This time in five days I’ll be on the plane from Qatar to Male and no I haven’t packed yet. Packing is an inherent element of traveling. Some love to pack, others hate it more than anything. Regardless which group you are in, packing is unavoidable if you don’t wanna end up wearing the same clothes for several days in a row. I personally love packing my suitcase as it is the sign that a journey will start shortly. Over the years I’ve developed some kind of packing system and some good habits that helped me to reduce the packing activities to max 60 min before departure – all depending on how long the trip is. Today I’ll be revealing some of my best-guarded secrets when it comes to packing and how to do it efficiently without spending hours and hours on it. Plus, my favourite travel story that involves packing.
Start with the basics
The biggest issue is if you don’t know what to pack and what not. At some point you come to the conclusion that you should pack everything just in case you need it, including pillows, blankets and even an iron. True story: my Mum used to pack an iron when she and my Day were going away. Convincing her not to pack an iron took me some time.
Eventually you end up with a huge, heavy suitcase filled with random things and most probably you will use like 50% of the stuff you packed. Anyway, how to tackle the eternal problem of what should I pack?
If you are going on a dive, ski, hiking etc. trip the basics will be the equipment if you have your own gear. Check if all your gear is in place and ready to be packed. Ofcoz it’s good to check a couple of days before if the gear is in good condition or if it needs some kind of service. After the equipment is packed you think about next in line things you might need. NEED not want. Underwear, that’s definitely needed. I usually take one pair of knickers per day plus some pairs of socks and bras. Next are clothes… and here is the biggest problem as you would probably like to pack your whole wardrobe, right 😛 Usually when I go for a 10 day beach trip, I take one t-shirt per day, three pairs of shorts, two light dresses, two pairs of sandals, a pijama, one pair of long trousers and a warmer jumper. That’s it. Surely that could be reduced even more but I like to have backup in case it will be so hot that all t-shirts will get dirty and smelly quicker. Also in most cases I buy a new piece of clothing on the ground. The biggest challenge I had was to pack for one month when I was going for my Spain-Portugal trip. Eventually I ended up with a big suitcase but used the majority of clothes I’ve packed. Look, when you don’t know what to take, start with choosing your favourite shorts and pick some t-shirts that go well with them. Add sandals that fit to most of the outfits and presto you’re done.
Next piece that you need most – at least the ladies are cosmetics. Here the trouble begins, because how can you choose from all the variety of cosmetics you have at home. There is a trick for that as well. With toothbrush and toothpaste being mandatory to take, I make sure that I have a face wash, toner, day crème, eye crème and a night crème. Plus, a face scrub, some sheet masks, body moisturiser, a nail file, tweezers and definitely sunscreen. For hair I only take shampoo, conditioner and a hairbrush. When I go to countries which are hot and humid I don’t wear make up as after five minutes all that makeup would run down my neck and I would look like a panda. If I go for weekend trips or countries with a milder climate I only take the basic makeup products – cushion, eye shadow, mascara and lip gloss.
The last basics point are painkillers and medications you take. Couple of times I ended up looking for a local pharmacy as I didn’t take painkillers for the trip. Not sure about you but when I change the climate from colder to hot and humid I get headaches, so having painkillers on hand is very convenient. Additionally, if you take any vitamins or need to take specific medication, take them with you.
See not that difficult, right. Just think about what you really need on the trip and the packing time will get reduced by 50% 😉
How to pack that stuff
Now we come to the most difficult part, how to fit all the stuff into the suitcase…. Well, all depends on the suitcase but there are also some tips and tricks on how to do it.
- Use the empty spaces.
Bet that most of you have suitcases with wheels and when you open the suitcase the frame construction stands out so that the suitcase bottom is not completely flat.
I usually use those spaces for shoes or I roll trousers so they can perfectly fit into those spaces. Also I put all my knickers and socks into a plastic bag, and place it on the bottom of the suitcase to make the surface nice and flat.
- Fold not dump
Once I did an experiment. I dumped all my clothes into the suitcase and had difficulties to close it as the things were just piling up. When I folded the things and put them in the bag not only did they fit in nicely but there was also space left. Really, folded clothes when placed over the flat bag surface, take up less space than dumped carelessly. Rolling however is the best way if you wanna fit large amounts of clothes into a limited space.
