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The art of packing: Fashionable and functional tips for the mature traveller

This guide offers a lighthearted yet practical approach to ensuring your travel wardrobe is as adventurous and ready as you are

As I near the age of 60 and often travel alone, it is increasingly important to pack both smartly and stylishly. Packing can feel like preparing for an expedition across continents even if you're just going to the next city over! But with age comes wisdom, and wisdom dictates that we carry our bags, not the other way around. This guide offers a lighthearted yet practical approach to ensuring your travel wardrobe is as adventurous and ready as you are - without the need for a chiropractor upon your return!

Choosing the right suitcase

When it comes to choosing the right suitcase, the aesthetic is just as important as the functionality. Opt for a suitcase that not only fits your needs in terms of size and ease of handling but also stands out on the baggage carousel. A bright, uniquely coloured suitcase can be a lifesaver in the sea of mundane black bags. If your current luggage isn't already vibrant, consider tying a colourful ribbon or securing some distinctive duck tape to the handle. Not only does this make your suitcase instantly recognizable, but it also speeds up your exit from the airport, getting you to your adventure faster.

While colour is king, be mindful of the type of suitcase you choose. It might be tempting to go for high-end designer luggage, but remember, the flashier your bag, the more likely it is to attract the wrong kind of attention. Opt for something that looks good but doesn’t scream, "I’m worth stealing!" Practicality should always trump luxury when it comes to selecting your travel buddy.

1. Adding an extra layer of security

In today’s tech-savvy world, consider enhancing your luggage security with smart technology. Packing an Apple AirTag or a similar tracking device inside your suitcase can give you peace of mind. These small, discreet trackers allow you to monitor your luggage’s location through your smartphone, ensuring that even if your suitcase ends up on the wrong flight, you’ll know exactly where it is. Remember not to pack valuables or essential medications in your checked luggage and in fact, if you can just keep them in your personal item just in case they make you check your carry-on at the aircraft gate or door. 

2. Embrace the capsule wardrobe

For those of us with more birthdays behind us than ahead, the capsule wardrobe is a godsend. It's all about choosing versatile, interchangeable pieces that can work for multiple settings and occasions. A chic pair of trousers, a couple of elegant blouses, and a versatile dress that shifts from day to night are essentials. Colour coordinate to ensure every item can be mixed and matched - your back will thank you for the lighter load!

Footwear: Functional yet fashionable

Remember, when it comes to shoes, comfort trumps style - though it’s a bonus if you can manage both. Limit yourself to three pairs: reliable walking shoes, casual slip-ons, and something with a bit of flair for evening outings. If the thought of walking a mile in them makes you wince, leave them out of the suitcase.

4. Layer like a pro

Layers are not just practical for adapting to changing temperatures, but they also add a touch of style to your outfits. A lightweight scarf, a cosy cardigan, and a stylish wrap not only keep you warm but can also transform your look. Plus, they double as blankets or pillows in a pinch during those long transit waits. On a recent river cruise one of our guests looked elegant every evening in a simple wrap that just made everything look great. 

Strategizing your wardrobe: Colour and coordination

When preparing your travel wardrobe, it's wise to start with a foundation of neutral colours - think black, navy, beige, or grey. These shades are not only versatile and elegant, but they also tend to hide stains and wrinkles, which is a huge plus when you're on the road. Neutrals form the backbone of your wardrobe, making it easy to mix and match different items effectively. This approach simplifies packing and reduces the number of outfits you need to bring, minimizing both luggage size and weight.

To keep your wardrobe from feeling too monotonous, introduce splashes of colour with your accessories and select clothing pieces. For instance, a brightly coloured scarf, some eye-catching jewelry, or a vividly patterned blouse can elevate your basic neutrals to a chic and personalized look.

Choose wrinkle-free fabrics

Opt for materials that look good straight out of the suitcase. Fabrics like merino wool, lyocell, and certain poly-blends are designed to resist wrinkling and are durable enough to withstand the rigours of travel. You want to explore the sights, not be tethered to an ironing board! 

Minimize your toiletries

Instead of packing bulky full-size bottles, opt for travel-sized containers or consider solid alternatives like shampoo bars and soap leaves. They save space, reduce the risk of spills, and make it easier to carry your bag - because who needs a workout before you’ve even left the hotel? No more than 100ml is the usual maximum at most airports although some are dropping limits. If this is an important thing for you check first online with the airline AND airport rules both leaving, transiting and arriving. 

7. Pack essential extras

A small medical kit, glasses, and an extra pair of contacts are must-haves. Don’t forget to pack a good book or load up your e-reader; these can be lifesavers during long layovers or quiet evenings in a new town. As I mentioned earlier, put any medication in your personal item, purse, in case you are asked to check your carry on last minute and you need your medication. 

8. Utilize smart packing techniques

Roll your clothes to maximize suitcase space and minimize wrinkles. Packing cubes can help organize your belongings and segregate clean from dirty laundry. The aim is to pack efficiently, allowing more room for souvenirs and less time unpacking at your destination. If your luggage allowance weight is higher than your case allows then use bags that you can vacuum seal. You can buy folding ones from Amazon that take out excess air and save space. 

9. Leave space for new memories

Always reserve some suitcase space for holiday mementos. Whether it's a new piece of jewellery from a bustling market or a bottle of local wine, these treasures need a safe spot for the journey home. I usually pack an extra folding bag in my suitcase as I always buy when I travel so this means I am not also buying more luggage too. 

10. Final checks

Give your suitcase a final audit before you leave. Remove items that don’t serve multiple purposes or match multiple outfits. Packing isn't just about preparing; it's about making your travel experience as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.

Happy travels friends! 

This coming week, I will be heading on a very long flight all the way to Africa as emcee at a conference, so I thought I would share with you my tips on how to travel as comfortably as possible on a long flight in economy. From in-seat gadgets that enhance comfort and convenience to the best snack choices, dressing for optimal ease, and strategies for getting some sleep, I've got you covered. Whether you're looking to upgrade affordably or just want to make the most out of your seat, stay tuned for practical tips that will make your journey smoother and more enjoyable! 

If you are looking to travel soon, I’ve got you covered. I write, I travel and I speak,  but I have actually owned and operated my own travel company since 2005 so either myself or one of my two, lovely Canada based,  TICO certified travel advisors can help you. Here are the ways.

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