A few lessons learned along the way after more than 300 flights in the past 9 years!
- How much is too much?
If you can’t fit what you are taking into one suitcase, you are taking too much! Another general rule of thumb is lay everything out that you want to take, and then halve it. This is really true! However some other guidelines….
Do some research first. especially if you are going overseas. For instance, what is the culture of where you are going? Do you need to cover bare arms, bare legs or wear a hat. What is the weather likely to be? Hot or cold, or both? What activities you will be involved in? Hiking in the bush, beaches, swimming and water sports, walking miles seeing the sights, shopping, dining out all mean different items are needed. Once you have this worked out, then choosing what to take comes easier.
If you can’t pick up your suitcase yourself, or drag it through the airport yourself, or lift it onto other transport without relying on other people, you have taken too much!
Personally, many of my trips include a “working” component and therefore I need to make sure I have the right clothes for this, then I add on the purely leisure items. Whatever I take MUST work with other items. So my basic wardrobe would be a black skirt, black pants and tops that mix and match with both. The add a couple more pants (maybe jeans and one other neutral colour) plus another couple of skirts especially if travelling to warm weather. Of course, if you prefer dresses to separates you substitute them. For casual, add crop pants (or shorts) and a couple of t shirts or tops. If you are taking bathers, then take a large wraparound which covers for pool use, but also for covering up when those bare arms shouldn’t be on display. If you have one in a darker colour, ideally in an uncrushable fabric, it won’t show any marks or spillages and if you take it on the plane with you, then it also can be used as a blanket (airlines issue one on long haul trips, but it’s often chilly in planes air conditioning so good to have a stand by on all flights). Make sure you have a cardigan or jacket for chilly nights, even if you are going to a hot country.
I have a tall clothes drying rack, but any hanging rack will do. I then hang on this all the things that I think I will need. Then I put various items together. If a “top” only goes with one “bottom” it doesn’t go! It’s as simple as that. So each top must be able to work with each item. Casual tops must be able to work with all pants and crops or shorts, and skirts, or they don’t do.
So once you have culled your pile, what accessories do you need? These make the difference for changing the whole look of an outfit, whether it’s jewellery, scarves, belts etc. However use same principle, try to make sure each item can be used with more than one outfit. I actually hang each accessory on the item it will be with, on the hanging rack. That way you can see what works, and also then you don’t forget to pack it. same goes for shoes. Make sure your shoes work with each item. I take one black and one neutral colour dressier kind of shoe, sneakers for walking, and add a neutral casual shoe.
Now you just need your toiletries, undergarments and nightwear and you are ready to pack. For toiletries, it is so worth buying a set of the travel size containers and filling them yourself with your favourite shampoo and conditioner (much cheaper than buying the travel size items). So often, the hotel shampoo doesn’t suit your hair, so it’s worth taking these items along. A tip here, use the hotel shampoo to rinse through any small items of clothing, roll the item in one of the towels to squeeze out excess moisture and hang over the shower rail or on hanger and they will dry overnight.
Remember if you are flying, all your liquids gels, creams, aerosols or paste that are limited to 100ml or less per item must fit into a one litre resealable (snap lock type) bag – maximum size 15.24 cm x 22.86cm. This can be carried in your hand luggage. any items larger than this must go into your checked in luggage.
Top tip! Make sure you put your toiletry bag in a large snap lock bag in case of spillages, as can happen under air pressure. Its not nice to arrive with your shampoo all over your clothes!
2. How much is too little?
When you have to go and buy a jumper because you are freezing, or a top because you are roasting, fresh underwear because you couldn’t get your washing dry, bathers because that pool looked so inviting and you didn’t think you’d be swimming, or those new shoes are crippling you so you need others, then you know you have taken too little! So plan plan plan! With careful planning you can take everything you need in one medium size case. Which cases are best? Thats a whole other topic for next time!
3. Packing cubes
These are the best invention ever for me! You can get these very inexpensively, I bought the Kmart ones, three in a set (mixed sizes) for under $10 a set. The small one holds all my undergarments, nightwear etc. Accessories go in the other small one. The medium one takes all my tops and the larger one takes all my bottoms. It’s as simple as that. Then you just have your toiletries in a waterproof snapback bag, shoes in snapback bags and a couple of spare jumbo snapback bags to hold washing until you can do your laundry.
The beauty of packing cubes is, it is so simple to pack and unpack. You can actually pack a week ahead of time using this method, as if you need to put something else in, you just open one cube! If you need something in your case, just take out the cube, you don’t need to rummage through all your clothing. If you end up with a bag check at the airport it is much better than having all your clothes rummaged though too!
4. Roll or Fold?
Personally, having tried both methods, you can definitely fit more in if you roll your clothes and they are far less crushed and wrinkled. Of course, taking clothes that resist wrinkling in the first place helps. Just roll each item and place side by side in the packing cube.
5. Things you can’t do without!
Your passport, and it must be valid for six months from the date when you are due to return from your travel, not the date when you leave for your travel
Copies of all your documentation. Photos on your phone are good, as long as you don’t lose your phone, or your phone dies! So paper copies are a must. And keep them in your hand luggage in case your luggage is delayed or goes missing! Make sure you also have copies of your travel insurance too, with relevant contact numbers. You can’t take it for granted that nothing will happen!
Register your travel with the government at www.smartraveller.gov.au before you leave or overseas.
Leave a copy of your itinerary (and ideally copies of vital documents) with someone trusted at home.
Make sure you have enough funds. We find a cash card ideal that lets you withdraw the currency in whichever country you are in. Our personal favourite is the Qantas card but there are many options out there. Using this avoids those nasty overseas exchange rate transactions on purchases, and you can lock in exchange rates for a number of countries before you go.
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