Smart Packing For 3 Weeks Trip

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I’ve been travelling since 2013, every now and then, I still make a bad decision in packing, mainly for a few reasons. Like when I don’t write my itinerary, activities I want to do, when I don’t look up the weather during my visit, and often the culprit is – I’m simply one of those travellers who have a “just in case” mindset.

After all these years of travelling and living on the road with my 40L backpack, you can imagine how easier it is to pack everything. I arrive and leave a place with the same things in my backpack unless I throw broken stuff or very old clothes and buy a new one. Packing for 3 weeks was never a problem.

However, after a while, I’ve decided to stay in one place for longer than 3 months, and unpack my backpacks (I have two; the main backpack and a small laptop bag/day pack). Eventually, I started to have more clothes, more than a pair of shoes, and other small things in between – packing for a trip changed. I have to start choosing between which clothes to bring, which shoes to pack, and how much underwear to load in the backpack – do I need a jumper? Long trousers?

RELATED ARTICLE: Where to go travelling for 3 weeks

Eventually, I managed to figure out how to do smart packing for 3 weeks trip because I hate buying things while travelling, especially things that I already have at home. But what I hate most is when I get a blister on my finger every time I try to zip up my backpack trying to fit everything inside!

First, I will talk about things to remember. Later in the article, I will have the actual list of things to pack. So, use the table of contents and skip or jump to the topic if you need to.

HOW TO PACK SMARTLY FOR A 3-WEEK TRIP

SMART PACKING FOR 3 WEEKS TRIP

Here are what I do when packing for any upcoming trip, regardless if it’s three weeks, three months, or a weekend getaway, this system work and I hope it works for you too!

Get a pen and paper or your phone

Let’s create a simple packing list for your trip. Nothing too fancy and detailed, this will help you give an overview of what to bring with you, and then you can adjust this later.

For example, write the usual:

  • 2x dresses
  • 1 hiking shoes
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • etc

One thing to remember though, make sure to have separate categories. The main categories are clothing, toiletries, footwear, electronics, and documents. If you have a young child, you will have categories for baby stuff, baby food, etc. On the other hand, if you are doing lots of hiking, make a separate category for hiking tools/clothing.

Write your itinerary or not

Okay, that’s a confusing heading, right? The thing is there are travellers out there who like to write an itinerary and have everything planned with as many details as possible while there are people who love to wing it – I’m both!

This tip works both. Writing your travel itinerary either in detail or a simple one helps a lot in making a great list of what to pack for 3 weeks trip. If you already have, that’s great if not, do a quick list following below:

In your itinerary, check out which activities you want to do. Are you planning to hike, go to the beach, safari, fancy dine-in experience, skiing, snorkelling, partying, attend a business meeting on the side, etc? These activities will already give you an idea of what to pack.

Here is a sample: If you are planning to go hiking at 40% of the time of your trip, packing a pair of hiking shoes vs bulky noise-cancelling headphones is a no-brainer. If you know that you will be visiting churches, temples, and other sacred places, a long sleeve shirt and long trousers are a must.

Look up the weather

Of course, knowing the weather and temperature of the destination you’re going to will help a lot. This category affects massively the number of things you’ll have to pack.

For example, if you are going to a place and the weather is kind of warm but not warm enough, hence, you need a jumper or a light jacket. You don’t want to make the mistake of not bringing one at all or bringing a bulky one – we all know that jackets are notorious space eaters.

If you didn’t bring one, you honestly don’t want to buy a puffy jacket just because you forgot to pack one. Now, you’re down $40 out of your travel budget for something you don’t need for more than 3 weeks.

Who are you travelling with

One more thing to consider when packing is your travel companion, especially if your travel partner is a dependent; young children, your retired parents, or your friend or family member who is a PWD.

Teenagers can pack on their own but someone will forget something. On the other hand, making a basic list of them can also help their packing. Packing with toddlers, well, that means you are packing for them too.

However, let’s say you are travelling with your partner or parents. In that case, you don’t need to pack sunscreen or toothpaste especially if you are sharing a room. These are little things, but if you can narrow down the thing you can share together, you both will save lots of space.

Don’t triple pack the same clothes

I’m guilty of this. I went for a 5-day beach getaway and I packed 2 sets of swimsuits while I actually only used one. While I packed 4 tops and only used 2 since I can re-use my top when going to the beach.

You probably don’t need two sets of the same type of shoes, no need for 2 pairs of flip flops, no need 3 sets of swimsuits, 2 types of jumpers, or 4 summer dresses – especially if you want to just have 1 cabin luggage or 40-45L luggage and avoid extra charges.

Stop the “just in case” mindset

This is probably the hardest thing to kick off in most people’s mindsets. We want to be ready, we want our holiday to be if not perfect, minimal hassle as much as possible. This brings us to the idea of packing things we actually don’t need.

