We’ve all been there – arriving at our destination after a long journey only to unpack and realize that something important hasn’t made the journey with us. But never again will you have to make one pair of underwear last a whole weekend away or pretend that chewing gum is a substitute for a toothbrush – we’ll teach you how to pack like a pro for any type of trip.
Weekend city break
A small holdall will suffice, but don’t just throw things in willy-nilly. If you’re travelling on public transport, pack your delicates away in their own zipped compartment (or smaller bag) to avoid underwear-based embarrassment when you rummage for your ticket. Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes: comfortable sneakers to explore a new city in and a nicer pair for dinners or dancing. Figure out what you’re planning to wear all weekend beforehand so that you don’t waste space with unused outfits. Let the ‘If you don’t NEED it, it’s not coming,’ mantra rule your packing like the savvy traveler you were born to be.
If you’re taking a flight, pack cleverly and you can get away with just hand luggage – saving money and skipping the baggage queues at the airport. Be sure to check your airline’s hand-luggage restrictions though, and make sure all of your cosmetics or toiletries are in cute miniature sizes and in a plastic zip lock bag for security.
Long weekend in the countryside
We all need to escape to the countryside once in awhile. But with a break from hectic everyday life comes a few practical notes on packing. Walking boots or wellies (or old trainers at the very least) are essential. Freely roaming green pastures and hiking to the top of tall hills to get the best views for your Instagram feed are the best way to get out and enjoy nature, and you’ll want sturdy, waterproof shoes to do it in.
Make sure that a pair (or two) of dark jeans make it into your luggage, they won’t show up any of the mud you’re likely to encounter. A hoodie or warm jumper will become your new best friend come the evenings, which are best spent curled up by a fireplace or sat around a bonfire with friends. During your daytime adventures, fill a small rucksack with a light raincoat, sunglasses and plenty of water bottles for your adventures, and invest in a portable charger to keep your phone juiced in case you get lost or spot a perfect photo opportunity.
A few weeks in paradise
Cast those hoodies and coats aside – if you’re heading to a hot spot for a few weeks, focus on packing light, it’ll make the travel that much more pleasant. Having said that, be sure to pack at least one long jumper; even if every evening of your holiday remains balmy and rain-free, you’ll need something warm in the evenings and possibly on your trip home. There’s nothing sillier than being the one person on the flight back to your suddenly-chilly hometown who is wearing skimpy shorts and flip flops (and positively freezing on your journey home).
Summer packing essentials include the “4 S’s”: swimwear, shorts, sunglasses and sun cream. Bring a few different styles of swimwear to keep you looking great (and avoid abrupt tan-lines) and some SPF30 sun cream to make sure that tan doesn’t become a burn. Summer is all about living in tees, tank tops, shorts, skirts and flip-flops – if you’re even wearing shoes at all. Bring loose and baggy items to deal with the midday heat in tropical countries and to be covered in case you’re traveling to a country that has more conservative norms of dress. A beach bag, a towel and a good book or two will set you up perfectly for lazy days by the beach/in the park, although remember that if you’re staying at a swanky hotel, there’s no need to bring your own towel, but you should pack a nice evening outfit or two.
Gap year in Asia
For a gap year in Asia – a journey that is likely to take you from Southeast Asian hot spots like Thailand and Cambodia, to metropolises like Tokyo, Shanghai and beyond – luggage can only take on one form – a backpack. Invest in a decent backpack with padded straps (you’ll thank me later) and plan your packing well in advance. As you’ll be carrying everything you bring on your back, really focus on only the essentials and be very sparing with the clothes you bring along – you could easily bring your wardrobe for a year of travel. Resist the temptation. Plus, with affordable markets in every city you’ll travel to, you’ll want some room spare to bring back goodies.
Don’t forget to bring a second bag to use during the day and to keep your valuables in. A smaller backpack, with a zipped inner-pocket will keep wandering hands away from precious passports and travel tickets. On the subject of security, padlocks and cable ties are handy to secure the openings of your luggage when using cheap, popular boat and bus transfer services.
On a practical health note a toilet roll, antibacterial hand gel or wipes, and an array of bodily function-regulating medications are as essential as sunglasses and sunscreen. I don’t need to explain the reasons for this.
Year studying abroad
Part of packing like a pro involves predicting what you’ll need and being ready for literally anything. When faced with moving abroad for a whole year, it’s super easy to fill suitcase after suitcase with clothes, but those of us well versed in the art of packing know that on most tips, even long ones, less is definitely more. Bring outfits for every season, but leave room to add to your wardrobe while you’re away. Unless you’re moving to the Himalayas, your new home will have shops so you won’t need every single shirt you’ve ever owned.
Don’t forget to pack a few home comforts to help you settle in, like your own bedding or some photos. With a fair amount of luggage in tow, you’ll need a big hard-case suitcase with wheels to move through airports and countries with ease while protecting your worldly possessions – this is not the time for a backpack.
BONUS: Long-haul flight prep
Everybody knows that a gripping book, a few magazines, snacks and an iPhone bursting with the latest beats are essential packing items for a flight. Don’t forget to download your favorite Spotify playlists if you don’t have inflight wifi and to buy some snacks before you board – the flight attendants with the snack trays never seem to come around often enough.
When faced with wasting eleven hours on a long-haul jet, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones as well. This will ensure you remain blissfully unaware of screaming babies or your companion’s loud snores and your own music won’t bother anybody else. Pack a neck pillow to help you grab a few hours’ sleep once you’ve raided the in-flight entertainment system. Bring an eye mask as well if it’s a daytime flight to help you reset your internal clock and adjust to your destination’s time zone by getting some shut-eye.
In addition to your valuables, a spare pair of clothes (including underwear) should be squeezed into your hand luggage. If your main suitcase goes astray you’ll be able to survive for a few days – key even if you have travel insurance that will reimburse you for the delay.