Wanderlust: Packing heat


When a freak rainstorm delayed my recent flight from Shanghai to Tokyo by 17 soaked hours, I was annoyed but hardly inconvenienced. I had previous travel delays to thank for teaching me always to pack my Blackberry and laptop chargers – the former, important for connecting me to everyone waiting for me in Japan and the latter, essential for powering iTunes, my method of distraction. Rain like frozen pins and needles battered down upon me while my hair whipped in the wind – but I felt calm.

This unexpected calm got me thinking about past packing snafus, and it made me think about how my previous travels have been a lifelong series of lessons in what and how to pack. I thought back to how I learned the hard way to invest in a top quality Tumi suitcase-on-wheels after my beloved flower-print cotton duffel, purchased for around $100 in Bali’s Ubud Market, disintegrated somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, leaving my belongings strewn across the Manila airport tarmac on arrival. 

I’ve also learned never to rely on soap to remove a wine stain, even if it is an organic and aromatic variety you pocketed from a fancy resort. For that, I now travel with Tide To Go, a slim pen-shaped bleach-infused stain remover. I pack this and all other liquid toiletries inside two waterproof-lined cosmetic bags I bought from Sri Lankan design brand, Paradise Road. After countless episodes of toothpaste escaping its tube and on to my knickers, shampoo soaking my favourite leather sandals and an entire bottle of rather pricy hair straightening cream oozing out all over everything, finding these cases was a serious ‘aha!’ moment.

This got me wondering what my fellow frequent fliers never leave home without. Several hours still to go at Shanghai Pudong Airport, I had plenty of time to read their replies. The London-based editor of the FT’s How to Spend It, Maria Shollenbarger, packs prophylactically, with a full bottle of aspirin for potential aches and pains. She also swears by vitamin C and melatonin ‘to prevent sleep deprivation psychosis’, so I’ll probably pack some too when I travel with her. The global director of public relations for Kempinski Hotels, Maria Kuhn, sensibly travels with tea bags ‘because you never know what you’ll find on the road but you can always make hot water’. My own adaptation is to always pack more than a snack. I’d rather have too much food than not enough which saves from adding a rumbling tummy to an airplane delay. A few friends nominate only their Kindle but Paris-based travel writer Alec Lobrano suggests a paperback too ‘because what happens when you can’t recharge?’ Melissa Biggs Bradley, the founder of Indagare, a private travel designer in New York City, upgrades her feet in the air with suede slippers from Charvet and keeps her high cheekbones hydrated with Crème de la Mer moisturiser, something my scaly skin craved by the time we finally went wheels up. 

I often joke that travel has made me a worse traveller, because each misadventure adds items to my essential packing list. Yet this life on the road has also made me calmer in the face of unexpected change, better prepared for unexpected detours. So if you happen to be sitting next to me on the next misadventure, rest assured I have packed enough Fuji apples, French dark chocolate and Advil in my carry-on for the both of us.


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