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How to pack a suitcase

It’s all go! You’ve been planning this trip for a while; you have your tickets, travel insurance, diary, foreign money, passport...and a huge pile of clothes and presents to pack! Here are some helpful hints for you when you are packing that dreaded suitcase:

1) Your hand luggage
There is nothing worse than arriving in your exotic destination...without your suitcase. Any smart traveller will have travel insurance, but it pays to be prepared for the worst. A good idea is to pack your essentials into your hand luggage.

  • Pack in a complete change of clothes – undies, socks, a t-shirt, sweatshirt and jeans or shorts (depending on whether you’re flying into summer or winter). This way if you arrive but your suitcase doesn’t, you won’t need to wear your smelly aeroplane clothes when you go shopping for emergency essentials.
  • Put in your toilet bag with your basic necessities. Make sure you have a small moisturiser that you can rub onto your face during long-haul flights to re-hydrate your skin. It pays to put any medication in your hand luggage, so that it’s easily accessible if customs requests to see it and you don’t need to worry about going to the doctor if your checked-in luggage ends up in Tahiti instead of Spain.
  • Make sure any sharp objects such as tweezers, nail clippers and razors are packed into a separate toilet bag in your suitcase. Other things you can pack into your suitcase are your shampoo & conditioner, and make-up other than the bare minimum you can keep in your hand luggage.
  • Pack your in-flight entertainment, be that a book, portable video game or ipod.
  • Make sure all your essential travel documents are in your hand luggage, and put them right at the top. You need your passport, tickets, travel insurance policy number, itinerary, and duty free discount vouchers!

2) Your suitcase
Now it’s time for the big one. How are you going to get all that stuff into this suitcase?

  • First things first, let’s prioritise. Are you really going to wear that sexy see-through blouse if you’re travelling to Russia in December? Probably not. Likewise, only pack light jumpers if you’re going to Rarotonga. Are you really going to use that eye mask you only put on once a week when you’re at home? There’s no need to weigh your bag down with unnecessary clutter.
  • Think sensibly. When you’re on holiday, it’s often hard to wash your clothes. Darker colours don’t stain as easily so you can wear them more than once. Try to take clothes that are low maintenance. There’s nothing worse then interrupting a relaxing island holiday to iron your shirt!
  • Instead of taking your 400ml shampoo bottle, go to Payless Plastics and buy some small 50ml pottles. They are really useful for filling up with your favourite shampoo, moisturisers and vitamins without having to carry around the big containers.
  • Instead of taking your big 50ml or 100ml perfume, utilise duty free. They have packs of little sized perfume – 15ml or 30ml – for reasonable prices. Using miniature sizes helps not only your suitcase room, but also its weight.
  • Use your shoes! Stuff socks and belts into your shoes to maximise space. Shoes are also a great way to safely store small breakables. Wrap them in socks or undies and put them in your shoes!
  • When you get to the point where you’re actually going to pack your suitcase, start by putting in your folded up piles of clothes. Follow this by putting shoes around the outside to provide extra padding. If you have breakables, ensure they are securely wrapped and then bury them in amongst your clothes. It helps to put wrapped breakable liquids into a plastic bag as well – luggage handlers aren’t known to be gentle, and you don’t want your entire suitcase reeking of musky perfume!
  • Most suitcases these days have ‘belts’ inside which you can tie over your possessions to stop them from moving around. If you have an older model suitcase, try draping over your biggest sweatshirt, or even a pillowcase if necessary, and tuck it into the sides of the suitcase. This will help keep things from moving around too much in flight.

3) Weigh it!
Most airlines allow one piece of luggage to be checked in, up to a maximum of 20kg for international travel. While you can often get away with having up to 25kg in weight, it pays to be on the safe side and try to stick to 20kg or less going over – you need to save some room for shopping! Usually your hand luggage allowance is 7kg, and the bag has certain height and width restrictions too. Check with your airline to see what they allow.

It can be pretty hard weighing your luggage, as often it is too bulky for your bathroom scales to manage. I find the best way to weigh it is to weigh yourself first, then hop on the scales holding the luggage. The difference is the weight of the bag. While not entirely accurate, this will give you a fair idea of how much your bag weighs – and seeing an extra 20kg on the scales may just deter you from over-indulging on your holiday!

By pink 15-Feb-2006
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