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Leave the sink at home...


The black cloud of the travelling experience has just descended upon you. And it isn't having to wait four hours for the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland. It is packing. We're talking casing the case, packing the pack, bagging the bag.

All good advice-givers say "Pack everything you want, then halve it". Well I can't halve and I can't pack and I only realise this when I get home and realise that I wore two T-shirts the whole time I was away (as is evident in my photos) and never ever wore the just-in-case-I-go-out shoes.

But I'm improving. The key is knowing how to pack to get the most out of everything you take.

Rolling your clothing can help minimise creases and help you pack everything to maximise limited space. Clear waterproof, snaplock bags are a necessity, as are "travel-sized" packs of toiletries (these often weigh the most and take up valuable room).

The Universal Packing List is the most comprehensive packing list I have ever come across. The creator has left nothing out whatsoever and has provided some reminders of what to do before you leave.

This list works no matter how you prefer to travel. From the five-star Negresco in Nice to a grungy hostel in Germany - we all need clean socks!

There are some travellers who adopt the "pack everything in your carry on luggage" approach, which basically means living out of one bag for the trip.

I don't think I could ever use one bag, but using this as a guide may help you minimise all the clothing, accessories and toiletries that you most probably don't need.

It's important to bear in mind your "image" when you are packing. Trying to look as much like a local as possible is a great way of avoiding unwanted attention from people who might see you as an easy target for pickpocketing or mugging.

As great as bum bags are, they scream "tourist", so carrying your passport and documents in a neck or body wallet is a much better idea.

Female travellers should even consider using a secure handbag (one with zips that can be held close to the body) instead of backpacks and other bags.

When packing, also try to choose clothing that will suit the areas you are visiting. For example, when in France, instead of the "I saw the Eiffel Tower" T-shirt, think of what locals would be wearing. It will make things a lot easier for you.

Don't forget things from home. If you are going away for a long time, some photos of loved ones and a good address and phone list makes things easier if you're prone to homesickness.

One tip is to print address labels before you go. It's a lot easier than squeezing the address on your postcards and making it hard for the postie to understand. Printable photo stickers are also fun way to remind people of how you look! An address sheet with check boxes also allows you to keep tabs on who you sent postcards to and allows you to "spread the load" evenly!

The Society of American Travel polled its members of the top 10 things to pack and here is what they came up with.

1. Comfortable walking shoes
2. Photocopy of your passport (as well as the original)
3. Sealable plastic bags
4. Medication for diarrhoea
5. Photocopy of any prescriptions (including glasses)
6. Swiss Army Knife
7. Flashlight
8. Extra batteries for flashlight and camera
9.Address book
10. Photocopy of any credit cards you will be taking

If you are taking medication, ensure that it is fully prescribed for the time you are away and have a letter from your doctor stating all the medication you are carrying.

Oh and don't forget, lots of money! A good mix of travellers' cheques, some cash and credit cards works well. Even keeping a spare, low-limit credit card, in separate baggage, is a good trick if you lose your documents. It is just one extra precaution that can make a bad situation a bit easier to deal with.

Happy Travelling!

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