How not to pack

When it comes to packing, Kay O’Sullivan says you should do as she preaches, not practices.

How not to pack

When it comes to packing, Kay O’Sullivan says you should follow what she preaches, not what she practices.

There are hundreds of tips for packing well but only one rule that should never be broken. Pack early. Pack early and you will pack right and light. Pack in haste and you will repent in leisure for the duration of your trip.

I’ve thought long and hard about the permutations of packing. I’ve had to. I am not one of those people who can travel overseas with just carry-on – mainly because I don’t want to wear the same thing every day for a month. I’ve heard the argument that no one you meet knows that you had the same outfit on the day before and the day before that. But I know and that’s what matters to me.

And I also know my limitations. Fifteen kilograms is as heavy as I want my bag to be at the start of a trip (the way home is different as a spot of shopping is always on my itinerary). At that weight I’ll be able to haul my bag off the luggage carousel and manoeuvre it up steps and stairs. Anything more, and I’ll be struggling, and so might my back.  

Experience tells me the earlier I pack, the lighter the load and the better I’ll look. Packing early means not only do I have time to carefully consider what I need and what extras will put a spring in my step wherever I go, but I also have time to re-consider my choices after a good night’s sleep. And, as we know, all of life’s problems, and that includes a heavy suitcase, are lightened by a good night’s sleep.

Two days before the flight is the optimum, one day is permissible, but anything closer to flight time and ‘just in case’ panic packing takes over. End result? A near-to-bursting suitcase of things you ‘might just need’ but, in reality, will not wear.

But, alas, I don’t always practice what I preach. Take my most recent trip. Life in the form of work and family ate into my time, so I convinced myself that packing before midnight for a 3am flight fell within my guidelines.

It might have officially been the day before departure, but it sure didn’t feel like it, which is the only explanation I can come up with for taking seven, yes seven, cashmere jumpers to Austria.  

But that’s not the worst of it. Every single one of them was navy blue. The only discernible difference between the sea of navy in my suitcase was the shape of the necklines. Roll-neck, polo, boat neck, V-neck and three round neck jumpers. I had them all covered.

Not only that, but I also had two cardigans, one of which was – yep, you guessed it, navy blue – five handbags, five pairs of shoes, four pairs of trousers, two coats (one navy) and two skirts. And get this – all for a 10-day trip! We’re talking 25 kgs of clothing, more than half of what I weigh.

Do I need to say I hardly wore a quarter of what I took and only two of the navy blue jumpers were exposed to the Austrian light? No, probably not.

But there was an upside. No room in my suitcase meant souvenirs had to be something I could wear home. And, boy, did I get lucky. Graz’s historic Kastner and Ohler department store has a sale on. I just couldn’t resist just one more cashmere jumper in the most perfect shade of …powder blue.

I’m wondering where I can find a few more that colour now.

Kay O’Sullivan is no accidental tourist. More than a decade ago, she decided to combine two of her favourite things – journalism and travel – and become a travel writer. Since then, she has worked for numerous papers, magazines and on the internet, both here and internationally.


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    12th Dec 2015
    I always pack carefully. Usually my trips away average 7 weeks. Everything must coordinate and be able to be layered. We try to stay in apartments with washing facilities. Stick to 2 colouts. Take several scarves or better still buy whilst travelling. They change the look of an outfit instantly. By being really careful with your packing it leaves heaps more room in your bag for shopping! Also take a kindle. I never use it at home as I love the feel of a real book, but a kindle is lighter and smaller than a book
    12th Dec 2015
    Sorry Kay, but why do you even own 7 navy blue cashmere jumpers?????

    16th Jan 2016
    Kay, seriously you have a problem LOL.

    I find packing cubes fantastic. Used them for the first time last year.I have one small cabin bag (soft sided) and I could pack seven tops in one medium cube, undies/nightie in another medium cube and odds and ends in another smaller cube.

    All these packed easily into my cabin bag and also had room for a small handbag, book, and other odds and ends one take onboard including my zip top bag with toothbrush etc.

    I then used a cabin bag with wheels to take four pair slacks, shoes, light weight long dress which doubled as a dressing gown.

    I was going to the tropics and actually did not even wear all my tops.

    My total weight was only about 12kgs for the wheeled cabin bag which I put in the baggage hold and only took on board my smaller cabin bag. If my luggage had gone astray I had clothing to see me through.
    16th Jan 2016
    Radish. Please explain packing cubes.

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