Five Things That Are Never in My Suitcase

So a few months ago I wrote a post about the five items I consider essential when I travel. A reader left a comment with a great idea for a follow up post, the five items I used to travel with but stopped taking for one reason or another. This was actually a challenge to write because it’s hard to think about various packing mistakes, but I managed to come up with five items I used to think were essential, but I’ve since realized are not.

1. More than two pairs of shoes – Granted, this may be easier for me since I’m a guy or that may be a horribly sexist comment – either way this was an easy habit for me to change. Instead of packing shoes for a variety of different occasions, I instead purchased two pairs of shoes that can be worn in almost any situation. The first category is casual, active and adventure travel and because of the nature of the experiences involved, it’s important to choose your shoes well. I’ve gone through many pairs of sneakers until I finally found a perfect pair that I use in most travel situations. They’re simple sneakers but are comfortable enough to wear around town during the day and can even be worn in casual situations. The second category is dressy and this can frankly be a challenge. I’m going to necessarily answer this from the point of view of a guy and I’d love to hear what the women who read this do in the same situation. I purchased a pair of loafers that probably can be defined as boat shoes, but which are a lot more modern looking than the traditional boat shoes. These are great in dressier situations, receptions, dinners and for general wear in tropical climates. The most important quality both shoes need in addition to comfort is their weight. They must be lightweight and packable in just about every type of luggage. Remember, the goal is to never check carry-on bags unless you have to.

2. Physical paper copies of anything – Not everyone will agree with me on this one, but I stand by it. A great travel tip is to make copies of your passport and credit cards so that you have all the information you need in the event they are lost or stolen. From previous experience I can attest to the value of this travel habit. But I have always been nervous about carrying these documents around, no matter how well hidden they may be. Luckily technology has once again come to our rescue with cloud technology. I scanned in my photocopies, saved them to Dropbox and promptly shredded the paper documents. Yes, this presupposes that I will have access to Internet wherever I go, but the way I figure it if I lose my passport, I will have to find my way to a place that has Internet anyway in order to report the loss.


3. Books – Back when I first started traveling, the Internet was still in its infancy and e-readers were frankly the stuff of science fiction. Since then a lot has changed of course and I love how advances in technology have made traveling easier. Instead of picking 2-3 books to bring with me on a long flight, I can now upload as many books as I want to my iPad without fear of extra weight or losing them. It’s so nice not carrying an extra bag for books that I just end up leaving behind anyway. I can bring a virtual library with me now and the weight of my bag never changes. Gone also of course are printed tickets, hotel confirmations and all travel related paper documents. They’re safely stored in my TripIt account or Dropbox, once again a much more convenient option.

4. Hypothetical clothes – I’ve written before about my overpacking tendencies, and part of the reason for this is my vivid imagination. As I start to carefully select clothes from my closet, I begin to think about every possible situation in which I may find myself. Beachwear, formal wear, semi-formal, casual, dinner with Dukes and Duchesses, snowboarding followed by a luau. You name the occasion and I begin to consider the clothing possibilities for it. This has led to massive overpacking and bringing clothes I never use. In the past year or so I’ve gotten better. I plan out what I’m going to wear each day and while I may not actually wear my assigned clothes, this means I no longer bring clothes that I don’t need.

5. Luggage scale – No one likes to pay luggage fees, especially now in the modern era of paying extra for everything. Given the fact that my bags are already near the point of bursting, I am paranoid that they will someone gain weight as I travel thereby taking me from the Allowable weight range to the Pay Extra range. One way I’ve assuaged this fear in the past is by packing a luggage scale; ironic since the scale itself only adds to the already excessive weight of the luggage. Since I’ve tried to be a better packer and my bags are no longer excessively heavy (for the most part) I no longer need the scale. I use it at home of course, but I am now content to leave the awkward shaped scale at home in my closet where it belongs

What are some items you no longer take with you when you travel?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

17 thoughts on “Five Things That Are Never in My Suitcase”

  1. I love these pictures to illustrate your points! I also like the term “hypothetical clothes” as it describes exactly what you’re talking about. The first time I travelled long term, I actually packed a travel iron. Can you believe it? Granted, I was travelling partly for work, but I still never used it. How embarrassing!

  2. I have recently discovered the magic of no-rinse body wash, and shall henceforth travel with only a single change of clothes which I shall wear at all times and cleanse myself once daily with no need for a shower. It’s going to be great. Look out, ladies.

