Monday, 2 April 2012

Travelling Light

So I've finally invested in a low-cost airline-sized suitcase - previously I've always just taken my rucksack or borrowed one from a friend. OK, so the colour is extremely girly but I certainly will be able to spot it on the luggage carousel. Plus, it's only 2kg, leaving me a full 8kg for other travel essentials (more on that later). This has got to be the must-have accessory for anyone living in Europe - perfect for a short trip away with Ryanjet! Most low-cost airlines have upped their charges for hold luggage, sometimes £30 one way, so your luggage can end up costing more than the actual flight if you decide to check in a bag. So avoid the long queues at the bag drop desk, skip the exorbitant fees, don't let the baggage handler strike bring you down and go for a minimalistic packing approach with hand luggage only. The longest trip I ever took with just hand luggage was 2 weeks - OK, it was to my parents' house where I still have one or two old items of clothing but you can apply similar principles if staying with a fashionable, similarly-sized friend as well. Another of my old favourites is the wearing-about-50-layers-of-clothing-at-once trick. Beware: only works in winter; in summer you will BOIL! Airports are generally overheated anyway and if you're running late, stressed out and bundled up in cardigan after cardigan, you may end up regretting having gone for this method, but it does save on valuable suitcase space. Some other space-saving tips:

  • Buy cosmetics once you're there: almost everywhere you go, you'll find cheap shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste etc. in a local supermarket and it means you don't have to check in a bag just for your liquids. Otherwise, why not save up free shampoo/moisturiser sample sachets from magazines and take them with you when you go away for the weekend?
  • Borrow things from your host: as long as you bring them a little present/buy them a few beers/smile at them beguilingly, friends are always happy to reduce your packing stress by offering you the use of their hairdryer/straighteners/cosmetics/towel when you're staying with them for the weekend. If you're staying in a hotel, of course, all of these things are usually provided in the room
  • Don't take your entire wardrobe for a 2-day trip! Yes, we've all heard this from an exasperated boyfriend or father: "But why do you need so much stuff?" No, they don't understand. But they might have a point. Plan out your clothes for the trip, making sure to factor in unexpectedly warm, cold or rainy weather, and wear the bulkiest items to travel in (coat, boots, jumpers), saving the lighter items for the suitcase. And no one will be horrified if you wear the same top two days in a row - you're on holiday after all!
  • Pashminas are your friend: I read this tip in a magazine once and it stuck with me - pashminas or other light cotton scarves are about the most practical thing you can take with you on a trip. They double up as a head covering when in countries such as Italy or Morocco where you may have to cover up to enter a church or walk around the streets, you can lie on them on the beach or in the park to avoid grass stains (a green colour might be a good bet) and use them as a makeshift towel if you go in the water. They could also serve as a sarong/skirt and to cover sunburnt or freezing shoulders. Roll them up and use them as a pillow if camping or catnapping on the train; use them to wipe your sunglasses clean or to cushion or hide that expensive camera in your bag.
I'm going away for the Easter 4-day weekend on Thursday - let's see if I manage to follow my own advice and if I still have room in my case for a sneaky Easter egg or two...

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