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Whether you're sneaking in a hand luggage-only getaway or going long haul to more exotic climes, packing strategically is key - it minimises stress, saves time, economises space and, most importantly, ensures all your precious cargo arrives in optimum condition. After all, there is nothing more distressing than getting to your destination only to discover that your conditioner has leaked all over your favourite silk blouse. Follow our top tips on how to tackle this most boring of chores...
- Keep a toiletry case of mini beauty products and bathroom essentials packed in your suitcase at all times. Think of it as your last-minute insurance policy - if all else fails, at least you'll have your toothbrush. When you come back from a trip, don't put your case away until you have replaced the products you've used up.
- Invest in a sturdy universal converter and duplicates of your phone and computer chargers to stash permanently alongside your toiletries in your suitcase. Why spend money on yet another airport converter when you can put it towards a great souvenir?
- Make a list of items to take away a few days ahead of the trip and ensure you sort your dry cleaning in advance. Don't forget to save the plastic dry cleaning bags - they will come in handy later.
- Regardless of the nature of your trip (business, city break, beach holiday) select hard-working, multi-tasking items. While you may sometimes need to pack in full outfits (i.e. for a wedding), you'll save on space if you choose items you can wear with at least one or two other things. Sticking to a neutral palette will facilitate this but don't forget to pack one or two colourful, stand-out pieces - this is the time to stray from black!
- Think outside the box - a cuffed shirt makes a brilliant bikini cover-up and a suede jewellery pouch or even a designer iPad case can double up as a clutch.
- On the dreaded packing day, lay all your items on the bed in stacks. This is your opportunity to edit out any excess - resist the urge to add more!
- Start with heavier items, including toiletries (if you're checking your bag), at the bottom of the case.
- Next add shoes. Stuff the toes with tissue paper (or socks!) and pack them in individual dustbags so you can position them around your other bulky items more easily.
- Pack undergarments and swimsuits in lingerie bags or Ziplocs (brilliant to see what's inside at a glance) and use them as fillers around shoes and other heavier pieces. If you're packing a larger handbag, stuff it with the lingerie bags and place at the bottom alongside the toiletries and shoes.
- Cover this first layer with a plastic dry cleaning bag to protect clothing from accidental toiletry spillage.
- Pack jeans, jumpers and pyjamas flat over the plastic but roll T-shirts and use them to fill in gaps as you go along.
- Finally, pack more delicate items at the top, starting with pressed trousers, blazers (folded in half across the bottom with the sleeves folded in) and dresses (it goes without saying that these items pack best in a hard case). Wrap silk blouses, tops and dresses in plastic dry cleaning bags to keep them crease-free.
- Nestle a couple of lavender sachets in with your packing to keep clothes smelling lovely and fresh.
- Stow passport, converters, jewellery and other valuables in your hand luggage alongside your in-flight essentials. If you're headed somewhere warm, pack an extra swimsuit in your carry-on so you can hit the beach right away even if your suitcase doesn't make it over.
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