Luggage Hacks for Long Distance Travellers

8 Jul

The Holy Grail for female frequent flyers is achieving the minimum of baggage with the maximum versatility.

It’s the light traveller’s equivalent of Erica Jong’s ‘Zipless fu€k’, tantalising but virtually impossible to pull off. I tried and failed for forty years, although there was one notable six week business trip to South America I pulled off with just carry on. On this point I concede I may border on OCD but I know I am not alone.

I don’t want to jinx myself but I believe I may have nailed it this time.

My next trip is two months in Northern Europe during mid-summer so I’m already bouyed that I don’t have to carry ski gear and or flamenco shoes. We are however hiking, biking and sea kayaking as far north as Tromso (Norway), as well as attending our youngest son’s wedding in Cambridgeshire. Time in some cities is tight and we’ll be using left luggage a couple of times. Clothing therefore needs to run the gamut from super active to ultra formal and still fit in a small, soft case.

Transport conveying us from Australia to the UK, and on to Russia, Finland, Norway and Estonia includes everything from no frills airlines to trains and long distance ferries. Quel problem du monde premiere!

For those of you looking to lighten up consider these ten tricks I’ll employ: 

1. My new luggage is a Kathmandu wheeled pack made of a rugged fabric (see snap below). It meets the standard cabin baggage size of 55cmx40cmx40cm. The packed bag weighs 10kg. This pacifies that most persnickety of airlines, Ryanair. Ryanair now also allow another small bag measuring 35cmx20cmx20cm to be carried on board so a conforming backpack contains my daily needs, and includes a small handbag. 

2. To ensure my travel wardrobe coordinates well I laid everything I thought I needed out on a spare bed. As I looked things over I could see I had too much so I invoked the rule of two, no more than two of the same or similar items (except knickers for which the magic number is five). Then I checked that those two items were different colours/patterns that work colourwise with everything else. That got rid of several more items but I still left me with seven, smart coordinated outfits.

3. A piece I bought on my last trip, an above knee, black A-line leather-look plastic skirt has proven to be a useful item dressed up with tights or dressed down with sandals. Along with a new black sleeveless jumpsuit and a pair of smart black linen shorts those three staples will take me from the beach to the opera.

4. My travel gear on flights is stretch jeans with hiking boots and I’ll wear or carry my one smart green velvet jacket. Wearing boots keeps the bulk down and encourages me to walk more in transit. I slip a pair of tiny black patent ‘jiffy’ style flats into my carry on back pack so I can kick off boots on a long haul flight and not step in unmentionables in the loo. (Raises the eternal question of why men can’t aim straight….).

5. My other shoes are a pair of tan brogues with cutouts so they look summerish and work fine with skirts and trousers, plus new pair of red patent Birkenstocks. You can’t beat the best in walking sandals. I’m looking forward to putting a few kilometres on them at The Peterhof Palace in Moscow.

6. My cold weather jacket is Canadian brand Arcteryx – they know cold in Canadia! I bought it for spring skiing on our recent trip to the Dolomites because it is incredibly warm but packs down to the size of your fist.

7. I also bought a black versalette online. It’s a piece of clothing that functions as a shirt, skirt, dress or jacket. With a couple of contrasting belts I can create a multitude of outfits. Go see it in action in the video at

8. I have chosen the thinnest of layers and natural fibres such as cotton, bamboo and wool that don’t need ironing. These are easy to hand wash and dry in hotel rooms. Even my cotton tshirts are so thin they dry overnight.

9. Long sleeved tops have to work both as active wear and casual wear. Kathmandu and Columbia have quick dry, sun proof shirts. I’m taking one in black and one in white.

10. But what about the wedding attire you ask? Aah, well here I must confess to cheating just a little. The dress and clutch purse I’ve borrowed from my super stylish sister, Donna, is carefully wrapped in tissue paper along with a new pair of high heeled sandals (and plastic heel guards to stop me sinking into the lawn) in a shoe box. My dearly beloved will carry that, along with the exquisite small hat Donna has loaned me. The hat is protected in a clip-closed plastic container I bought in the supermarket. So much better than a hat box! As the wedding is early on in the trip I can leave these two items with English friends we’ll see again at the end of the trip. Thus Stuart only needs to schlepp them over and back on the long haul flights. I thought about posting the clothes to and from but as I don’t own them I couldn’t bear the risk of them being lost. 

Stuart laughs at me treating packing like a precise science but I regard is as a point of honour to be appropriately dressed when travelling. I brook no excuse for sloppy, boring or mismatched outfits. Similarly I scorn flip flop wearers traipsing through terminals with their boots dangling off a backpack. It never fails to give me great pleasure to be able to handle my own baggage easily as we navigate train station stairs, neverending airport terminals and the over officious baggage gestapo at check in.

Sacrifices have been made though. No yoga mat or pillow this time, however I have my leggings and my silk pillow case (no hair tangles, less wrinkling and feels familiar when all else in the sleeping environment is different). 

I realise I haven’t touched on toiletries or cosmetics, critical items for the well-groomed woman, but as they deserve their own post I’ll leave them to another time. 

 Be hard to leave this but the feet are getting itchy….

6 Responses to “ Luggage Hacks for Long Distance Travellers”

  1. Michelle July 8, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    Great advice from the nomadic traveller. My golden rule is lay everything on the bed (or spare room if one is available) and then take 1/3rd of it away – cos you’ll never wear it…and it leaves space in the luggage for souvenirs along the way!
    Have a great trip. We went to Tromso in November 2004 (very cold and not many daylight hours) …For you there will be practically no darkness!
    And hello from us to the happy couple in Cambridge.
    Best wishes from a very hot Venosc (32C in the shade; 42C in the sun for 2 weeks now!).
    Michelle and Bryan.xx

    • Sharon Tickle July 8, 2015 at 9:42 am #

      You are spot on with your strategy Michelle. I will pass on your best wishes to Tris and Jen and be sure to post a proud Mum’s happy snap after the ceremonny. They have just bought their first home together – in Edinburgh – so no ski money at the moment…. Sxx

  2. heather July 8, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    brilliant planning Sharon and less weight means less strains. best wishes to Tristan and Jenny from both of us. Time to see us before you go?
    George and Heather

    • Sharon Tickle July 10, 2015 at 4:00 am #

      Thanks Heather and George. Any chance you can come down our way for an overnight? Will give you a call when we are in good mobile coverage. Sxx

  3. Laurel Bright July 9, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

    Love this post! I too have invested a serious amount of time and money searching for the ultimate luggage … Especially for a hot Italian summer when travelling on trains that involve a myriad of platform changes with a total absence of lifts. Great suggestions! Really need help with cosmetics, skincare, medicines + technological charges, hard drives etc …I have 7 kilos this trip ! Ugh ! Lb


    • Sharon Tickle July 10, 2015 at 3:58 am #

      Ok, I’ll get cracking on the follow up Laurel! Sxx

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