Tuesday 4 January 2011

How to pack right and travel light


Photo: Yoshi Aka for Stock Xchng

One of the dullest parts of planning a trip is packing the luggage you’re going to carry around. But if done smartly, you can end up with lightweight bags and elevated enthusiasm to travel; in addition to saving money that airlines charge for extra baggage. Here are some quick and easy tips to make your trips smooth and light.

1) Restrict your luggage to only what you can carry. Ideally, carry one backpack/suitcase for your basics and one day pack for gadgets like your camera or laptop. The minute you need someone to help you with your luggage, you are way beyond travelling light.

2) If you’re carrying a backpack, then place the heaviest stuff at the bottom of the bag. This will ease the load off your shoulders once you lift your bag.

3) If a backpack is not your thing, then opt for a strolley as it’s easy to carry around than a hard-sided suitcase.

4) Before you begin packing, prepare a list of items you need to carry as per the destination you’re visiting (keeping in mind the weather there) and the number of days you’re going for. Then divide them into relevant categories, such as clothes, shoes, etc. and tick off one item at a time whilst packing it in. Chances are high that you may eliminate things even at the list level.

5) Minimise heavy clothing and carry layers instead. Using three T-shirts instead of one bulky jacket can help reduce the load tremendously. Likewise, using a really thick rain poncho is better than carrying a large waterproof windcheater. Except for places that have extreme snowfall, the layer principle works for every type of weather.

6) Try and carry multi-purpose items. For example, take a dupatta that also works as a sarong to wear on a beach or as a sheet to sleep on and a cover during cold journeys. If you fold it up, it can even serve as a soft pillow. Buffs protect in the cold, work as headbands at anytime and eye masks in a long flight. The ipod and Creative mp3 player, both work as backup storage devices.

7) When choosing your travel wardrobe, remember that dirt doesn't show up as easily on busy prints, dark colours and polyester fabrics, so choose these to light-coloured solids, unless you're planning to do a lot of laundry!

8) Always carry a few spare plastic bags to keep your dirty laundry in, or at rare times, wet clothes.

9) While packing, use the rolling technique. Clothes when rolled instead of folding or packing in layers takes up less space.

10) If you’re carrying formal attire, use hanger bags or even plastic bags as friction causes wrinkling and plastic reduces friction, thereby enabling the clothes to be wrinkle-free. For saris and other Indian attire, use butter paper.

11) Segregate all items into multiple compartments. This ensures that you don't empty your entire bag to remove just one pair of socks.

12) Start the trip with at least 30% space left in your backpack. Unless you unpack and repack tightly on a daily basis, chances are that your stuff will expand and take up the entire space.

13) Keep Xerox copies of important papers such as your passport and ticket in both your bags so that in case any of your bags get misplaced, you don’t lose crucial documents.

14) Always carry a medicine box with basic medicines for a common cold, fever, motion sickness, etc.

—With additional inputs by Aparna Shekhar Roy, a serial backpacker who blogs @ www.backpackingninja.com

When I quizzed Ian Wright, popular host of travel shows such as Globe Trekker and Out of Bounds on TLC, on the one thing that he doesn’t travel without, he blurted, “My sketch book!” A surprised moment later, his witty instincts resurfaced, “…and a string because it could come in handy!”