Pack it up, pack it in

Are indecision and outsized suitcases causing you a world of pain? Four seasoned travellers share their packing tips


Marguerite MacCurtain, originally from Inishbofin, now living between Dublin and London is a peripatetic writer and broadcaster. She has been all over the world, from Venice to Mount Kailash in Tibet, from Antarctica to Columbia and now plans to write a book on her travels of the past 25 years.

“What I have learnt more than anything else is to go with an open mind,” she says.

But what does she put in her suitcase? Her primary advice is to pack for your destination.

“I couldn’t live without tea bags and suntan lotion. I pack lightly and use scarves, shawls and sarongs – which are the best accessories in the world – comfortable walking shoes, a sunhat and sun lotion.

“Thanks to Michael O’Leary I have learnt not to take luggage; he has been my inspiration. The trick is to buy a canvas bag that weighs nothing – I drag it – and fill it with walking shoes, flip flops, socks, a pair of jeans, a sweater, a foldable hat, occasionally a hot water bottle – and that’s it. My only treat is a little radio along with pen and notebooks.”

Versatile recent buys are two tops from Bolongaro Trevor, a new London label by the founders of All Saints. They go with everything, from jeans to long skirts at night.

“For Europe, I would take one long lightweight dress, a long skirt, a couple of T-shirts and clothes that can be washed and hung up to dry, costume jewellery – gaudy baubles rather than good stuff – and a watch.”
‘ I fold everything
very carefully’
A commercial attaché at the French embassy in Dublin, Vilma Hunt (left)

works with the trade section, helping French companies export products to Ireland. This work involves regular trips to Paris and other regions of France.

She also loves travelling with her husband for weekends, either here or abroad; recent trips have included Geneva, Seville and the south of France. Her in-laws live in Kinsale and her parents in Chamonix, “so we have two lovely destinations for weekends”, she says.

“Now I write down everything and create each outfit that way, so I don’t need to pack as much. This is my technique and it works.

“What I bring depends on which company I am flying with – I travel with Air France for work and with them you don’t have to pay for extra luggage.”

She tends to have clothes that don’t need ironing and likes wearing dresses with high heels.

For travelling, she usually wears leggings with a loose top or shirt and always with a scarf – and high heels.

“I have a small Samsonite for carry-on luggage and a bigger one for check-in.”

For business meetings “I will have my outfit for the day and for networking and wear something that will work from day to evening, something elegant”.

“I always bring cosmetics and, being French, I love my perfume. I also think well-tailored jackets are important. I have a few in different shapes and colours so that you can change the look of an outfit with them completely.”

Her typical working suitcase will contain the following for a week: two to three jackets (including a leather one for travelling), two to three pairs of shoes (including the ones she wears), fresh outfits for each day, two spares for evening, a black cashmere cardigan, earrings and other jewellery.

“I have bags for my shoes. I fold everything very carefully because the whole idea is to pack in such a way that I don’t have extra work to do.

“I also have a little pochette with different compartments for my jewellery – something I really like and carry with me everywhere. For work I usually have a big black leather handbag that will carry files. Otherwise a small shoulder bag for evening.”

Head of Innovation at Fastway Couriers, 27-year-old Danny Hughes travels mainly for work to the UK. However, as Fastway is a global company operating in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kuala Lumpur and China, there are international trips too, the next being a fortnight in New Zealand for the company’s 40th anniversary.

“The type of clothes I bring must be multipurpose – you can mix and match things and I have got it so that it looks like I have a couple of outfits with just a few items. I always use a soft case with buffed edges so that you can squeeze it in anywhere (and it often doubles up as a pillow).

Wheels are important for Dublin airportbecause of the long walk from security to the gate. The first thing I pack is a phone charger and the second a toothbrush – they are the two priorities.

“I pack underwear first and work backwards – I always wear a jacket and roll everything else up. You always overestimate what you need and I think one pair of trousers for a holiday is enough, either a pair of chinos in black or navy that go with anything.”

This practical approach means that all he includes for holidays are two pairs of shorts – one for daytime, the other for swimming – flip flops and an extra pair of shoes along with three shirts and three T-shirts.

“I think it’s important to leave space inside the case. People forget that you can stuff socks and underwear into shoes, and I travel in a jacket, trousers and Converse with boat shoes or casual trainers and some sports runners in the bag.”

For work, which he admits is a little more difficult, he wears a suit with changes of shirt and some casual wear. Like many young people, he likes to travel light and leave room for purchases made abroad.

“Whatever you buy will always be more important than what you have sacrificed. A bigger disaster is not having room – and it’s not a big deal buying something you need abroad.”

Tim Magee is owner-manager of a hospitality and public relations company and a travel writer with The Gloss.

He is a man constantly on the move, crossing countries, climates and continents, regularly travelling to the US, the Caribbean, Switzerland and London. Over the past year, he has spent 266 nights in hotels all over the world.

His proudest boast is that he has not checked in luggage since 2004 and has packing down to a fine art.

He admits a recent trip was challenging in terms of choosing what to take, as it involved going from New York to Miami, then on to “freezing” London and Paris.

“I use a Samsung rolling case or a suiter for carry-on luggage. I don’t bring toiletries. Why bother when you can get them on arrival? And, as I spend a lot of time in hotels, you get a lot of what you need there. I learnt how to pack a suit properly two years ago, which makes a big difference – modern packing techniques don’t help from a business perspective.”

Shoes are great for stowing phone chargers or other electrical stuff, but one of his best tips – “and I have yet to be stopped carrying it – is to have a second jacket on a hanger with two shirts, which I carry on with me – and most airlines will hang it up for me”.

As to the actual packing, he will fill the little gaps between the spine with socks and T-shirts, over which he will lay a pair of trousers from the waistband (leaving the legs hanging over the edge of the bag), on top of that folded shirts, stuffing socks and underwear into the collars (to keep them round) then folding the legs of the trousers over the pile.

The final step is to turn the suit jacket inside out, pop out the shoulders, stuff with tissue and fold. “It’s taken me 10 years to figure it all out,” he says.

Another tip is to leave some space. “I would sooner leave with some space and bring back something nice than have a suitcase stacked full.”

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