Saturday, 10 September 2011

How (Not) to Travel

It’s been a while since I’ve had a holiday so I was   pretty excited when I set off last Monday for what promised to be ten days of fun, sun and sightseeing in one of the world’s most exciting cities, Rome. My case was packed -I’d even made a colour-coded list of what to pack- my travelling clothes were carefully laid out and my alarm was set for 5am. The only problem, I discovered, with being so prepared is that you get complacent. Having made it to the terminal in plenty of time, leisurely checked my bags in, mulled over whether the navy or the black Longchamp tote was the better buy and sampled a number of different airport cuisines (if you ever find yourself in Heathrow Terminal 5, I highly recommend Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food) I realised too late that my flight had nearly finished boarding and the departure gate was 20 minutes away. Despite an all-out dash my traveling companion and I missed the flight. What unfolded over the next six hours was a nightmare of epic proportions, eventually we were put on the reserve list for a 7am flight the next morning. Tom Hanks may have made living in a terminal look like fun but when you’re actually faced with the prospect of spending the night on those hard plastic chairs equipped only with your BA emergency overnight pack (where apparently the best one-size-fits-all T-shirt is a 3XL) the idea starts to lose its appeal a little. Fortunately we made the morning flight and as an unexpected bonus found we’d been upgraded to BA Club (read: first/business) class. And what did I learn from all this? Well aside from the obvious about improving my time management skills, quite a bit actually…

Travel Outifts
 Indigo Skinny Jeans, Miss Selfridge
White Cami/Vest, Warehouse (similar)
Short Sleeved Jacket, River Island
Patterned Floral Scarf, Jane Norman
Heart Pendant, Accessorize (similar)
Tan Cone-Heel Courts, Head Over Heels by Dune (similar)
'Kala' Tote Bag, Ri2k (similar)

Lemon Cardigan, Hollister (similar)
Gold Ballet Pumps, Topshop (similar)

1) I usually travel in comfortable but smart basics, that can be dressed up or down with the help of a couple of simple accessories that I carry in my hand luggage. Having the extra pieces with me meant I could switch items and feel like I was wearing a clean and fresh outfit the second day. Even if your travel plans go completely smoothly this is still a good idea for one very simple reason: free upgrades! Airlines are often left with spare seats in first or business class when passengers fail to make early flights. If you arrive at check-in looking smart and presentable and ask politely you stand every chance of scoring a free upgrade, once you’re on board you can swap your accessories for more comfortable cosy ones. 

Ri2k 'Kala'
2) I always take a generously sized bag as hand luggage. At the very least I need something big enough to hold my travel documents, money, keys, cardigan/jacket, a book or two and my toiletries. I have a great lightweight roomy bag by Tripp that slots neatly on top of my suitcase, if I don’t need something quite so large I have a Ri2k handbag in a great neutral shade that is perfect for travelling with. On the rare occasion I don’t need to check in any hold baggage, I have a large cream Fiorelli tote that is much easier to man-handle into overhead lockers than trolley cases. There are no fixed dimensions for hand luggage so make sure you check your airline’s guidelines before you travel.   

A travel wallet is a must
3) There are now restrictions in place worldwide on carrying liquids in hand luggage. Any gels, creams or pastes now need to be in containers no more than 100ml and presented in a re-sealable clear plastic bag. I wear contact lenses so I always make sure I have a travel sized cleaning solution with me and a spare case. I also carry my favourite make-up products in my hand luggage so I have them there in case I need to touch up. If you’re being uber prepared, you might also want to include some of your shower gel and shampoo decanted into small bottles. I’ve found this is much cheaper- and environmentally friendly since you can refill them- than buying travel-sized products.

4) Travel wallets are great for keeping all your documents, passport and foreign currency together and organised. I picked up mine really cheaply a couple of years ago and I always use it whenever I travel.

5) Finally for the ultimate in comfort and luxury I recommend investing in a Cushtie travel pillow, available from Firebox here. Tiny foam beads make these incredibly soft and mouldable- inflatable pillows simply do not compare. Lugging your over-sized pastel-hued cushion around the airport will annoy you immensely, there’s no getting away from that, but it’s more than worth it if you have a night flight. Because these cushions are so soft if you’re lucky you may be able to squash it into your hand luggage.

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