The trouble with packing ...
I bought a collapsible plastic cup in a favourite bits-and-pieces charity shop in England recently – and it set me thinking about packing.
I must assume that the plastic cup’s main function was to be easily stored in a picnic-basket, as was the all-in-one knife, fork and spoon set, purchased at the same time.
Both items were from that wonderful period of creativity in the early 1960s, when the Beatles reigned and the boys all had long hair.
Packing sometimes feels like the bane of my existence – in fact most travellers, and that includes most readers of this magazine, dislike this first and last chore of every journey.
My husband told me a few years ago that he had solved the major part of the packing problem with a washable suit from Sweden. “I can stuff it into my briefcase. It is un-crushable and I can wash it every evening before going to bed. It dries very quickly and the creases in the trousers reappear”, he claimed. Needless to say, the new suit lasted one trip only and we were soon back to the usual number of suitcases. In fact, the wonder-suit never really caught on, though I believe it is still being sold.
As a frequent traveller, I am amazed at all the restrictions that seem to govern our packing and journeys because of luggage. During this last festive season, I flew from Dubai to Denmark via Gatwick and then to Dublin, from there to Manchester on Boxing Day (We could not fly on Christmas Day, as the Irish had closed down their airport for the day) and on by car to the South of England.
That wonderful, euphoric feeling of taking a trip for me is always tempered by the foreboding of having to pack the bags and somehow fit in all the gear we seem to be taking with us.
Travelling has now become a luggage of problems in Europe, where most airlines seem to offer only economy class. So we leave a flight from Dubai with a minimum of 30 kilos of baggage each (check-in staff at Dubai International Airport are always very patient and generous with a few kilos of excess baggage) to change at Gatwick to a recently scheduled carrier which measures the weight of the suitcases, as if a gramme or two would prevent the aircraft from taking off. Same procedure in Denmark and Ireland. Fortunately my better half being airline-savvy, had bought some weird, pay-in-advance excess baggage tokens called an MCO, which were used on all three occasions.
Packing the suitcases with our stuff and Christmas presents was the trigger for my bad temper. What to take? Over the years, despite my dislike for the chore, I believe I have been quite good at finding places in suitcases for the myriad items we seem to take with us on a trip.
What’s the best method? Most travellers have their own system that they adhere to. I always begin with shoes, belts, socks, underwear, night gear, trousers, jackets, suits, shirts, blouses and dresses – in between, jewellery box, camera, filofax or papers necessary at the destination.
Last of all I pack the toilet bags. They do not go in the suitcases, just in case the baggage does not arrive with us or one of the bottles springs a leak, which happened once and ruined a suit for my husband.
I always carry a bag on board containing a spare shirt, blouse, sweaters, book and extra pair of slacks for me and a pair of trousers for my husband and my favourite mineral water, as no airline seems to carry my special tipple.
As the years have gone by, we have become less adept at heaving the suitcases into airports and therefore it is always brilliant to set off in Dubai, where porters galore, some free of charge and some paid for, gather to grab the luggage directly from the car.
At the other end of the journey, having found someone (often my husband) to lift the suitcases from the conveyor belt and having picked up the only trolley in the baggage hall with a wonky wheel, we eventually arrive at the hotel.
Now the fun and games are only just beginning. Sometimes we are extremely lucky and are upgraded to an executive room, with plenty of space to store the bags. But other times we are again shown the glaring difference between spacious Dubai and crowded hotel rooms in Europe, as the hotel staff balance one suitcase on top of another in a corner of the room laughingly called the baggage space.
Then I have to unpack. My husband always seems to find an excuse to visit the Business Centre of the hotel to send e-mails, while I am wrestling with hanging shirts, suits and blouses etc on the always inadequate number of clothes hangers.
At the end of the trip, packing is no easier. Time restrictions usually make it impossible to send get clothes laundered, and plastic bags full of dirty clothes occupy half the bathroom. Now these have to be packed too. My husband makes himself useful here by sitting on the suitcase to weigh the lid down. We often have to buy extra bags. After all what is the use of visiting London without a little retail therapy on Oxford Street or in Convent Garden? Inevitably this means acquiring another holdall – I have a cupboard with about half a dozen similar bags in the house in Dubai.
I am now hunting for a quick-dry suit, which I can jam into that Aussie holdall, thus evading the majority of the packing problems. Another solution, of course, would be to cut down on the travelling… who am I kidding?
Speaking Out Jonna Simon