A recent weekend away with friends to Australia’s Mornington Peninsula highlighted a very important issue faced by travellers the world over: the inability to pack efficiently.
I met my pals at the car, my small knapsack packed with toiletries, PJs, underwear and a few changes of clothes, only to see that they had enormous (and I mean ENORMOUS) suitcases. The type of cases you’d take on a four-month adventure around the world, from the beach to the mountains; large enough to fit ALL your worldly possessions, including your prized kitchen sink.
While it’s good to be prepared for whatever a weekend (or week, or month) away might throw at you, hauling a massive suitcase into the boot of a car or up a flight of stairs on the London Underground is often not in your best interests, and can be easily avoided with a few simple tips:
1. Invest in an extra-light suitcase
One that’s not too big or too small, with durable wheels and a comfortable handle. If you’re ready to really try travelling light, buy a bag that you can use as carry-on.
2. Pack for the climate
If you’re spending a week on the Amalfi Coast in the middle of August, it’s unlikely you’ll need a thick woollen jumper or duffle coat. Similarly, if you’re heading to St Petersburg in February, best to leave your sundresses and sandals at home.
3. Lay out everything you want to take.
Then pack two-thirds and put the rest back in the cupboard. Don’t try to fill empty space in your case; over-packing will result in creased clothes, while a bit of extra space means more room for bringing home treats for family and friends (or yourself), like a hand-knitted poncho from Peru or a bottle of Malbec from Mendoza.
4. Coordinate outfits
Take clothes you can wear more than once, with different things. A top that can be worn with pants, shorts and skirts, a jumper you can throw on over a shirt, and pants that can take you from a day exploring Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar to an evening dinner in a traditional Turkish taverna. Three tops to every bottom is a good ratio.
5. Take enough clothes for just one week
Many expert packers suggest taking enough clothes to last you for a week, regardless of how long you’re travelling (unless, of course, you’re away for less than seven days!). This way you can also look forward to the joys of foreign laundromats.
6. Pack smart
Aim to take clothing that is lightweight, of a similar colour scheme and crease-resistant. Best to leave the flamboyant silk shirts at home, unless you’re going salsa dancing in Cuba.
7. Don’t pack what you don’t wear
If you don’t wear an item of clothing at home, you’re unlikely to wear it overseas. Save on space and leave it in the wardrobe.
8. Stock up on the basics
Pack extra underpants. And socks. These should be rolled and stuffed inside shoes or in any pockets of space in your bag.
9. Roll, don’t fold
Roll clothes, rather than folding. It saves on space and reduces creasing.
10. Leave the shoes at home
Don’t pack every single pair of shoes you own. Comfortable walking shoes are essential wherever your travels take you; sandals or thongs are fine for warm climates, while a pair of boots is just the ticket for cooler spots. Pack your shoes in a cotton tote bag inside your case so your clothes don’t get dirty.
11. Lock it up
Invest in a good-quality lock for your case.
12. Valuables go in carry-on
Don’t pack anything in your checked luggage that you’d hate to lose; valuables like jewellery and electronics should stay in your carry-on. Just in case your new lock isn’t quite strong enough.
13. Adapt or die (for your batteries)
Be sure to travel with universal adapters, preferably one that has USB inputs so you can charge multiple devices at the same time. You can purchase these in most airport duty-free shops if you don’t have them.
14. Don’t lose that passport
Make sure you’ve got everything you need in your carry-on bag. Keep your passport and a pen in an easily accessed pocket, and toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and lip balm sealed together in a Ziploc bag. A Kindle or book and noise-reducing headphones will make life much more comfortable in immigration queues, departure lounges and on long-haul flights.
Put your packing skills to the test with an adventure on one of our small group tours.