Packing bags for travel poses many questions. Not least what to take and what not to take? Certainly the one thing you leave at home will, without doubt, be the very thing you will end up needing the most while away.
There are of course many different strategies for different types of travel, taking into account baggage allowances with air travel for holidays or business, or limitations of space if you are backpacking. When you have carried 5 kilos on your back for an hour it begins to feel like 20 kilos, and after two hours you could be forgiven for thinking you have taken the proverbial kitchen sink along for a ride too!
Whatever your reason for travel the decision process for ‘Should it stay or should it go’ is simple. Be objective, logical and plan as carefully as possible matching possessions to activities. I must admit that I have foolishly found myself in driving wind, lashing rain and below zero temperatures, kitted out in the most stylish sta-press trousers and t-shirt combo, simply because the climate where I departed was balmy and the weather where I landed proved I was barmy!
Lesson learned. I now use a sure fire method to be as prepared as the best Boy Scout and start accumulating all the ‘essential gadgets and gizmos’ and ‘sensible clothing’ in one place, as early as possible before travel, so I don't forget anything important.
But what is the best strategy for fitting everything in your suitcase? Here are some great tips and tricks to make the most of the most valuable real estate known to humankind... your suitcase!
Think through what you may encounter throughout your trip and start collecting everything in one spot, somewhere at home, somewhere that you can use them from as if you had already left home, and if time permits, to do this for a similar duration that you will be away travelling. This way you will surely remember everything you may need for the journey and have it all to hand when you pack your bag to leave. This strange ritual ensures you do not forget anything critical and have plenty of time to consider how necessary some things really are. It is far more preferable to decide not to pack something in the pile than to forget some critical item that may be invaluable in your moment of need.
I am talking about gathering day to day things such as cables and chargers for smart phones, cameras, electric razors, toothbrushes and any other travel essentials but I also use this “Open suitcase simulation” to introduce, travel documents, medications and any small but useful things you only ever need “Once in a blue moon” – and of course you must remember “The elusive blue moon” is almost certain to shine down on you when you are light years from home making some items such as nail clippers or a needle and thread, priceless.
I began writing with the intention of providing the “Must have travel list”, but soon I realised that there are masses of generic “Passports, Tickets, Money, Put the Cat Out” lists available but they do not cater for the needs of individuals. I believe novice and seasoned travellers alike want useful tips, not a roll call of their ablutions needs, so the only list you should really need is a list of things that YOU need, things that you cannot keep to hand and pre pack in this way, so you remember to take it when you leave. One item that someone suggested to me recently seemed so obvious that I was embarrassed I had not had the idea myself – Take a small power board so you only need one travel adaptor but can plug multiple items into the one socket at the same time – especially great as airports, train & bus stations and generally speaking some less developed countries do not have many available power outlets. Derrr, why didn’t I think of that?!!
If my baggage allowance looks like being blown out of the water, I usually look into the contents of my bag for the heaviest items and assess if it is better to save the weight, leave it at home and consider that if worse comes to worst I can purchase a replacement while travelling. The best items to fit this category are the heaviest but also the smallest in monetary value such as shower gels or shampoos. Now, this is where the real skill comes in, by trying to anticipate needs, and trading off the desire to carry things you will inevitably need verses the possibility of buying those items easily and cheaply en route or at your destination will surely be the cause of many a headache.
Don’t rush out and buy new bottles of everything for your trip, instead try to take bottles with just enough content for the duration of the travels and you can then discard them in time for your return journey leaving even more baggage allowance for gifts and souvenirs collected along the way.
Now we have to tackle the issue of clothing. A husband and wife duo, friends of mine, travelled from England through Africa, India, America, Asia and home via Australia and New Zealand for well over 8 months and they each carried less than 14 kilograms!! They were far from bedraggled in appearance and certainly didn’t smell when they stayed with us for a few days near the end of their trip, and yet they managed to condense their essentials into a bag smaller than my usual weekend away bag – and included in this minute baggage allowance they carried a laptop.
Cherri explains “As for packing, blimey that was so long ago, I can’t even remember what a holiday feels like!! But yes I know we did manage to travel very light and I had around 12kgs, clothes, shoes & toiletries...rolling clothes is the best way! Just minimise what you really need to take. Jon had bout 15kgs that included a laptop, radio, first aid kit and travel guides, which if you’re travelling around, we discovered there is no need to get before you leave as you can pick them on your way and fellow travellers will often swap books etc”
So now Cherri brings us to the crux of the matter with her rolling clothes tip, and I know experienced travellers will be the first to offer their tried and tested methods as the best advice on the correct clothing to carry and how best to transport it, but everyone has a different set of needs and solutions to problems and with each successive trip you will become better and better until you find your niche`.
The main schools of thought are basically to neatly fold all you clothes individually so that you can lay and squeeze to suit any corners of your suitcase and pad out any breakables; fold all your clothes in one big pile and drop it right in the middle of the case and everything else can fit around it, or my personal favourite is to lay all my shirts out on top of each other, and roll around a kitchen towel holder packed inside with socks and to treat my trousers and jeans in a similar way whilst using underwear or other smaller items of clothing as padding if required, or finally the less pedantic amongst us will scrunch each item up and force it into every available crevice in your bag until no more will fit, then you simply leave everything else behind! Simple!
The key to success when embarking on the trip of a lifetime or taking a weekend break is to be sure to enjoy the process of planning your trip and the experiences travel has to offer. Remember the old adage “The journey is far more important than the destination”…. Especially if it is the return leg of your journey!
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