What more do you need?
I commented recently to a friend about the huge number of things I needed to organise before I fly to the UK to visit friends. His response was “as long as you have your ticket, credit card and few clothes what more do you need”? How does a girl respond to a reply like that!!
My mind kicked into immediate overdrive, and I could feel the tension spread throughout my body as I reached for pen and paper (yes could have used my Notes in iPhone but paper can be quicker and the old school is still with me). I needed a list otherwise my head would be in a constant spin.
And so it began. Boys will never understand how difficult it is to be a woman let alone the added consideration as a sole traveller. With full time work, limited hours in the evening and weekends it is essential to plan as there is no one to delegate to.
I find the commute to and from work is when my mind goes into a lull and when my mental list begins. I have become savvy over years of OS travel preparation but find it is a matter of continuous improvement. How often do you unpack untouched clothes on return from your trip.
YouTube has some interesting fast forward videos on how to pack efficiently but I couldn't find sites that talk about the seemingly minor items that accumulate into one big project that takes more than a few days to prepare.
Plan what needs to be packed or carried
As a guide to the reality of the situation this is my exhaustive list I needed to consider for my trip to
the UK. It reminded me of Pinocchio's nose, it continued to grow, and I am not telling lies:
- First consideration is the weather. For this trip UK conditions could be compared to Melbourne’s weather, be prepared for a stinking hot day followed by the need for a jacket and long pants the next.
- This leads into what clothes to take and what size suitcase. For my trip I decided to use a smaller suitcase 66cm (with expandable option). From Heathrow airport I will catch a bus to Bristol and lifting heavy bags can an issue with public transport. I don’t have a burning desire to call out to some distant knight in shining armour who may either reject my request or disarm me! Plus I like to be independent. This trip is to visit friends not to power shop for clothes (well that’s the plan).
- I Googled ‘how to pack lightly for travel’ and found a few tips to assist:
- The ‘light and layered’ concept. All fabrics should be light whether it a dress, skirt, top, pants but never forget the obligatory pair of jeans and include a light rain/wind resistant jacket in carry-on luggage.
- Stick with basic colours that work together either a black, navy or beige bottoms. The mix and match works well with travel and keep your number of tops to a minimum. Challenge yourself if you “really need” that top as this has been my issue, I would take far too many and not use them. I only include one smart top in a good quality fabric for unplanned special occasions that can be worn day or night.
- If you ever travel on a cruise ship you must include formal outfit for selected night, it is mandatory.
- Shoes has always been an issue for me. Two things to consider a) comfort b) occasion. I have solved both.
- ‘Comfort’ is a light slip-on style walking shoe e.g Skecher’s is a great brand to wear on the plane, no need to remove for most customs clearance, allows for swelling feet and of course perfect for the walk to the local English village pub. I also throw in a pair of ballet flats for something a little smarter in any country.
- ‘Occasion’ is quickly addressed as I have the Conf3ss (www.conf3ss.com), low wedged black sandal with two packets of interchangeable straps, gold for evening and beige for daytime lunches suitable for upmarket restaurant. One pair of shoes for all functions, you can buy them online and love the choices. Straps small and easy to pack. I also include smart flat walking style sandals designed for long hours on summer days. Merrill is one brand that has modern styles and a range that can be worn with dresses or pants.
- Toiletries & makeup, I purchase either travel bottles of shampoo & conditioner or buy the small cheap clear plastic bottles and add my own product. Include only 1 x eye-make up compact the four shades in beige browns work well, only 2 lipsticks colours, mascara both waterproof and normal, disposable make up removers rather than a bottle are easier for travel but check they remove waterproof mascara. Plus your other “must have” items. Go minimalistic with toiletries as is surprising how much they contribute to additional weight.
- I have a small sized baby straightening iron. You can buy them from Priceline, Hair Warehouse etc. I don’t bother with hair dryers any more as either in hotels or borrow friend’s and if you are on an outdoor trip then say no more.
- If you wear contact lenses factor in delivery time if you order online, hence the need for an early list before departure.
- Travel and credit cards. Lower the credit card to almost nil. I have my Travel Card preloaded with the local currency. Alternatively I have friends who use their Debit Card. Either way better to be prepared for the unexpected and always take a normal credit card as back-up.
- Suggest take some cash in local currency as much as possible. Particularly when you travel to eastern European countries as some are reluctant to take Euro’s even though your travel agent may say otherwise. I will take a few pounds in cash and US dollars for my airport stopover in Dubai. Also easy for tipping.
- I photocopy my passport and credit cards and carry in separate bag in the event one of them goes missing
- You often hear “you can buy it if you don’t have it” however it is not that easy when intransit and you may not know where the local shops are. It takes time that you may not have. This happened to me in Vienna, so I know the feeling.
Consider home preparations
- Register your movements on www.smartraveller.gov.au, particularly if you are single as makes life less complicated for family members if anything goes wrong
- For family & friends send itinerary and contact details, address & phone numbers of where you are staying, include name of solicitor plus leave spare house keys with family or friend.
- Bills to be paid. I have yet to set up direct debit (as suggested by my financial advisor) and intend to in the future. However luckily I keep due date reminders recorded in my MS Outlook calendar and can set-up online payment in advance with my bank.
- Cancel paper deliveries, organise someone to clear junk mail out of letterbox, have a friend do ad-hoc visits to check your home, if you are in a unit complex or house suggest you let a neighbour know your movements with a contact number if possible, check plants and watering in your absence, put clean sheets on your bed before you leave (it is heaven to come home to your own bed with fresh sheets), cut lawn before you leave, use timers on house lights. Animal owners, you will know what to do.
- Personally I like to walk into a tidy house particularly the kitchen, it is a nice home-coming
Hints for the girls on the plane
- Only wear tinted moisturizer (not foundation) then can add any moisturiser to your face during the trip, even hand cream if that is the only product available.
- I only apply water proof mascara before I leave and even after 28 hours no smudge.
- In your hand luggage always add a few small extras such as clean undies, light top, portable makeup kit, mini toothbrush, crucial medication and spare glasses or contacts if you need them. My baggage has gone missing on two separate occasions and although most airports provide you with a “care pack” until your baggage is found (if lucky) it can take at least 2-3 days to be delivered to your location. Think about what you cannot do without for a few days.
- Reminder if in the event there may be any mishaps as a sole traveller ask the question before you leave “have I covered myself if someone has to act on my behalf” and if the answer is yes, sit back and relax and enjoy the ride!