Pack like a pro: 10 tips for travelling light

Inspired by this post on Refinery29 where travel writer Amy Laughinghouse describes her packing technique (cover all angles, take everything!) I decided to share my tips for travelling light. Like Amy I’m also a journalist who spends more time on planes than in my flat but I take the opposite approach when it comes to what I chuck into my well-worn suitcase. I used to be a ‘pack everything but the kitchen sink’ kinda gal but now I’m a keep it light obsessive. Too many hefty fees at the check in desk and let me tell you, dragging a heavy case around gets pretty boring very quickly no matter how cute the outfits are inside.

Pattie Boyd gives a lesson on how to travel in style
Pattie Boyd gives a lesson in travelling in style

In her autobiography, there’s a great pic of Pattie Boyd looking like a quintessential 70s babe – long hair, silk scarves, just drop dead gorgeous – in a train station or airport and generally looking beyond cool, despite the fact she just hopped off a plane somewhere. In the book she says someone (probably a famous rock star, I can’t remember) was amazed at how light she travelled. Her tip? Silk. It rolls up small, the creases fall out and it’s light if you’re in a hot country. Of course, not all of us can pull off the silk-adorned music muse look on our travels (especially if you’re on the move for business) but I liked the idea of travelling light and still looking smokin’. We can all aim to channel Pattie when flying Ryanair, right??

So here are my 10 tips for packing like a pro and travelling light. I can’t promise you’ll be as cool as Pattie Boyd but I CAN promise you the smug joy of  travelling light:

1. Plan your outfits for each day of the trip and make a list before you go near your wardrobe. Sounds boring but this is my number one tip. Cut the “what if I need my sparkly pink stiletto boots I’ve never worn? Oh I better pack them” crap. Pack a contingency piece (eg. Lightweight rain jacket if you’ll be getting outdoorsy) and pack items that can be worn a few times in different ways eg a timeless blazer that looks good with everything, a pashmina etc. Obsessively checking the weather forecast right up until you head out the door is a good move too.

2. Keep it light. Obviously this won’t work if you’re flying to Siberia but layering light materials looks cool and covers a lot of angles. If you’ll be going somewhere fancy and you need your fave LBD but it’s kinda bulky, pick another dress. Or pick a fancy shirt to go with the jeans you already packed. I also have a cool collection of tote bags and I take these instead of a handbag. They’re light, fold flat in my case and you can fit plenty in there if you buy stuff on your trip.

3. Find out in advance if your hotel has WiFi. If it doesn’t, I leave the laptop at home and file all my work before I go. All halfway decent hotels have business centres anyway and I just don’t see the point in lugging it around if I won’t use it. If the idea of leaving your laptop on its lonesome gives you hives, and you travel a lot, invest in a lightweight netbook or an ipad, whatever suits you/you can get your boss to fork out for.

4. Shoes. The most common question I get from women is “Shoes! How can I pack only 3 pairs of shoes???” Right, this is controversial to shoe obsessives but I never, ever pack heels. Unless you’re reporting from the Oscars, they’re a waste of valuable suitcase space.

5. Books – I need to read on the plane and train but books really weigh down your luggage. A Kindle is ideal but being a tactile creature I like to feel paper so I keep thinner books aside for travel (eg Young Adult Fiction. Ahem.) Besides, anyone who whips out War & Peace on a plane is just crying out for attention.

6. Slap attack: I’m not really big into make-up but constant travel has really taught me how to be as low maintenance as I can be. Even if I’m travelling by car or bus, I keep the liquids to a minimum. Deodorant, perfume, foundation, toothpaste, moisturiser, lip balm and eye make-up remover are my absolute essentials. If I’m going somewhere hot, I throw in sun block. I also don’t bother packing a hairdryer or hair straighteners anymore, which means I look like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone in all my travel pics but hey, it leaves more room for DUTY FREE BOOZE. (Joke…maybe)

7. Roll, don’t fold. Stuff shoes with socks and knickers and fill any empty space in your case or bag with clothes. If the case starts filling up, place jumpers flat cross the top of the other rolled items.

8. Wear as much as you can to the airport. Think the one where Joey wore all of Chandler’s clothes. Heh heh.

9. Accessorize wisely – accessories make or break an outfit and, when you’re living off a tiny suitcase or overnight bag for 5 days, your accessories will be your best friend. I pack basics when I’m travelling and a LOT of black (makes matching easier) and my favourite ways to make  simple outfit look better (without adding weight to my luggage) are a good hat (if you don’t wear it to the airport, pack your hat first and shape your clothes around it in your case so it doesn’t get beaten up in your suitcase), funky chains, colourful bracelets and quirky rings (just don’t wear them all at once).

10. Use a bag or case that’s much smaller than the baggage allowance limit. Sounds obvious but, if you have a big bag, trust me, you will fill it with crap you don’t need. Minimising the space you have means you become ruthless. So no, you can’t bring your lifesize Boo teddy or One Direction onesie this time.

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