HOW TO TRAVEL LIGHT ON LONG TRIPS: My backpack checklist

My trip to India was going to last 21 days, but I didn’t want to carry around a lot of weight. So I did some research and found a couple of websites with good tips on packing light.

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I’m pleased to say that my packing for this trip was really spot on, so I compiled the list below. I have since used the same list for my 20 day trip to Provence (even a little bid reduced).

Here’s everything I took:


  • My trusted Jansport backpack: this has been with me for 9 years and I love it. It’s only 30l capacity so it can be taken on a plane. It’s not a fancy travel backpack but it’s sturdy and reliable.
  • A foldable day bag: This is something to use as my bag during the day, but it can be put in my backpack for travelling.
  • 3 packing cubes: These were the best purchase! They help keep everything organised when we were on the move, and I really recommend them.
  • A foldable shopping bag: To be used for shopping or as a laundry bag.


  • 5 t-shirts (4 would do),
  • 3 trousers (2 would do),
  • 2 dresses,
  • A jumper.

This was plenty, and it’s much easier to wash a couple of items per day than having to do a whole load once a week.


  • Slip on trainers,
  • Flip flops,
  • Sandals.

You’d never need any more than that.


  • 5 pairs of socks, ideally merino as they dry quickly (3 pairs are actually enough),
  • 5 pairs of underwear,
  • 2 bras,
  • Bikini,
  • Shorts and t-shirt for sleeping,
  • Leggings.

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  • 2 small tubes of toothpaste,
  • Toothbrush,
  • Johnson’s baby shampoo (the full body one, which I used to shower but also to wash my clothes),
  • Moisturiser,
  • Deodorant,
  • Repellent,
  • Suncream,
  • Antibac gel,
  • Band aid,
  • Lip balm,
  • Comb,
  • Tweezers,
  • Nail file,
  • Loperamide and rehydration salts (which thankfully were not needed),
  • Tissues,
  • Ibuprofen,
  • Vitamins.


  • My Canon G16 and charger,
  • My Mini Diana and 2 rolls of film,
  • Mobile phone and charger,
  • Universal adaptor (I bought this one which was good and small).


  • Passport and cash,
  • Printed copies of documents and reservations,
  • Money belt,
  • Wallet,
  • House keys and oyster card,
  • Sunglasses and spare pair of glasses,
  • A spork,
  • Luggage tag in case I wanted to check my backpack on the way back (not needed),
  • Lock,
  • 2 carabiners (for extra safety, but not really needed),
  • Travel kit with inflatable pillow, sleep mask and earplugs,
  • A book,
  • A notebook and pen,
  • A travel towel (which was really useful not only as a towel but also as a throw),
  • A poncho (not used),
  • A clothes line (not used).

There were a few items which I didn’t need in the end but mostly this was a really great travel kit. And because it had everything I needed, it could easily be used for longer trips too.

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I loved the column by David Whitley in the Jan-Feb edition of the National Geographic Traveller magazine. This pretty much sums up my attitude to clothes when I travel:

“Over the years, travelling has cemented my status as someone never likely to be approached by one of those ‘street style’ fashion pages in magazines. It’s been a thoroughly nerdy descent into the joys of utilitarianism, aided by the realisation that the only places that care about what you’re wearing are the ones you won’t enjoy being in anyways.”

TRAVELLING LIGHT: 4 tips on hassle-free packing

I rarely check any luggage these days as it takes so much longer to get everything sorted at the airport. Even if I’m travelling for one week, I might still only take my backpack.

Here are some of my tips on how to pack effectively:

1. Make a list

My packing list evolved over time, and nowadays it includes the main things I might forget, like phone chargers and adaptors.

But if you don’t want to come up with your own, there are lots of packing lists around – this one from Knock Knock is my favourite. Not only does it have everything you may want to take on a trip, but they also made it into a notebook:

Image from pinterest

2. If you’re not sure you will need it, you definitely won’t

There are very few things that you really need to remember to take with you (passport and credit cards are probably the only two essential items on my list). Most things are available to buy wherever you are going.

If you’re unsure whether you need an extra pair of trousers, don’t take it with you. If you really need something, you can always buy it at your destination. Remember, anything you pack you will have to carry around.

3. Have a ‘travel uniform’

It helps if you all the clothes you are taking on a trip go together – jeans and a t-shirt are my travel uniform, so I don’t need to worry about making everything match.

If you’re taking a fancy outfit or something like that, make sure it’s small. Rolling up a dress and a pair of flat shoes doesn’t take much space and sorts you out if you need it.

4. Keep your travel essentials ready

I once read that Marissa Mayer (Yahoo! CEO) has a ‘just add clothes’ suitcase with all the things she needs for business trips. Of course I don’t go to such lengths, but I do have a few basics that I always keep together.

I’ve developed a very good toiletries kit over time, so when it’s time to pack that is all sorted!

Get packing!