The scene of the woman stepping out of her hotel, with a valet unloading eight perfectly matched suitcases and travel bags next to her… only looks good in the movies.
If we travelled like that, we would pay a fortune on excess baggage, struggle to get it from the belt to a taxi before someone finally helps us with it. But the truth is, you don’t need your entire wardrobe and actually, travelling light can feel very relaxing.
If you think that sounds daunting, don’t worry, we have a step by step guide for you.
First of all, remember that travelling light is relative. Except for general baggage allowance limits, there is no exact goal, except to make sure you don’t end up buried below all your suitcases somewhere during your trip.
What do you need?
The key is organisation. As you plan your trip, ask yourself some key questions:
- How long am I going for?
- Traveling for business or pleasure? Adventure or relaxation?
- What is the weather usually like? – The best/worst weather you can expect to encounter?
- Do I have specific activities planned which require something specific? (equipment or dress code)
- What do I need besides clothes?
- What is provided?
The length will help you with the basics: How much underwear you need, how many changes of clothes, how much shampoo etc.
Read more: Multi-centre holidays
When it comes to your change of clothes, be realistic. Think about how many you need for the days, then if you need to change for evenings. Always plan one option for good, one for bad weather. Ideally, these will simply be additions to your outfit, because layering is ideal when you travel.
If you have work events, plan for those, but check if you can use individual items such as a blazer or blouse or shoes in a different context as well. If you need an evening dress, pick ahead of time which one you like, don’t take two and pick once you are there.
Once you think you have all your clothes together, lay them out on your bed. Each top should match at least two bottoms and vice versa. Check the colours, lengths (remember it may not be socially acceptable to show your shoulders or knees or to wear shorts in some places), accessories and match shoes with each outfit. Now is the time to ditch anything you aren’t sure about (or buy what you are missing).
Think of toiletries and make up (pack in small bottles if you can), electrical items (laptop, camera, kindle, chargers, adapter), travel accessories such as travel pillows, binoculars, beach towels, medication, possibly a small bottle of stain remover.
Then think about what you can get once you are there. If your hotel provides USB plugs, you can ditch the larger part of the phone charger and adapter, if they provide towels (for the beach as well) you can leave those. It’s worth giving them a quick call if you aren’t sure. They can also advise you on the dress code of their restaurants if it is not apparent on their website.
How to pack
Packing cubes are ideal to keep your luggage organised and keep clothes from getting wrinkled.
Simply fold (or even better if you are short of space, roll) your clothes in the packing cubes, zip them shut, and stack them in your suitcase. (This also means if your luggage is checked at the airport and you need to open it, your underwear won’t be on display for everyone.) It also keeps them organised when you unpack and you know where everything is.
Take a shower cap to cover your shoes or pop them in plastic bags so you don’t get dirt in your suitcase (or sand on the way back).
The heaviest things (that’s usually the cubes with clothes) should be at the bottom of your bag to make it easier to handle later.
Similar packing rules apply to hand luggage – you can test the limits of the hand luggage allowance or you can travel with just the necessities.
The upside of keeping your hand luggage light is that you don’t have too much to carry past security, you don’t need to squeeze much into the lockers, and you are free to move around in the airport.
But there are things you should absolutely take in your hand luggage
- Passport, purse, flight details, visa and other important documents
- a refillable water bottle (unless you want to buy one at the airport)
- basic toiletries to freshen up after the flight
- a book, kindle, headphones or other flight entertainment
- a light change of clothes or at least spare underwear (in case your luggage gets lots or is late)
- A cardigan or other long sleeves if you are wearing short sleeves (air conditioning can get cold)
- lip balm and hand cream if your skin dries out from air conditioned “plane air”
- electricals which cannot be put in hold luggage (laptop, some chargers and batteries for example)
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