It’s a few days until my next trip and so I’ve made a start on thinking about what to take with me.
Just a think, mind, because I don’ t really need to be that organised any more.
No, it’s fair to say that I have packing down to a fine art. Not because I’m a packing pro. But because I’ve packed for an awful lot of trips and learnt over time how to travel light but with everything I need (and without what I don’t)
I read a lot of packing tips – mostly from those oh-so-serious blog posts which, by now, you know I love to hate. They are, by and large, entitled How to Pack like a Pro.
I’ll be honest – I’ve never learnt a single thing from any of them because no one can pack like I can. But I’m not a pro. I’m not even an amateur. I’m an ordinary woman who likes nice things but isn’t prepared to carry the kitchen sink with her when she travels.
The advice out there mostly seems to be leave your lipstick at home, take your hiking boots and wear your pyjamas on a night out. And as for sarongs. Don’t get me started on sarongs
This is what really works for me. Perhaps some of it might work for you too.
So here we go with The Long Way to Pack like a Peasant.
Peasant packing point #1 – Make a list
Okay this sounds a little anal but unless you can see on paper (screen) what you’re taking, you won’t know whether it’s enough or too much. If you create a list on screen you can use it time and again, saving you valuable time and effort before each and every trip. I actually have four lists – one for beach trips, one for summer city breaks, one for winter city breaks and one for more active trips away. If you keep each and every list you make over time you’ll create a database of info which will cover any trip you’ll ever want to take. Trust me, it really does work!
Peasant packing point #2 – Luggage
The choice of luggage type and brand is hotly debated among the traveller community. Travel snobs and twenty-something backpacker types will always go with, obviously, backpacks. Personally as a stylish (ha) unfit forty something I don’t want to be lugging around everything on my back like some kind of hobo so I opt for a canvas wheelie bag. I almost always take only hand luggage. The past three times I’ve checked baggage, two of those times my bag has been mislaid. Interestingly, both of those times were at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport (thanks KLM).
My hand luggage of choice is Eastpak. It’s lightweight but hardwearing and suits stays from basic hostels to high-class hotels. I have two Eastpak bags – extra-small and small. The small is a veritable tardis – it did me five weeks around Australia – but I’d recommend the extra-small if you want to be sure of being within cabin carry-on limits with each and every airline.
Most airlines will also allow you an additional handbag on board. This has to go under the seat in front of you but you’ll be amazed how much more you can carry with you if you maximise this space. Take note, however, some airlines only allow you one piece of hand baggage which is where a trick of mine comes in. I take a shoulder bag but then hide it at the gate and when boarding the aircraft by slinging my jacket over my shoulder and covering said bag.
Weightwise I’ve never had anyone weigh my cabin baggage. Traveling with a soft canvas bag means that it packs and straps down easily so that it appears smaller even when it’s heavy. I regularly exceed the 10kg standard weight. Some airlines no longer state a weight but you must be able to lift the bag into the overhead locker yourself.
Peasant packing point #3 – Clothes
You actually need fewer clothes than you think.
For a four-day city break I travel in one pair of jeans and take a second pair, four tops and a dress and smart flats for evening if I’m going somewhere fancy. Wear your coat or jacket and heaviest shoes on the flight.
Obviously, stick with basics – neutral colours and plain items that will match but then add in a few chosen accessories – I find that a couple of colourful scarves, a necklace and a pair of funky sunglasses will jazz up plain jeans and jumpers or chinos and blouses.
Nighwear-wise I take a vest top and boy shorts to sleep in if I’ve got my own room. Otherwise if I’m in a dorm or my bathroom’s down the hall I take 3/4 length sleeve and leg pjs. That’s just my personal preference. The younger, glamourous ones seem to wear much less!
Underwear-wise I’m quite proud and always like to look feminine and pretty but with space at a premium I recommend investing in four or five matching pants to a bra. Be prepared to do a little laundry on an evening. Smalls dry quite happily overnight on a towel tail.
