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7 Surprising Packing Tips from a 60-Year-Old Nomad

By Penelope Jane Whiteley January 27, 2017 Travel

Deciding what to take with me when I travel has always been a challenge; so much so that I have even created my own detailed packing list. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much good because I seem to travel to so many different places with so many different climates.

For example, I may go to London from Hong Kong, on to New York and then to Hawaii. These trips require different clothing. My days of travelling with a couple of pairs of jeans, a pair of boots and a leather jacket have long gone.

I would like to be able to say that a detailed list is now writ in stone and that, after a lifetime of travel, my bags are becoming lighter and lighter. If I were to say that, I would be lying!

So far, I have become sensible enough to leave my portable iron at home. I also leave my hair dryer and curling wand – which I always wish I had with me! Most of my shoes and boots and general clothing are in a suitcase stored somewhere.

Please understand, this is all about do as I say rather than do as I do. Doing as I say, however, will save you a lot of heartache. This is some of what I have learned.

Make a List

Most people seem to love lists. I know I do. I always write a list of what to take with me when I go and there are certain items which are non-negotiable. Having packed, I then spend some considerable time taking things out. It may sound silly but it really works. It’s as though the unpacking actually makes you realize what you need and what you don’t.

If you follow the list-making process and share it with your friends, you will end up with the collective wisdom of a large-ish group of well-travelled women. It’s always handy to see what items other women think are essential and you may agree with them.

The list works but it isn’t across the board. As I mentioned earlier, you will need, for example, different items for Firenze to those you will need for a trek in Nepal.

Packing Tips for Liquids

This is something I am good at packing and my methods have been learned through trial and error.

One of my errors, about 50 years ago, was to throw a bottle of red nail polish into my bag. I left London with a bag containing a heavenly blue silk dress (amongst other items), and arrived in New York with a blue silk dress beyond redemption.

This article will give you a blow-by-blow account of how to pack your liquids.

Handbag or Day Bag?

This is probably the most important of all your bags, and I know people recommend buying something special for the purpose. But to be honest, any bag that you can wear cross body, and has sufficient pockets to zip closed will do.

It needs to be comfortable, secure and easy to manage. By which I mean a bag you don’t have to empty to find what you want. That defeats the purpose of the security angle!

Suitcase or Backpack?

If you’re going to use a suitcase, go to the trouble of buying a rolling case that is extra-light. These bags are usually 1.5 to 2 Kg which is considerably less than the weight of the average bag. If you’re flying and you only have an allowance of 20 Kg, you don’t need 5 of those kilos being used up by the weight of the bag.

Backpacks are fabulous but not something I would do because my spine is no longer in a fit state! However, if yours is OK and you can walk miles with a bag on your back go for it!

In any event, make sure your valise (suitcase, duffel, whatever), is easy enough and light enough to move around without giving yourself a hernia. There is nothing more frustrating or irritating than a bag that doesn’t want to travel in the same direction as you and that weighs a ton. Think of those unwieldy supermarket trolleys.

Travel Shoes

No matter if you’re flying, train-ing or car-ing, wear comfortable shoes. You never know when you need to move quickly.

Comfortable shoes are different for us all. My personal favorites are leather clogs. They don’t encase my whole foot and are easy to slip on and off even if my feet swell. They’re great with socks, I can run in them and they are sooo good at security check points. If you have never worn clogs, try them.

I know most people wear trainers but they don’t work for everybody. So, indulge in a little experimentation and find which style of shoe is the most comfortable for the longest periods of time.

Don’t forget, most shoes contain metal somewhere. Travel in shoes that are easy to slip on and off; again, try clogs!

Plane Necessities

Whatever you do always have your liquids in a plastic bag at airport security. Remember, mascara is technically a liquid, as is toothpaste. Also, make sure you have a plastic bag with you to take to the airport.

One of my big lessons was at a US airport (LA I believe), where I had forgotten my plastic bag. They were not going to give me one and they weren’t going to let me through security without one. Impasse.

Stupidity and bullying always get up my nose so I just stood there, blocking everything. Eventually, the most officious and difficult person called a supervisor and he proved to be a delight! He gave me 5 plastic bags, took me through security himself and then took me for a coffee. I smiled sweetly at the people who had been so nasty to me, as I wafted past them!

Never forget your plastic bag and make sure your liquids are in bottles and jars containing no more than 100ml… or they will be slung. Also, rules about water bottles seem to be different at every airport now. Wherever a terrorism threat is high, it is likely that you must leave your water bottle.

Computers and Electronics Packing Tips

The same is true with computers. It depends! Some airports now have super-duper security and you don’t need to take your laptop out of the bag. In Europe now, notebooks, tablets, laptops, mobiles – anything containing a battery – need to be taken out of your bag and put into a tray. Basically, you need to be prepared for every eventuality.

If you would like more information, please contact me on my site.

What was the biggest travel adventure you ever took? What travel packing tips can you share? Does travel frighten you? Do you have people you want to travel with? Please share with the Sixty and Me community.

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The Author

Penelope Jane Whiteley is the self-appointed Queen of Aging Disgracefully. A writer, international speaker, clothes designer, stylist and traveller, she helps other women to live their lives on their own terms. Her courses include “Lose 10 pounds in 10 minutes,” “The Reboot,” “Just Write the Damn Book.” Find her on, Twitter, and Facebook.

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