantly. No one wants to run out of clean underwear in the middle of the Brazilian rain forest, but it’s possible to find a comfortable balance between wearing the same stinky jeans and T-shirt the whole trip and changing your outfit three times each day like a celebrity.

    Top Tips:

  • If you’re going on, say, a seven-day trip, spend a week before you leave keeping track of everything you wear. Make a list, or, if you learn better with visual aids, keep these items together in a laundry basket. Then figure out which items you can do without.
  • Bring clothes in neutral colors that you can mix and match, and only pack shoes that can be worn with multiple outfits.
  • Check the weather at your destination before you leave, and pack accordingly. If the weather deviates significantly from the forecast, you can always buy a sweater or rain poncho and keep it as a souvenir.
  • Many travel supply companies sell small packets of laundry detergent (you can also find these at a laundromat). It only takes a few minutes to wash your clothes in your hotel sink and hang them on a hanger to dry. When you wake up the next morning … hello, freshly washed clothes!

    Don’t Pack Your Jewelry and Valuables
    Rule of thumb — if you can’t imagine living without your grandmother’s wedding ring or your expensive Movado watch, it’s best not to cart it overseas, where tourists are common targets for thieves and luggage often gets lost in transit. You may think you look like an icon of style, but to criminals and con-artists you appear as an icon of opportunity. It’s also wise not to look like a million bucks if you’re trying to bargain with the locals, and sparkly jewelry may set you apart from other folks on the street when you’re trying to fit in.

    Top Tips:

  • If you must bring your jewelry, keep it in the hotel safe except for special occasions such as dinner in a nice restaurant, and be sure it’s covered by appropriate insurance. Most homeowners’ policies will not cover jewelry if it’s lost or stolen while traveling, so you may need to purchase a separate policy.
  • Pack any valuables you buy while on your trip (and any of your own that you decide to bring) in your carry-on. As we all know, checked bags sometimes disappear into the mysterious black hole of lost luggage.

    Don’t Pack Unnecessary Gadgets
    This section applies to you if you’ve ever packed items such as nightlights, shoe horns, portable DVD players, book lights, coffee makers, fire-safety smoke hoods, hotel-door alarm systems, toothbrush sanitizers or electronic language translators, never to actually use them on your trip. The definition of “necessary” varies from one traveler to the next, so it’s important to ask yourself if you will really need your ocean-sound machine to get to sleep each night before you stuff it in your bursting suitcase.

    Top Tips:

  • If you are a travel gadget addict, rotate your collection. Pick one or two that you just have to have and save the others for a future trip.
  • Keep in mind that some gadgets may call for more room in your luggage than you’d expect; to keep them running, you may need to pack things like spare batteries, chargers or electrical adapters and converters (for overseas travel).

    Don’t Pack Things You Can Buy There
    Yes, things you can buy at home are often more expensive overseas. This is especially true in Europe, so a traveler who’s flying across the pond may want to pack extra everything in the interest of saving money. But again — think of the luggage weight fees. Simple items that you may need but can probably live without, like aspirin, nail polish remover, extra razors or reading material for the plane, can usually be purchased at drug and convenience stores in many destinations.

    Top Tips:

  • Remember that if you decide to buy a lot of your items abroad, you will have to create room in your suitcase to cart them back home. Buy sample-sized items if you can to save space and money.
  • Instead of bringing a virtual library of reading material with you, buy magazines and newspapers at the airport. Picking out what you want to read will give you something to do as you wait, and you can recycle the items (or give them to a fellow traveler) so you don’t have to lug them back with you.

    Don’t Pack More Than One Guidebook
    While smartphones and tablets seem to be sending guidebooks the way of the dodo, some of us are still addicted to these little gems of information. Really, though — do you need a whole stack of them? One good, comprehensive guidebook should do the trick.

    Top Tips:

  • If you are convinced that each of your 11 guidebooks offers unique and vital information about your destination, cart them to your office or the library and photocopy your favorite sections.
  • Lonely Planet offers mix-and-match guidebook chapters that can be downloaded as PDF’s from its Web site, while Frommer’s offers electronic versions of its guidebooks for smartphones and tablets. Carrying one gadget with all the info will save you significant weight over multiple books.

How to prepare for a successful summit

Nothing stirs a climber’s soul quite like a beautiful summit. John Muir put it best when he wrote, ‘The mountains are calling and I must go.’ But if you want to enjoy a high-altitude escape – perhaps at the very top of the world – it’ll take much more than just willpower.

Planning and preparation are half the battle. So who better to consult than an expert – Ellen Miller, a high-altitude training specialist and endurance coach – before I attempted my highest climb yet, an ascent of 13,209-foot Homestake Peak in the Colorado Rockies.

After reaching that summit, I started dreaming of even bigger climbs – like Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Rainier – and sought more advice on how to take the next step towards becoming a serious mountaineer from Conrad Anker, leader of The North Face climbing team.

