5 ways to pack like a travel pro according to Scout editor Sarah-Kate Lynch
"I have picked up a few tips, even if I only remember them half the time and usually about 400km too late." Scout editor Sarah-Kate shares her hard-won travel packing tips.
I’ve been a traveller forever and a travel writer for almost as long, so of course I know how to pack a bag – if I have two burros and a handcart at my disposal. Without them, not so much.
There was that one time when I travelled around Europe for three whole weeks with only a carry-on bag. But the trick there was taking my long-suffering husband (the Ginger), who in turn took a large suitcase mostly full of my things.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely can do it: it’s not rocket science putting a small number of things in a small space. The trick is in making sure the small number of things includes the ones you actually require.
“Let me guess,” said the Ginger on clocking my look of horror as I unpacked at a weekend destination recently. “You’ve ‘brought the most ridiculously inappropriate collection of clothes’?”
Inveterate traveller Peta Mathias once told me the secret to packing is putting everything you want in your suitcase, going away, having a gin and tonic, then coming back and taking half of it out again. I’ve certainly managed the first two-thirds of this fail-safe system, but have repeatedly fallen at the final hurdle.
Queen of being small and tidy Marie Kondo recommends putting everything you want to take in a pile on the floor, then carefully folding and rolling it up. I’m totally down with the rolling, but “everything I want to take” is where the problem starts. “If you really won’t wear it, leave it out,” advises Marie. But how do you know, from the safety of your bedroom, if you really won’t wear it?
Who among us doesn’t pop in that dress you last wore six years ago because it’s such a pretty colour, only to discover on the other side of the journey that the reason you haven’t worn it is that it needs dry-cleaning/ mending/to be taken in/out/or all of the above?
Then there’s the shoe issue. I have big feet, therefore I have big shoes, so two pairs of those, the mountain of cosmetics a woman of a certain vintage requires, and I’m pretty much done. However, I have picked up a few tips, even if I only remember them half the time and usually about 400km too late.
1. Buy the right bag
I ordered a small handful of wheelie bags online so I could test them at home, returning all but one that was extremely light. I’m tall, so no-one ever helps me put things in the overhead locker, even though I wish they would – so a lightweight bag is crucial. Mine has four wheels (which is better for manoeuvrability) and an outside zip for my computer, was cheap (less than $100 as I recall) and is a nice colour.
2. Fill your boots
No matter what their size, you can stuff your shoes with small things like socks, tees and knickers. The added benefit to this is that after about three years of doing so and never remembering where your socks, tees and knickers are, you will one day work out that everything is always in your shoes.
3. Check the forecast
We’re a long, thin country with a lot of weather, so even in summer you need a lightweight rain jacket and a woollen layer just in case. Miranda Spary, who wrote our Fiordland story this issue, once went to sunny Sydney for the weekend with no luggage at all, buying fresh knickers (and deodorant, I’m sure) as she went. Genius.
4. Colour block
Consider super-streamlining and taking only a very basic collection of black, white or whatever floats your boat. Then add different colours by way of jewellery or, if you’re me, cashmere wraps of which you can never have too many – although you can take too many.
Find a way to remember to pack all your chargers in the first place, then remember to bring them home again. And let me know, because I have so not nailed this.