Worst part of going away? Packing. Worst part of being away? Finding you haven’t got anything you need but still have a full suitcase.
Help, I either overpack or underpack. You travel a lot, tell me the tricks of your trade?
Recently I arrived in a wet and chilly San Francisco to discover I had no raincoat, no jumpers, no T-shirts and only one change of underwear.
I did have five pairs of shoes, several white shirts – rendered useless by the cold and lack of anything to go over them – a slinky silk dress, three books (plus a couple more on my iPad) and the piece de resistance: two pairs of bathers, goggles and a cap. (The temperature never climbed past 16C and the pool at the hotel was not heated, so that little lot was a waste of space.)
Throughout my life, I have acquired some skills but packing, obviously, is not among them. Nor has practice made perfect, as my parents and teachers used to insist.
Until recently my only tip for you would be don’t emulate me, then I discovered Packing Pro on the iTunes store. Obviously I’m not the only poor packer out there, it’s one of the hotter selling apps in the crowded travel section.
Basically what it does is make lists for you. Hey, I hear you, you do that already and still end up with fleece and long johns in 40C, but Packing Pro is a lot smarter than most of us mere mortals.
You can select the type of holiday, how long you will be away, whether you are going somewhere warm or cold, whether it’s for business or pleasure, how many people are going, whether you want to carry a lot or a little with you, and it even asks you if there will be laundry facilities available. Then it generates lists of what clothes, shoes and accessories you are likely to need based on the information you have provided.
But it doesn’t stop there. It also reminds you what you need to do to organise the holiday – book accommodation, car rental etc, what you should do before you leave (photocopy documents, set up email auto-responder, take out garbage, and it always provides a basic list of must-takes – cash, passport, pills, glasses, contact info, plugs, etc.).
I know that all sounds a teensy bit anal, but it does ensure that you will be able to get on with the business of having a holiday as soon as you arrive, rather than scurrying around the shops for what you haven’t packed. And think how useful it would be if your luggage goes missing in transit or is stolen.
Now that said, I will give you the one tip I think will always work, although I never adhere to it myself, and that leaves enough time to pack properly.
Don’t wait until the cab for the airport is at the front door, like I usually do. You will end up with togs and goggles and little else if you go down that track. Pack the day before you leave, two days before is even better. It’s so much less stressful, or it was the one time I managed to find the time in that frenetic period that always precedes a trip to do it.
Now, if only I could practice what I preach.