THERE was a time when packing for a holiday involved removing every item of clothing I own from the cupboard and attempting to stuff it into an undersized suitcase.
On top of this I would squish, push and force countless pairs of shoes, accessories, beauty products and, of course, my beloved hair straighteners into what little space remained.
I would then be required to lug the beast containing all my worldly possessions into cars, onto buses, on and off trains, through airports, streets, hotels, motels, hostels and worst of all, up and down countless flights of stairs.
After busting my hump through six torturous weeks in Europe and requiring several painful visits to the chiropractor upon my return, I decided to take a stand against over-packing. I had finally had enough of living like a rogue gypsy turtle and decided it was time to downsize.
My partner Matt has a distinct advantage over me when it comes to light packing because his ‘list’ reads something like this: shorts, shirts, undies, toothbrush and soap (maybe).
Despite this he flat out refuses to share even an inch of his precious packing space with me. I don’t really blame him though, because I am like the plague. Once he gives me enough room for my tan pumps we both know I’ll be asking for more until finally I will have overrun his bag with a wide array of thong underwear, singlet tops and maxi dresses.
In packing for a one week trip to Bali I decided to make the bold move of not taking a suitcase or checked luggage of any kind. Instead I opted for a backpack big enough to take as carry-on luggage.
Don’t worry, even the stewardess at the check-in counter was shocked: “Checked luggage today Miss?” “Oh, erm no. Just the backpack…” “….. Oh…. oh…carry-on only, yes of course…how silly of me… a whole week and you…. Just the backpack, not a problem Miss”.
Despite a few initial set-backs I’ve perfected the art and no longer struggle under the weight of cardigans, vests and assorted leggings. My feeble wrists rejoice at the freedom of not having to wrestle 35kg worth of shoes from the airport conveyor belt and most importantly, I no longer bear the shame of the bright neon ‘heavy load, bend at the knees’ tag usually affixed to my bulging suitcase.
Packing light isn’t easy but you get the hang of it. You’ll find with less luggage you’re able to move between locations a lot faster, freeing up your time to see more of your holiday destination and your lower back will thank you.
Here are my top tips to help you pack light:
1. Be honest – This is the most important one. If you haven’t worn that beige, knitted jumper that makes you look chubby in the six months since you bought it you sure aren’t going to wear it when you know you’ll be photographed. So don’t pack it and don’t pack anything else that you think you ‘might’ like to wear. All packed items must have a proven history of good field performance.
2. Play favourites – We both know that most of your holiday clothing should come out of the clean laundry pile because those are the clothes you wear the most often anyway. Don’t be so hard on yourself, if you love wearing the same navy shorts every day then pack them! It is your holiday after all and what’s most important is that you feel comfortable and confident.
3. Consider your comfort – If you’re planning on moving around a lot or spending time on a bus be sure to pack at least one comfortable outfit because the last thing you need is to be stuck wearing your leather hot pants on a 14 hour bus ride. Although I would probably question why you own leather hot pants in the first place.
4. Plan ahead – If you’re travelling for five days then plan five outfits. The chances are that you more or less know your itinerary so think of an outfit for each day plus one or two extras i.e. something for a nice dinner or beach bum day. Make sure your outfits are interchangeable too so you can mix Tuesday’s shorts with Thursday’s top.
5. Be ruthless – Once you’ve laid everything out, do a very stern audit on what you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to cut things from your packing list – you are on holidays so if you arrive there and realise that two sarongs just weren’t enough I’m sure you can buy a third one somewhere and it’ll be a nice memento.
6. Divide and conquer – If you’re travelling with someone else do you both need to bring a hairdryer, straightener, heat-protector and hairspray? Probably not. You can save money and space by sharing some items and the extra space you have left over can be used for souvenirs. I would definitely recommend you each bring your own toothbrush.
7. Prepare accordingly – When packing for a two week holiday to Bali the chances are you won’t need much more than a summer dress, bikinis, shorts and tops. So don’t go overboard and start packing five pairs of jeans and a jumper ‘just in case’. In Bali, there’s no ‘just in case’ – it’s always hot (always!) – so curb your weird jeans obsession, do some research on the weather forecast for your destination and be realistic about what you do and don’t need to take with you.
8. Relax – why are you stressing about what you have and haven’t packed anyway? As long as you have the basics I’m sure you’ll be able to survive in your four-star beach-side luxury resort and anything you’ve forgotten you can purchase at your destination, I’m fairly certain the rest of the free world also know about toothpaste. When you look back at your holiday you won’t be thinking ‘Wow… that was a killer outfit’… you’ll be thinking ‘Wow… that sunset was incredible’.
There are a few extra things that I always like to pack that usually come in handy, and these are: a plastic bag, a zip-lock bag, basic medicines, a pack of wet ones and a bar of soap (just in case Matt didn’t pack his!). And then there is, of course, my hair straighteners (don’t judge me!).
What essentials do you always pack? Can you survive the ‘carry-on only’ test? Tell us now at