For a week’s beach holiday two pairs of shorts or lightweight trousers and three T-shirts or vest tops (remember, you’re only wearing them to and from the beach!) is plenty. You’ll need three bikinis for during the day and then two or three maxi dresses for an evening. Wear your healed sandals on the flight with your jeans, jacket, summer scarf and a warmer top (just in case the weather breaks).
That’s honestly all you’ll need for a chilled-out week in simple accommodation.
Winter does pose more of a challenge. But the same rules apply – take one good coat and pair of boots and wear them on the flight. Jeans and jumpers need rolling tight to get them in cabin baggage but it’s doable.
The only time I do struggle with cabin baggage is on an activity-type trip. The general advice is to wear your hiking boots on the plane but I like to look smart when I’m travelling so this is a no-no for me and invariably cagoules and daypacks and woolly socks mean that checked baggage in inevitable. I’ve yet to find a foolproof way around this one.
Peasant packing point #4 – Toiletries
I don’t mind admitting this is tough. But it’s doable providing you don’t need three contouring kits and are flexible on the toiletries you use.
First of all you need a good quality zip top plastic bag.
Then invest in some good-quality travel bottles. I’ve tried them all. My favourites are from Muji which come in two different sizes – 30ml and 50ml. 30ml is sufficient for a weekend; 50ml for longer. These tubes are soft and squeezable but also long and thin, meaning that you can pack more of them into your placcy bag. Decant any liquid that you can’t do without into these tubes. For me this is shampoo, conditioner, cleanser and contact lens liquid. Travel toothpaste is a rip-off in price but I do buy it and I have been know to eke out a 25ml tube to last a week. I also find that a roll-on deodorant will fit better into a bag than a spray.
One mascara, one lipstick, one lipbalm and one small bottle of perfume are also my must-haves. Remove any lids if possible to create more space in the bag.
Rule of thumb is 10 x 100ml bottles in your placcy bag but I’ve taken more thru security without any problems.
I put my powder foundation and powder blusher elsewhere in my luggage. Now technically these are powders so that’s okay but I am aware that some particularly keen security guards might insist that these are pastes and therefore insist that they go int he placcy bag. In which case, I am always prepared. I merely mentally calculate that I will ditch the toothpaste and the deodorant in favour of my more expensive and sought-after items. I can always get toothpaste and deodorant when I arrive at my destination.
Talking of which, if my accommodation doesn’t provide shower gel and body lotion, I simply buy some on arrival, as I do with anything else I decide I suddenly can’t go without.
All other toiletry items – sponge, soap, tweezers, comb, etc, etc are best packed together inside a toiletry bag.
Peasant packing point #5 – Stuff
I minimise stuff as much as possible as it’s easy to get carried away.
My best piece of advice is to pair everything back – take specs out of heavy cases and repackage in lighter ones, or even just wrap them in their cleaning cloth, leave that heavy camera at home (unless you’re an arty type, most modern mobile phone cameras take very good quality photos these days – I do make an exception to travelling among more natural settings when I find Canon camera with it’s shit-hit zoom lens comes into its own).
As a avid reader I prefer proper paper books and always have a book with me when I’m travelling but if I’m going on a week’s beach holiday I can take lots of trashy novels on my Kindle at a fraction of the weight. Sure, it’s not what I really like but it’s a pay-off.
I leave any credit cards at home I don’t need, I even split my backdoor key off the ring and the keyrings and pop it in my purse.
You get the picture.
Finally, Peasant packing point #6 – Review on your return
Packing like a peasant isn’t easily done from a reading a blog by an idiot like me. No guide is foolproof and what works for you has to be learned.
One really effective way I’ve found to help me do that is to review my list on my return. It might sound verryyy anal but it really does work. I look at my original list as I’m unpacking and make a note of what worked and didn’t. For example, I didn’t use that but I could have done with extra of this. I chucked that away but ended up buying more of that. This is a such great way to ensure that when you travel you really only take what you need and never end up carrying anything you don’t.
So there we go, the Long Way to Packing like a Peasant. I hope you’ve found it helpful and if you’ve any tips to add, I’d be happy to hear them.