No matter how seasoned a traveller you are, you will always return from a trip thinking that next time, you’ll pack leaner and smarter. The only thing more frustrating for a jet-setter than under-preparedness is carrying around twenty kilograms of stuff that you don’t end up needing. So how can you plan your next trip so perfectly that you have just the right amount of everything and not a single square inch of suitcase wasted? And can you really take it all in a carry-on? We’ve compiled a few helpful tips so you can glide through your stop overs with ease.
The most important thing to know when you’re packing is not what you shouldn’t take, but what you cannot take. These are items that you absolutely can’t take on board no matter how kindly you ask the nice customs officer. Know your allowances. Restrictions apply on liquids, gels and aerosols, and this probably includes items in your cosmetics and toiletries bag. The basics are as follows: any such products must be in containers of 100 millilitres or less and must be carried in one transparent, resealable plastic bag, like a sandwich or ziplock. If you are travelling with others, co-ordinate these items so if one exceeds the limit, another traveller who requires less space can carry the overflow.
Restrictions also apply on items deemed to be potentially dangerous, though there are some exemptions. Even though these are not things we tend to take on board, you can be caught out with things like knitting needles, scissors and nail files. A full list can be found here.
Now that we have the essentials cleared up, it’s time for some additional research. Draw up a little chart with each destination and their current climate in a column at the top, and your likely activities in rows along the side. Think of things like walking, sleeping, dining out, going to the beach. Everything that goes in your bag or case should neatly fit into the row and column headings. Rio de Janeiro is warm, and I am likely to want to swim and relax at the beach – for this box, I will include swimmers, a towel, sunglasses, sandals and a softcover book. This method is fantastic for those who are perpetually afraid they will forget something important.
Think about the essentials
Any savvy packer knows to start their list early, because things often pop into the mind right out of the blue. Keep the list on hand and add to it as you get inspiration, and start with the essentials – medications and travel documents. Your most prized possessions as you travel will always be your travel documentation – your passport, Visas, tickets, your travel insurance details, additional identifying documents, and photocopies of all of these. Keep them together in a travel wallet in your carry-on for easy access and safety. Just in case something happens to them, keep a set of your photocopies in an email account that you can access from anywhere and send a copy to a friend or family member for safe-keeping.
Helpful tips and tricks
Just because you’ve always packed a certain way, it doesn’t mean you are destined to make the same mistakes over and over. We have compiled little tips and tricks that you might never have thought of.
- Aim to get it all into your carry-on luggage. Even if you fail, chances are you’ve reduced the cost of your checked luggage. Most carriers will let you bring on a bag or case around 55 centimetres tall, and a suit bag. Find out what your carrier allows as early as possible, and if your case of bag doesn’t meet the requirements, invest in something appropriate or arrange to borrow it from a friend.
- Use your suit bag to its maximum potential. Ladies, this means you too. Two jackets or coats and two pairs of slacks or pants will comfortably drape over one solid hanger and take a great deal of bulk out of your case. You can also slip in a light change of clothes for long-haul flights with a stopover, and avoid the feeling of grime that accumulates when flying. Keep some hand-sanitiser and some moist wipes on hand for extra freshness. And when choosing a coat, pick light-weight and waterproof. It’s hard to go past a trench coat on both counts.
- When filling your case, try rolling your clothes instead of folding them. It might mean you do a little extra ironing at the other end, but you’ll be amazed how much more you can get in there by filling the gaps. And the more wrinkle-free clothing you pack, the less hassle later on. Extra-special tip: the insides of your shoes can store delicate items, but never pack more than three pairs. Wear the bulkiest pair on the plane.
- Stick with a colour palate and go for layers if you’re headed for cooler weather. Solid colours like black, red and white can be easily accessorised with scarves, hats and costume jewellery (leave the expensive stuff at home!), and most neutral items will suit a variety of looks. If you can’t mix and match it, leave it behind. Also remember that you can wash as you go, so there’s no need to plan a new outfit for each day you’re abroad if you’re going for more than a few days.
- Think about what you can purchase cheaply at your destination. If an umbrella or a torch can be purchased for a few dollars, it’s not worth the suitcase space. Mobile phone chargers and electrical adaptors are probably a different story.
- Take only travel-sized toiletries (there is a great range at most pharmacies and supermarkets), keep make-up to a minimum (you’re on holiday, you’re already glowing), and remember that plenty of hotels will give you complimentary shampoos and body wash.
- Use space-saving bags. These are available from most department stores now, and they allow you to roll out excess air and save oodles of room in your case. Separate items by weather-appropriateness or in complete outfits so you’re not opening several at once. This has the added benefit of not needing to rummage through everything to locate one item. For uneasy travellers, this is also an ingenious way to get your full sized pillow on board without its usual bulkiness! Admit it, now you’re exited.
- For goodness sakes, don’t forget to take out travel insurance. Life is too unpredictable to risk your money, valuables, or worse – imagine ending up with thousands of dollars in medical bills. Don’t become a cautionary tale for others.
You’re all set. Hopefully you’ve saved time, space, money and a sore back from lugging around a bunch of things you don’t need. And the worst that can happen? You need to make an unexpected purchase – no big deal, right? With these tips and tricks, packing will never be the same again.