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How to Pack (Fast) for a Holiday when Flying

Tips and Tricks to Pack for a Holiday

Tips and Tricks to Pack (fast) for Holiday when flying

Christmas is coming, and I am packing. Again!

I am Italian, and I live in the UK. I have travelled for over 10 years back and forth from Great Britain to Italy and I have packed an immeasurable number of bags and rucksacks, in one country or another.

Over the years I have forgotten important documents, presents or just that pair of jeans I love the most. Every time it made me very sad.

Don’t laugh about my jeans! In Italy fashion is important; you can re-buy presents, copy documents but that pair of jeans bought in Camden Town… what can you do about that? Nothing!

To prevent these setbacks, I have invented an easy and stress-free way to pack and check the content of my bags, it relies on lists!

Before Packing List

This is the list I write before even touching my bags. It is very important that you start this list 3 or 4 days before the departure.

#1 - Start making 2 sub-checklists:

EVERYDAY LIST with things you will use everyday

IMPORTANT FOR THE TRIP LIST - is there a reason you are travelling? if you are going to a birthday celebration, you may want to bring the presents! This list will remind you of these kinds of things.

#2 - Divide THE EVERYDAY LIST into:


What do you need in the morning? Make-up? That special toothbrush? Any kind of medication? Write them down and repeat for afternoon and evening, and please - DO NOT FORGET PYJAMAS, trust me, it doesn’t seem indispensable as it is but, if you are staying at your friends or at your partner’s house, you may want to feel free to go to the bathroom in the night without playing spy games.

The Before Packing List contains things that are essential for your daily life and most of the time can’t be replaced or easily bought in the place you are visiting.

It can be re-used repeatedly with only a fast check for small changes or additions.

Before Packing Not Necessary but Useful to Have List

This is the list of things you would love to have but if you forget at home it is not the end of the world.

  • Extra change of clothes. Like the third dress
  • Extra pair of shoes
  • Things you know you can find or buy in the place you are visiting and that are cheap – think about shower gel, shampoo

Choose the Luggage Wisely

After you completed your lists, give yourself a night or a day to choose your luggage. Think about how long you are staying and where you are going.

30% of the things you bring on holiday will remain inside your bag, not used or worn. It is a fact!

Then ask yourself if you are anxious. Are you?

If the answer is yes, then buy/take/use a big bag and pay for bringing it with you without quibble, it is not important how you are travelling, you will not enjoy your holiday if you think about something you may need. Another fact!

If you are a backpacker then consider your options - if you are flying low cost, companies now allow you a 10kg bag plus a small one. Use them all, maybe you will decide to change your destination last minute, or extend your trip and a pair of socks could always be useful and not too heavy to carry around.

Pack Your Bag

It is time to start the most painful task of the whole process: packing itself. It is like a TETRIS game - do you like it? Maybe you will enjoy packing your bag a little bit. If not, you will only feel the pain for 30 minutes.

Start with the Before packing list and go on with the Before packing not necessary but useful to have and so on.

Simple? Not quite.

The bag will always look too small. I have a method for this phase that saves me a lot of time in organising things inside my bag.

Let’s be clear, I usually fly abroad with a 10kg handbag and a small bag or rucksack. if you do the same, then you will find this part useful.

Inside Your Rucksack/Small Bag

There are a few things that must be packed inside the bag that will always be with you:

  1. Keep your medication in your rucksack or small bag. It will always be with you even if the carrier requires you to move your handbag somewhere else for space.
  2. With your medicines include your phone and a charger, especially if your trip is long, modern smartphones die within a few hours and if you need it to check any kind of information at your arrival, you will be doomed! At last even consider an energy bank, so you can freely use your phone while you are traveling or waiting for connections to play games, watch videos and listen to music.
  3. Collect anything that you must show to the security staff and put all of it together inside your rucksack. It makes it easier to pass security control and to remember to take everything back afterwards.
  4. Food. Buy your lunch/dinner/comfort-food before arriving at the airport. Eating at the airport or buying things on the plane is three times more expensive and usually it tastes awful. Keep your food inside your rucksack (except liquids of course!).
  5. If you are carrying something special that you are scared you would lose with your other bags, find a space in you your rucksack, especially in any inside pockets. It will be safe and always with you.

In the Main Handbag

Everything else that is on your lists go inside the main handbag. You don’t know if the airline company will require for you to check it in or pay a small priority fee to have it with you – now Ryanair does it, so the most important rule is simple, if you think you will need anything, have it with you in your rucksack… - that I remind you - is not huge.

Fill the luggage and close it. If you can zip it, check for the right weight - usually 10 kilos but it depends upon the carrier.

If it doesn’t close or it is too heavy, take the “Not Necessary but Useful to have List” and select a few things you know at the bottom of your heart you will not need – I know it is painful!

Close it again and check until size and weight are right.

Final Checks

Now you have the right size and the right weight, but your work hasn’t finished yet.

Retake all the lists you wrote and check everything you packed. Before leaving to the airport, check the lists a second time, maybe you forgot something or maybe no, you don’t want to discover that when you cannot do anything about it.

Jolly Things!

If the weight is lighter than allowed and your bag is not exploding… you have even packed your Not Necessary but Useful to have List, have a look around and fill the empty spaces… add small random presents to give people who hasn’t seen you in a while (magnets… they always work! But don’t buy them in the airport, like the food, they will cost you a small fortune).

In Italy, these spaces will be filled with tuna cans. You can ask any Italian boy or girl back from holiday, it is still a mystery unsolved: Italian mums think that abroad you will never find tuna, even in Norway, and when you are not watching, they will act in silence! 😳

Are you ready to leave?

Enjoy your holiday and let me know if you have any other advice or useful lists to add.

It is always good to share the whole experience.

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