Hi, I’m Abigail, foodie, wife and restaurant owner in that order. My husband and I like to travel a lot.
Sometimes we would just get on our trusty Rover and go on a road trip. We eat along the way and discover many inspirations for our restaurant menu.
Other times, we splurge and get on an airplane. We have been to many places in Asia and Europe, and they are all beautiful, and the food simply amazing.
Preparing for the trip is part of the fun, but packing an efficient suitcase can be a challenge.
Over the years, we have developed our own kind of system in doing it, and as we share it with you, I hope it gives you the travel itch as well.
The FIVE ESSENTIALS when travelling
These are very basic information, but it cuts down to make it short and simple for you.
Here is what you SHOULD have in your luggage:
- Do advance research on the weather of your destination. In Asia, it was so hot that wearing rubber slippers gave me blisters. I have learned since then to use comfortable slip-on sneakers.
- When in doubt, don’t pack the thick clothes, but do layering. It means you bring a light jacket and perhaps a big shawl you can use both for cold and hot weathers.
- Plan your clothes ahead, like what to wear on each day so you can mix and match. Also, you can plan for items that can be re-used, like a pair of jeans.
- It is safe to bring at least one item that is rather dressy, like a little black dress for me, or a button-down shirt for James. You never know, we might get a royal invitation of sorts.
- I always bring two pairs. One, very casual but very comfortable, like a pair of Keds. And another, a bit dressier (to match my little black dress, just in case) like black ballet flats.
- I don’t bother with slippers, but use the ones in the hotel instead.
- I trust toiletries in the hotel. If I trust them with my safety and security while I sleep, might as well trust their shampoo and soap. However, as I have learned from experience, sometimes we end up in hotels that may not have amenities we thought would be there so in preparation, I always pack my own toiletries.
- As airlines are now very strict about liquids, its quantity and packing, I have small bottles from hotels in previous travels. I refill these with my own shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap. I put in food bags and vacuum seal them using my favorite kitchen helper, my vacuum sealing machine. If I am lucky, I never get the need to break the vacuum seal.
- For lotions and facial cream, which I am very particular about as I tend to be allergic to other brands, I also put them in very small containers. I also bring my own toothbrush and toothpaste, but because I am stingy and practical, I still get the freebies from the hotels.
- First, I bring my usual medicines, like the maintenance meds. I count how many I need, and add another week’s supply just in case I get stranded somewhere.
- Then there are also the emergency medicines like for allergies, fever, headaches, upset stomach, and even adhesive bandages.
- I pack these separately, bringing at least three for each kind, and I vacuum seal them in plastic bags.
Copies of documents
- I always put in my carry-on my passport, print-outs of accommodations and flights. However, to be sure, I also have a see-through envelope in my luggage containing copies of these documents, plus photocopies of our ID’s and credit cards.
- When we get to hotels, I leave this inside the safety deposit box just to be sure.
How to pack
You got everything you will be bringing laid out on top of your bed ready to be packed. In the process of packing, we have to think about:
- The physical size of our luggage;
- Weight capacity allowed by airlines;
- The condition of the contents when it gets to destination.
James and I have lightweight luggage we like to use a lot. It is not made of hard-shell as this material adds at least 2 kilos into your weight. We have luggage that has an expandable zip on the sides.
Here are some tips on HOW TO PACK LUGGAGE:
Roll clothes to avoid creasing them
Although in case you do, you can steam-iron them by turning the hot shower on. Make sure you don’t get your clothes wet; hang them on the shower curtain rod to be near the steam.
Maximize space by putting small items like socks or hankies inside shoes. For James, I put his belt in his shoes.
Vacuum seal your clothes
How can you fit 2 weeks’ worth of clothes inside your luggage?
The trick is to vacuum seal it by using my best Foodsaver vacuum sealer with built-in handheld sealer.
If you think that is only done for liquid toiletries to avoid spilling, you would love to know I vacuum seal my clothes, too, so it shrinks and magically fits my luggage.
For smaller pieces of clothing, like underwear, I vacuum seal them together.
Then I vacuum seal per outfit already matched together.
Seriously! Like one bag will have a pair of khaki shorts and pink shirt in there.
Then I label it day 1, and so on.
Believe me, when I wake up wondering what time zone I am in, I don’t want to think about coordinating my outfit.
COMPRESSION BAGS vs. PACKING CUBES – My favorite accessories
- When I start the trip with vacuum sealed clothes, I bring compression bags for the trip home. A compression bag has a valve on one side, which lets out air, but not in. You will literally watch your clothes shrink before your eyes.
- To use, I put clothes flat inside the bag, put these on the floor, zip-lock the top of the bag, then roll the bag to squeeze out the air.
- Packing cubes are my more recent discovery, and I have used it, too.
- These are cube-shaped fabric containers, usually sold as a set of varied sizes.
- It does not shrink your clothing. It merely contains your rolled items, packed tightly together in a cube.
- What it does best is organize your clothes so you can put together in the bigger cube the shirts, the medium cube the underwear, and the small cube for gadgets or toiletries.
- When travelling as a family or group, you can color-code each owner for convenience.
However, since my travel issue is luggage space, and not organizing my luggage, I always choose to vacuum-seal my stuff, and use compression bags.
Whether we are on a bus, in a car or on an airplane, I always have a purse beside me, big enough to fit these items inside because you have to be ready if you lose your luggage or is delayed in another flight.
I always have a clean shirt and underwear in there. Once during a flight, I spilled drinks on myself, so that shirt saved my day.
Not only because I am a foodie, but because I am capable of hurting somebody when I’m hungry.
Once during a group tour, our bus broke down, and I feasted on my crackers during the 1-hour delay in the middle of nowhere.
I always have a small bottle of water, candies and crackers.
Overseas, I may not find my preferred brand of medicine so aside from having my own stash inside my luggage, I have in my carry-on at least two days’ worth of maintenance medicine, and one each for emergency med.
I want to be able to leave when I need to so I always have with me my passport, airline tickets and other travel documents.
I know I risk losing it to a thief, but I’d rather risk that than be stranded in a strange place when I badly need to leave it. And yes, I have watched enough war movies.
LAST FEW TIPS
Always check your luggage weight
- Vacuum sealing your clothes will NOT lessen its weight, but only compress the items inside your luggage.
- Therefore, always weigh your bag and make sure it is within the limit you are allowed. It is very expensive to pay for excess baggage.
- When travelling abroad, I use two sizes of bags. If I can, I check in both, but if the weight is over, I bring the smaller one as hand-carry.
- Just be aware of the weight and size restrictions of your airlines, especially those for international flights.
Label your luggage discreetly
- When in the airport waiting in the luggage carousel, you will find a million black bags. So you try pink, and realize 1,000 people had the same idea as yours.
- So James and I tie on each bag matching colorful ribbons to distinguish ours from the rest of the world.
- As we have had experience of luggage left by the airplane, we have also taken to putting name tags on our bags.
- However, as we also do not want to invite criminals, these are discreet labels which only bear our initials and then a contact number.
And now, you are ready to take travelling to new heights. Enjoy!