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:
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…