Packing tips for couples

One of the (many) great things about travelling as a couple is that you can cut down on what you carry by sharing the load a little. But packing requires planning — and this is even more true if you’re packing for two instead of for one.

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Pack light

No matter how you travel or who you’re travelling with, it’s always a good idea to pack light. Get down to one bag each, carry-on size, and stick to it.

As well as saving you money and backache, this also means it will be possible for one person to carry all the luggage if necessary — though I don’t mean the stereotypical situation of the man carrying his wife’s bags (and of course they’re heavy because she’s packed too much). You should plan on always carrying your own bag. But occasionally, one person might need to carry both bags a short distance while the other goes to the bathroom, or one partner might have an injury that makes it hard to carry luggage.

If you have an injury or disability that makes bag-carrying difficult, talk with your partner before you travel to find a solution that works for you. Perhaps your partner would prefer to take one large backpack while you carry a light one, or perhaps wheelie suitcases are the answer — you might be able to pull yours along most of the time and your partner can carry it over rough terrain.

Share items

Before you travel, think about what items you could share so that you’re not both carrying the same stuff. You only need one first-aid kit, for example, and a lot of toiletries are generic enough to share — though you might have to make some changes and compromises in order to really cut down.

In our case, we have one toiletries kit for both of us, and most of the items are shared — excluding toothbrushes and deodorant, of course. Some are used more by one person that the other (Craig has some sort of weird eye foam, I have a tooth mousse), but we talked about what we needed out of the other items and chose a brand that suited us both. Shampoo, toothpaste, moisturiser, hair gel and shaving gel are all shared, and they all come in containers smaller than 100ml, as well!

Try to get all your toiletries into one toiletries kit.

Share the load but don’t share too much

How you choose to divide your stuff will vary from couple to couple, but we’ve found the easiest way is to only split shared items. Each partner should carry their own personal items, like clothes and personal entertainment, but things that you both use can be divided up. This could include a first-aid kit, toiletries kit, electronics equipment (especially chargers), or games or books that you don’t use too often.

It might help to pack together. Take all your stuff and divide it into three piles: one for each partner and one for shared items. Pack your personal stuff into your bag and look at the space that remains, considering the weight of the bags when you divide the shared items between you. In our case, Craig has a smaller bag than me, so he takes the heaviest items (electronics and games) while I pack the toiletries, first-aid kit and a few other things.

It makes life easier if you keep your bag organised and always put shared items in the same place so that your partner can find them if he or she is looking for them.

If you’re travelling as a couple, what do you share between you and how do you divide it up?

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12 Responses to “Packing tips for couples”

  1. Lee Carter @ Global Goose March 21, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Agree with all of these although I would use Backpack over rollers any day.

    • Craig and Linda March 21, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      Hi Lee, yes – us too, but we run into wheely-back converts and committed everywhere we go. Especially at the bottom of stairways in airports :)

      • Bruce Horn March 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        I agree with this for travel in Europe (and I imagine most other areas except for the U.S.).

        But I tried this for a while in the U.S. and went back to a wheeled bag. Most places in the U.S. that I have flat smooth sidewalks that make wheeled bags very easy.

        In Europe, however, cobbled streets, narrow train aisles and other obstacles made a convertible backpack suitcase more practical.

        If you really have to have both of these and don’t want or can’t afford to have two bags, a lightweight luggage cart such as the one listed on http://www.onebag.com/business-bags.html#carts might be a good way to go. You can leave it at home for trips that don’t need it or stow it in your suitcase when you are not using it. But even 2.5 pounds seems like kind of a lot when I am trying to cut my bag down from 25 to 20 pounds.

        When I do return to Europe however, I do plan to buy a different backpack bag. I bought the larger of the bags Rick Steves has and found that the side pockets made it wide enough to catch on the sides of seats when walking through trains. His smaller bag or something similar would be a better choice. I do like the fact that it has plenty of straps inside to keep your belongings from shifting around and straps on the outside to reduce the size of the bag to the minimum size needed for your stuff.

  2. Elle-Rose Williams March 21, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    I agree for most of the stuff mentioned here – except for the last point. My boyfriend and I always try and put a few clothes / shoes in both suitcases so that even if one of our suitcases goes missing or is delayed – the other will still have one or two spare outfits in the other’s case. Saves you then frantically buying replacement stuff if the worst does happen! :)

    • Linda Martin March 25, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      That’s a good point. We travel carry-on size so the chances of things going missing are quite low, but if you’re checking bags, it’s definitely worth splitting things up.

  3. Bruce Horn March 22, 2013 at 2:11 am #

    You mentioned that you gave up on shaving oil because it requires a very sharp razor and it is too expensive to replace cartridges that often. One thing I have discovered recently that might help with that is that blades get dull mostly when they are sitting damp after you use them, not when you are shaving. If you normally carry a travel hair dryer or stay at places that have them, you can dry off you cartridge razor (or safety razor) immediately after use and keep one cartridge sharp for 1 to 3 months. Also, when they are left damp, they actually get tiny rust spots so they start feeling jagged. If you keep them dry, they very gradually get duller but never rough feeling so they don’t ever develop the problems that cause nicks or abrasions (assuming they were decent blades in the first place. Some bargain basement disposable razors or cartridges start out being rough).

  4. Lance March 30, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    We could not disagree more with the statement: “we’ve found the easiest way is to only split shared items. Each partner should carry their own personal items.” The problem is airlines! We travel a lot and have had situations where airlines loose one of our bags, but not both. Splitting up items means you always have something. We always split things up on our travels now.

    • Craig and Linda April 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      Hi Lance, fair point — but we do constantly recommend travelling with carry-on only.

      Theft might be a problem in that case, but you’re never at the whim of luggage-handling barcode scanners.

      When we do check a bag (normally because we want to carry wine bottles over borders), we add a day’s worth of clothing into our carry-on to avoid such catastrophes.

      Thanks for pointing it out; will be useful for those with checked luggage. We won’t shout at them too much :)

  5. Natalia | Always Trekking April 8, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    You mean I can’t share a toothbrush with my bf? 😛

    I agree about personal entertainment. My kindle was soon taken over by my other half. Thankfully I found some paperbacks in places where we stayed.

    Next trip, I’m planning to bring 1 laptop. I wonder how that will play out.

    • Craig and Linda April 8, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      Hi Natalia… only those in very special relationships do that!

      On the one laptop front, I think that’s a good idea – especially if you can convince your other half to bring a smart phone or some other way for them to connect!

  6. Gabriel April 12, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Just wanted to say, thanks for the great site, tips, and hints. My gf and I are preparing for our first real long-term, unguided, trip abroad, and I think your site’s help has already saved us from quite a few mistakes. Great work, definitely buying the book as well!

    PS, any tips for taking the trip on a motorcycle, especially in a country that you are not a citizen of?

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