I was twelve years old and rushing through Heathrow Airport, clutching my younger brother’s hand. Bleary-eyed and dehydrated, we cleared customs, only to find that our checked baggage was lost somewhere between Sydney and Singapore.
The nice man at Lost Luggage told us our suitcases would arrive by the end of the week. Until then, we had only the clothes we’d travelled in and the contents of our backpacks: several copies of Goosebumps, a discman and a CD wallet with an overrepresentation of Limp Bizkit.
And that was the moment.
We’d done the trip from Sydney to London twelve times since our parents split up six years before.
First with Dad and then as Unaccompanied Minors, always with a 20kg suitcase each. It was set to continue throughout my teenage years. So I decided to dispense with checked luggage altogether. There had to be a better way.
We talk hacks to save time and be efficient via list making and a good attitude. (Post continues after audio.)
Since then, I’ve made more than four hundred international and domestic trips, all with cabin baggage only – sometimes with just my handbag. At my most extreme, I turned up in England for my father’s wedding with only the clothes on my back, a spare pair of underpants and an extra T-shirt. Now I have kids, I try to hit a happy medium between fleeing-zombies-for-your-life and miserable packhorse.
So here are my top tips for packing light – no matter your destination. Learn from my mistakes, so that you may never find yourself at the Lost Luggage counter.
Choose your bag.
You’re looking for two things in a bag: weight and portability. The less it weighs, the less you have to lug through the airport. Personally, I prefer backpacks to wheeled luggage because they’re lighter, easier to fit into a toilet cubicle (look, these things are important!) and aren’t going to see you helplessly blocking the aisle, waiting for a burly man to take pity and hoist it into an overhead compartment.
Pick your bag and stick with it. Image via Instagram.
Get started early.
A week before you’re set to travel, put your bag in the corner of a room. Over the course of a week, fill it with your planned luggage. As clothes are washed and ready, as you suddenly remember that it gets cold in New York in January, as you purchase a cute new passport holder – in it all goes. Getting hyped is part of the fun. Get ready in other ways too: check the weather in your destination for a week before you leave; find the best place for breakfast near your hotel (trust me, Future Jet-lagged Self will thank you); learn a few phrases in the native language; download books for your Kindle.
You are beautiful just as you are.
Limit your toiletries. Most airports won’t let you through with liquids of more than 100mL anyway, and as you’re travelling with hand luggage only, that pretty much limits you to deodorant, moisturiser, and toothpaste. Unless you’re visiting the North Pole, they’ll have shops at your destination and you can always stock up when you get there. Or you can try going make-up free for a few weeks, in a destination where you’re not going to run into anyone you know. Who knows, it could be liberating.