Monday, April 25, 2011

On Planning and Packing

Packing is important; don't get it wrong.
Image here.

Holidays can be a tricky business. As much as imagining long, languorous, stress free holidays is what a lot of us spend a fair portion of our time indulging in, it’s fair to say that the common experience of holidays isn’t always so pleasant.

I’m no expert on holidays, but I have done my share of trekking to both local and more far flung locations. Today I’ve put together two lists of my favourite tips for both planning and packing for a holiday, because sometimes it’s all in the prep.

Image originally from Vogue Italia, found here.


Planning a holiday is a very personal process and we all go about it different ways. Some people, myself included, like to be completely in control and across all the details before they leave. Others prefer to leave things up to chance and give themselves room to be more spontaneous. As with all things in life, there is no one right way to plan a holiday, but here are some tips to hopefully keep you organised and stress free while still having an adventure and exercising some impulsivity.

  1. Be realistic about your decisions: You always need to think seriously about the big and important factors of your holiday and you need to make sure that you’re thinking about these things realistically. Consider where you’re going, who with, how you’re getting there and what you plan to do, and make sure that the conditions tied to each of these match up to your expectations for the trip. The number one thing that causes a holiday to be a let down is the dream holiday you take in your head before you even set foot out the door, to which no real experience can match up. If you’re going away with a friend who only likes to party, well, keep in mind that they might not be up early every morning to go sightseeing with you. If you’re heading along to a wintery wonderland, packing your slinkiest, sexy outfits for day to day wear because you’ve envisioned yourself having a wicked fling with a foreigner may only end in frostbite. There will be luggage weight restrictions, less than ideal weather conditions and jetlag to contend with, but knowing the ramifications of your holiday choices will mean you are prepared for them when they come along and they won’t ruin your picture perfect holiday dreams.

  1. Plan to be unplanned: If you’re like me, it can be very easy to quickly allot time and schedule it away on every day of your holiday. While planning can be useful, it’s important to keep some free time for spur of the moment activities. Especially if you’re headed somewhere new, you’re bound to come across exciting options you hadn’t known about before you arrived, and it’s unpleasant to have to try and ‘work something in’ on your schedule when you’re on holidays. Isn’t the insane busyness and time restrictions what we’re trying to take a break from on holiday, after all?

  1. Do your research: That said, I find it best to head somewhere with a solid idea of the place, people and things I might like to do. Finding out what major religions and political groups operate in the area you are visiting is practical and will assist you in not overstepping cultural and legal boundaries. If you are going somewhere where the spoken language is different to yours, pick up a dictionary and have a go at learning a few phrases. Not only is it heartening for the locals to see a tourist who has invested some time and effort, but being able to ask for directions to toilets, order food and find out prices can be a big time saver. Also, make sure you know the currency conversion rates between your normal money and what you’re spending while you’re away. While paying 1000Yen for a meal in Japan is perfectly reasonable, spending 1000euro is extreme!

  1. Plan to enjoy yourself: Surely we all know by now that going in to anything with a negative attitude is guaranteed to bring the whole experience down, right? Why then do I still see so many people at airports sighing when the line is long, whinging on the train that the hotel probably has muddled the reservations or walking down the street complaining that ‘the food here sucks’. Have a negative attitude and expect a crappy holiday and your mind will tune itself in to finding all the signs that you are correct, and the holiday you experience will be hell. You create the world around you with the world in your mind, people, so why not make holidays the time to practise working with a new, positive mindset. Look for the signs that you’re having an awesome time and trust me, they’ll be there.

Image by Chrissie White


  1. Know what’s going on: It’s really difficult to pack for a holiday if you haven’t planned one, so firstly make sure you’ve read the above planning section and have a clue as to what your holiday might entail. Think about the weather you might encounter, whether you’ll be partaking in outdoor or indoor activities, what kind of shoes you’ll require and how you want to look and feel.

  1. Take your time: Everyone knows that leaving holiday packing to the last minute will astronomically increase your chances of encountering an ‘I bought fifteen t-shirts but no pyjamas or underwear’ type situation. For longer holidays, I like to stick a post-it note or two to my desk about three weeks before I leave, and gradually jot down the things I want to take with me as they come to mind. Before I put anything in my suitcase, before I even get the suitcase out in fact, I make sure that what’s on the list fits in with my plans, and will coordinate with other items, because taking three shirts you can’t wear with any of your skirts or pants is just a waste baggage weight. Ask people who have done some travelling what the number one thing they would always pack would be, and think about whether you should include that too. I always pack a spare plastic shopping bag; just in case I need to transport any wet swimmers or towels or rained on clothes or dirty shoes. I know my mum always takes her little book light so she can read whenever she wants, and my sister recently purchased a remarkably tiny and comfortable self-inflating mattress that makes any camping or unforseen lack of accommodation a much more pleasant experience.

  1. Theme it: When you think about it, there’s usually a reason that you’re going on a holiday, and it impacts where you’re going, who with, for how long and the emotions you have connected to the trip. For many young people heading overseas their holiday is their first real taste of independence and adventure. Some people will head away after a breakup or a marriage breakdown and might want some quiet time alone, or to do the opposite and let of some steam and go a little crazy. Some go away for career advancement, some to celebrate a birthday, some just to get away from their normal lives for a little. Whatever your reason for taking a holiday, make sure you pack clothes and items that are appropriate and that will encourage you to live out your desires. There’s no point in going away to Spain looking for a Mediterranean romance and taking your daggy home clothes that make you feel like a lumpy couch cushion, is there?

As I said, there’s no right way to holiday and I certainly don’t know it all. The most important thing is that what you’re doing makes you happy, because that is the point of a holiday after all! So if planning dates and packing lists is stressing you out, I say to hell with it; book a plane ticket at the beginning and end and leave the rest up to chance until you get there. Your holiday should allow you to get a little bit more in tune with yourself, enjoy what you experience and refresh your perspective, so above all else make sure you’re doing what feels right for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...