Journalist, author, media commentator, kid-wrangler and zombie/Duran Duran enthusiast Dilvin Yasa is on the road for much of the year, but as a result she has perfected the art of packing a suitcase.
Here she explains the packing rules that can make – or break – your next holiday and the 12 packing mistakes you should avoid on your next holiday!
Mistake 1: Packing carry-on to cover the flight only
It isn’t unusual to pack items destined for in-flight use only, but consider this as a warning: I just got back from the Arctic where a passenger’s suitcase didn’t make the journey, leading her to board a cruise around Svalbard with only whatever was in her carry-on (not a lot). When you’re packing your carry-on, be sure to pack a spare set of clothes (including underwear), something warm, plus toiletries such as toothpaste and deodorant. You never know when you might need it.
Mistake 2: Believing the weather reports
Heading to a destination that promises to be warm? Pack a thick coat and a couple of layers anyway. You never know when the weather will change without warning, leaving you shivering your way around your holiday destination and unable to truly be present. The same goes for Arctic conditions. I recently had an unexpected stopover in Doha where it was 40 degrees in the shade and I had a suitcase full of snow gear. Fortunately, I had one summer option in the bag. Phew!
Mistake 3: Packing your favourite things
Luggage goes missing all the time so this is not the time to pack those eye-wateringly expensive clothes and designer heels. Only travel with items that fall within the ‘I won’t be devastated if they got lost, stolen or damaged category’.
Mistake 4: Packing too many pairs of shoes
Footwear takes up a lot of room and adds a lot of weight to that baggage allowance, so ask yourself whether you need a pair of heels, sandals, ballet flats, sneakers and hiking boots weighing you down? Aim to have one casual pair of shoes that you can wear with most things such as a classic pair of white Converse, and if you’re pushing the boat out, one pair of “nice” shoes that can perform double duty for a nice dinner and while pounding the pavements.
Mistake 5: Forgetting the swimsuit
It doesn’t matter if you’re not heading to a place that is sans-pool, it’s Murphy’s Law that if you forget to pack your swimmers, you’ll discover your hotel has a sauna or the airport hotel you’ve unexpectedly had to book has a rooftop pool. Pack a swimsuit every time you pack a suitcase; it’s not like it takes up much room and you’ll always be prepared for a dip (or a steam).
Mistake 6: Packing regular toiletries
Endless bottles of creams, lotions and aerosols take up room and – you guessed it – add weight. Where you can, transfer your usual products to tiny, reusable bottles so you have enough of the good stuff while you’re away but still leave yourself plenty of room to shop.
Mistake 7: Not packing enough underwear
Assuming you don’t have a burning desire to do laundry on the road (if you do, by all means just pack a couple of pairs and good luck to you) but a good rule of thumb is to pack a pair of underwear for every day you’re away and then an extra third. Things happen and you never know how many times a day you’re going to get in and out of wet swimmers.
Mistake 8: Packing without considering local customs
That little black dress might be perfect for that evening out in Paris or for the pubs of London (in summer), but not so great for the streets of Jordan, for example. Before you pack, read up on local customs and dress requirements (smartraveller.gov.au is an excellent resource) and be sure to always pack a scarf or shawl – perfect for visits to mosques and temples – as well as some modest options such as long skirt and long-sleeved shirt.
Mistake 9: Not bagging shoes
The last thing you want is to pull out your clothes to find your shoes have streaked mud across them. You don’t even want to think about what you’ve been stepping in all day. Avoid the headache and either purchase a couple of shoe bags to use in your suitcase or set aside a reusable bag for this purpose only (remember to keep using the same bag on all of your trips!)
Mistake 10: Forgetting to consider fabrics and colours
We’re not suggesting you become a dreadlocked hippy the next time you go away, but there’s value in understanding light coloured clothes will show dirt a lot quicker than dark colours, which you can wear over and again (unless they smell, of course). Consider too, packing clothing that is primarily lightweight so that if you have to wash them on the road, they’ll dry quickly.
Mistake 11: Overpacking
Resist the temptation to pack three pairs of pants and three types of jumpers; you need to think economically. Pack a single pair of pants or jeans and mix and match with various tops which will be lighter and smaller. You can jazz up a jumper with lighter accessories such as a couple of cotton scarves. Accessories will transform your improved capsule wardrobe – promise.
Mistake 12: Leaving packing until last-minute
Throwing items into a suitcase – ad hoc – at last-minute is a surefire way to forget important items and pack ridiculous clothing options you think you might wear but then again may not. Start your planning a few days before (I’d go as far as to say start a week before) and if you’re not comfortable creating your own packing list, there are plenty of free templates available online.