Rules of packing

I’m preparing for a trip to England, the first bit of travelling I’ve done since Easter. I need a holiday so badly right now my anticipation muscles all hurt. Unfortunately, so do a lot of my physical muscles and joints (as well as the ankle I sprained two weeks ago), so in between my preparations, I present to you my basic rules of packing:

Everything I bring must fit in one bag, and I must be able to carry this bag myself.

I had done very little travelling until a couple of years ago, so before my first flight to England I did some research. One Bag provided a useful starting point for the packing list I use today, and the occasional wait for a checked-in bag when I just want to go home and sleep has thoroughly reinforced the one bag philosophy.

Going flying, I carry one carry-on bag. This means I have a weight limit (about 10kg is typical) as well as size limits (55x40x23 cm on the airline I use the most), not to mention some stupid limitations on liquids. The weight and size limits ultimately works in my favour, as my rather weak body has to be able to carry that bag wherever it needs to go, often through hours of alternating between walking and waiting. The liquid limits are annoying, but at least encourages some creativity in packing.

If it doesn’t fit in my one bag, it’s not coming. If I can’t carry the bag (even with a sprained ankle), something has to stay home.

Clothes are not interesting.

Clothes are necessary, but not interesting. They are present in minimal amounts, and I pack them like they were puzzle pieces. They have to match and be as interchangable and layerable as possible. My whole list of clothes for this trip — including what I wear for the actual journey — looks like this:

  • 3 tops
  • 1 skirt
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 pair of trousers
  • 3 sets of underwear

That’s it. Well, that, and…

A thin woolen sweater is worth its weight in gold.

The single most useful item of clothing in my bag has proven to be a simple thin woolen sweater. I keep it rolled up to the side in my bag, where I can easily get it out. Extremely useful if where I land turns out to be colder than where I left! Combined with an equally light, rain- and wind-proof coat, I can stay warm — and dry! — even in bitter weather. Anyone who’s been to England will know why this is useful…

Similarly useful are knee-high socks, which look nice with a skirt, and provides lovely warmth with trousers.

Leave the nail polish…

In everyday life, I do some extravagant things to my nails on a regular basis. You would perhaps think I would keep this up when going on holiday, having lots of extra time and all… But no, I’ve learned that this is a futile excercise. My nails break even before I start packing these days, even if they have been perfect for weeks. Just the thought of flying makes them go dry and brittle.

Even if my nails did behave, bringing a polish kit is a hassle. Treatments, polishes and removers are all liquids, and most of them flammable, meaning they are technically not allowed in hand luggage. I’ve yet to see polish confiscated for that reason, but with so many other reasons to leave it at home, why bother.

A good nail file and some moisture for the cuticles is plenty for on-the-go nail care.

…but bring the make-up.

At home, I’m not a regular or frequent user of make-up — I prefer my body art on the nails, as mentioned — but when travelling, I will regret it if I leave the make-up at home.

Where a nail kit is annoying amounts of liquid, make-up can be all or mostly powders. Depotted (if it came out of a finished palettes) or pressed (if a loose powder) and arranged into a compact palette, it takes up very little space, and just a handful of colours can help vary that limited travel wardrobe (and keep away that “I’m having so much fun I forgot to sleep” look).

The difficult part is paring down the brushes to the bare minimum required, and finding a good make-up remover for travel use. The first I can do, the second I’m still working on.

The gadgetry comes with me.

I’m a nerd. I like gadgets. I have lots of gadgets, and despite being bulky, heavy, and in need of support items like extra batteries and chargers, several of them are coming with me.

Taking photos is an important part of travelling for me, so the camera with all its related kit — extra lens, extra memory card, extra battery, GPS, charger, camera bag and all — comes with me.

My smart phone keeps track of my itinerary, has my calendar, provides internet access, can function as a sat-nav, and, of course, be used to make calls with. Since I travel to meet people rather than get away from them, my phone comes with me.

Travelling inevitably means sitting on my arse and waiting, which is prime time for catching up on the never-ending reading list. Carrying a dozen books is impossible with my weight and space limitations, and picking up new books along the way will not shorten said reading list. 155 grams of ebook reader can hold hundreds of books, and fits in my pocket for easy access along the way. The ebook reader comes with me.

My Nintedo DS can fill those same waiting times with gaming instead of reading, and thus may come along for many of the same reasons. However, gaming is a “home activity” for me, and I won’t miss the DS much if it stays home.

The presence of my netbook is negotiable. It’s over a kilo of gear that is not guaranteed to see use. It does provide for a more comfortable way to use the internet than my phone, and it is a good dumping ground for photos on especially photo-heavy trips. I don’t have anything that can quite replace it, so as long as there’s room, it comes along.

Do not fill the bag.

Leaving some room means I can bring any new acquisitions home and still carry just the one bag. At least, that’s the idea. I’m not a heavy shopper, but those stuffed animals take up a lot of space…

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