Want to pack like a pro?


Packing for travel is an art – a skill with which, I must admit, I am not blessed. And yet, I’m getting much better at it. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learnt that have helped me to move from packing novice to packing not-so-novice.

Stop packing for the worst-case scenario
In the past I would pack clothes for all weather. Even if I knew I was heading to a dry, warm destination, for some reason I’d still pack a raincoat. That all stopped after I returned from a week-long road trip through the Mojave Desert. After lugging a heavy bag in and out of hotels for a week, and realising by the end of said week that I’d only wear about half of what I’d packed, my attitude changed. Now, I pack only the essentials – the things I know I’ll need for the length of my stay. If the weather turns weird, I can always pick up clothes on the cheap while I’m away.

Use a smaller bag
Having a large bag can tempt you to pack too much stuff. By having a smaller bag, you’re automatically fooling yourself into believing you must take less. Plus, you’ll thank yourself when you have to dash to New York’s 42 Street Terminal lugging 42kg of baggage or traipse up 10 flights of stairs in that 120-year-old San Francisco hotel. I wish I had that foresight before these exact situations happened to me a few years ago. My arms may be a little shorter now …

Pick a colour
At home, you may have a wardrobe made up of many colours, outfits that go with this and that, but unless you have a personal porter, there’s no room for such coordinating on the road. My advice? Pick a colour (or two) and stick to it. My choice is always black: it works for every occasion. It’s difficult to dirty up, too. I’ll throw in the odd white T-shirt and blue jeans, but black tops and shoes match well with everything.

woman using a list to pack her suitcase

List, then pack
Possibly the best thing I’ve added to my packing process is my list. Yes, I know travel experts tell you to create a travel checklist before you pack and, after many packing fails, I can honestly say I agree with them. Word from the wise: list only the essentials and stick to that list!

Pack, then unpack
Once you’ve packed, return to your list and, first of all, make sure you have everything on it. Then, secondly, go through your bag and unpack any items you think may be superfluous. Be ruthless. If you’ve packed running shoes with the idea that you’ll exercise every morning, but you realise you’re kidding yourself, then pull them out. If you’ve packed three books because you’re not sure of which one you want to read – decide on one and leave the other two behind. Oh, another quick tip: if there’s a choice, always choose the lighter option.

Think about laundry
I used to pack a pair of undies and socks for each day, then I realised, I could wash them on my way. It’s simple. You can wash clothes in your hotel sink, or in the shower. Or you can pick up a pocket laundry. One of the best travel gadgets I ever purchased was my retractable clothesline. Pick one up and you’ll never regret it.


I have to say: I’ve learned a lot of great packing tips from SJ. Check out the related articles for her expert take on travel packing.

Do you have any packing tips for our members?

Related articles:
A definitive guide to travel packing
The trick to not overpacking
12 packing tips you need to know

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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