I recently had the good fortune to spend a month travelling with my husband and teenage daughters, visiting Japan, France, England, The Netherlands and United Arab Emirates. We decided to take backpacks rather than suitcases, figuring they would make it easier to use public transport, which we prefer for the genuinely local experience it provides. Happily, this proved to be the case: our little Turtle Family trotted happily up and down the stairs of the Metro and the Underground, easily overtaking the poor suckers with their hefty suitcases. They also proved to be a bonus when accessing our fifth-floor walk-up in Paris, and third-floor loft in Amsterdam.
However it did mean we had to be very disciplined in our packing. In the end we proved that we could travel comfortably with comparatively little; the individual luggage limit on our flights was generally 30kg, while the weight of our four backpacks combined was just 40kg. And yet we had everything we needed, even though we had to pack for a range of climates (from Dubai's 42 degree days to London's 12 degree summer evenings) and a range of activities, from sight-seeing in stylish Paris to walking in the Cotswolds and cycling in Amsterdam.
Prior to our trip I enjoyed reading other people's advice on travel packing, so I thought I'd throw my own ideas into the mix. If the mark of good packing is that you have everything you need and use everything you take, I did pretty well. Here's what I packed:
Needless to say, all the shoes were comfortable enough to walk around in all day. No matter how gorgeous your shoes look, you will soon regard them with loathing if they cause blisters or aching feet. Travelling with our kids, we weren't going to be heading off to nightclubs, so I didn't feel the need for high heels. My black flats looked smart enough to take me to any restaurant.
And that’s it. I had something to wear for every setting and climate, and enough variety to ensure I wasn't sick of the sight of my clothes by the end of the month. In every European town we visited I was stopped and asked for directions, so I must have blended in with the locals pretty well (and for someone who is sartorially-challenged, that felt like a win in Paris, I can tell you!)
In hindsight, the only thing that I would have added was a lightweight spray jacket or poncho that could have been shoved into my handbag if it looked like rain – the trench was just a bit too bulky and crushable for that. In the end I bought a small umbrella, which did the job pretty well. However, I have a Paqme raincoat on my wishlist for future trips.
My other travel essentials are a sarong*, eyemask and earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones, my e-reader, clip-on reading light, a puzzle book, a book of WH Auden's poetry and low expectations. What would you never leave home without?
* In praise of sarongs
I never, ever travel without a sarong. My favourite is black with a geometric white pattern, making it both a bit funky and a bit elegant. I have used it as:
It never fails to amaze me, just how useful a large piece of fabric can be!