Working as a travel journalist has tested my packing skills to the extreme. Take the trip I’m currently on in Graubunden, Switzerland; in three days I’ll have learned to make regional nut cakes with a master baker in a valley, hiked up a mountain, swum in a thermal bath, explored three villages, stayed in two hotels, and discussed herbal remedies with a holistic chemist.
For each adventure, I’ve needed a different wardrobe that’s fit for purpose and can be ferreted out of my suitcase speedily (time between outings is scarce!). Thankfully, the years – and other travel journos – have taught me how (and what) to pack. Here are a few tips from me, and them //
Pack In Genres / If you approach packing by genre, rather than by racing all over the house choosing bits you think you need, you’ll find you don’t end up with too much. Divide into sub-genres and just refer to this list each time you pack. This is what mine looks like:
- Clothes (for day, for night, sports, underwear)
- Shoes (day, night, sports, flip flops)
- Electronics (laptop, phone, don’t forget converter!)
- Cosmetics (sun, aftersun, cleanse, moisturise, body, shower, hair)
- Make-Up (base, eyes, lips, brows, cheeks)
- Reading and writing material
- Sunglasses (whatever the weather) and an eye mask
- Health (supplements, crackers in case I can’t find snacks, yoga strap, paracetamol)
- Important stuff (money, keys, passport, pre-booked travel receipts)
Roll / Contentious method though it may be, I swear by the old roll. Doing so means my clothes remain unwrinkled and saves me time – rolling is far quicker than folding in my experience.
Lay Out Clothes Before You Pack Them / This one may sound absurd but it has very much transformed my packing – seeing everything together immediately weeds out oddities and tells you if things work in several ways to form outfits (key when one has a limited wardrobe).
Don’t bother with heels / My potential epitaph, I’ve found that high heels when travelling are a no-go – uncomfortable on swollen feet, blister-forming, perilous on cobbles. My world has been happier since accepting this comfortable truth.
Bag It Up / Use a cloth bag for t-shirts, another for underwear, another for trousers, another for electronics and so on and so forth. Also, pop shoes in carrier bags to stop them from dirtying anything and cosmetics in something that can be wiped down in case of spillage. Always bring extra empty carrier bags for dirty washing and any shopping you may pick up. When you unpack at your destination, put all the empty bags in your suitcase and repack to this formula.
Take A Shawl Everywhere / My sister has a cashmere throw she’s travelled with for years. When it’s not draped around her neck, it sits on her lap neatly, which has earned it the title ‘Queen’s blanket’ (her Maj’ does similar when in transit). Jokes aside, it’s pretty sensible and I’ve adopted the habit myself. Take something neural that goes with everything – mine’s currently beige with navy stars and accordingly goes with every outfit.
Carry As Little As Possible Throughout Your Trip / Gone are the days of me saddling up my shoulders when crossing countries – starting a stay with stiff shoulders is disagreeable in the extreme. Instead, I now decant: one book, a bottle of water, my phone, some lip balm, a couple of herbal remedies for the old nerves. Everything else goes in the suitcase.