The next time you’re at an airport take a look around. The minimalists usually have a slightly superior swagger and the everyeventualityists look a bit worried.
Of course there are many manifestations of the ways people pack for a holiday or business trip. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t really matter where they’re going, the main categories are generally the same.
Minimalists: The challenge is to see how little they can take and get away with it. These are people who, when on extended trips, may need to reverse their underwear more than once. Other than that they’re entirely harmless and leave plenty of space in the overhead lockers for everyone else.
Everyeventualityists: As the name suggests, these are the people who want to be ready for anything. They have sunblock and raincoats, hiking boots and high heels, beach towels and parkas. Try not to get behind them at the baggage drop or check in queue, because even if their motto is ‘be prepared’ they won’t have paid the excess baggage allowance in advance.
Chancers: These are guys (usually) who clamber on board with a large laptop bag, suit carrier and cabin luggage, bumping the heads of their fellow passengers as they struggle to their seats. They tend to board early and fill the overhead compartments so there’s no room for anybody else’s bags.
Exceptionalists: Carry large curios, outsized musical instruments (didgeridoos are a favourite) or unwieldy sports equipment. They cannot understand why given their talent, special circumstances, incredible good looks or wonderful personalities the airline cannot make an exception and let them take their precious item on board.
Makedoists: Brown paper packages tied up in string are amongst their favourite things. They take the view that duct tape and cardboard boxes were invented before suitcases. They’re usually fairly harmless unless their homemade suitcases burst open. This always happens somewhere likely to cause most inconvenience to fellow travellers.
Inadvertentists: Their luggage defines what the average suitcase looks like. As a consequence these are the people who will inadvertently take your suitcase off the carousel. You thought you had them fooled by putting an identifying bit of pink ribbon on it, but they came up with exactly the same ruse.
Indignants: The security rules have been put in place specifically to inconvenience them. They’ll be carrying liquids in containers of over 100ml, not understand why they have to take their laptops out of their bags, be outraged at needing to take off their shoes. Worst of all they’ll debate each point at length with the security personnel and anyone near them in the queue. You’ll always be behind them.
Flusterers: Pack documentation such as boarding passes, ID books or passports at the bottom of their bags. This means a lengthy delay every time they are required to produce some essential document. They are typically slow learners as each time a document has been examined they carefully repack it in its safe place. This means delays at check-in, security, passport control and boarding gates.
Of course this isn’t nearly a complete list, so do feel free to consider other categories. On the other hand if you want to avoid some of the worst packing pitfalls here are some tips from some very experienced packers – British Airways’ international cabin crew.
- Roll your clothes. This is a great hint for minimalists. It saves space and helps prevent creasing.
- Another one for the minimalists. Use all the space available by stuffing items such as shoes with socks or underwear.
- Take along some plastic bags. This isn’t so you can be a makedoist. Bags are useful for separating items, particularly shoes, which may dirty your white linen suit. They’re also good for separating dirty laundry or storing damp items such swimming costumes.
- Avoid being an indignant. Don’t wear lots of items that you’ll be asked to remove at security such as belts, jewellery and jackets. Decant liquids into 100ml bottles and seal them in a clear bag.
- You can bypass some of the flusterers by checking in online and printing your boarding pass at home or downloading it to your mobile phone. Keep all your travel documentation in a safe place, ideally a separate zip-up compartment at the top of your bag, so you can reach it easily.
- Another place flusturers stand out is in duty free shops. Have your boarding pass to hand or know your flight number if you’re planning to stock up on duty free goods.
- Don’t be an exceptionalist. Check the baggage guidelines for your airline before you depart and know what you’ll be allowed to take on board and what the hold baggage allowance is. Not all airlines have the same baggage policies. Some, such as British Airways, offer a more generous baggage allowance.
- Weigh your bags at home. British Airways offers a discount on excess baggage if you pay online before you get to the airport. If you know your bags are overweight check the airline policy. Some airlines insist on cash for excess baggage and if you don’t have any on you this can be a major problem, particularly if you’re in a rush.
- A good set of wheels is worth the money. Always buy bags with wheels, but poor quality wheels that break can be more hassle than they’re worth. You’ll thank yourself for investing in those slick wheels when you’re running for the gate.