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How to become a pro at packing for a holiday

I will admit it: I am truly awful at packing. It’s the sort of thing that should take minutes but it just takes me hours.

When I first started travelling and packing for myself, I would always forget something. Usually, it was my toothbrush. At one point, I had four on the go because I had so many replacements.

But even when I started travelling more frequently, I was still having issues.

Mostly, it’s because I struggled to decide on what to take with me so I would spend ages dumping the contents of my wardrobe onto my bed and then putting it all back.

And then there’s the paranoia that I have forgotten something, so I end up getting distracted while looking up pre-made packing lists.

It happens to me before every trip and it’s extremely time-consuming.

Lately though, I feel like I’ve finally got it together. I can’t say that I’m a pro at packing yet but at least I’ve got a system that’s helped me cut the time I need for packing down from several hours to an hour and half max (long haul).

So, if you find packing an issue, this little guide might help.

Get a “go bag”

toiletries bagAlright, so I don’t travel enough to really justify a go bag but I find it helps me get ready quicker so I have one handy.

It’s basically a bag that you always have packed with things you need for a trip.

My go bag is filled with toiletries. It’s a pared down version of the selection I use at home and the individual bottles are under 100ml so I can take it through airport security without repacking.

To make things lighter, I also tend to save bottles that are almost finished to take in my go bag.

Below is my basic list, which I adjust depending on where I’m travelling to:

  • Moisturiser – which doubles as a make-up remover for me
  • Lip balm
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Conditioner – because the ones in hotels are never any good but shampoos are generally OK
  • Cotton buds and cotton wool pads

You may have noticed that I don’t have any make up in this kit – that’s because I always pack it on the day.

On the day I leave, I would do my make up as usual. And as I finish using each item, I would add them to the make up pouch. After I’m done, the whole pouch goes in a go bag.

This year, in a bid to be more organised, I’ve actually bought a toiletries bag* (pictured above), which I’m hoping will help me become more organised. So far, so good.

Packing cubes

packing cubes

I watched so many packing tips videos that I felt inspired to buy some packing cubes for a long haul (two weeks or so to Australia) trip this year.

If you haven’t seen them already, they’re basically zippable bags that become cubes when fully filled.

I was a little sceptical at first – after all, you’re putting the same amount of stuff into the same amount of space. But what I found was that having different “cubes”, and mentally separating them into categories, helped me compartmentalise everything.

There are plenty to choose from but after trawling through the online reviews, I bought a pack of four Amazon Basics* ones.

They were certainly not the cheapest ones or the ones with the best reviews but they came in a pack of assorted sizes and, having bought Amazon Basics stuff before, I trusted the quality (and the return policy).

For my trip, I used the slim one for underwear and socks, the small rectangular cube for t-shirts and tops and the slightly larger cube for my dresses, shorts and jeans.

Rolling and folding

Mummified crocodile, Crocodile Museum, Kom Ombo

Another tip from the pros is to roll your clothes up (though perhaps not quite like a mummified crocodile).

It’s easier with a packing cube because the items don’t unroll in a small space and the technique works well with t-shirts and is a bit fiddly with underwear.

If you don’t have packing cubes, having elastic bands to secure the roll also works but it can be a bit more time consuming.

I’m not entirely sure how much actual space is saved by me rolling things up, but it certainly made my suitcase more organised than usual.

One thing to bear in mind is that there’s not much room for compression if you do roll things up. I always have to bring things back from my trips – usually leaflets and papers, but sometimes souvenirs – which means I always make sure there’s some extra space in my luggage.

It also doesn’t work so well for bulkier items like jeans and jumpers – they just end up being huge lumps. For these, I’d recommend just folding them and then laying them on top of your other items.

The packing list

So, what you really want is a simple packing list.

Well, here’s my basic version for a short-haul trip for up to three days, which can be amended according to the seasons and length of trip:

  • Underwear – number of nights you’re away plus one (just in case)
  • Socks – number of days you’re away
  • Tops – two
  • Trousers or jeans – one pair (bear in mind you’re wearing one already)
  • Skirt – one
  • Cardigan or jacket – one
  • Change of shoes (optional if you’re doing something fancy)
  • Dresses or similar change of clothes for dinner (optional)
  • Laundry bag
  • Toiletries
  • Chargers and adaptors
  • Passport and tickets

***Did I miss anything? Do you have any top tips for packing? Post a comment below:***



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