  3. I am a female and never take more than 2 pair of shoes. I totally agree with putting books on your reader but sometimes put in a throw away book when I fly internationally to read on the plane when you can’t turn your devices on.

    Internationally I never bring my smartphone as I am paranoid about accidentally turning on the wireless. I pick up a prepaid local phone–or use my home exchangers’ phones.


  4. Great ideas here! Even though I KNOW I shouldn’t bring books or too many shoes or too many clothes–it’s so hard! I think it’s also because I haven’t done long term on-the-go backpacking… just traveling to a country and living in the same place for a year or two. When I do go on a weekend trip around the country, I’ve gotten it down to just bringing an extra pair of underwear and socks… but that may be going a bit too far.
    p.s. You rock for having Watership Down!

  5. I LOVE your photos :)

    I actually managed with just two pairs of shoes in Paris, but only because my feet were too swollen to fit in the heels I brought.

    1. Haha! I’ve had the exact issue too – feet too swollen to fit in the fancy shoes. Must be a Paris thing.

  6. I struggle with the shoe issue as a woman. I have finally figured out how to narrow things down to 3 pairs of shoes for most of my trips, whether they are for business or vacation. And, when counting the pair I wear onto the plane, it works well. I usually wear tennis shoes (sneakers) onto the plane, so they are my heaviest shoes and the ones that would take up the most space. Then, I usually pack a pair of sandals if I am going to a warm climate as well as a pair of casual dress shoes like ballet flats. Both the sandals and flats take up minimal space and weigh little. Then, depending on the reason for the trip and the events taking place, I also pack a pair of high heels. I’ve found that I can pack a simple dress that would usually be fairly casual, but when paired with the high heels and jewelry, it can be turned into an evening dress for a fancier occasion without the need to pack another dress that would take up more space or needing a separate garment bag.
    Definitely agree on the books, hypothetical clothes and luggage scale. But, I also like to carry a few sheets of paper with my itinerary and copy of passport plus some emergency contact numbers. A few sheets don’t take up a lot of space and I feel better knowing that I have them rather than having to get a internet connection to access them, especially if I am traveling somewhere with a language barrier.

  7. The hypothetical clothes part and the amount of books are two things I struggle a lot when packing. It is nice to know I’m not alone on that one.

    As you pointed out, technology makes life easier in terms of carrying all your books and tickets, receipts, copies of documents…

    But still, every time I tend to go nuts on the hypothetical clothes and it really makes me re-pack my suitcase about five times before I have no more time to make it all fit in.

  8. I have shoes down to 3 pairs: walking shoes, casual shoes and hiking boots (so if no hiking planned, I can manage 2 pairs). However, I have been stuck needing paper copies of my travel docs when entering UK.

    The book issue has always been my downfall. Next time I travel I’ll invest in an electronic whizz-bang thing but I agree with Lauren that a hard copy book for the plane is a good idea.

    My thing I no longer take with me is a hairdryer. It used to be good for getting clothes dry as well as my hair but most places I stay have a hairdryer or I can go without.

    Great article. Thanks.

  9. This is a great reminder to pack your bag and then go through it and see what you can do without. There’s almost always something I can leave behind, usually that extra pair of jeans (really, who needs to take more than one pair of jeans on a week long trip?)

  10. All hail to the e-reader, which has lightened my luggage load by at lest a ton in recent years! And I’m a woman, Matt, and I never travel with more than two pairs of shoes, so there.

  11. What’s this about not reading ebooks on the plane? That’s only around the time of take-off and landing – and that’s a good time to read the inflight magazine surely? Since I started reading ebooks I have been on many airplanes and never been told not to use it for the whole flight.

    Also for documents like your passport, it can help to take a screenshot of the scanned document so you can have access to it when offline….

  12. I love this post! I used to bring SO many shoes with me (I seriously have pictures of me bringing about 6 to 8 pairs of shoes to Italy…), but the last time I traveled I only brought 4 four pairs that in my opinion were all essential. Hiking shoes for when I walked around in nature, sneakers for my city visits, sandals for use on the camping site and in my tent, and flipflops to use while showering. So, you could say I’m getting better.

    Last weekendtrip I took I only brought one pair of shoes. Victory for me! ;)

  13. I love the list. I always have a bad habit of over-packing myself. Not as bad as some people I know but I have a 50L bag that always seems to be bursting at the seems. It really is too much to lug around in my opinion. On my trip to Thailand and beyond in the near future I am going to try and pack it only half full at most. It is that packing for hypotheticals that always seems to get me.

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