I hear lots of people say they loath packing and that it’s a stressful part of going away, and since we foodies love to travel, I thought I’d share my packing philosophy. Some people believe there’s an art to packing, others that it’s a knack. I think it’s also about confidence – the confidence to be ourselves with just a capsule of belongings.
I still remember the first press trip I went on as a novice journalist. I was more worried about what to take than anything else, and there was a quite a lot to be worrying about: representing my publication, being with a group of journalists I’d never met before, having to interview people and write something credible for the business publication I worked for, and not knowing what happened on a press trip. I arrived at the airport an absolute wreck. I’ve come a long way since that trip three decades ago and have travelled with different types of journalists (business, fashion, travel), bloggers, and of course loved ones.
Here are 7 tips to help you avoid panic packing.
Plan well in advance: Planning starts even before booking. Is everyone you’re travelling with checking in luggage or carrying on-board? What are the pros and cons?
Know your itinerary: As soon as you know you are travelling start gathering the contenders and then whittle these down. Be strategic. Will you be eating in most nights, self-catering, or out? Will you be doing lots of sweaty activities or lying by a pool reading most of the time? Do you need to take account of weather fluctuations?
Pack early: Whether I’m checking in luggage or carrying it on-board I always plan and pack at least one week if not two in advance and then faff at the last minute about outerwear for the airport and minor details. (My aim is always to take as little as possible, even if checking in my case.) Find an early time-frame that suits you. This guarantees setting off relaxed instead of stressed.
Consider a packing formula: I’m embarrassed to admit I keep a packing diary but I’m pleased to report I’ve learnt to pack compact and light. And when I’ve had to travel last minute for emergencies or opportunities I can pack quickly, confidently and effectively. I first got the idea of having a formula from my editor on a wedding magazine. She had formulas for every type of trip including luxury, activity, beach, city, safari. The formulas went something like X number of bottoms + Y number of tops + Z outerwear. Liberating!
Develop your unique packing system: When I’ve quizzed business people on the go, travelers with a passion for seeing the world, and travel writers, they all have some sort of packing system which they’ve refined over time. Find yours.
Ignore advice from glossy magazines: Those travel-light fashion features that claim you can wear your sarong out to dinner and turn your swimming costume into a top are written by fashionistas who pack gigantic cases. (I know because I’ve been on many a trip with them). Nobody real packs a scented candle into their budget airline case but it’s a common tip in glossy features, as is the designer beach bag that costs several hundred £. As we foodies know as soon as you add local lemons and herbs your new travel home(s) will be home from home.
Nylon bags are best for bringing back food: They’re light yet sturdier than canvas and can protect against things like cheese and cakes spill long out. I also like to pop duty frees into a colourful nylon bag so there’s no mistaking it’s mine in the cabin. I don’t buy branded alcohol because there are enough supermarket offers, instead I look for a local liqueur to bring back.