As our trip nears, it’s time to begin to think of packing. Over the years I have developed a system. As anyone who travels much knows, everyone has the right way to pack for them, and no two systems are the same. However, since I travel with folks who don’t travel as much, so I share my system. Feel free to copy and adapt as necessary.
The first piece is the luggage. My absolute favorite piece of luggage is a combination roller bag and backpack put out by osprey. When I bought it I was rather nervous as I felt as though it was quite a bit of money to invest in a bag. Especially since I am a poor teacher and I already had some luggage I could have used. 6 international trips later and I am happy to say it was worth every penny. Here’s a link to buy one from Rock Creek. The fact that it converts to a backpack is a life saver as we often have to schlep our bags up and down stairs in train stations or on streets that just don’t play nice with luggage on wheels. But the wheels are essential when we are moving through airports or for long distances on smooth streets. The fact that it is somewhat squish able is quite helpful when we cram our luggage into lockers in a train station while we explore a town.
Whew, so what goes in my wonderful bag? Lets start with the basics. I include enough socks for every day. I bring wool socks, but I like to wear them all winter long. I do make sure that all of my socks are presentable and on the warm side as we will take our shoes off when entering some buildings. The other thing I make sure I will have fresh every day is underwear. Enough said.
Then I think about my base layer for each day. This is often a t-shirt, though I will make sure to throw in a few long sleeve technical base layers. Like these. I’m sure you could get something less nice at Walmart and it would do the trick. I also plan to use the t-shirts as pajamas once I’ve worn them. I cheat like that.
Pants I rewear. I know where we are going I will be comfortable in jeans so I simply pack 3-4 pairs. I won’t look Japanese no matter how hard I try so I resign myself to being comfortable instead of attempting to keep up with whatever fashion. They do tend to wear lots of black. I don’t recall seeing khaki’s. I have known some girls to want leggings or tights under their pants for some added warmth. I haven’t ever done this, but it’s something to consider for Japan in winter. I toss in a pair of sweats to sleep in and I’m done.
That brings me to my warm layers. I will bring 1 sweater for church and 2-3 fleece mid weight tops. I love these things because they are warmer than a sweatshirt and pack down much smaller. Here’s another example at Rock Creek. Then I will add a down vest. This helps me add warmth without adding bulk in my arms, which I hate. Real down is worth the extra money to me because it can be squished into just about any space. On days I’m not sure, I can toss my down vest into my daypack just in case I get cold. I might also include a regular weight fleece jacket, especially if we head into the mountains. I will top that all off with a weatherproof shell. I made sure mine was big enough to fit over my layers. The key points are waterproof, and that it has a hood so I can stay dry if we have to walk a ways in the rain. I will throw in a beanie for my head and a scarf because it makes such a difference for the small amount of space it takes up in my bag. And that is my tried and true way to stay nice and warm. Notice there is no bulky parka type coat. I find those to be the worst for traveling because, while they can be super warm, they are all or nothing and so annoying to deal with.
Toiletries are pretty specific person to person, but I do find that it is easier to bring what you like than to try to figure out what the Japanese bottle of whatever really is. I do use smaller travel containers, but I don’t follow the TSA 3 oz thing because I keep them in my checked bag. I know, someone who was super smart said you should carry on such things in case they get lost. If my luggage gets lost, I’ll have a lot more to deal with than buying toiletries. I think they gave that advice before the stupid 3 oz rule. I do have all my toiletries in a toiletry bag. This could even be a big ziploc bag. It’s just nice to be able to have it all easy to grab when I go off for a shower. A towel. A towel is a must. Don’t forget the towel.
Meds. When I travel in the US I figure I’ll just hit a store for some Sudafed if I need it. Not so in Japan. The language difference means that I can’t be sure what I’m getting in a drug store. I know what I like if I have a headache or a cold, so I toss a few of those things in a bottle just in case. (I do make sure I know dosage for everything I’m bringing!)
Shoes. I take one pair of leather casual shoes. They are great for walking and don’t get wet like sneakers. I might toss in flip flops for walking around the places we stay, but often don’t bother.
That brings me to my carryon. I have a DSLR that takes up most of the space in this. I add a small notebook for jotting down my thoughts, perhaps that’s my lot in life as a chaperone, but if you are one to write things down, it might be helpful. Little things like chapstick and a pack of travel size kleenexes get tossed in. I do bring my iPhone and charger. I haven’t used service over there, but it’s nice to have when I have access to wifi. I also use it for books, music, movies, and games on the plane. I do not text people from Japan because I find it is better to tell them about my trip afterwards. So I also bring a charger. I haven’t ever needed to use a converter in Japan. The current is different, but I think it just means it takes longer to charge stuff.
Another important thing to consider is where I will stash my JR pass which is about the same size as a passport. Also need to know where I’m stashing my passport. Both of these documents need to be secure, yet especially in the case of the JR pass, accessible. A zippered pocked in my jacket works really well for me. I also need to bring a different wallet because I use more coins in Japan. They even have a coin worth $5, so you can’t just toss coins around like quarters here in the US.
That got pretty long, but it is pretty much it. Maybe some snacks? Definitely no laptop or homework. There just isn’t time!