Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The dilemmas of packing for a holiday

Why is it that the most frustrating part about organising a holiday or trip abroad is the packing? There are so many things you need to consider: What to take? What will the weather be like? Who will I be meeting? What is appropriate to wear?

The trip I'm currently packing will take in seven countries, three continents and two extremes in weather, so I understand what a nightmare it can be. What I have learnt over the years, however, is that unless you are travelling with your own personal bag carrier, less is definitely more! So here are my best tips and hints for what you really need to pack for a holiday.

General tips and hints
Clothes: When it comes to clothes choose natural fabrics like cotton which breathe or microfibres which don't wrinkle. Also try to keep your clothing in the same colour scheme in case you have to layer up for warmth. What's more, by mixing and matching you'll fool everyone into thinking you have more clothes than you really do.

Shoes: For women, a pair of sandals and comfy espadrilles or wedges will cover all dressing needs from casual to evening. For men, a good pair of leather rubber-soled shoes can easily make the transition from day to night. I'd also recommend bringing a good pair of solid walking shoes as well as a pair of flip-flops/thongs for wearing in showers in case you end up staying in a scummy dive.

Underwear: When it comes to underwear my rule of thumb is to take enough for one week, or for the length of the trip plus two days, whichever is shortest. Again, ensure your underwear is made from natural fabrics – there's nothing worse than getting prickly heat on holiday!

Towel: Unless you're staying in hotels and resorts for the duration of your trip, it pays to pack a towel. Whatever you do, don't get sucked into buying one of those chamois towels or one that resembles a hand towel. I can tell you from experience that it won't dry your hair, it won't cover your modesty, and, if you're in a cold climate, you'll freeze before you dry yourself!

Packing: I can't explain it, but somehow bags seem to hold more if you roll your clothes rather than fold them. It also helps minimise creases. Try it, I guarantee it works!

Backpacking tips
If you're travelling with all your earthly possessions on your back then the key is to keep everything to a minimum. Bear in mind that you can easily, and cheaply, replace worn out items along the way at local markets. Also, while jeans may be a wardrobe staple at home when you're backpacking you'll quickly discover they're hot to wear, heavy to carry and slow to dry. So you might want to reconsider taking the old faithfuls.

When it comes to packing your backpack, place the lighter items at the bottom and the heavier ones on top. Your backpack will feel lighter this way as the pack rests on your lower back. It's also wise to place the things you use the most on top. Dirty clothes are perfect to pack at the bottom of a backpack.

My essential packing list
  • 2 pairs of trousers/skirts
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 5 T-shirts (mix of short sleeve and singlet)
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • A dress (one that can make the transition from day to night)
  • A sweater or fleece
  • Waterproof wind-breaker
  • Pajamas/sleepwear
  • Walking shoes/boots
  • Sandals or other light shoes
  • Thongs/flip flops
  • Swimmers
  • Bras (sports and regular)
  • Underwear
  • Bandana/scarf
  • Socks
  • Sarong
  • Towel
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen

    Well, it's back to packing for me. Happy travels!

    An edited version of this article is on MSN NZ Travel
    Image sourced from FreeFoto.com

    Cheryl B said...

    Ok Kim. Well as I am seeing you on your first stop and I'll unpack your backpack for you and score you on how well you managed to stick to the list.

    Next we girls need a section on to pare down that toiletry bag. You found a good cleanser, toner, moisturiser all in one bottle yet?

    Kim Wildman said...

    I did say this was my "essential list". So I am sure you will find I've snuck in a few extras :-) Though, I do agree that we girls need to figure out a way of paring down the toiletry bags. I just went out and purchased my regular shampoo and conditoner today (can't stand those two-in-ones they wreck my hair) and have decided that the bottles are way too big, so have been busy rebottling them into smaller containers. Though, will let you know if I find the miracle all in one cleanser, toner and moisturiser!

    My only real packing concern so far is that I have ditched my backpack in favour of a wheeled backpack (an option halfway between a traditional backpack and a wheeled suitcase) and am starting to have second thoughts... I hope it can stand up to bush taxis in Tanzania?!

    laradunston said...

    But Kim, what about your technology? I find half my bag is taken up with drives, cables, cameras, i-pod, mobile phones, Apple accessories, etc, and that's excluding the laptop. Then there are books, a dozen notebooks, toiletries (very minimal etc). I have a Samsonite on wheels and a small backpack inside for walks and treks.

    Kim Wildman said...

    Hi Lara. Yes, I have the laptop, camera, mobile phone and all the cables that go with them. Though, I have actually downsized my laptop and camera. The laptop shouldn't be too much of a problem (mind you, it is pretty heavy for a smaller, more compact computer), but the camera will be interesting - I'm used to having the professional camera with all the lenses etc, and now I have a much smaller digital (it's a Fuji and still looks like an SLR). Though the pixels and the lens range are both much greater than professional camera I had previously, so fingers crossed this will all work out well.