Friday, January 15, 2010

How-To: Lighten Your Suitcase

Packing as little as possible when travelling has a practical purpose above reducing clutter: lightening your bag for checking in and when hauling it around. Follow these steps to pack less when you next travel:
  1. Work out in advance what you need to take. Write a list or start making a pile of everything. Ensure that you only get out what you need, not things with the thought "what about" in your mind.
  2. Make sure your clothes work together. There's nothing worse than getting to your destination and finding out that there are no tops to go with a pair of shorts or skirt.
  3. If you're intending to go shopping during your travels, allow for this. Pack less, and wear some of your new clothes plus have room for your purchases
  4. Shoes are one of the most bulky and heavy items in your suitcase. Minimise the number of shoes you'll take. For most destinations you probably won't wear those high heels you're thinking of taking - stick to a pair of decorative sandals or thongs instead, that are comfortable to walk in, but can be dressed up. And the repeated advise to wear your heaviest pair of shoes on the plane is a good tip - particularly in the cool air-conditioned environs.
  5. Take advantage of accessories to make your outfits more versatile without the weight. A scarf is good, as are plenty of earrings. (But make sure you pack any valuable jewellery in your carry-on; cheap costume jewellery is fine in your check-in.)
  6. Take advantage of gadgets. Use your mobile phone to store addresses and use as an alarm clock. Download PDFs of the relevant Lonely Planet or purchase language guide applications for your smart phone or iPod Touch. Store backup copies of your documentation in your email account after scanning. Use an electronic book reader to replace that stack of books.
  7. Think small when it comes to toiletries. Due to the new limits on taking liquids into cabins (100mL maximum), there are many more travel size shower gels, shampoos, conditioners and other products out there. My local Coles supermarket has a section in the toiletries aisle just for travel products. Even if you're putting your toiletry bag into your check-in luggage, it's still a good idea to minimise their size.
  8. Finally, remember that most things will be available to buy at your destination if you do forget them (or decide you really do need it, after leaving it out of your suitcase), particularly a variety of clothing. (Sunscreen is the one thing I've found less readily available and more expensive to buy in some non-Western countries.) Just make sure you've got your wallet!
(image: Shandos Cleaver)

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