Travel planning

Packing for success: a frequent flyer writes…

As I prep for my few days in Singapore, I turn to my trusty packing list in Evernote to remind me of all the important things that must be in my bags before I leave.

Over the years, I’ve quickly realised that it’s much more efficient to work through a packing list than to keep all of that stuff in my head. You only need to arrive at your destination without something important once to realise that this is worth it.

But this got me thinking about what’s important, really. And also, how much longer my standard packing list is now, compared to a few years ago. I probably bring too much…No. I know that I bring too much. All because I can visualise various (improbably) situations where I don’t want to be caught out. But I’d rather have too much with me than too little.

The must haves?

Top of my list for over a decade has been my epilepsy meds. While I can go pretty much anywhere in the world and buy some replacement toiletries, socks or even an entire new business wardrobe, getting replacement epilepsy meds would be a lot more difficult.

And the stress of surviving even a few days without the meds would surely result in a cluster of seizures that would send me to bed.

So I keep some in my case and some in my carry-on luggage. And if traveling with Frank, he’ll take some in his luggage too. To be sure, to be sure. Boring, but necessary.

I’ve been ill enough times when traveling that I know the importance of bringing a small packet of most over-the-counter meds. Yes, you can buy this stuff in most countries of the world, but really, if you’re ill enough to need it the last thing you’ll want to do is find a pharmacy and attempt to buy it. Possibly in a foreign language. I’ve found a packet of anti-histamines, bog standard painkillers and some flu-tablets cover most eventualities.

Anything more serious and we’re talking about a whole other scenario!

In the carry-on bag?

Given my obsession with technology, the list of gadget must-haves is very subjective and very long. I’ll always have my iPhone (and charger), iPad Pro (and charger), Kindle, Apple Watch (and charger)… you can see where this is going?

If I’m on business, I’ll need my MacBook too and the various dongles and remote controls needed to run a workshop or present at an event. Plus international adaptors!

If it’s a longer journey, I’ll bring my Bose noise-cancelling earphones. They’re big and bulky an require a case all of their own, but really help block out the ambient noise and allow me to watching something on my iPad without cranking the volume up to 11.

For very long journeys (Japan, Singapore etc), I’ll bring a set of clothes to wear on-board (sweat pants and a t-shirt – don’t judge me!) and a spare shirt/top to wear when I land. I used to have a couple of pairs of British Airways onboard pyjamas from some First Class flights to Japan, but sadly these didn’t last more than a couple of washes. So now it’s grey sweats and a ‘resting bitch face’ to anyone who looks at my sideway.

Sorry, but my comfort trumps your view any day.

Those little kits you get in business class on most airlines are good enough to use for freshening up just before landing, but I don’t keep them anymore. Just needless clutter. It’s not like I need a comb and I would rather shave with a rake than a free disposable razor. And on a plane?!

But I do keep the ear plugs and the eye ask. Super-useful to aid with sleep.

My Midori Traveler’s Notebook also holds my passport and frequent flyer / hotel cards. I know everything I’ll need for my flight(s) is in the Midori and I avoid panicking rummaging though a package when I get to the gate or to passport control. My boarding cards these days sit in Apple Wallet on my iPhone, but from time to time an airline will insist on a paper copy, or give me a new copy at check-in. These go straight into the Midori, along with any foreign currency.

The whole trip is backed up electronically into the fantastic Kayak app, just in case I need a address or a booking reference. I don’t print those out anymore, not when I can get them on my phone.

In the suitcase?

When traveling for business, I’m a lot more realistic. Business clothes for the daytime and a pair of sweatpants and t-shirts for slobbing/recovering in my hotel room in the evening. I try to avoid to much after-hours socialising with client, as it ruins me for the following day. And I treat work clothes like a uniform, even though my job doesn’t require me to wear a suit (90% of the time).

When it comes to toiletries, I’m a lot more efficient. I collect miniatures whenever I can and bring these in my luggage rather than their full size equivalents. This saves space for more clothes in my bag and keeps everything lighter. Muji do an excellent range of miniature containers for everything from moisturiser to shaving gel, at super-reasonable prices.

I really try to stay in hotels with gyms, especially when traveling for work. Exercise keeps me sane and helps me sleep – and if there’s a spa attached, all the better. Sauna time! So into my case go t-shirts and shorts for the gym, trainers, earbuds (sweat-proof!), flip-flops in case of access to a spa and contact lenses so I can see what I’m doing when I’m there. (Super important too avoid bumping into things/people when naked. That much is obvious).

I also bring a sealable freezer bag (bear with me!) for putting dirty gym gear into. There’s nothing worse than opening a suitcase at home after 24hrs of travel to be greeted by your gym gear standing to attention. Putting rank, damp t-shirts and shorts into a sealable bag prevents the gross from spreading to your other clothes and belongings.

What I leave behind

You’re probably thinking by now that I bring everything with me. You’re almost right.

But experience has taught me that paper is dead weight. I try to avoid bringing books, magazine or any other kind of paper. Documents for work will be on my iPad and paper-based entertainment just adds to the weight. That’s what the Kindle and iPad are for!

I don’t bring a travel pillow or blanket or anything even closely approaching furniture from home. I keep seeing people bring on these neck supports they’ve obviously just bought in the airport, but they just don’t work. I’m convinced they contribute to neck pain rather than prevent it. They’re also bulky as hell.

I’ve also realised that I over-estimate how many pairs of shoes I’ll need. The pic at the top of this post was taken when packing for our trip to Korea and Japan last year – just look at how many pairs of trainers I was going to bring?! Now I grab what I want to bring and then force myself to put half of them back in my wardrobe.

Travel Nirvana

For me, knowing I’m leaving home with everything on my list puts my mind at rest. And let’s face it, travel can be challenging enough without forgetting something important. Of course, you don’t need Evernote – a simple scrap of paper will do.

But I’ve found building a comprehensive list in an app is more efficient and it also acts as the prompt I need when packing, as my memory is so appalling.

Packing list aside, these keep me sane on longer journeys:

  • Using Kayak to keep all my travel reservations information in one place
  • A sealable bag for sweaty gym gear
  • Miniatures for toiletries to save space
  • Comfortable clothes to sleep in on-board
  • Leave the paper at home!
  • Noise-cancelling earphones for peace and quiet

What are your top travel tips? Or must-have items in your suitcase?



5 comments on “Packing for success: a frequent flyer writes…

  1. ethnicolor

    Great article with some useful tips sir. All those running shoes! Surely you need another case just for them?


  2. Greta post, I always bring moisturizer and sunscreen when travel to Asia, hot… lol


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