Not a natural list-maker? Let us do the hard work for you. Tick your way through these tips and you’ll be all set to make a seamless packing list, ready for a hiccup-free holiday.
1. Know that size isn’t everything
Solo traveller? Package holiday? Fly and drive? Different trips have different demands and on some you won’t even need to lug your luggage that far – maybe only as far as the check-in desk. All the same, you definitely need to be able to carry it yourself. Holiday-makers with bags twice as big as they are have got something wrong – you should be getting away from it all, not taking everything with you.
2. Strike a balance: not too much, not too little
Travelling light means less to weigh you down, in all senses. Once you’ve assembled everything you (think you) need, be ruthless and halve it. Unless you’re really heading off the beaten track, you can fill any unexpected gaps once you’re out there. Chances are you won’t give a second thought to the things you leave behind anyway.
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3. Bag it up
Remember to pack a few extras inside your main bag – zip-lock bags are handy for transporting gadgets, keys and leads, and later for wet swimming things. A cloth bag is useful for all the stuff you amass at the airport and can double up as a dirty laundry bag later.
4. Remember that treasures don’t travel
It’s pretty simple – if you’re not prepared to lose it, don't pack it. Avoid that sinking feeling when your treasured bag fails to materialise at the other end (even if does turn up, a little worse for wear, a few days later). Keep any valuables in your hand luggage but, better still, keep as many as possible at home.
5. Don't forget your fashion sense
Don't be tempted to throw in the tasselled maxi dress or garish Hawaiian shirt lurking at the back of your wardrobe. There’s a reason why they’ve never had an outing. Granted, the holiday you may be a little more relaxed, a little more go with the flow, but you haven’t left your fashion sense back at home.
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6. Stand out from the crowd
It’s not rocket science but a brightly coloured case or luggage tag, or simply a ribbon tied tightly round the strap or handle, will earn you a gratifying gold star at the baggage carousel.
7. Stash some small change
Try to make sure you have a few loose coins in the local currency handy – high denomination notes aren’t much good at motorway toll kiosks or for small tips.
8. Do not bend
Printing out your own boarding pass is all very well, but by the time you’re ready to return home you’re bound to have a stack of dog-eared documents. Keep a lightweight file of all the paperwork (flight and insurance info, contact details for where you’re staying, copy of your passport) rather than relying on access to email – just in case.
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9. Don't forget about memory space
Don’t cram your suitcase so full that there’s no room for souvenirs. A little breathing space, or a foldaway extra bag, will mean your mementoes make it home in tact.
10. Make way for sweet dreams
A small bottle of lavender oil is a hardworking travelling companion. A drop or two on your pillow will lull you off to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings, not to mention mask any less-than-sweet smells. Its antibacterial qualities will also help stave off nasty airplane-borne coughs and colds – a few drops just under your nose should do the trick.
11. Prepare for a sensory shutdown
Lots of hotels supply complimentary eye masks and ear plugs but they’re often ill-fitting and not much good. Bring your own if you’re a light sleeper and definitely if you’re going to be in shared accommodation.
12. Plug in and tune out
A self-imposed digital detox is one thing (probably a very sensible thing), but if you need to stay connected make sure you’ve got at least one suitable adaptor. Don’t get ripped off at the airport – ask around and a friend is bound to find one at the bottom of a drawer to lend you.
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Put the stuff you’ll need for the first night within easy reach, at the top of your bag, especially if you’re arriving late. Go the whole hog and pack a separate mini stash of essentials in your hand luggage in case your main bag gets lost in transit.
14. Take some home comforts
Whether or not you’re a homebody, it’s worth packing something cosy or reassuring for the evenings or for quieter moments – a favourite scarf, a pair of slippers, a well-thumbed book. Even in the most exciting and faraway places, there will be times when you hanker for home comforts.
15. Take something to transport you
No, not a plane, train or automobile. You need a guide – and not someone leading a herd of tourists, angling for tips either, but an independent, inspiring and informative Rough Guide, of course.