The Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist

It’s all about losing the kilos – a happy traveler packs little and buys on the run for the odd unexpected, like an impromptu high tea with the Queen. Talk to any seasoned traveler and the more they travel, the less they pack. The globetrotter packs half as much as what they think they need and has access to twice as much money as they plan on spending.

Give yourself a stern talking to:


Give yourself a self-imposed rule of how much baggage you are prepared to lug around with you – think climbing stairs (especially in European train stations), over cobbled or maybe dirt bumpy lanes, jumping on and off trains/buses or keeping your bag with you when in a taxi, so the crooked driver can’t speed off with your bag still in the boot.

Same Same

Whether you are traveling for a week, a month or longer, pack the same amount. Even the most under-developed countries have a sink, if not a well, where you can wash your clothes. If you are going the luxury route, every hotel has a laundry service and Asian countries have laundries usually down the road from accommodation houses. The shower is “the” pseudo laundry when all else fails.

Neat Freaks or Messy Souls

Invest in some packing cubes, airless baggies and forget the compressor bags if they are the ones that you need a vacuum cleaner for. Give a distinct home to your goodies such as undies in one, socks in another, t-shirts in another one. You will know where everything is without having to empty out your bag to find that elusive sock to the one in your hand.

Pack for the Best Case Scenario

Don’t think along the lines of what will be “handy” on a trip, but what is “essential”. Take clothes that can be layered rather than one bulky coat and you don’t need extra toothpaste because believe it or not, you can buy toothpaste nearly anywhere in the world. Failing finding a shop down the road, do what the locals do, from charcoal in rural India to licorice root twigs in Africa. When you do find the shop down the road and you can’t read the label, break into a big smile and do a pantomime of what you need to the sales assistant.

Be a Traveling Philanthropist

If your trip entails the crossing of seasons, cultures or activities, buy what you need locally and when you depart that region, leave them in the hotel room for the probably poorly paid cleaning staff, the local community park where the homeless sleep or take the items to the local charity shop. From clothes to snorkeling gear, one man’s trash (in this case too much baggage) is another man’s treasure.

Contemplate and Procrastinate

Before you put an item in your luggage: Do you really, really, really need it? Spread everything out on the floor in front of you, pick each item up individually, feel its weight, look at its size and ask yourself, “Can I live without it, can I hire or buy it whilst I am away, or does it “deserve” to be placed in my bag?” Always aim to pack casual, light and simple.

The Secret

Prior to departing home, carry your luggage around the block, up and down some stairs and if you are really pedantic play tourist in your own town for an hour and see if you break out in a sweat, get blistered hands or a sore back. You will walk with your luggage when traveling more than you can imagine, so go for a dry run.

Take out Travel Insurance

Be prepared to lose whatever you pack, whether it lands in a different country to you, a rogue baggage handler takes a fancy to your undies, or someone runs off with it. Make sure you take out travel insurance that covers your baggage, get some awesome padlocks and differentiate your bag with stickers, ribbon or name tags that won’t fall off. Never pack anything of value in check-in luggage.

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By Gail Palethorpe