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It happens more often than you think. You want to make the most of your vacation time by visiting more than one country, but then as you’re planning your trip, you realize the weather in the countries are completely different from one another. One is quite cold while the other is blazing hot. Hey, those drastic temperature changes even happen in the same country! For example, when I visited Vietnam, I was a sweaty mess in Ho Chi Minh City, but then, just a week after, I was wrapping myself in a few winter layers when I arrived at the capital city of Hanoi.
Being prepared for such drastic weather differences doesn’t mean you have to pack twice as much to feel comfortable at each location. Instead, you can pack about the same but pick smart clothing pieces that could serve both scenarios. Here are a few tips that will help you pack for these occasions.
How cold will it be at Destination X? How hot could it get at Destination Y? Do a bit of research on the average temperatures for each place during the month you’ll be visiting and plan your packing based on those temperatures. Then, a few days before your trip, check their current weather forecast to see if the temperature will be around the average or if it is experiencing some erratic temperatures due to bad weather, drought, cold fronts, etc. If all is normal, keep on with your packing plan. If temperatures are off, then adjust accordingly without forgetting the averages as these odd temperatures could go back to normal while you’re there.
I always pack thinking of the warmest weather first. I pack my shorts, swimsuit, t-shirts, and so on. Then I think about the colder weather. What warm weather clothing can I use while in the colder weather? Usually, I tend to use them all again, but I layer them with additional clothing pieces like light jackets, sweaters, leggings, and so on. In warmer weather, you might only wear one layer, but in colder weather, you could wear that same one layer and warm it up with one or two more layers.
I’ve had occasions where I’ve worn up to four layers without looking “bloated.” It all starts with a light t-shirt, usually followed by a long sleeve t-shirt, then a light jacket, and followed by a slightly thicker jacket (if needed). This technique is often used by hikers too as it’s easy to shed and put on layers as the temperature changes throughout the day.
Avoid packing clothing items with bulky fabric like thick sweaters and coats (unless it is really cold). They end up taking a lot of space and often can only be used in cold climates, wasting space in your bag when you’re in warmer climates.
These days you can find all sort of fashionable travel-friendly clothes that will not make you look like you’re an obvious tourist. These travel-friendly clothes are designed with fabrics, like Merino wool, for example, that can warm you as much as a thicker sweater with just a thin layer of clothing. Equally, you can find down jackets with “smart warming fabrics” that are warm enough but can be compressed to a small pack, occupying just a quarter of the space a traditional down jacket would.
Be efficient with what you’re packing. Try to limit your clothing items to things that you could use repeatedly and match with different other pieces to create different styles. Creating different styles is easy, especially when you’re layering, so think about how would all your clothing pieces fit together if you need to go out for a walk on a breezy day vs. a hot day. Or, if you need to go out well dressed for dinner, would that same shirt look as well with shorts to go out sightseeing?
But practicality is not just about matching things well for most or all occasions; it’s also about comfort. Make sure you feel comfortable with every single piece of clothing as you might be wearing them over, and over, and over, especially if you’re traveling for a long time.
Sometimes, we just need to get a few things on the road. A pair of gloves, a scarf, or a sleeveless t-shirt for the beach. Whatever it is, you will probably find either a local market with cheap clothing, or a discount superstore like Walmart, or even a Chinatown with its bootleg merchandise. Chances are it’ll be easy to buy stuff there cheaply, especially if it is clothing you will only need to use just once. Instead of packing it for the entire trip, just allow a budget to buy it once you arrive at the destination.
Following these tips, with careful selection, you could pack for a long trip with different seasons and still travel with just a carry-on. This has been my technique for the last five years on the road to stay as a carry-on/backpacking traveler.
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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