Generally speaking, packing for a holiday can be quite fun – you pick out all your best gear or frocks, those special shoes you’ve been saving for a special occasion and the bikini you lost no weight for whatsoever – and we applaud you. But every now and then, you go on a trip or holiday that very quickly turns into a packing nightmare and the biggest reason is – finite luggage space and very variable weather to accommodate.
If you’re going on a hiking holiday, or a beach holiday, that’s easy – you’re catering to a specific set of needs. But what if you’re going to a country that offers a range of climates, unpredictable weather and a wide range of activities, particularly if you’re mixing business with pleasure. Let’s say: Monday you might be hiking on a muddy trail, Tuesday you have a conference, Wednesday you’re going to a fancy restaurant and the rest of the week will be spent at the beach.
Some places, like Cyprus, have snowy mountain tops and warm sunny beaches at the same time. Or consider a longer trip to New York. As late as the end of September, the city is still very hot. By Halloween, the temperature will drop significantly, while the rate of rain will increase, and by Christmas you’re looking at heavy snowfall and ice cold winds. The trip started in a strappy top and sunglasses and ended in Arctic coats and heavy boots.
Unless you have the luxury of paying an additional extortionate amount of money for a second checked bag, you need to try to squeeze in all of your necessities into a single suitcase, a carryon and your “additional item”, ie a handbag – without going over the weight limit. Not to worry – this CAN be done, but you’ll need to be very strategic and realistically, your comfort on the flight will be a necessary, but worthy sacrifice.
Pick the right sized bags, in particular, your carry-ons because these are what will make this enterprise possible. This is not the time to pick your cute little bag and stylish weekend bag – go for the largest small bag or suitcase that fits within your airline allowance and the largest bag that still qualifies as a handbag you can find.
Your itty bitty purses for going out can go in the luggage. Also, you might not have the most flexibility with this, but maybe you can borrow someone’s suitcase. Pick a lightweight suitcase – very often, the suitcase itself is insanely heavy and it needn’t be – there are plenty of lightweight options that are just as roomie and durable, so take the time to find a good option.
Deal with your footwear. This is where you’ll need to get over yourself and bring just one pair that is suitable for all your needs. So – one pair of hiking/winter boots, one pair of going out pumps, one pair of everyday comfy footwear. No more, no less. If your plan was to just buy whatever you need at the end destination, remember that you’ll need to cram that into your bags on the way back. Unless you enjoy throwing money away.
If you’re travelling with someone, or visiting someone with the same shoe size – Hallelujah and learn to share. Footwear is also awkward to pack. You might be familiar with the stuff as much as you can into your trainers trick, but another good tip is to put your footwear into the carry on. Shoes are among the heaviest items you’ll pack, so don’t put them into your main luggage, so as not to risk going overweight – you’re going to need every possible square cm for the rest of your stuff. Incidentally, this is where your comfort comes in. Even if you’re travelling during peak summer – wear your bulkiest/heaviest footwear on the plane.
Yes, taking them off at security is a pain and it’s not as comfy, but paying an extra £100 pounds for going over your weight limit or sacrificing the space for something you might really need is far worse. On those lines, wear your heaviest coat onboard as well and tie the chunkiest hoodie around your waist – no it won’t be flattering, but at least you can use them as a pillow on the plane!
Following on from the heavy footwear, identify your heaviest items. Whenever possible, put those in your carry ons. Airlines are far less likely to weigh a handbag, so load it up as much as possible. Also, be realistic with your plans – do you need BOTH your laptop and your iPad? Transfer whatever you might need from one to the other, download any useful apps you might need and leave one gadget at home. Fewer different gadgets also means fewer chargers and adapters will need to be packed. And are you really going to read all three of those books or go to every single party? Probably not, so don’t kid yourself and save a couple of kgs.
Learn to layer and remember that even abroad, washing machines exist. If you’re going away for a while, you don’t need a new pair of socks, undies and t-shirts for every day of the week – that’s what laundry is for. Instead of packing extra jumpers, cardis and hoodies for when it gets colder, pick one or two thick, durable garments and layer up underneath with all the stuff you can wear when it’s warm – ei your strappies, light t-shirts and blouses. And since there’s that laundry we mentioned, avoid packing things that are a pain to clean – ie dry clean or handwash only. Stick to cotton as much as you can.
Be frugal with your going out attire. Yes, it’s nice to look different every time, but you don’t have enough luggage space to take your entire wardrobe. Pick a universal dress and use accessories, like a belt or statement necklace to change up the look. Alternatively, opt for a couple of tops and bottoms that can be interchanged – that way, three tops and two bottoms equals six different outfits – which should be plenty!
This is the real reason we played Tetris all those years – cram, like you’ve never crammed before! If a tick can get in there, that’s usable space. Any liquids above 100ml should go into your main suitcase, but what with the cramming, we strongly suggest wrapping them in a plastic bag, lest any spillage occurs. Remember to roll your clothes (which will also keep creases to a minimum) and if you can get one of those vacuum sucky things – even better.
Finally, if you need two people to sit on your suitcase in order to close it – so be it. But just remember that this is going to put a strain on the zips, so unless you have a top-quality durable suitcase, if a zip looks ready to burst – try to reorganise your bulkier items or… make some sacrifices. At the end of the day, all you need are undies, socks and your passport!