Packing light on long haul trips is an art that, once mastered, will open up a whole new traveling experience. No matter how long or exotic your trip is there’s no reason you can’t take hand luggage alone. Flying free as a bird will save you money and is infinitely preferable to lugging your life around like a snail, especially if your trip involves multiple destinations. It also gives you the opportunity to ask which possessions really matter to you – for a holiday of experiences rather than things, read on for the top tips.
1. Where, exactly, are you going?
Some countries are (shocker) big. If you’re without a clue as to whether you’ll be on a beach or up a mountain, this is gonna be tricky. If you have a penchant for altitude, for example, then it would be wise to pack some warm clothes as well as bikinis. Conversely, if you’re planning on snorkeling non stop don’t let your mum bully you into taking so many cardigans. Spontaneity is encouraged, but wisdom weighs nothing.
2. Check your airline
Some airlines have slightly different rules when it comes to hand luggage, which can be to your advantage or detriment. In addition to your standard 56 x 45 x 25 cm allowance, British Airways will allow you a smaller laptop bag at 40 x 30 x 15 cm. Ryanair, on the other hand, will only offer a single checked bag of 40 x 20 x 25 cm from 1st November 2018, which while an upgrade from the previous lunch box dimensions, is still smaller than most. Don’t get caught short.
3. Double up on shoes
Can you take running trainers instead of walking boots? If not, do you need fashion trainers as well as running trainers? If outdoor activities are not your thing, turn your attention to your dressy shoes. Do you need shower shoes, beach flip flops, casual sandals and evening shoes? No. Pick two and get over yourself.
There are a few thrifty tricks to save space here. Firstly, you’re going to have to get savvy with your bottles. “Travel sized” toiletries are 50 ml at most and won’t last the trip; if you can get hold of some 100 ml bottles (from Boots or your supermarket) then decanting your favorites makes much more sense. You can double up too, taking shampoo for your body as well as hair; and buying insect repelling sunscreen. Or, pretend to be a wrinkly and take a bar of soap. It might make sense to buy a larger sunscreen or shampoo after you’ve gone through security, but bear in mind any domestic flights you have booked.
5. Book places with laundry facilities
Check whether your hotel, hostel or Airbnb has facilities to wash your socks before you book it. You can always take travel-wash with you, but it’s nicer and easier to use a machine if you can. This saves you having to bring 42 socks and 21 pants on your 3 week trip.
6. A lesson on packing
Roll rather than fold. Start at the bottom of your bag and fill out any empty areas as you go along. Square shapes and shoes go in the middle where they can be padded, rather than protruding through the fabric. When flying, your passport and any electrics can go in a plastic wallet or folder so you can whip them out in the airport; when not flying, valuables go in the middle where they’re safe. Your passport should live in a discreet money-belt, underneath your clothes.
7. Do NOT wear your heaviest clothes at the airport
This is a stupid rule and you should forget it right now. You will be miserable when you have to find your hotel in 30°C temperatures wearing your woolly jumper because you’ve discovered it doesn’t fit in your bag. At it’s fullest your bag should have enough room to fit a lighter bag for day excursions and enough room for presents. If you are a true muppet and disobey this rule you may end up having to pay for checked baggage on the flight home.
8. Which bag?
Depends on the occasion. For a backpacking trip, a 35L bag should fit, but measure it when packed as different brands have different dimensions. Mine is 28L and has enough room for a day-sack and presents. For unconventional items, a sturdy Bag For Life is your savior. Buy from your local supermarket or for one with a zip up top, head to Ikea. You may look a little odd, but my father brought home a 24 piece Hungarian dinner set in one of those.
And there you have it, the tried and tested Run For The Hills guide to packing light on long trips away. Happy travels!