Travel packing essentials

Whether you’re heading away for a weekend or for a year, these essentials must ride with you.

Many a seasoned traveller will tell you that there’s a trick to travelling light. But this is no David Copperfield take-seven-years-to-master trick. It’s really quite an easy one to learn. All you need to do is follow these pro-packing tips.

What to pack

1. Coordinate your clothes
Pack a variety of neutral coloured clothing (tan, grey, black, white) and add a few more colourful accessories to complement your outfits. You’ll find that these neutral colours work well in most situations. Try to match every top with every bottom and choose lighter clothes over heavyweight items. If it gets cold, you can layer up.

2. Pack a sarong, pashmina or scarf
This is the most versatile thing you’ll pack. You can use it as a scarf, blanket, or even a towel after an impromptu dip. You can string it up as a makeshift curtain or drape it over your head on the plane for sleepy times.

3. Dental floss
Not just for cleaning teeth, a few metres of dental floss can act as a clothesline, temporary shoelace or belt or as a curtain line for your pashmina drapes (see above).

4. Digital tablet
Forget the heavy books. Just download your novels and guidebooks onto a digital tablet, which also doubles as a pseudo computer for emergencies, last-minute bookings and as a time-waster (if you have time to waste).

5. Quick-dry clothes
Choose lightweight materials over heavier fabrics. That way, you can wash and dry them in your hotel room, or if you get caught in the rain, the dry time won’t be as long. Also, you’ll save a heap of space and weight in your bag.

6. Spare clothes in your carry-on bag
This one has saved many a traveller from embarrassing smelly clothes after a cancelled flight, or as insurance from the ever present threat of spilling coffee or food all over yourself onboard your flight. And, if your luggage gets lost, you’ll at least have a spare outfit to get you through the hard times.

7. Small lock
A small lock can be used to secure your stuff in the hotel room, your bags at the airport or to deter thieves while you’re ordering beer at the bar.

8. A couple of plastic shower caps
You may not need it for showering but used to cover your shoes when you pack them, they can protect the contents of your bag from dirt, grime and whatever else your feet have picked up along the way. If you don’t have any at home, make sure you take the ones from your hotel bathroom toiletries kit.

9. Lightweight power board
Unless you’re cruising (because you can’t take one on a cruise ship), a power board will prove invaluable for overnight charging in rooms with limited power points. Make sure you have a universal power adapter, though, or your forward thinking could be for nought.

How to pack

10. Roll your clothes
Anything that can be rolled, should be rolled. Underwear, T-shirts, singlets, tops, pants and jumpers can be rolled tightly and layered to take up less space in your bag. Items best left flat are jeans and bulkier fabrics, such as wool and denim.

11. Heavyweight ziplock bags
Stuff your socks, undies, T-shirts and other light fabric clothing into ziplock bags, then zip them up so that only an inch is unlocked, suck the air out and pack. And, when you start wearing your clothes, you can use these as dirty laundry bags so your other clothes don’t get stinky.

12. Leave some room
You never know what you’ll purchase on holiday, so leave some space to take it home. Even if you don’t buy anything, the extra space will allow you to stuff your clothes away at short notice, say, if you sleep through your alarm and end up frantically packing to make it to the airport on time.

13. Protect your toiletries
Don’t just stuff your toiletries into a toiletries bag, pop them in a ziplock bag beforehand to give yourself some extra protection from unexpected explosions. You should also have your liquids in a clear plastic bag anyway, for ease of scanning at airport security. For oils and runny liquids, pop a piece of clingwrap between the opening and the lid, or wrap some around the lid and fasten with an elastic band. Dry shampoos, bars of soap and roll-on deodorant are also preferable to liquid products.

On the ground

14. Hide your valuables
Choose a non-branded backpack or bag to store your everyday essentials. Don’t parade around with a Nikon camera strapped across your body or a Luis Vuitton handbag hanging off your shoulder – stuff those inside a backpack to avoid becoming a target for thieves. Also, follow our tips for hiding travel cash.

15. Divide your money
Never take all your travel money out with you: hide some in the hotel safe, in a secret compartment in your bag back at the ranch, or in cards stashed inside books. Keep some in your wallet and stash a few bills in your socks or in different pockets. That way, if the worst happens, such as losing your wallet or being mugged, you’ll hopefully still have something to get you out of a jam.

Do you have any travel tips to share with our members?

Related articles:
How to hide your travel cash

Packing secrets to save you money
Packing tricks for simpler travel

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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