Friday 24 February 2017

Honey, I shrunk the luggage

Gemma O'Doherty

I'm leaving for South Africa in the morning on a trip that has taken my packing regime into a whole new world of minimalism. Tragic as it sounds, I've checked in advance and there's a washing machine in our villa so I'm downsizing my luggage and paring it back to the bare essentials.

A couple of cotton tees, camouflage chinos for the jungle, standard fleece, warm pashmina for flights and nights out, two dressy outfits -- not the standard 10 that are never worn -- my miracle-working Merrells, flip-flops and limited beachwear.

After the winter we've just had, I won't be exposing my body to the southern Cape just yet.

I've taken the advice of the experts, laid everything out on my bed -- 16 times last count -- and written copious checklists as to exactly what will be worn each day, right down to my socks (two pairs on rotating rinses each night).

There'll be no jewellery on board -- why risk losing it? -- and I'll make no apology for leaving all my heels at home, bar one pair.

I've so much space in my suitcase at this stage that I could fit in at least another 10 pairs but, as much as the oversized traveller in me is screaming to get out and my wardrobe is still bulging, it's not going to happen this time.

There'll be no last-minute panic buying at the airport -- save me from Monsoon and that fabulous Fat Face outlet just beyond security at Dublin. I am now officially an anorak when it comes to travelling light.

My new-found discipline stems from a traumatic transatlantic trip last autumn when I went into overdrive on my plastic and landed back in Dublin with five bags, three of them purchased abroad.

It all went wrong when I ended up in an outlet mall in Dolly Parton's bling-ridden town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, when I should have been stepping out on a craggy trail in the Smoky Mountains.

Bad weather scuppered our hiking plans so there was nothing else for it but to abandon my husband and head for what I quickly discovered was the best place to shop in America.

With each half-price pair of Hilfiger jeans and reduced Ralph Lauren shirts dumped in the basket, I threw caution to the wind but had the most excruciating journey home.

American airports, as many of us know, are about as welcoming as Guantanamo Bay these days, and even if you look like someone who's single-handedly keeping the economy afloat, luggage-laden travellers are right at the bottom of the food chain.

Apart from feeling like a fool lugging all those bags around, I suffered so much lip from snooty security staff that I vowed from then on it would be me and one piece of spatially-challenged hand luggage.

A recent cruise introduced me to the joys of travelling light when I discovered the self-service launderette was the hotspot for all the gossip.

Once a day, I dashed down to the bowels of the ship to join a group of New York princesses and blue-rinsed millionaires soaking their smalls and exchanging juicy titbits about the goings-on at the Captain's table the previous night.

What a revelation!

No excess baggage in sight, so I'm taking a leaf out of their book and putting thrifty packing to the test.

Irish Independent

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