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Deep pockets: the secret to expert packing

Money is tight. The last thing we want to do is fritter it away needlessly.

And that includes wasting money paying a charge for excess baggage at the airport on your hand luggage. When I read this week that coats with pockets have jumped in sales recently, I wasn't surprised. I have a coat with very deep pockets, and inside pockets. I always wear it when I'm flying and I make sure every single pocket is bulging with various items of clothing.

I consider myself an expert packer. Six years working as an air hostess means I can literally pack and unpack in about five minutes.

In the summer it's easy enough to pack. Bikinis, kaftans and flip-flops take up hardly any space and I wouldn't dream of packing anything as cumbersome as a beach towel -- I always buy one as soon as I arrive at a holiday destination and leave it there. But winters are far more tricky.

I mean, you could put a pair of boots and a hardback book in a small carry-on suitcase and have room for nothing else. So you need to be clever. Buy a Kindle from Amazon on which you can store thousands of e-books and the slim device will fit nicely in your coat pocket. Wear your heaviest shoes or boots.

Put on layers of clothes. I wear about three T-shirts, three jumpers, a cardigan and a couple of coats, making me look like the Michelin man in the airport queue. But as soon as I'm on board, I take off all the layers and stuff them in a plastic bag. I don't carry any lotions or potions such as shampoo or conditioner which are heavy, and can easily be bought when you arrive.

Travelling with a baby is a challenge. Don't pack nappies and wipes as they are heavy. Make sure the baby is wearing their heaviest item of clothing.

I often compare the check-in staff at the boarding gates to rottweilers. They stand there glaring at you, teeth bared, as they try to fine as many passengers as possible. Really, wouldn't you hate their job?

I was caught out just the once. I was only 16, travelling abroad for the first time alone and I was fined a huge amount in Heathrow by British Airways. I handed over the only money I had and vowed they would never get me again. They haven't. I would wear a fake pregnancy belly and fill it with my underwear if I was completely desperate.

It's such an unfair system anyway. I mean, my two-and-half-year-old's fare costs the same as a man of 20 stone. How long until they start weighing passengers themselves at check-in? Will people start dieting furiously days before take-off? Oh, maybe it's best not to be giving the airlines ideas. I wouldn't put anything past them!