SMART PACKING FOR 3 WEEKS TRIP

What I do when I get to this crossroad is, I make a pile of just in case clothes or stuff. For example, you know you need to bring 7 pairs of underwear or 2 dresses, the 8th or 9th underwear or 3rd dress goes on the just in case pile.

After you pack your “must bring” check how much space you have. If you have just enough space for souvenirs that you know you want to buy, forget your “just in case pile”. If it takes you more than a minute to zip up, you need to cut down a bit more. If you have a lot of spaces, go ahead and choose a few from your “just in case pile”.

The best way to do this is to see how easy it is for you to zip up. If you find yourself sitting on top of your luggage or backpack or need an extra hand to close the zipper or simply takes more than a minute – you’re packing too much.

One more thing, which is my favourite, if you can’t carry, tow, or lift your luggage or backpack on a flight of stairs, it’s a big red flag – you are overpacking.

Roll it, pack it or squeeze it

This is almost common knowledge, rolling your clothes when packing saves space in your luggage. Rolled clothes make every space in the corners that are often looked over. Another thing to remember is don’t try and roll your pullover or jumpers, instead wear this on the plane or tie it up on your bag to save space.

Another trick is to buy those air sucking bags or vacuum-sealed bags. Pack your clothes inside and squeeze the air out. If you have a vacuum machine, these bags have a small round thing where the air can be vacuumed out.

This is my general packing list for a 3-week trip. From here, you can modify your own list depending on the type of trip you’re doing. If you are going skiing, advanced diving, hiking, or camping, it will be different. But this would be a good starting point.

Things to buy when you land

This will surely save you space. If you are going to a cheaper place, definitely don’t pack then. However, if you are heading to expensive destinations like Scandinavia or a place where there’s no shop (like Antarctica), perhaps, it’s better to bring your own:

  • bar of soap
  • mouthwash
  • hair products
  • sunscreen

When you land, head to the convenience store. Which you will have to anyway, especially if you need to buy a big bottle of water for drinking. Make sure you have a list ready (on your phone) of basic necessities to buy from the shop.

For women

While the items in my luggage change depending on the length of the trip or season, what you will see below is what I normally pack in general:

Clothes

  • 4 comfortable tops
  • 1 long sleeve top, lightweight
  • 1 skirt
  • 1 long and comfortable but lightweight trousers
  • 2 comfortable shorts
  • 2 lightweight dresses
  • 1 jumper/pullover (lightweight)
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bras
  • 1 sports bra – if planning to hike and do active tours like hiking, biking
  • 1 one-piece swimsuit
  • 1 two-piece swimsuit
  • 4 pairs of socks
SMART PACKING FOR 3 WEEKS TRIP

Footwear

  • 1 pair of flipflops/beach flipflops
  • 1 pair of walking/hiking shoes/comfortable shoes
  • 1 pair of nice sandals/Birkenstock, Karrimor – something you can casually wear in the mall or if going out for a couple of drinks or nice dinner, choose a lightweight one

Toiletries

  • microfibre towel (don’t bring one if you plan to stay in hotels)
  • 1 bar of soap – if going to a cheaper destination, best to pick up one when you arrive there
  • 1 bar of shampoo and conditioner – more eco-friendly than bottled ones
  • 1 100ml toothpaste – don’t bring bigger than this unless you are planning to check in your bag
  • 1 toothbrush
  • 1 100 ml mouthwash – don’t bring bigger than this unless you are planning to check in your bag
  • 1 deodorant
  • 1 small and lightweight loofa – use an eco-friendly loofah
  • tampons/pads/menstrual cup
  • comb/hairbrush

Makeup

I’m not great at makeup, so I only have basic items. All are travel-sized and are all in a travel pouch:

  • pick up small bottles or travel-size versions of the basic makeup kits you need
  • eyebrow liner
  • angle brush
  • lipstick
  • liquid foundation
  • finishing powder
  • mascara
  • 1-2 eyeshadow palette
  • pocket mirror

Skincare

I personally use The Body Shop products:

For men

Well, as you can see, I’m not a man. So, I asked my friend Ryan (part of this blog) to help me write what men normally pack for their 3-week trip:

Clothes

  • 4 cotton t-shirts
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 long trouser
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 1 jumper/pullover
  • 1 lightweight long sleeves (a dress shirt)
  • 4 pairs of socks

Footwear

  • 1 pair of flipflops
  • 1 pair of comfortable walking/hiking/daily shoes

Toiletries

  • 1 toothbrush
  • 1 tube of toothpaste (not more than 100ml unless you’re checking in luggage)
  • 1 bottle of mouthwash (not more than 100ml unless you’re checking in luggage)
  • 1 deodorant
  • 1 bar of soap
  • 1 bar of shampoo
  • 1 small and lightweight loofa
  • shaving kit – best to find a travel size electric razor
  • 1 microfibre towel

