Packing Tips for Your Next Home Exchange

With the rising costs of checked baggage, it’s no wonder more and more travelers are forgoing jumbo suitcases for practical carry-ons. But how do you pack for a week-long exchange (or longer!) in such a small space? Don’t worry…we’ve got you covered with these packing tips!

Try a hardside. Soft-sided luggage is easy to overstuff, and you could easily find yourself going over the weight limit. Hardside luggage limits what you can pack and guarantees that your carry-on will fit in your overhead bin.
See what’s available. If you’re traveling from a warm climate to a chilly one, find out if your exchange partner is willing to lend you some cold-weather gear. Many will be happy to lend you their parka…they won’t need it when they’re staying at your home! You can also plan ahead with your exchange partner to leave items like shampoo and toothpaste for each other so you won’t have to pack them.
Spring for some packing cubes. Not only will they keep your socks and unmentionables contained, packing cubes are also great for…unpacking! Just grab the whole thing and stick it right in a drawer. You’ll go from zero to settled in under a minute.
Layer up. The key to a small but functional wardrobe is versatility. Does that shirt only go with one pair of pants, or can you wear it with a variety of outfits? Do you need to bring a heavy sweater, or will a lightweight cardigan over a long-sleeved shirt be enough? If you can only wear it with one outfit, leave it at home.
Remember you’re in a home. And most homes have washing machines! If swapping for two weeks, you really only need one week’s worth of clothing since you’ll easily be able to do a bit of laundry. Just make sure to ask your exchange partner to leave directions; foreign appliances can be tricky to decipher.
Don’t panic! If you arrive at your exchange home and realize you forgot something, chances are you’ll either be able to borrow or purchase it…and who doesn’t love an excuse to do a little shopping?

Do you have any packing tips? Tell us in the comments!

Photo: Highways Agency/Creative Commons

10 Comments on “Packing Tips for Your Next Home Exchange

  1. These are great tips! I have also learned to buy clothes that are poly/cotton blends so that they can be rolled to pack. I can pack 10 tops and 5 pants in 1 carry on with room for 3 pair of shoes and toiletries (tunics, leggings, palooza pants, etc). And, if I want to bring a heavy sweater or boots, I wear them on the plane so I don’t have to pick them.

  2. Here is an old flight attendant’s trick. If you overpack or need to take more stuff, say at Christmas time…take a zippered pillowcase cover and put some of your clothes in it. You are
    allowed to carry on a “pillow” for your back. Also, you can carry a “lunch bag” that holds your “food”. So that means you can take your carry on luggage, your personal item (purse, laptop case, backpack etc…) the pillow and the “lunch bag”.

  3. Great tips! I pack sample sizes of toiletries to tide me over for the first couple of days, then buy locally. I tend to stick to mix and match neutrals which I dress up with a colourful scarf or necklace.

  4. Rita and I have, since we discovered Home Exchange, organised 40 odd home exchanges – and because we have on our trips up to 7 exchanges at a time our adventures have taken us through different climates. Sure our exchangees have a coat or two hanging behind the back door which we can use – but Rita and I take one suitcase for up to 3.5 months away.. Here’s our tip.. We use the Thrift or Op shops to purchase what we need.. for a few Euros/Dollars/Pounds. For a couple of Euros/Dollars/Pounds one can pickup what one needs for the situation. We launder it and donate it back.

  5. For cold climates, take two long johns and thermal tops, then two pairs slacks (different colors) and four tops to mix and match (who needs ten tops!). Snow pants and snow jacket over the top (for really cold), gloves and beanie. Good pair of boots, runners, and one dainty pair shoes. All fits in carryon plus backpack. Managed four months in USA and luggage was not the burden it could so easily have been.

  6. I stick with one basic colour – black and then select one co-ordinate colour such as white. Scarves will dress up outfits and are easy to pack or wear.

  7. My suggestions: wear a pair of black slacks on the plane with a light top and a fleece jacket, and slip-on shoes like loafers. Pack another pair of slacks, two pair of walking shorts, three brightly colored cotton t shirts, one dressier top, 3 pair lightweight undies, 2 pair light stockings, lightweight fleece pants, flip-flops, a light plastic rain poncho, a scarf and toiletries. If you plan to do a lot of walking you might want to take walking shoes or sneakers, but these take a lot of space and are a pain if you wear them at the airport security. I leave my jewelry at home, including rings and watches. I don’t need anyone thinking I am wealthy. Misc items include plug adaptors, small flashlight, glasses repair kit, bandaids, chargers, small writing tablet, cork puller and wine stopper, small hotel-size soap, small pack baby wipes, a few ziplock bags, All of this fits nicely in a small soft backpack. We can do our laundry every 3 days at our home exchange (don’t forget–European washers take a couple of hours per load, not a half hour we are used to). If I need a heavier raincoat, I carry it on. Neutral separates and lightweight underthings. We prefer to eat out at the local bistro and don’t go to fancy restaurants, so no heels, dresses, suits, etc. Also, we each keep a packing list and we check the list as we unpack at the end of our trip. Anything we didn’t use gets xed off the list. No heavy jeans, sweatshirts, etc. We buy basic toiletries when we get there. Usually our home exchangers provide shampoo, soap, etc enough for the first few nights.

  8. Agree with everyone – one main color per trip ( black or navy) – scarves to dress up – small zip packages – one for underwear – one for socks – one for t-shirts/tops – one for laundry – flip flops ( used as shoes or slippers) – one pair walking shoes ( worn on plane) – one pair slip on dressier shoes. I take umbrella and poncho and hanging toiletry bag. I check this bag – mostly because I am told to by airlines even though the suitcase is small enough. Sometimes I can gate check it.
    Because my main suitcase often goes missing for a day or so, I carry a back pack – change of clothes, nightie and small toiletry bag and put my valuables in it. I layer up for the plane ride ( coat/ fleece if it is cold) – gloves /hat in the back pack.
    I mail gifts ahead of time or simply give gift certificates to minimize what I take with me. I always carry and extra fold up duffle bag in my suitcase – for all those wonderful souvenirs that I bring home!

  9. The comments are all great – thanks! Just one tip from having lost my luggage one time when I traveled to Paris. I had to make a detailed list of what the bag included and frankly, I could hardly remember! So now when I have all the stuff I’m packing in a checked bag or two ready to go, I take photos with my smart phone. You can photograph all that you are about to pack and also your bag so you can describe well. My biggest problem now with packing is all the electronic this-and-that you have to take to support your devices. Argh. Happy travels all!

  10. For your peace of mind when traveling….. be prepared:
    If you wear prescription eye glasses, bring an extra pair.
    Make 3 copies of passport, credit card, travel insurance and drivers license.
    Include a list of medications and strength.
    Keep one list in your luggage, one for yourself in a safe place and give one to your travel companion. Car break ins and large crowds are a haven for thieves!

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