Some luggage packing tips to ensure you always arrive with what you need...
Applaudable packing panache, but with room for improvement
The over-arching rule for packing is not to pack too take too much - the world has grown small, and most things are available in most places should you need to buy something that you have forgotten. And always leave room to buy local souvenirs, handicrafts, booze or clothes.
That said, it never ceases to amaze just what things different people regard as essential. One friend of mine carried in his backpack a fairly large cuddly toy dog and a full sized pillow, for example. And 'The Man of the People' on the bathroom wall was a plastic toy found abandoned in a student bar in Lancaster, that I took on several long trips for no apparent reason.
Personal mascots and eccentricities aside, here are a few tips to getting it right, so that at least you know that at least that aspect of your holiday, despite what may happen on at the airport, on your flight, or transferring to your hotel at the other end, isn't full of surprises.
The art of practical packing...
— Make a packing list, of essential everyday items that you may - in haste - otherwise forget. Things like a plug adaptor, sunscreen, mobile backup power pack.
— Following on from the above, keep a small bag ready stocked with what you'll need for a trip. Or it could be a section of a drawer, you choose, but it means that you are less likely to forget something and are all set should you have to fly off at the last minute. A larger plastic bag is good for damp/wet swim stuff and towel when packing to return home.
— If you are staying somewhere with an iron and board already in the room, then all well and good. If not then roll clothes before packing them, rather than folding them. It may sound naff, but it uses surprisingly little space and avoids deep creases of the kind that folding causes.
— Pack small see through plastic bags for your liquids and gels to pass through security are a good idea for UK airports these days, but slightly more robust Ziplock bags are good too for keeping items together, and dry, like USB sticks, adaptors, and headphones. It's also handy to prevent any leakage from liquid toiletries that may be stored in the aircraft's hold.
— I found myself becoming dangerously obsessive about the weight of my items on very long backpacking trips. Scan or photocopy only the section of a guide book that you need - say Kashmir rather than carting around the entire 100% page tome on all of India - is sensible.
— Weighing your luggage at home to avoid excess baggage charges and unnecessary worry - either on a bathroom scale, or with a nifty hand held device.
— Buy luggage that itself is lightweight. It's pointless carrying around needless weight in the form of luggage, when there are perfectly strong and attractive lightweight options on the market.
— Check your airline's website before travelling, to find out the weight and dimension allowances for carry on and hold luggage. This varies from one airline to the next, but the good people at Samsonite have done the legwork and have researched a comprehensive list of weight and dimensions permitted by airline - see Samsonite hand-luggage size restrictions
— It might seem over cautious, but believe me, every day on every baggage carousel someone will pick up and take away the wrong bag by mistake. It's an easy problem to solve - just personalise your bag with a brightly coloured ribbon, sticker, or luggage label.
— Some bags do go missing, usually only for a day or two, so packing with calamity in mind can't do any harm, and can leave you unruffled even in a lost bag situation. The key here is to split some items across your carry on and hold luggage - so for example, keep medication and other vital or* valuable belongings in your carry on bag. Add in a few pairs of underwear, swimming shorts, and enough clothes to see you through the first day away. If you are travelling with your partner, then you could split some clothes between your two bags, so you are both covered in the event of a bag going astray.
— There are several companies that can take the headache and backache out of lugging your luggage on a journey, by collecting your luggage from your home and deliver it to your hotel. You can do this within the UK, throughout Europe, or across the world, and as well as suitcases, you can ship ski equipment or golf clubs. Book online or over the phone at least a couple of days before you are due to travel (you can track your delivery via the website after collection). A bag weighing up to 30 kilos delivered to another part of the UK is about £30 each way, or about £50 for deliveries to Europe. Ski boots and skis are about £50 each way to the Alps, or a golf bag about £60 each way to Portugal.
Passport and camera yes; plastic plane - probably not
One more thing...I've been asked many times if it Is safe putting your address on a luggage tag for all the world to see? It's usually related to the fear of returning home to an emptied house - presumably by burglars burglars noting down the address realising that you're abroad.
You'd have to be incredibly unlucky to have your house burgled as a result of someone opportunistically happening to read your luggage labels, but it isn't unheard of. Indeed there have been cases of organised gangs using airport accomplices to gather addresses from passengers’ bags as they wait in the check in queues.
Either way, it's an unnecessary risk, as you don’t need to put your address on a label. I put my name, the hotel I am heading for, and my phone number, which will suffice in the even of the bag being misshipped - i.e. sent to the wrong destination.
Incidentally any bag that is temporarily 'lost' will likely be opened by the airline or customs authorities. In this case it can help to have packed something unusual inside your luggage - 'The Man of the People' let's say, as it will help identify the bag as a match for yours from the description you'll be asked to give of its contents.
Not a baggage handler protest, but Sacramento County Airport art. Photo Flickr/anselor