My 5 favourite travel tips

I’ve just returned from our annual beach trip so I’m fresh from thinking about things that worked and things that could use a tune-up.

I thought I’d share some of my top travel tips:

1. Know your travel style and live with the consequences

I used to be a traveller who liked lots of options and also imagined that my life while on holiday was far more exciting than it usually is, which is plenty of relaxing. As such, I had a bag with just books, and about two bags full of clothes. I’d end up with half the things unworn (but wrinkled!) so they needed ironing anyway.

Then we went to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland in 2008 and the thought of lugging around suitcases on The Tube and through Heathrow terrified me and I determined to travel with one small backpack and a small suitcase… for 21 days. I did it! What is even more impressive to me now is that it was during autumn (basically a South African winter) so I had jackets, jerseys and long pants and tops. And somehow, I made it work.

That was my turning point and since then I always travel with just one bag. I can even do a short work trip with just my rolling laptop bag (for toiletries and a change of clothes) and a big tote bag.

The consequences are that I travel with very few options and some items have to do double duty and… it is all fine. A client once told me (in the pre-days, when we travelled to meetings in other cities once a month) that she had two dresses for those travels and so far nobody had said anything to her about it because probably no-one paid that close attention to her outfits.

If you’re a heavy traveller, enjoy all your options but do know you’ll be lugging around a lot of stuff you probably don’t need. On that note…

2. Plan your eating out and staying in days for lunch and supper

One of the things I despise is the eternal question, “what’s for supper?” I cannot stand it at home and also on holiday. I therefore like to plan my eating out times. For work travel, it is easier because I’m mostly only considering myself (or friends, if I plan to see friends in the evenings).

For personal travel though, we are all happier when we have a rough idea of the meals we want to cook/ assemble and the amount of lunches/ suppers we want to eat out. This might not be a thing in your family but we used to end up with one day left and have 4 places to still try. So now we plan and it’s much nicer that way.

We actually found a new place this time in Ballito and we liked it so much, we went back for a second night. On that second night (a Friday), we also discovered they do live music (80s) on Fridays so next time we will definitely be visiting on a Friday and staying a long time (I love live music over supper!).

3. Travel light and wash some laundry if necessary

I do recommend that you travel as light as you can and rather wash some laundry if necessary.

I like holidays of 7 days so I travel with my Eco egg and do a load at around day 3 – 4. This is probably not necessary but I also don’t like knowing I have dirty laundry (and work) waiting for me once I get home. It’s much easier to throw on a load in between watching Wimbledon or going for a walk on the beach.

Fun fact – one of my team at work said to me that I probably travel with lots of stuff because I have my own desk and I have one drawer full of food, another full of stationery and the credenza with a spare pashmina, deodorant, hand cream, kettle, etc. I like to be prepared! I told her that I don’t and could be ready to leave for anywhere in 30 minutes because of my lists and my packed toiletry bag.

4. Packing lists are your friend

This will come as no surprise but I love a packing list. I have a packing list for me for…

  1. work travel
  2. personal travel to Ballito (beach), Clarens, Drakensburg and PE (my home town)

I also have packing lists for the kids for summer and winter travel.

My own packing lists include sections for clothes, toiletries, tech, stationery and if we’re driving, kitchen stuff.

Here’s the trick: update the list the minute you realise you want to make a change. With my Use up 24 in 2024, I forgot to replenish my face wash so I had to buy a bar of soap (no biggie). We were in the Drakensberg once and even though it was the heart of summer, those mountains get very cold at night so now I know to travel with long pyjamas, not “Jhb summer pjs”.

I also have a list of goals for any time I travel and I check it every couple of days; otherwise I forget because I’m in holiday mode. My list includes things like 1) read 4 books 2) see friends X and Y 3) Try Rivers Church 4) go for a beach walk every day.

My lists are all paper-based and in an A5 flipfile… but I scanned the ones for the kids and store those electronically. It was also so easy to just Whatsapp it to them and say “here you go – your packing list”. What a change from having little children!

5. Keep a packed toiletry bag

I think that this is my true spark of genius. I have doubles of everything – toothbrush, toothpaste, facecloth, sponge, etc. When I return from a trip, I dry out everything and check what I need to replenish. This may take a day of that toiletry bag being out on my bathroom vanity but when I pack it away, I am ready for the next trip.

I do have a small bag (a little bigger than a make-up bag) with a checklist inside – medication, speedstick, moisturiser, BB cream, eye pencil, lip liner, nail clippers, nail polish. This is “morning of” packing because I don’t want my stuff getting old inside my toiletry bag while it waits for me to go on a trip. E.g. we returned from Clarens on 2 Jan and left for Ballito on 28 June, nearly 6 months later. I prefer to use up my stuff and just pack the latest items that morning.


Packing cubes

Packing cubes are my new favourite things. I love that I can use the cubes for categories – pyjamas & underwear, warm weather clothes, cold weather clothes, beach wear, or whichever categories you like. When I went on a work trip in November last year, I tagged a weekend onto my client meetings so I had a cube for weekend stuff, one for day 1 of work, and one for day 2 of work. So easy to just grab one cube; the rest of your suitcase stays neat because you only need to access that cube.

Here’s the best: I just pack the cubes onto the shelves, hang what I need, place shoes and I’m unpacked in about 3 minutes.

I do the same in reverse and packing is super quick.


Hope these tips helped!

Tell me, do you naturally travel heavier or lighter? Do you have packing lists? Do you keep them digitally or printed out?


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