Here, two of the greatest alpine climbers on the planet offer important tips for achieving a successful summit.

Train far in advance

‘You want to go climb Everest? Go spend time at 19,000 feet and 25,000 feet before going up to 29,000,’ said Miller, the only American woman to conquer the world’s tallest mountain from both Nepal and Tibet.

As we hiked up Vail Mountain, Miller talked about hydrating twice as much at altitude as at sea level and the importance of acclimatizing gradually. I was relieved to hear that this mountain-deprived New Yorker had prepared accordingly: marching up stairwells in my apartment, in train stations and in office buildings; training a couple months out (okay, so not the five months she recommended); interspersing hilly bike rides with strenuous hikes near the city; and wearing a loaded backpack on the treadmill at the gym (okay, so apparently not full enough). ‘You want to load your pack progressively,’ said Miller. ‘Four months out, 10 pounds. Three months out, 20 pounds. Two months out, 35 pounds.’

Above all else, Miller values past mountaineering experiences. While acknowledging that today’s digital age is driving a desire for instantaneous gratification, she said it is crucial to maintain a willingness to spend years training and working one’s way up to high elevations.

Go with a guide

Conrad Anker, star of the recently released film Meru (merufilm.com), emphasised the importance of first identifying what you want to climb before joining a mountain organisation to get a greater understanding of what’s required. Consider some of his US-based guide recommendations, like American Alpine Club (americanalpineclub.org), Mazamas (mazamas.org) in Portland, Oregon, and Rainier Mountaineering, Inc (rmiguides.com), which leads skills seminars and climbs around the world, from Aconcagua in Argentina to Mt Elbrus in Russia to Vinson Massif in Antarctica. Outside the US, Adventure Consultants (adventureconsultants.com) offers climbing schools in Europe and New Zealand and does guided treks all over the world.

Whether you’re going it alone or just want to trust yourself on a guided trek, these organisations will take you from rookie to rock star, covering everything from setting up an unplanned bivy to glacier climbing techniques to navigating in white-out conditions and weather interpretation. And unless you want to be stuck in your tent for three days waiting out a blizzard, you need to know the best time to go, be it Mexico’s Citlaltepetl from October to April or Alaska’s Mt McKinley in the spring months.

Get your gear in order

You can’t over-prepare for climbing a mountain at high altitude – especially when it comes to gear. ‘If you’re going on an expedition, have your gear laid out a month in advance, particularly for a multi-day or extremely high [above 20,000 feet] or cold expedition,’ said Miller. ‘Don’t wait until the last minute to see if your gear is in working order or if you need a new item, even something as simple as glacier glasses.’

Anker agreed that the foundations for a successful climb have everything to do with being organised. ‘Start from the feet up: boots, socks, pants…make a checklist,’ he said, citing a climb he did with his son this past summer in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. ‘For the Petzoldt route to the Upper Exum Ridge, we knew we needed a helmet, climbing shoes and regular shoes.’ (If you want to follow in his footsteps, go through an Anker-approved service like Exum Mountain Guides – exumguides.com.)

Be mentally prepared

You have to be relentless in this pursuit of your passion,’ said Miller, who believes that mental training is as important as physical training. No matter how fit you may be, all climbers must take altitude seriously and the best way to build mental toughness is to climb big mountains. ‘The Colorado 14ers are a great intro to mountaineering,’ said Miller. ‘Mt Rainier is a beautiful place to get some glacier experience, and the Ecuadorean volcanoes of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo are easy and lovely to climb.’

And even after years of conditioning, when you think your brain and body can handle thin air and freezing temps, Miller suggests reaching altitude with caution. ‘Ease the progression, moving slowly, adjusting, that is key to acclimatization. Be well prepared, well rested and hydrated, and really think about approaching a mountain thoughtfully,’ said Miller.

To develop confidence and expertise in the mountains, Anker said an inexperienced climber would be wise to choose an adventure within his or her ability level, or train with a mentor who knows the situation and has seen something that’s more challenging.

Miller, who considers Nepal and its mountains to be like a second home, also suggested surrounding yourself with your own tribe – people who love training and believe their lives have been changed for the better because of climbing. ‘There’s no room for the naysayers,’ said Miller. ‘Tune out the folks who will say it’s too scary or too dangerous.’

Focus on the climb

While altitude can be a deciding factor in a climber’s ability to reach a summit, it’s far from the only hurdle. Even the most experienced alpinists head into the mountains with a healthy mix of reverence and fear. But the secret to a successful climb is focusing on the task at hand. ‘You can’t be climbing serious mountains, scrambling over rocks, ice climbing and thinking about your schedule for next week or the grocery list,’ said Miller. ‘It is really important to get in the zone and enjoy being so incredibly focused. Often times, life depends on that focus, that ability to reign in your brain.’

