Before my sister went on her year abroad to Granada I helped her pack a year’s worth of clothes in her student rucksack by rolling everything into neat cigar shapes. This simple method stops creasing and packs a lot in a small space.
Now thirty years on she still tries to take ten times what she needs and I still need to edit what she thinks she needs. The key to packing perfectly is to be realistic. If you always come back with clean clothes then halve what you normally pack. Unless you are a Paparazzi-followed celebrity you can wear a skirt or pair of trousers twice, just with a different top. So, coordinate items.
Keep it simple. If every year you pack your trainers ready for that sunset jog along the beach in Brittany but have never yet achieved it then don’t pack them. Or wear them. If you follow the guidelines below you can take a carry-on case and avoid high charges for hold luggage. And what to take it all in? A soft-sided wheeled case is less restrictive than a hard-sided carry-on and easily expands to fit more if you want to check it in.
1. If you’re travelling to a country with guaranteed heat then don’t bulk up your luggage packing unnecessary coats and jackets. I always pack a thick pashmina or wrap which works well for in-flight comfort and anywhere else with over fierce air con.
2. Beauty queens take note. Pretty much all brands offer mini versions but, if not, then see it as a chance to try another product line. After all, a different climate changes your skin. Also, consider decanting multi-purpose products such as coconut oil into smaller 100ml (or under) bottles that you can take in your cabin bag, whether checking in luggage or not. Don’t be scared to ask for samples at beauty counters.
3. I’ve travelled the world with my trusty debit card and pretty much never gone without, but the safest, surest money method is to pack the prepaid multi-currency money card. Withdraw cash with no fee (most providers offer this), top up when the exchange rates are at their best but the main advantage is that they are secure. If you lost it in the back of a taxi, it can be cancelled and replaced, usually for a small fee.
4. It may sound incredibly obvious but check the expiry date on your passport before you even book your trip. Certain countries require at least six months validity. We once discovered that my daughter’s passport had expired the night before a long haul flight and so had to cancel the trip. Not very impressive for a travel writer… Avoid such travel stress by checking both your passport in advance and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website’s country-by-country guide.
5. Try to retain the handy overnight kit you get in certain classes on some airlines (even in economy, Virgin, for example, provide a clear zip up recycled case complete with pen, ear plugs, eye mask, socks, a toothbrush and paste which proves invaluable for a last-minute stash in my cabin bag). You may think the eye mask is for long haul travel but try sleeping in a city hotel surrounded by lights or a hotel with paltry curtains.
6. On our last holiday, my 12-year-old daughter had the foresight to pack a reusable KeepCup with some herb tea bags secreted inside and ask the cabin crew for some hot water. Not only are these more environmental than buying a drink but a ‘nice’ cup of liquorice tea helped her sleep on a cramped low-cost flight.
For further useful packing tips see our previous blogs:
Jo Fernandez is a leading UK travel journalist, with much of her career spent working for the London Evening Standard where she was Travel Editor until 2015.
Now a freelance travel journalist and copywriter, she lives in Essex and has one daughter. As a travel expert, she still enjoys jetting off to write travel pieces, with favourite destinations including Mexico, Croatia and, of course, Essex.