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If you're planning a short (~1 week) trip overseas, here's my recommendation on packing.
If possible, depart light with 1 backpack (carry-on) and no check-in luggage. This would avoid lost/delayed luggage problems and the delays at airport waiting for your luggage to go through screening and roll down the luggage ramp. If you're paying $1000 to fly overseas for few days, why waste 45 min waiting for your luggage at the airport?
Pick a medium sized backpack that will fit in overhead compartment on the plane. Not too big and not too small. I recommend packing the following:
* Rolled up duffel bag. You can buy these at sports stores. Get a small or medium sized one, roll it up and tie it. You can use this to store extra stuff on the return trip.
* Clear plastic ziplock bag containing: Small (travel size) tube of tooth paste, hand sanitizer, medicine (if needed), and possibly a small tube of anti-itch cream if think the local mosquitoes will attack you like a buffet dinner. Visit your local target store and look for the travel sized personal care product baskets.
* Some personal care products such as a small comb, travel-sized (battery powered) electric razor, tooth brush, couple of band aids, deodorant, dental floss, condoms (bring the ones that you're used to, the ones overseas might be ill-fitting).
* Extra pair of pants (or shorts), shirt, underwear, socks, and pack of disposable underwear. You can buy additional clothing overseas and it makes little sense to bring 6 pairs of underwear over and back.
* Your camera, couple packs of tissues, and maybe a book (in case if flight is delayed).
Check the weather, you might need to bring a jacket. If you suck at packing, ask a female friend to do it for you. They can somehow magically get everything to fit.
When you arrive overseas, you can visit local supermarket or hyper-mart and pick up stuff like shaving razor, shaving cream, tooth paste, packs of tissue paper, cheap socks, bug spray, shampoo, bottled water, etc. Many tourist areas have cheap shirts for sale. Just grab a few on your outing.
If you need additional cloths, just buy them overseas. However if your size is difficult to obtain, then you have to bring your own.
On your return trip, stuff your cloths into the duffel bag for check-in, toss away whatever you don't need, then stash the breakable trinkets that you bought on your trip into the backpack (carry-on). Do not store any fruits in your backpack during your trip, the sniffer dogs will pick up the scent and cause some delays for you.
On my recent trip to Beijing, I had to bring one of those large "hard case" travel luggages, because I was bringing some gifts and needed the storage volume as well as the hard-shell protection against damage. Lo and behold Air China left my luggage at LAX, and I arrived in Beijing without my luggage. It took them 2 days to get it delivered to my hotel.
Thanks Momopi. I will add this post to the FAQ topics page and move it to the Advice section.
Btw, what's your take on my question about long term travel luggage?
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