9 May 2015

Packing 101 | Where to start

Packing 101 is a new series that attempts to answer niggling questions about the hows, whats, whens and whys of packing for all different types of trips.

When writing a packing list it can often seem rather daunting/way too much effort. Though the 'chuck it all in the night before' may work for trips where you're not going to leave the poolside, if you're planning a longer trip or one that covers multiple destinations it's best to put a bit more thought in to it.

Luckily my packing style is one that could only be described as 'avid and anal'. I make lists weeks in advance and I gradually take over the spare room with the growing pile of clothes, toiletries and other 'stuff' ready to pack. I've packed a fair few times now for the whole range - holidays, weekend breaks,  long-term travel, train travel, air travel, road travel... I've dipped my toe in it all so hopefully you'll find something useful in this new series.

So first step, lets break it down and make it more thought out. Before you even start writing the packing list, ask yourself some questions:

What will the climate be like at the time of year you're going?... What will it really be like?

This seems like an obvious question, but it's not always what you expect. For example, Thailand in the summer months is rainy season, but do you know how warm it is, or how much rain you'll actually get? Does the temperature reach beautiful highs in the day, but plummet in the evening? Pop your destination and month in google search and see what the average temperatures and rainfall are for that month.

Venice in May. Be prepared for anything (including floods).

Can you purchase some items when you get there?
This will largely depend on where you're going, but if you think about it there are many items that you could just purchase if and when you need them.

There are some things worth knowing, for example if you're going to some remote places they may charge you a fortune for sun protection (I'm looking at you Fiji) and if you go to Japan electronics are much cheaper than many other countries. I picked up an iPad (from the Apple store) with a few hundred pounds cheaper than both UK and US price.
Hong Kong Markets
Technology shops in Japan
On the off chance of rain in Florida in August, you'll probably be able to pick up a pack-a-pac so there isn't much point packing that big rain coat just in case, is there? Are you staying in a small or village or a large city with shopping at your finger tips? Another thing worth considering is will you be able to get medication, lady products (sorry guys, but tampons are important) or contact lenses while you're out there? Find out more on travelling with contact lenses.

How long is your trip?
If your trip is a few weeks then you may buy small toiletries. If you're going to be interrailing around Europe for a month with only hand luggage, leave space to buy big toiletries when you get there and dodge hassle at the airport. If you're travelling for more than a few weeks make sure you've taken enough supplies of any important medication/toiletries.
My toiletries, first aid kit, beauty products and some cables packed for 4 months in Asia.
Another thing to consider is will you wash while you're away. Clearly if you're going for a few weeks you may have enough luggage room to take clothes for the whole time. If you're backpacking think about taking clothes that are easy wash, quick to dry and don't crinkle!

What products do I use on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis? Make a list.
This questions covers all toiletries, hair/beauty products, handy items (like tweezers) and items in your handbag (think... pen, anti-bac, painkillers).

I suggest writing all these things down over the course of a few weeks. At the end of this time period sit down and try and half this list.

The idea is that you've thought of everything you could possibly need and then selected only the absolute essentials. For example I try to take a maximum of about 5 items of make-up away with me - I don't need 4 eyeshadow palettes in life but I certainly don't need to take them all away with me.

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