Focusing on a project at work is different from focusing on fixing a pitch in 30mph winds. The more you practise this kind of focus while training, the more disciplined you’ll be when it’s time to wake up just after midnight and push for the summit. ‘You’ve got to summon the restraint to rewire your thought pattern,’ said Miller, relaying a dizzying array of things that go through a climber’s mind. ‘Don’t rush, stay in eyesight of each other. You’re at the top when you’re at the top, not a moment before so stay focused on vitals, weather, supplies and other elements.’

Jeju Island and its Beaches

For many South Korea conjures up images of traffic-laden streets and blinding neon signs, but once travelers leave the capital city of Seoul that image quickly fades into a more serene and complete picture of Korea.

One destination in Korea, that is most certainly a world away from Seoul, is Jeju Island. Located off the southern coast of Korea, Jeju is a volcanic island that has a mesmerizing mixture of sandy beaches and rugged landscapes.

As the island is Korea’s closest thing to Hawaii, it’s a popular destination for holidaymakers and honeymooning couples. Besides exploring the natural beauty, the island also has golf courses, casinos and a vibrant nightlife to entertain tourists, but for our look at Jeju we’ll focus chiefly on the natural highlights of the island.

The volcanic Mount Hallasan, at more than 6,000 feet, is Korea’s tallest mountain and it literally dominates the interior of Jeju Island. There are five hiking trails to the top of the mountain, most of which are open year-round. Two trails, Seongpanak and Gwaneumsa, both about nine kilometers long, finish at the absolute top of the volcanic caldera at Baeknok Lake, which is a crater lake.

Another volcanic-themed attraction on the island is the Manjanggul Lava-Tube Cave. Jeju’s lava-tube system is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it’s the best preserved lava-tube system in the world. The section at Manjanggul is seven kilometers long, but only one kilometer is open to the public. Still, walking through the cave with its ceiling that reaches 75 feet in some places and viewing the incredible rock formations that have been formed over thousands of years by liquid lava is a pretty amazing experience and well worth your time.

On the coast the Jusangjeolli Cliffs are another example of Jeju’s volcanic history, as hexagonal-shaped rock pillars that were formed by melting lava jut into the sea and make for an impressive sight.

For another side of Jeju’s natural beauty it’s imperative that travelers visit some of the island’s famous waterfalls. The most visited of the waterfalls is Cheonjiyeon. Situated in the midst of a subtropical rainforest on the southern end of the island, the waterfall is incredibly picturesque and is a popular place for photographers both day and night, as the waterfall is colorfully illuminated at night.

Another, just as scenic, waterfall is the Jeongbang Waterfall. Situated right on the coast, this is actually the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. Steeped in historic lore, the waterfall was said to have been home to a dragon whose spirit was capable of healing diseases and bringing rain during a drought. Whether that was the ever the case or not, the waterfall is spectacularly beautiful.

Of course no article would be complete without at least a cursory mention of the island’s sandy beaches. Jungmun Beach is one of the island’s most striking beaches, as it’s a long strip of white sand where travelers can enjoy the warm weather and refreshing sea that Jeju is known for.

Backpackers Secrets Top Tips for Cheap Travel

Imagine a backpacker and you might envision an unanchored youth with well-worn jeans and limitless endurance.xaaxaccscsc But backpacking is about much more than gap-year students and gritty hostels. Backpacking is about adventure and independence — and it’s one of the cheapest ways to take a trip, which is why older travelers, travelers on a budget, and even those who prefer private bathrooms and upscale cuisine shouldn’t snub the ways of the wily backpacker.

Adopt the mindset of a backpacker and improve your travel savvy. In an uncertain economic environment, the lessons backpackers can teach us about traveling on the cheap are positively priceless. From packing an ultra-light bag (you can rub your six-pound pack in the noses of nickel-and-diming airlines) to finding affordable food and accommodations, backpackers truly know how to travel.

Lesson #1: Consider a Hostel

As a well-ripened adult, you may fear that your presence in a hostel would be like that of a wrinkly prune in a basket of fresh apples. But hostels are not just for the young. Older travelers are increasingly booking stays at hostels as international hotel rates rise, and they’re finding private rooms and bathrooms, clean beds, and no-reservations-needed accommodations in hostels around the world.

By definition, a hostel offers rugged dormitory-style digs. But as hostels have gained popularity over the years, trendy hostel operators have stretched the definition of hostel to include private suites, fancy food, fashionable decor, swimming pools and even maid service. Some examples include the Oasis Backpackers’ Mansion in Lisbon, which offers laundry service, free Internet and gourmet dinners, and Oops! Hostel in Paris, which has stylish modern interiors designed by a renowned graphic decorator.

