I was recently asked for packing advice by a family member who was preparing for her first overseas holiday. It made me realise that there are quite a few tips I take for granted as common knowledge, when, in fact, I have gradually accumulated them over my years of travelling. Packing, like many aspects of travelling, is a matter of trial-and-error to find what works for you. Nonetheless, here are a few of my favourite packing tips that may help to get you started if you are an inexperienced traveller.
Checked luggage tips
What you pack in your checked luggage largely depends on your destination and the length of your stay, so here are some very general tips.
First and foremost, do not ever pack your money, important documents, medication or expensive technology in your checked luggage. Your luggage may get lost in transit, which would leave you stranded without these essentials. There is also the possibility that they could get stolen from your luggage. So, always carry them with you, either on your person or in your carry-on luggage.
Roll all of your clothes, as they will crease less than if you fold them.
Spray a couple of handkerchiefs with your favourite perfume/cologne and place them amongst your clothes to keep them smelling nice. Otherwise, suitcases have this ability to make everything smell stuffy.
Make your suitcase easily identifiable. This will make perfect sense after your first experience at a luggage carousel. I would never recommend buying a black suitcase, as they are far too common and hard to quickly identify. In fact, an orange suitcase seriously once saved me from being denied entry to the US. I also like to tie bright ribbon to the handles of my suitcases to make them easier to spot.
Pack several plastic rubbish/shopping and zip-lock bags. These are always handy to have, whether it be to isolate dirty clothes, to keep small items safe or simply to help compartmentalise your suitcase.
Carry-on luggage tips
When it comes to carry-on luggage, here are some essentials that I cannot be without on any long-haul flight. These tips mainly apply to economy plane travel, as the facilities in business and first-class will make much of this advice irrelevant.
Inflatable neck pillow – I absolutely refuse to travel on a long-haul flight without one. If you want decent sleep in economy, this is a must-have. Mine once broke on a flight (after many years of use) and it was consequently a very long, uncomfortable experience. Needless to say, I rushed to buy a new one at the first opportunity.
Headphones – I like to bring my own onboard, as airline ones are often dodgy and the thought of not having working headphones on a flight is incomprehensible. I use them throughout the rest of my trip anyway.
Eye mask – Some people are not a big fan of these, but I love them. No matter how much the cabin lights are dimmed, it will still not be completely dark. Plus, these masks also make it very clear to other passengers and cabin crew that you are trying to sleep, so they hopefully leave you alone!
Toothbrush and toothpaste – When I sit on a plane in economy for many hours, every part of my body feels like it needs to be refreshed, with my teeth being a particular bugbear. Therefore, it is always handy to pop into the onboard toilets mid-flight and brush my teeth. While some airlines provide a toothbrush and toothpaste, they are never as good as regular ones.
Deodorant – For the same reasons as above, I always bring a roll-on deodorant. Airport security usually does not take kindly to aerosols, so roll-on is best on a flight.
Lip balm – The humidity of cabin air is always extremely low, so it is very drying. Lip balm is essential to avoid chapped lips. By the same token, it can also be beneficial to bring a small moisturiser.
Jumper/cardigan – You may be going to a warm, tropical destination, but it is almost always a sure bet that the cabin temperature will be chilly. Bring a light-weight, comfortable jumper or cardigan onboard to make sure that you do not spend the whole flight shivering.
Socks – Some airlines provide these and some do not, so I usually bring my own to be safe. It is uncomfortable to wear shoes for the duration of a long-haul flight, so socks do the trick to keep your feet warm and protected from the germ-ridden plane floors.
Photocopy any important original documents you are taking with you, such as your passport and/or visas. Keep hard copies with you in your checked or carry-on luggage, in case you lose the originals. I would also strongly recommend storing an electronic copy somewhere that can be accessed on any computer. For example, you could email it to yourself if you can access your email anywhere or you could upload it to a ‘cloud’ storage facility. When I went on exchange to the US, I uploaded copies of all of my documentation to a Dropbox folder that my parents could also access anywhere, in the case of an emergency.
Hopefully these tips will make it a little less overwhelming to pack for your next trip! I may continue to update this post as I think of more.