Holiday Packing Check List

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A bit of organisation before you leave home can mean the difference between a tiring, frustrating trip and one that’s fun and far more care-free. Two main principles inform all good packing – pack light, and choose the right kind of luggage.

Open red suitcase with clothing in the room

Packing light

A common mistake among first-time travellers is spending too long trying to anticipate every possible item they might have a use for on a trip. This “everything but the kitchen sink” approach backfires when you have to pay a fortune for excess baggage at check-in counters and walk long distances carrying practically your own weight in luggage.

Aim to pack just one carry-on bag

The wisest travellers fit their belongings into a single bag that meets airline regulations for hand luggage, and that will fit into the overhead bin. This isn’t as restrictive as you might think. Different airlines apply different weight and size restrictions. British Airways, for example, allows passengers to carry hand baggage with the maximum dimensions of 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm and a maximum weight of 23 kilograms – as well as a handbag or laptop. However, an ideal weight to aim for would be more like 10 to 15 kilograms.

Advantages of using just one carry-on bag:

  • you’ll have the bag with you, so it won’t be misdirected, lost or stolen while you’re en route to your destination
  • you don’t have to wait at a luggage carousel after you touch down
  • you can more easily carry everything yourself and keep track of your possessions

If you plan on buying goods such as souvenirs and gifts during your trip, you can easily purchase a second bag close to the time of your departure, fill it with your purchases and bring it home with you.

Tips for packing light

Ensure you pack essentials that could be difficult to obtain, like prescription medicines, but you needn’t travel with large containers of widely available cosmetic items. Remember that even if you’re travelling somewhere that seems exotic, other countries do have shops!

Your clothing needs will differ depending on whether you’re going somewhere warm or cold, and on the purpose of your travel. However, it’s always best to pack mix-and-match items in neutral colours so you can carry less. Also focus on packing what you’re normally comfortable and confident wearing at home, instead of carrying lots of newly purchased clothes you’ll end up not ever wearing.

Choose the right bag

An old-fashioned suitcase is heavy and difficult to carry, especially up flights of stairs or through narrow or crowded areas. Instead opt for a roll-on bag with wheels and a handle, a convertible backpack/suitcase or an internal-frame backpack. Also consider packing a lightweight, nylon day bag that you can use when you’re out and about to carry necessities, and a money belt for keeping your passport and money secure.

Basic packing checklist

You might have specific needs depending on the purpose and nature of your travel, but use our handy checklist to make sure that you’ve covered the basics.

Travel Documents and Money

  • money belt and your preferred mix of a credit card, debit card and hard cash
  • passport, printouts of any airline or rail tickets, hotel and train reservations, car-rental voucher, driver’s license and any other useful cards, such as a student ID
  • photocopies of your passport and two passport photos, in case the original is lost or stolen
  • travel insurance documents and emergency contact numbers
  • a guidebook, if you’ll need one
  • up to five short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts or blouses
  • two pairs of pants and optionally, a pair of shorts
  • a swimming costume
  • cardigan or jacket
  • tie or scarf, for jazzing up your outfits
  • five sets of underwear and socks
  • comfortable, lightweight outfit for sleeping and lounging
  • one comfortable pair of walking shoes and, optionally, a pair of flip-flops
  • a camera and laptop or notepad if required
  • contact details of friends and family
  • a small notebook and pen, and an empty diary or journal
  • a compact toiletries kit, containing basics like a small soap, shampoo, brush or comb and nail clippers or scissors
  • a hair-dryer, if you rely on one, and shaving equipment

Clothing

Toiletries and Personal Items

If toiletries go in your carry-on luggage, remember that liquids must be packed in separate 100 ml containers and included in a resealable plastic bag, to meet airport security requirements.

Medicines

  • a basic first-aid kid
  • any prescription medicines you require, preferably stored in their original containers and with legible prescriptions
  • insect repellant

“Other” items

Other optional items that you may find useful include

  • a sarong or small towel
  • a travel clock or watch with an alarm
  • spare glasses if you use prescription lenses and sunglasses
  • a padlock for securing your luggage
  • several sealable plastic bags, for laundry and other items
  • a small container of laundry detergent and a washing line
  • a basic sewing kit that includes some safety pins
  • earplugs
  • a Swiss Army knife that includes a corkscrew
  • an inflatable pillow
  • a small roll of duct tape, for a myriad of uses including emergency shoe repair
  • a universal drain-stopper, so you can wash laundry in sinks that don’t have plugs, or use a squash ball for the same purpose