Pack painlessly every time

Psst… I’m working on an update for this post – with much less spartan toiletries!

Remember how I had too many miniature suitcases? I finally found an actual (rather than dream) use for one of them. I use it to keep all my travel stuff ready to pack into a bag at a moment’s notice!

I used to keep this stuff in a drawer, but recently thought a mini suitcase made both figurative and practical sense!


I keep it at the end of the bed and it’s easy to open next to what I’m doing when I’m packing on the bed.


So what’s actually in the travel centre?

First things first, toiletries and chargers. (If I go away for just one night, staying with friends or family, I can just pick up these two pouches and stuff them in a large hand bag with a change of underwear and a clean top. Done.)


Your travel toiletries should not just be your normal toiletries put in a wash bag. I mean, they totally can be, but we’re talking about how to pack super-speedy without forgetting anything. So I like to keep a dedicated travel wash bag with a toothbrush (folding!), toothpaste (mini!), something to wash with (currently Dr Bronner’s in rose, I also like baby shampoo), stuff for contact lenses, and some painkillers (just in case). I always have my make up and a few essentials (floss and nail clippers) in my hand bag so I don’t worry about those. I have a mini-spritz thing of frizz ease rather than a conditioner.

I know this is a bit spartan (and I must admit its bulged since writing this post!) Your must-have toiletires will be different, but the basic principle is the same: buy miniatures and top them up, or buy empty mini bottles, label them with permanent marker and keep topped up.

Nb. Holly recommends having a travel shelf with all your miniatures on it. This doesn’t work for me as I’ve amassed so many. So I keep them in a box in the drawer with the rest of my toiletries and just ‘shop’ the box when my travel bag is getting low.

Just like my travel toiletries, I like to have separate chargers for travel. For things where I don’t have more than one (like my kindle charger), I store it in my travel stuff rather than anywhere else so I know I’ll have it with me. Useful fact: the ‘base’ unit of a kindle and an iPhone (and a blackberry!) are all the same so you only need all the separate cords and one plug.  I like to write my name and a phone number on my travel phone charger, as I’ve left them behind in so many places! For my camera, I normally just take a spare fully charged camera battery rather than the charger if I’m only away for a weekend. I barely use flash so the battery tends to last ok.

I also like to pack a teensy amount of drugs and other first aid paraphernalia in case of low-frequency-high-annoyance things that can happen. Things like a sudden cold can make you really miserable and I hate spoiling a holiday, so I carry a few bits of medication just in case. I spend a fair few weekends in the middle of nowhere, so oftentimes I like to know I have a couple of anti-histamine, some plasters, a tiny tube of antiseptic, spare contacts lenses…. Things like that.

In my case, this kit (in that tiny blue zipped bag in the first picture, that I forgot to take a separate picture with. It fits in my hand) includes eye bath solution and a plastic eye bath, because in the event my eyes play up I know it really spoils my day! What you need will obviously vary but I think it’s good to have a think and get that stuff together. To save space, I cut up a couple of pills off the main strip so I have a couple of a few different things (make sure the foil still tells you what it is!).

I used to keep  all my first aid stuff in a larger wash bag with all my toiletries, but I don’t anymore as I don’t need them if I’m going on a city break with a chemist on every corner, but I do if I’m going to a cottage in rural Wales. Having toiletries and first aid separate allows me to pack for the holiday I’m going on!


Boring but useful. Cloth bags, airport liquids bags, carabiner and headtorch.

The little cloth bags are useful as shoe bags and laundry bags.

Head torch? Yeah, I take it even when I’m not camping. I often have trouble sleeping and the soft red light is good to read by without waking your room mate with a real light.

I like to carry a carabiner. You’d be surprised how useful it is, wherever you are. In Paris, I clipped my camera strap on to my handbag when I was on the metro, so it was slightly harder for a pickpocket to slip it out of my bag without me noticing. It’s also good to keep small bags and big bags together and other stuff like that.

Safety pins! These aren’t pictured but I try to always have a few with me (normally in a little baggie in my toiletry bag). When you’re packing light it’s useful to have a few in case of broken straps or other wardrobe malfunctions.

Airport liquids bags. These ones were just saved from last time we flew, but before we next go away (Holland! Next month!) I plan on upgrading those to two of these, which we can then fasten to our bags with carabiners.

Seem like a lot of hassle? I thought so too when I first read this tip from Mighty Girl: “One of my big tricks was a tip from Gwen, who suggested putting liquids in a see-through bag with a clip. It hooks on to the zipper of your suitcase, and it has changed my life. Life altering! You just pop it off at security, pop it back on once you’re through.”

But ever since then, I’ve noticed that I’m always holding up the queue at security, rummaging in my bag to find those last few liquids, and even when I’ve separated them, I get annoyed zipping and unzipping pockets. (I hate spending too long after the metal detector putting my shoes back on and getting myself all packed up).  So, £1 upgrade it is. I’ll report back on how it goes.


Finally… The bags. I am always on the search for the perfect bag and this time I think I’ve cracked it. This bag is a miracle. It’s lovely and large (but still carry-on size and not too heavy when full). It’s got straps you can sling over your shoulder (a must for me) and the zip is long enough that you can have a good old rummage when it’s got stuff in it.


I love it.

And look how small it packs! Just so we’re clear – the whole bag fits in this little zipped clutch thing. This makes it the perfect extra bag to pop in your suitcase but more importantly (in my case) it makes it perfect for living in a teeny flat.


Mine was a present from that lovely mr vita (I think his clutter averse mind thought I’d throw all the other contenders away!) but you can pick one up here.

Then, I like to pop this magic rucksackin my bag. Sure, I look like a tourist when I’m wearing it but is good and roomy and, again, folds away to nothing if I want to use my leather handbag instead. Wonderful! Plus, it’s made out of recycled plastic bottles and comes in loads of colours.


As I said, I just cleared this stuff from a drawer to this suitcase. I took the chance to clear out some of the stuff I’d put in here that I didn’t use every time I travel, like travel laundry gel and a multi-tool. One of the things I’m thinking of putting back in is a nightie, as that is something I often forget. I think that might migrate back in. I also go through phases of keeping my travel towel and a swimming costume in my travel centre. I should probably do that again… It was good! (I have this swimming costume and I love that it came in a little carry sack). Keep these in a good quality plastic bag so you can carry them wet.

This is just intended to show you how I get out the door for the weekend in five minutes flat. Here are some guides from more seasoned travellers than I, should you want more guidance:

Holly from Nothing But Bonfires – top tip – don’t forget a pashmina style wrap for flying. Perfect to wrap around yourself when the air is too cold or you want something to cover your head to sleep. She says pack gold shoes as they go with everything – I say leather goes with everything.

Maggie from Mighty Girl – since re-reading all Maggie’s packing list posts, I’ve got the idea to find a nice pyjama solution that works as clothes in a pinch, and I’ll keep that in my case.

The One Bag packing list – good ideas for packing light

My favourite travel tip I came up with by my own good self? Write your own guidebook.

Looking for more posts about travel? There’s a category for that!


  • emmy
    July 10, 2012 - 6:28 pm | Permalink

    This is great! Thank you!

    • July 10, 2012 - 6:58 pm | Permalink

      I’m so glad you liked it! I keep meaning to do an update so check back!

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