The trick to snagging a swanky hostel is to know before you go. Check out TripAdvisor.com, Hostels.com, HostelBookers.com or another reputable hotel review site to get a feel for your prospective hostel. While some hostels resemble trendy boutique hotels with plenty of privacy, others are like the traditional youth hostels of yore, with 10 bodies to a dorm and crowded communal bathrooms.

Not Just for Backpackers: 9 Amazing Upscale Hostels

Lesson #2: Use Your Feet

Backpacking typically requires a great deal of strength and endurance. But if you’re not the type to scale mountains or swim across the English Channel, planning a series of walking trips is an accessible way to challenge yourself. As with any physical endeavor, after you’ve pushed your limits and come out on top, you’ll experience a major confidence boost.

Intersperse train or car travel with long walks and you’ll get a close and personal view of your location. National parks, medieval cities and scenic coastlines are best experienced on foot. Better yet, walking is free (running’s pretty affordable too, but what’s the rush?).

If planning’s not your forte, book a vacation package that includes walking tours. Road Scholar is a reputable company that offers vacation packages for seniors. You’ll find many active packages that include extensive hiking or biking at RoadScholar.org. For more ideas, see Walking Tours and Trips.

But before you go walking around the world, make sure you’re in shape. Start walking a few months before your trip to get used to the longer distances, and if you have any health conditions, check with your doctor before you embark on a trip that may be physically strenuous. Get good shoes — and don’t overlook our next lesson. …

Lesson #3: Pack Light

To travel like a backpacker, you’ll have to pack like a backpacker. Walking long distances is nearly impossible with a rolling suitcase and a bulky carry-on bag. By lightening your load, you’ll also avoid those pesky extra baggage fees most airlines are charging for checked luggage.

So how do backpackers spend months traveling the world with only a few pounds of gear on their backs? They pack multi-function items (like pants that turn into shorts and shampoo/conditioner combo bottles), carry a light backpack specifically built to hold more and weigh less, and pack breathable, airy clothes that add little heft to their bags. Get your own backpacking equipment at your nearest travel goods store. One of our favorite travel suppliers is Magellans.com.

If you’re visiting a major city, research the locations of laundromats. Many hostels and hotels have in-house laundry facilities, too. For an even cheaper alternative, pack portable packets of detergent, wash your clothes in a sink and hang them to dry at night.

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

Lesson #4: Go to the Grocery Store

Packing light is important not only to escape from staggering checked-bag fees, but also so that you will have room in your bag for food. Backpackers tend to seek out eclectic food carts, fresh produce markets and local bakeries.

Especially in Europe, where many decent restaurants are expensive, getting your food from a local grocer is a great idea. Grab a fresh baguette and some cheese in Paris, bring them to the Tuileries Garden for an outdoor lunch, and you’ve got an authentic yet affordable Parisian meal with one of the best views in town.

Lesson #5: Shake Up Your Itinerary

Change your itinerary a little. Or a lot. The affordability and spontaneity of backpacking allow for lengthy and flexible getaways. Imagine booking a roundtrip flight with no set return date — you can explore your destination at your leisure and return when it feels right. While most of us don’t have that sort of unlimited travel time, we can still embrace some spontaneity. Backpackers don’t typically chart a detailed itinerary that includes a minute-by-minute overview of their daily activities, and they love changing plans at the last minute. But that doesn’t mean that they’re against careful planning.

Before your trip, plan for flexibility. Keep your ears open for first-hand recommendations from locals and other travelers — and be ready to mix up your travel schedule if need be. Book a room at a hostel, but bring contact information for other area hostels or B&B’s as well. If you’re going to a particular city, research nearby destinations that interest you, and make a note of lodging, food and transportation options in the area. When you carry everything you need on your back and are prepared to go where the wind takes you, why not leave room for some spontaneous sightseeing?

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Lesson #6: Go It Alone

Travel buffs who don’t have companions to explore the world with or who would prefer to trek independently should take a page from the backpackers’ book. The ethos of backpacking is about personal exploration and freedom; it’s a mindset that doesn’t require a supportive companion to hold your hand.

Are you worried that you can’t share your experiences with anyone else on a solo trip? Think again — backpackers know that they can connect with fellow travelers and locals along the way. Travel solo like a backpacker and you may just make a few friends you wouldn’t have met if you weren’t going it alone.

You’ll easily meet other travelers at hostels and at bed and breakfasts, both of which often encourage activities and interaction among their guests. For example, Hostel Inn, a chain of hostels located in South America, offers pub crawls, tango show outings, bike tours, city tours and other activities at select locations. Unlike most hotels, hostels typically have common areas where chess games, Scrabble, Ping-Pong or lengthy conversations with other travelers take place. Even if you happen to be the oldest one in the room, don’t look at your fellow guests as immature travelers with whom you have nothing in common. You have plenty in common — including your desire to save money, your keen sense of adventure, your capable storytelling abilities and, of course, your love of travel.