There’s an art to packing for a trip or holiday. And your ability to cram as many items as possible into the smallest possible space can save you serious money when you use low cost airlines, who charge for hold baggage.
Only taking hand luggage on board also means you’re free to go and explore as soon as you clear immigration. No need to wait around for the baggage carousel to whirr into action! It’s a win-win if you can cram it in. So how can you get a fortnight’s clothes and toiletries into one bag?
Lonely Planet’s new book How to Pack For Any Trip will tell you! Authors Sarah Barrell and Kate Simon have put together tips and suggestions on how to carry off the perfectly-packed carry-on. I spoke with the book’s editor, Jess Cole and asked her which method of packing works best – rolling, bundling, stuffing or folding?
Jess said she’s tried them all and what’s best does depend on your luggage. If you use a backpack then you can only really stuff items in. Overall she recommends rolling your clothes into sausage shapes because that saves space and prevents creases. I suddenly felt quite smug because I do that. It just seems easier and who wants to iron abroad or follow the book’s travel hack suggestion of putting shirts in the shower to steam out the creases?
Planning your packing is important. Jess says if you know what you’re going to be doing during your break then you can plan your clothes accordingly. I’d never heard the term ‘capsule wardrobe’ before, so thanks to Jess for extending my vocabulary! It means taking fewer clothes and packing ones that can be mixed and matched for different occasions.
The guide says that you can’t go wrong with a plain white T-shirt. Dark jeans are a good choice too because they can be worn both at nighttime and during the day. If you’re traveling with friends, Jess suggests sharing clothes, assuming you’re the same size!
Interestingly, the authors advise booking accommodation where laundry facilities are available. Many hotels do have guest facilities but they’re not highly promoted because guests would generally rather hear about the jacuzzi than the washer-dryer. If you plan to wash your clothes while you’re away, then you can be even more ruthless with your packing.
I wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending precious holiday time waiting for my undies to dry. But Jess says some laundries are becoming great destinations in their own right. One washeteria in San Francisco, called Brain Wash, puts on stand-up comedy shows while you wait for the cycle to complete. If you’ve travelled light all the way to Hobart in Tasmania there’s a hip café attached to a launderette there. While travellers in Cologne can juggle a latte with their Lenor at Rock On and there’s a chain of hipster hangouts called Laundromat Cafés in Denmark.
Pooling technology when you’re traveling with friends saves weight and space. “If you all have the same phone, just take one charger between you,” Jess suggests. You need to be careful with liquids too. “They’re heavy and they can leak,” she warns. The guide recommends solid shampoo and soap bars as a more portable alternative. If you still have too much stuff to carry, a brutal solution for combating overpacking is to lay all your items out on the floor and ditch one-third of them.
I was keen to find out whether Jess practises what she preaches. “Would you be able to travel for a fortnight in Tenerife with hand-luggage only,” I asked her. “Yes,” comes her immediate response. “If it’s warm you don’t need a great deal of stuff,” adds Jess.
The next bit of packing advice could prove controversial. Jess suggests limiting the number of toys your kids take. I joke that it could turn a parent into ‘Mr or Mrs Nasty.’ Jess agreed with the phrase “a happy child means a happy family” but she suggested that it’s a balance and kids should be encouraged to take responsibility for what they pack. She feels that they need to understand what limited space means.
If you really can’t trim your travel items and still need a trunkful, the book shares options for sending luggage ahead. It’s seems a bit like travelling to India in the days of the Raj to me – overly grand. But Jess says it’s a popular and cheap option in Japan where locals often send their cases ahead to the airport for as little as $15.
The book also admires some of the technology changes. Samsonite are working on GPS-enabled cases that allow you to track your luggage and which should, in theory, mean no more lost luggage. Or at least you’ll know which city your pants and toothbrush are in. Those cases, Jess assures me, will be tamperproof too. There’s even one GPS controlled model that will follow you, a few feet behind. So no more tugging or lugging luggage. I asked her what happens when you need to visit the loo? “I guess it follows you in,” laughed Jess.
One item, which clearly found favour with the Lonely Planet team was the Wolfe Pack backpack. With the tug of a cord it will swing around from your back to your front, making it easier to retrieve items! Genius.
You can buy your copy of Lonely Planet’s How To Pack For Any Trip from all good bookstores priced at £7.99. But maybe you should start as you mean to go on and download it to your Kindle from Amazon. That’ll save you at least 400 grams in weight!
Listen to our full interview with Jess here: