Packing Made Simple

Recently I have been reading a lot of blog posts about packing, and I’m impressed by some bloggers’ elaborate packing systems. And at the same time, there’s a part of me that just wants to roll my eyes. I mean, packing is something I don’t usually even think about, and yet you could say that my suitcase has been constantly packed and ‘on the road’ since I was nine… First I was being sent back and forth, on my own, between my divorced parents; then travelling with my mother; extended periods abroad as a student; and now my husband and I share our time between two homes in two countries.

Yet, I’ve only ever thought of packing as a simple matter of transporting your favourite items from point A to point B with as little hassle as possible. And to this day, this is the only way I look at packing.

For example, those little plastic bags you’re supposed to put your (travel-size, of course) liquids into for the airport security control? Let’s take that little plastic bag as our starting point:

travel tips2

The items in selection A fit into the plastic bag, and can therefore go into your cabin luggage. However, if you need all the items in selection B (and / or more) and want to travel with cabin luggage only, you are seriously deluded. It’s never going to work. Obviously, you are not a low-maintenance girl (nothing wrong with that) and you should stop pretending that you are. Now, repeat after me: “I’m a high-maintenance girl and I need a proper suitcase.” Keep repeating this mantra for ten minutes every morning until the message sinks in. Then go get yourself a nice, roomy suitcase.

Some airlines let you take only one piece of cabin luggage. Yes, ONE PIECE. So, your handbag must either fit into your trolley, or your handbag IS your cabin luggage…

The mini-bag (Jet Set Crossbody by Michael Kors) is actually a wallet, with slots for credit cards. It can also fit my passport, a lipstick and a compact mirror, a phone and a camera. And you can sneak it past the eagle-eyed jobsworths at the gate counting how many items of hand luggage you have… I often use this instead of a handbag when I travel, too, as I like to go hands-free when I go ‘sightseeing’ (= shopping).

The trolley (or whatever you use as your cabin luggage) should have a  pocket with a zip, for your iPad, tickets, magazines etc that should be easily accessible.

My suitcase is in proportion to my size, easy to handle and light-weight. And as my trips often involve getting on a train or the Tube, I have to be able to lift the suitcase with one hand, or carry it up and down flights of stairs (you didn’t think the Tube had lifts, did you?).

I commute between two countries regularly, so I don’t have time to look for the items I only need in Homebase 2 (keys, travel insurance card, train tickets, railcard, Oyster Card, British store loyalty cards…) every time I pack. So, I keep them all in a little pouch, together with my passport, and then take the whole pouch with me and leave my ‘everyday wallet’ behind (since it contains items I only need in Homebase 1…)

On the plane, I always wear some variation of the following:

  • flight socks (seriously, DVT is no trivial matter)
  • a big scarf or pashmina (planes can be drafty)
  • trousers (they look better with the flight socks)
  • a T-shirt
  • a cardigan / jacket
  • slip-on shoes (they make you take your shoes off at the security control anyway)
  • a coat appropriate for my destination (i.e. it might be -10°C / 14ºF in Homebase 1 and 5°C / 41°F in Homebase 2, so I choose the coat according to my destination and take a taxi to the airport)

The trolley is strictly for weekend trips, or when I don’t have time to wait for luggage because I need to get out of the airport quickly and  rush across London to catch the last train to Homebase 2.

When I go on holiday (as in, to a place other than one of the Homebases), I take a suitcase, even if it’s just for 2-3 nights. Yes, really. And yes, maybe I won’t wear everything I packed, but so what? I like to have options… I’m sort of an impulsive dresser: I often change my mind at the last minute and ditch the carefully planned outfit for something completely different. And as I need to take the suitcase anyway because of the toiletries (I only wear spray-on sunscreen, which is not available in travel-size), might as well make the most of it. But the suitcase should never be more than 3/4 full at the beginning of the holiday as there must be some room for the fabulous shopping I always end up doing…

Travel comfortably, 



  1. Mrs C
    13 May 2014 / 2:48 pm

    Great read as always. I DON'T travel light as I fall under the category of high maintenance girl but it easy for me as I only travel for pleasure, not business. So, a check in bag/bags and a hand luggage/handbag where I put my stuff, more stuff if I travel long haul. I would slip on my leggings, throw on a poncho or sweater and slip on sneakers of which I would ditch on board and stick to the complimentary slippers and pijama they give (being an airline family has its perk, I guess) keep writing Tiina, I love reading your pieces 🙂

    • Tiina L
      13 May 2014 / 7:04 pm

      Thank you for your nice comment. I am also trying to learn to be a bit more high-maintenance. Yes, I know how crazy that sounds (and my husband might think I am already quite high-maintenance, except when it comes to travelling), but when you've lived out of a suitcase most of your life, it might actually be therapeutic… or that's what I tell myself, anyway.

  2. Philippa
    16 May 2014 / 9:11 pm

    Brilliantly pithy.I am not a practised packer (my holidays usually involve cars or trains, so don't have to think about those wee bottles, checking in, or waiting for a bag to appear) so I hoover up 'those' blog posts in the belief that they will help me become more efficient, and go on more aeroplanes. I am at some point going to have to travel for work, and the packing (including, what on earth to wear? How many pairs of shoes? Will I need a hot water bottle? Torch?! etc) fills me with dread. When the time comes I might have to ask for your advice!

    • Tiina L
      17 May 2014 / 8:09 pm

      I've never really travelled for work, but I would imagine that it is pretty much the same as going to work… You'd pack something you would normally wear, keeping in mind the climate, of course. And as much as it is important to simplify life when travelling, it is good to keep in mind that most of the things you forgot to pack you can buy at your destination. So, all you really need is your credit card, and your passport…

  3. Jean at
    31 May 2014 / 12:52 am

    This is so affirming. I, like you, need options!! I always try to limit myself to a small carry-on bag but I'm miserable, never having what I need, and end up shipping stuff home. I'm adopting your mantra…I'm a high maintenance woman I'm a high maintenance woman etc…Normally I don't think of myself in those terms, but when it comes to traveling, I need to. Thank you!!

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