Travelling light

backpack Today, another blog about some travelling thoughts. This time, how to travel with less stuff. This is aimed at the more budget conscience traveller, so if your trip involves a lot of five star hotels and ball gowns, this may not come in too handy…

It’s getting pretty expensive to travel heavy these days. Airlines are getting tight with baggage restrictions, with most long haul airlines only allowing between 20 and 23 kilos of baggage in the section of the plane where I usually travel, sitting somewhere on the wing with the chickens. Short haul cheapo airlines are even worse, they’ll charge you for putting baggage in the hold more often than not. And if you go over your limit, the excess baggage charges are high.

So what can you do. Well, first off, you probably don’t need to take as much stuff where you are going as you initially think. Do some research on your destination, and figure out how long you are going for. A new outfit for every day of the week may seem like a handy idea, but it’s going to add up in weight pretty quickly. If you are going to a tropical destination, those warm jumpers aren’t going to come in awfully handy. If you are going somewhere cold, work out which of your clothes are heaviest, and consider wearing some of them on the flight, thus saving your hold baggage allowance. I find wearing my hugely clumpy walking boots a bit of a pain what with having to take them off going through airport security, but it saves me around a kilo in hold baggage. Friends of mine happily travel in their ski gear when off to find some powder. If that works for you…

Nearly everywhere we go now we can get the same stuff as we can at home. So even if you forget essentials, you should be able to get them at your destination, possibly even cheaper than you left. If you find yourself shopping before you leave, ask yourself if it would be cheaper where you are going. Stuff like toothpaste and suncream is replaceable and not entirely essential to take with you. Clothing can be bought where you are going too, or if you pack some cheap travel wash, you could hand wash clothes instead of taking lots of spares. Basically, if you find yourself putting something into your bag “just in case” then I would suggest it’s probably not going to come out again until you return home.

If you’re travelling with electrical goods, like a camera, laptop or mobile phone, make sure you grab the charger and appropriate plug adaptor. You can save space by checking to see if any of your electrics share things like power cords, no point doubling up on unnecessary cables. My two camera chargers share the same power cord as my laptop charger for example. Also, lots of electricals charge off usb, so you should be able to save space there by only taking one charger.

If you are travelling with someone else, see what they are taking, and see if there is anything you can share. Depending on the status of your relationship, you could share all sorts of things, from toothpaste to an iPod charger. If you are able to pack together, you could save space on redundant items that you can then use for presents on the way back. Hurrah.

The art of packing itself is also pretty important. Once you have whittled down your life to the absolute essentials, you need to get them into your bag. Bag choice is important. If you’re going to be moving around a lot, hopping on and off of buses, or walking between places over possibly rough ground, then a backpack may be the best idea – and if you are carrying everything on your back, you are going to want stuff to be light! If you go for a backpack, make sure it is adjusted properly. If you aren’t doing the sort of travelling that warrants a backpack, then a good sturdy bag with wheels can make the transportation part of the trip a lot easier.

Next, you need to get the stuff into your bag. Anything that could potentially leak (suncream / toothpaste / perfume) is best put into a sealed and waterproof bag. You don’t want to end up as my Dad did after weeks of travelling (this was a time when boats were the way to leave the Seychelles) with curried pickle juices all over everything you once prized.

I find that rolling my clothes is the most efficient way of getting them into the bag in the most space efficient manner. If you are packing a backpack, remember which side of it is going to be against your back and avoid putting lumpy objects there. Pack evenly so the weight is distributed. If you have delicate items, pad them with t-shirts and the like. Make use of all the available space, so stuff those spare shoes with your socks and underpants.

On the way back home, particularly if your trip has been a long one, it may be that the t-shirt you so loved on the way out, and wore religiously every day for a year, is no longer the bastion of hygiene it once was. So you could throw some stuff out, and just take back all the funky tie dyed clothing you bought abroad which you’ll wear for a week before your friends set you straight. Or that drum which takes up most of the space in your bag. If you do find yourself over your allowance though, and you really can’t throw things away, I’d highly recommend not taking it on the plane and sending it by freight instead. Excess baggage charges on airlines really are excessive, and shipping stuff is way way cheaper. Plus it’s often better insured. So if you can wait for it a bit longer, that is a good way to go.

Those, therefore, are my thoughts on travelling light. I’ve been living out of a 20kg allowance back pack for over a year now, and haven’t died from lack of clothing as yet. Although the wedding I’ve been invited to recently does look like it could pose a challenge. I’m sure there are lots more ideas on travelling light, if you want to share please feel free to post them in the comments box below :)

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