“How do you buy such cheap air tickets?” – a friend asked me. I showed, and choose the cheapest fare, only with a handy bag. “Nooo, I can not do it without checked luggage” – she worried. Wrong. Each of us can do level master packing and fly with cheap hand luggage only. Even the whole family.
Over 20 years ago, when I packed luggage for my first serious, independent trip, I did it terribly and spent a week struggling with a huge, heavy suitcase. I did not put on half the things, and I did not have space for beautiful clothes, which I wanted to buy on the spot.
Especially when travelling with a small child, there is a temptation to take EVERYTHING. We also had it 😉 Therefore, when Wili was still a travelling infant, we wrote the text: 7 things that we like to forget when travelling with children (and 3, which we pay completely unnecessarily).
I realized that I have two options. Either I will do it well – and I will have light luggage, which will fit easily into the standards of the cheapest airlines, and I will not miss anything. Or I’ll do it wrong, and I will be stressed at the airport, whether I’ll avoid the charge, and then get upset, that as usual, I took too much, but among these dozens of things, failed to take something important. Today, after several hundred closer and further trips, I am able to organize the whole family packing in light hand luggage, even for a month-long trip across three continents.
Conceptual packaging is really important. Everyone who prepares for extreme expeditions knows that. And these include those who travel with a child 🙂 For simplicity, I wrote down myself and always read 10 golden rules before leaving. Just in case.
1. Less means lighter
It does not matter if you are going on a weekend trip, or a journey lasting a month. By car, by train, or you are flying by business class or cheap lines only with your hand luggage. The rule for each trip is the same. Only pack the necessary minimum, preferably in a convenient small backpack with a large number of pockets. Do you prefer a large suitcase on wheels instead of a backpack? Go ahead. But remember my words, when you walk kilometres across the huge airport, carrying a child in one hand, handbag in the other hand, child’s luggage in the third hand, and with the fourth hand you will try to pull this damn suitcase.
2. Make a list
The most important is the awareness of how much and what things you REALLY need during the trip. Otherwise, you’ll get plenty of extra things that you will unpack untouched on return. I always make a list simply on a piece of paper, but there are also a lot of applications like: Packing List, Travel List or Packing Pro. Are you going on holiday for two weeks? Do not take 14 pairs of underwear. Take 3 pairs and washing powder. Are you going for a week? Do not take 7 dresses, only one. Wear it every second-third day, alternating with a blouse and shorts, each time with a different addition. Nobody will notice that you have only one creation.
My sample list for a trip of any length:
- 1 pair of long pants (lightweight leggings instead of heavy jeans)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 easy-drying dress
- 2 light blouses or t-shirts (I choose thermoactive clothing – it is lighter and dries faster)
- 3 pairs of underwear
- 1 jacket or sweatshirt (depends on how I am driving the climate)
- a large shawl (works well on the beach, to cover the arms in the temple, in the event of heat or cold)
- light trekking shoes for legs, for luggage flip-flops
- microfiber towel (it is lighter and dries faster than a large terry towel)
- toothbrush and toothpaste (small tube, sample)
- small cube of universal soap (will replace soap, shampoo and bubble bath as well as washing powder)
- laptop + charger
- camera, camera + chargers
- passport, health insurance card, ATM card
3. Combine with accessories
Remember: “Travel is not fashion show”. So leave these four different pairs of high heels and seven different dresses. Cleverly chosen accessories are enough for your vacation. Wear one dress and add: once a belt, once a scarf, once a shawl, and you will look different each time. Sometimes it’s enough to wear a bracelet bought at a local market or put an exotic flower in your hair to look completely different.
4. First, select the luggage, then its contents
First, select the backpack/bag/suitcase with which you want to travel. How to do it? Imagine yourself in an extreme situation that can happen during a trip. For example, when the bus breaks down in the desert, in a 40-degree heat. What do you prefer to carry then? A big suitcase on wheels or a light backpack? Once you make your decision, try to put your belongings in your chosen luggage.
5. Now throw half away
It does not fit in? Put away half of the selected items. Is it located? Put away half of the selected items. Luggage will be lighter, and on the way back you can take more clothes and souvenirs bought on the spot. As a reward for harsh selection, take more money and treat yourself to something nice on the spot. Especially if you go to shopping paradises, such as Thailand, Mauritius or Milan, it would be a sin to take a lot of your old stuff and occupy a place in your luggage for all these occasionally bought clothes!
6. Fold it wisely
When folding clothes in your luggage, do it like American marines do. Instead of folding T-shirts into cubes, roll them up tight. And fill the empty space in your shoes with socks rolled up in balls. If you do not feel like military, place your clothes tightly in a suitcase, but horizontally, not vertically. Then immediately after opening, you will see what you have to choose, and pull out clothes like from the shelf in the closet. Use zipped covers, sachets, sacks and everything that will help you control the mess in your suitcase.
7. Remember that you are going to civilization
Well, unless you are going to a tent in the bush. But assuming that you will live in hotels/guesthouses/private accommodation, remember that they have everything you may need. Therefore, do not pack the hair dryer. You’ll have in your bathroom or can borrow it at the reception or dry your hair on the holiday sun. Do not take a tourist iron or sewing kit “just in case”. You can ask for everything on the spot.
8. Forget the cosmetics
All the most important hair or cosmetic treatments should be done just before departure. You will have peace of mind for at least 2 weeks with hair or nails. Make a henna before you leave – you will not have to take mascara. Make a brightening treatment – you will not have to take foundation and powder. Leave your favourite perfumes, creams and body lotions at home. Instead, take samples at the airport perfumery, maybe by the way you hit a nice new cosmetic?
9. Control the cables
If you take a phone, a laptop and a camera for a vacation, you have to take your chargers with you. Fold them tightly, tie with bands and pack them in one bag.
10. Division of tasks
Are you travelling with your husband or friend? Share tasks. Let one of you take a shampoo and the other – body lotion, and you’ll exchange on the spot. One bottle of cosmetic is definitely enough for two people. You can also exchange accessories. And instead of taking three books, take one, and after reading – exchange. And preferably instead of paper books, take a reader with an unlimited number of books.
All these rules apply to the whole family’s journey. Our child had the most things in his luggage as a newborn baby – a set of diapers, milk bottles and a favourite toy came along with clothes. We wrote HERE about our experience of packing luggage for a month of travelling with a toddler. Since Wili finished 2 years we pack it on the same principle as an adult. Well, except for the favourite plush penguin, which he takes with him everywhere.