The time has come. I move out of my flat next Tuesday, and so from now onwards begins the time-consuming struggle of packing up. I also have to pack my suitcase for my Contiki at the same time, which sounds easy enough, right? Spoiler alert: IT’S NOT.
Where do I begin…
What do I take? What do I leave out? What do I need to take that I don’t think I’ll need at first but then may need later on? How do I survive jet lag? Where’s the best spot for me to sit on the plane? How many books am I allowed to take with me (this is a big one for me!) Do I need a travel pillow? How many dresses and pairs of shoes can I fit in my suitcase and yet still have room for normal clothes? Do I need to do what Kath does from Kath & Kim and develop a weird obsession with vac-packing my smalls? And so on. And thus forth.
Arrrggghhhh what have I got myself into??
Fotunately, before I could get into a rage and kick my suitcase across the room from the sheer frustration of it all, I was able to ask a few relatives and friends for their advice, which was all extremely helpful. So I’ve put together a little ‘how to’ guide in case it may help anyone further down the track. Need help? Look no further than Bindy’s How-To Guide on…
Packing A Suitcase For Long-Haul Trips (And Other Stuff):
Stick to the bare minimum, if you can. I’m arriving into England as winter is going into spring, so at least 80% of my suitcase is made up of long sleeved tops and other winter woolies. (I still need to buy more trousers – Savemart, here I come). Pack only what you think you need; they do have shops over there and you can always buy more things. Stuff socks inside your shoes as well.
Don’t fold; roll. This sounds like a tutorial on how to make sausage rolls and other delicious savoury nibbles, but I’m actually referring to your clothes. I read this hack in Cosmopolitan as I was packing and it’s SOOO USEFUL. Instead of folding, roll your clothes up to compact them, it saves so much space in your suitcase that you can use for other things like toiletries, shoes, makeup, books, diaries (I currently have two stashed away) etc. This hack works wonders.
These boots are made for walking: How many pairs of shoes do I take? The answer is: three. A comfy pair to wear on the plane and on days where you’ll do lots of walking, a nice pair to wear to a special event (I’m going to a friend’s wedding blessing in London in April) and a fashionable pair that you can wear in town occasionally but also walk round in. Sneakers, one pair of heels, and ankle boots. Oh, and don’t forget jandals to wear in the shower if you’re staying in a hostel; let’s count that as half a pair.
Use scales to check the weight of your suitcase. Always good to make sure your bag doesn’t exceed the luggage limit, especially before you get to the airport!
Have a separate folder for all travel documents: Plane tickets, passport, itinerary and anything else should ideally be kept in a secure bag to have on you at all times when travelling round. Clear plastic folders are ideal.
Where to sit on the plane: This bit of advice came from my aunty, and she’s done her fair share of travelling on planes. Sit at the back, if you can. There’s generally more leg room and you’re a lot more likely to survive a plane crash. Are you an aisle person or a window person? If you’re an aisle person, it’s easy to get to the toilet, but you do have to put up with people climbing over you and trolleys and carry-on luggage bumping into you. But if you’re a window person (like me!) yes, you do have to awkwardly clamber over people to get to the bathrooms muttering “sorrysorrysorry”, you have your own little corner to curl up in, and an awesome view to look at from out the window. It also helps to book your seat early if you want a good one!
Other UK-based travel tips and tricks that I learned that will (fingers crossed) not make me look or feel like a typical moronic tourist:
Buy your Oystercard as though you’re a local. Oystercards are essential for public transport around London, so as soon as I get off my plane at Heathrow, downstairs I go to buy myself one of these. If I have to fake an accent to pretend that I’m a confident local, so be it.
The Tube: Make sure you’re going the right way. And that you sit on your suitcase and keep your backpack at your front to ward off pickpockets. And IT’S ALWAYS BUSY. ALWAYS.
Cheap stuff can be found at: Primark, if you’re looking for cheap clothes. Lidl and Aldi, if you’re looking for discount supermarkets, which I will certainly be. I may have to live off pasta and cheap vegetables for a few weeks until I can start paying my way, but there’s nothing wrong with that, right?
Supermarket shopping: If you’re staying in a hostel for two weeks in London like I am, only buy food that you really need. Which is going to be so tricky. I know the feels, people.
Look out for local coffee shops that serve bacon butties. There are some great cafes that do a decent amount of food for very cheap. I don’t know what they’re called, but from what I’ve heard, they’re great.
How to survive jet lag: Stay up as late as you can and don’t go to bed til at least 8 or 9pm. Go for walks outside, don’t drink any alcohol and set your alarm for the next morning. My flight gets in round 11am at Heathrow, so unless I sleep en route from Dubai to England, I am going to be WRECKED.
Have spare change for the toilets. In some places over there, get this…YOU HAVE TO PAY TO USE THE TOILET. WHAAAT?? I don’t understand this, either. So if you need to go, make sure you have some coinage cause there’s nothing worse than if you’re busting and have none.
Always carry emergency money with you in your shoe. My Granny (Dad’s mum) told him and he told me this tip in case something happens and you’re stranded somewhere and need to call a taxi or something. Put £50 inside your shoe (or bra, for us ladies) because you never know what may happen.
Those are my tips. If you have any of your own that you think would come in handy (or have used before) then please let me know, I’d love to hear them! By the time you see another post from me, I’ll probably be in another country altogether, and then the fun can really begin…
Love from Bindy xx