Others (unisex)

Here are others things that all genders will need. Plus, if you are taking medication, make sure to pack them and bring the prescription from your doctor to avoid getting stopped at the airport:

  • lightweight scarf – can be used as a cover-up when visiting sacred places or as a blanket on the plane or overnight buses or in the airport waiting for area
  • reusable zip lock – perfect for keeping your liquids to spill everywhere
  • 1 20ml perfume
  • 1 lip balm
  • 1 journal
  • 1 pair of sunnies
  • eye mask
  • neck pillow
  • hand cream
  • 1 reusable water bottle

Electronic/gadgets:

This is what I normally pack, but remember, I work online. So, often I bring my laptop since I run my own business. Unless I’m taking a full break, I’d leave it behind.

  • 1 notepad, 3 pens
  • 1 power bank – I use a solar power bank, it’s great for hiking or long bus rides
  • 2 USB/charger cords
  • 1 phone charger
  • 1 camera, charger
  • 1 wired headphones
  • 1 Bluetooth earbuds
  • Laptop and charger
  • Bluetooth mouse and a mouse pad
  • Bluetooth keyboard
  • Extension cords – not all hotel rooms have the power socket right next to the bed (I use this small kind)
  • Travel adapter – with USB port too
  • Small-size tripod
  • Book/Kindle

Documents

  • passport
  • photocopy of your passport
  • a digital copy of your passport
  • evisa letter if needed (printed and digital copy)
  • a digital copy of your tickets and travel bookings – save a screenshot, must be able to access without an internet connection
  • travel insurance card/letter
  • yellow fever card/certificate (if you’ve travelled to regions where Yellow Fever is prone in the last six months)
  • onward ticket/flight to home – many countries require this, digital copy is fine
  • Address of your first accommodation/hotel – many countries will ask you to fill up an arrival card and it will ask you to write the address of your first hotel

FREE PRINTABLE PACKING LIST (with different seasons)

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COVID PACKING TIPS

We can’t deny that covid-19 affected the travel industry in so many ways. While it made travelling much harder, it doesn’t stop those who can’t wait to explore the world or take a holiday to pamper themselves or even see family members. If you are in the Americas (North and South), Africa, and Europe and heading to these places, you probably have more freedom to travel around compared to Asia and Oceania.

If you are heading for a trip soon, here are some packing tips during COVID:

  • check if your destination is open for tourism – a quick “is XYZ open for tourism” will give you the answer
  • most open countries require you to be fully vaccinated and a 72-hour prior to arrival negative test result
  • bring your vaccination card, check if yours need this to be translated or if your destination has “bilateral vaccination recognition”, some countries accept “proof of recovery within a certain time frame”
  • travel insurance that covers COVID – many countries are making this a requirement
  • bring masks (cloth masks or single-use)
  • pack hand sanitiser
  • bring the covid home test kit
  • check if you need to quarantine upon arrival, if you are vaccinated, some countries might ask you to stay in a hotel for 1 night to wait for your test upon arrival result
  • i.e some places like Nepal, allow unvaccinated tourist but requires a 14-day hotel quarantine at your own expense

I’ve had my fair share of trying out different backpacks and even suitcases in the past years. Here are the suitcases and backpacks I recommend for your 3-week trip:

Packing cubes are a game-changer for me who likes to pack properly so I can maximise the space of my luggage. I also hate using plastic bags as laundry bags, it does bother me using a cloth bag for laundry too because the idea of stinky dirty clothes touching the clean ones doesn’t feel right. Hence, I like using laundry bags with plastic lining or dry bags that work well as a laundry bags and you can use them on the beach too.

One thing you should remember when choosing packing cubes is if you travel full-time, it’s money well spent to spend a bit more. I had cheap ones during my full-time backpacking and they only lasted less than a year. I upgraded and splurged a bit, it’s been 3 years and it’s still in perfect condition.

I love using toiletries bags. It’s easy to pack and easy to unpack when you get to the hotel. Zip it down, hand on the bathroom bar, voila! You have complete toiletries items ready to use:

FINAL THOUGHTS

Honestly, packing is not easy and I understand people who have a hard time picking out which to bring on a holiday. Especially if this holiday only happens once a year, you want to make this trip less hassle, take nice photos, wear your best clothes, and simply enjoy your trip.

I hope that my tips on how to do smart packing for 3 weeks trip gave you some useful tricks. If you have more awesome tips to pack properly, let me know in the comment section below.

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Avoid overpacking and underpacking for a 3-week holiday. Here are some tips on how to properly pack for a vacation via @threeweektraveller

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