Packing my things when coming back from the student’s exchange programme in Singapore was quite a challenge. Firstly, I was allowed only one piece of checked in luggage, one piece of hand luggage and a personal item, which here was a laptop bad. Secondly, I bought lots of stuff over those five months in Singapore – gifts, spices, clothes, shoes etc. AND still had all the stuff that I brought with me. It wasn’t easy to fit it all into those two pieces of luggage but I did it. Majority stuff like gifts, sweets, cosmetics, delicate clothes and shoes went into the big suitcase. Everything else to the hand luggage. I literally turned all my clothes into small rolls and played tetris with it by fitting them tightly into the bad. At the airport, my main luggage was too heavy. Happens. After a quick recap I threw away the shampoo, conditioner and body lotion – heaviest stuff. Unfortunately, the bag was still 1kg overweight. I said to the lady at the counter, OK so it’s either the hairdryer or chocolate I have to throw away. Oh chocolate is allowed on board, the lady said. DING, DING DING! Repacked the chocolate to a plastic bag and hoped that nobody would notice that apart from hand luggage and a laptop bag I additionally had a suspicious looking transparent plastic bag with something wrapped in foil and covered with duct tape, which was only chocolate. In the end everything went OK 🙂
- Other tips
With all the low cost airlines luggage limitations where in the ticket price only a rucksack is included. Hand luggage or a bigger suitcase costs extra, you have to get a bit creative. When I’m going on a longer trip then sorry but I’m paying extra for a bag but if for a weekend then I fill my rucksack fully. What I find especially useful are those silicone 100 ml bottles. Have three of them – two bigger ones and one small. I fill them with shampoo, conditioner and face wash. Works like a charm.
Mini stuff is also useful. When buying cosmetics, I sometimes get mini versions of the products. As cosmetics usually have a twelve months’ expiry period I take those on shorter trips instead of the normal sized products. However, mini versions of popular body lotions or face care products can be bought in chemist shops.
Packing a push up bra is a nightmare as it can get crushed easily. There is a trick to avoid it. If you have a push up bra, fold it the way so that one cup fits into the other, fill it with socks or other small pieces of clothing and put it into the corner of the suitcase. This way it won’t get crushed or deformed.
The promised packing story
After 19 months in Hong Kong it was time to pack my bags and go home. Right… that was difficult as over the time there I bought nearly a whole new wardrobe. My flight was on Tuesday 11.45 pm, so I had the entire day to pack my stuff. Did some prep work, with folding shirts, dresses and skirts so thought it would go smoothly. Woke up two hours later than planned, but the timing was good after I packed the first two big suitcases. Started to pack the smaller bags and it was also going quite quick. Around 4.30 pm, as planned, I went out to get a coffee and drink it at the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade to enjoy the view of the city’s skyline for the last time. Came back to my apartment around 6 pm thinking that I don’t have that much stuff left to pack.
Didn’t notice when it got to 6.40 pm and I still had lots of small stuff to pack, like favourite cookies, some books and electronics. The plan also included tidying up the apartment to put all the unwanted stuff into trash bags and leave it in one place. My friend BG arrived with beers around 7pm to have a last drink and to help me with getting all the bags to the airport. He comes in and finds me sitting on the floor in this whole semi-packed mess and says – Dude WTF you still didn’t pack everything? I looked at him with an expression saying I’m doomed and replied, nope still in the middle of it. Thing was that at 8 pm I was supposed to leave the apartment as the car was coming to drive me to the airport. Before that, I wanted to take a shower to be all fresh for the journey. Started to panic a bit but… BG gave me a beer saying, drink it, calm down all be OK. Right, I drank the beer packing things in the meantime. When it was 7.25 pm I really started to panic. Again, BG saved the day. He told me to go and take my shower, he will take care of the remaining things and pack them for me. After I came out of the bathroom all things were packed.
Not sure how he did it, but when asked – Bro where did you put my headphone charger? The answer was, don’t ask, you will have a surprise when you unpack the things. Eventually I was 90% ready when the car arrived. Didn’t put on makeup or tidy up the apartment the way I wanted but hey you can’t have it all. Funny thing is when I called the concierge to collect the bags, the man asked how many bags do you have… well many.
Self, with help, 60 min before departure or two days in advance packing is not as horrible as you may think. You might not like it but I guarantee you that after some time when you do it enough times you won’t mind doing it 😉