By: J.A. Gooch

I will never forget preparing for my first trip abroad.  It was Ireland and England, and I was ecstatic!  Nevertheless, at 17 years old not only did I know nothing of international travel but I was also a complete idiot when it came to what to chuck in my check-in, tote in my carry-on, and what to leave behind altogether.  Now forgive me if I stereotype here, but I—as a gay man—was all about taking 100% advantage of my oversized designer luggage, but had I known just how much grief it would cause me—not to mention my fellow travelers—I would have been a little more conservative when it came to the “I-NEED-these” vs. the “I-can-live-without-thats,” for a few weeks anyway.   

So, whether it’s your first time visiting another country or you are a gay man with a serious beauty regimen/fashion problem (Remember, my lovelies, acceptance is the first step to recovery.), keep reading for some of my best tips on how to pack like a pro!

#1. DON’T BE A SIZE QUEEN

Now, I know some may say bigger is better, but when it comes to travel, that’s not always the case—I promise. 

When I set out to purchase a luggage for my long trip across the pond, I refused to settle for anything less than something that would hold at least ¾ of my closet (mistake #1.).  But despite the initial denial, the second I managed to zip my monstrosity of a suitcase (an experience that left me severely bruised and scarred for life), I knew that I would eventually tire of schlepping around what was soon to be dubbed “Big Boy” by my traveling companions, as he was always the last to come up the belt at baggage claim, sometimes causing a massive delay.  (Nine years later, I still feel bad.  Sorry, guys, from the bottom of my gargantuan luggage.)

But you know, looking back on it now, had I bought a smaller bag I would’ve been less tempted to over pack because . . . well . . . I couldn’t.  By purchasing a less sizable  luggage, I would’ve been able to quickly discern the unnecessary from the essential, which is the key to packing.

So in short, my fellow globetrotters, avoid temptation and go small!  You’ll thank me in the end.

*Note: Before traveling, make sure to do your research to find out your airline’s size and weight restrictions.  This will make life a lot easier and save you additional costs for overdoing it (Been there, done that.).

#2. COMPRESSION CONFESSION

If you follow my previous advice and opt for a luggage that is small enough to deter you from over packing yet still can’t seem to fit all that you need to tag along, then I have a solution for you!  While I am now a traveling minimalist, there is one item I can’t do without, especially when going on long trips abroad.  Ladies and drag queens, I give you the gift of compression bags. 

If you find yourself oozing at the seams and just can’t get zipped, an investment in some quality compression bags such as those offered by Eagle Creek and even Ziploc can make a serious difference.  Listen, folks, these things are like Spanx for your Spanx!  Whether it’s that one go-to evening dress or an obnoxiously large underwear collection that’s causing your packing anxiety, compression bags are an easy, cheap solution, plus they’re reusable! 

So press that mess and ditch the stress!

#3. THE DOUBLE W

Wash and wear, people.  Wash and wear.

As I said before, I went way overboard when it came to packing for my first trip across the pond.  I couldn’t see being away from home for several weeks without taking at least ¾ of my closet along.  So in went practically every shirt, scarf, pair of pants, underwear (ALL the underwear), shoes, and all the accessories I owned.  I’m not even kidding.  But what I neglected to consider, however, was that each of the hotels I was staying at had an in-house laundry facility.  And it wasn’t until I arrived in Dublin, after toting around a 55-lb. bag of nonsense around for 24 hours, that I realized this. 

As we all know, packing is all about priority.  And now, as I prepare for any kind of flight, I take a step back and look at what I will be doing over the course of my adventure to ensure that I don’t go nuts.  In all honesty, for most trips there are only three essential outfits anyone needs: an everyday outfit, a casual outfit, a formal outfit, and a pair of pajamas.  That’s it, including shoes!  And you know what’s lovely about this packing philosophy?  You can—more times than not—fit most, if not all, of these things into your carry-on, leaving little to no need for a check-in bag! 

Allow me to explain . . .

# 4. THE MAGIC OF THE CARRY-ON 

While it’s no secret that most airlines will allow international passengers to check at least one 50-lb. luggage for free (sometimes two, depending on the company), I have found that if I can get away without checking a bag, not only is my airport experience more enjoyable but so is my entire trip.  For me, there is nothing more liberating than just hopping right off a plane into a taxi or a shuttle; the quicker I can get to my hotel for an afternoon nap, a post flight bite, or begin taking in all the sites, the happier I am. 

Now, I know traveling with just a carry-on is not suitable for every flight, especially when it comes to a lengthy trip.  But for me at least, this tends to work beautifully.  And to make use of that free check-in bag, I often check a smaller, nearly empty luggage to have room for souvenirs.  Just don’t go over 50 lbs. and you’re in good shape—even if your wallet isn’t!

#5. LEAVE NOW, BUY LATER

If you are planning to embark on an international trip, there are probably a few things that you will purchase just for the occasion, including some select toiletries.  After all, nobody wants to run out of toothpaste or, God forbid, hairspray in my case.  Right?  But while there are some things that you will want to tote along, such as perfumes, makeup, and other hard-to-find beauty products, the easier stuff can quickly add up, taking up a crazy amount of space.  However, you can rest assured that there is a pharmacy or a nearby store, where you can find 90% of what you need.  So, to make most of the space you have, I passionately suggest leaving now and buying later.  That hairspray can wait.

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