I’m gonna level with ya. There is not a great deal that I have gleaned after 18 years as a journalist that is of huge practicable use. Perhaps an ability to persuade people to chat to me without feeling they are telling me too much. A certain disposition to question what is behind what I am being told. A willingness to push to the front of a queue or to charm people into giving me special service for no good reason.
All perfectly reasonable attributes and talents, no doubt, but in these days of the egocentric and emboldened by the tools of the internets – your own blog, your own unpaid column on a website called Charlotte’s Web, Sophie’s World or Planet MeMe by Mimi – nothing groundbreaking (apart from a press card and a qualification, not that means anything these days).
So really there is little I can tell you that will help you hugely. Except for this.
I have mastered the art of packing for trips in three minutes.
Perhaps I should qualify that a little. Three minutes for a three- or four-day trip, five minutes for a week-long trip, six or seven minutes for a two-weeker.
And before you say, that is easy, you are not a woman, my Euge-O-Pack-System™ (don’t nick, my lawyers are watching), with a soupcon of devil-maay-care attitude, can easily be taken up by ladeez. Hell, I have taught my eight-year-old daughter Evie the principles of the system and it works a treat for her. And she is one tough customer, I don’t mind telling you, what with hairdryers, tablets (iPad, not medication – she is only eight, you know) and day and evening wear.
Just do as I say and the years of fluster and panic will soon be over, leading to a new era of zen-like tranquillity.
Don’t wash for three weeks
Not you, silly. I mean, your clothes. Leave the laundry basket until it is overflowing, and finally get round to doing three loads one after the other the night before you leave (in the case of a morning flight) or even on the day itself for an evening departure. Fold everything into separate piles – underwear, socks, tees and shirts and so on – on the bedroom floor, Do not, I repeat, not, put anything away. Bear with me; all will become clear.
Timing is of the essence
OK, you can turn your egg-timer over now; you’ve got about the same time to get through this as would be needed for a softly boiled egg. Generally, if I am going away on a press trip or city break, it is for three or four nights; the system is fine with longer trips, though on your first one or two attempts you may need to adjust your timer to that of a medium boiled egg.
Pack in the buff
No, I am not some sort of pervert. (I don’t think.) Nor am I a naturist, though à chacun son goût, an’ all that. But being in your birthday suit means Day One of your four-day packing regime will be taken from the clothes you put to one side. For a four-day visit, put four pairs of socks and boxer shorts to one side. If you are going somewhere especially hot, you can add two more pairs of each to allow a change for evening wear. Next, you’ll need four T-shirts or polo shirts for daywear. Assuming you’ll be going out for dinner a couple of evenings, add in a couple of evening shirts with collars. One spair pare of trousers or smart jeans for such occasions. Swimming trunks or shorts if you are beach-bound or staying at a five-star hotel (they always have pools). And a pair of trainers on top. Experimentation has shown that this is the maximum I will fit into my hand-baggage-sized case. Select the heaviest items and wearthem. That is your Day One allowance. And wear your heavier shoes, plus jacket and overcoat/raincoat as well.
Don’t forget the toothbrush
As I travel often, I permanently keep my toilet bag packed and ready to go, containing all fluids and sprays in maximum 100-ml sized containers, together with a good stash of sealable plastic bags for security.
Computer says go
Finally, even Ryanair has relented and recognised that unnecessarily “pissing our customers off” (as pugnacious boss Michael O’Leary put it in a recent mea culpa) by making handbags and laptops count towards your cabin allowance is pointless. Just about all airlines will allow you to bring one as well as your dolley-trolley wheelie case. I normally stuff a pair of flip-flops in there as my case is fit to burst.
And that is it. Simples. As I say, no more than three minutes from start to finish. Grab your passport and boarding pass that you printed off the night before and off you stride, full of purpose. Forget what airlines say about being at the airport two hours before your flight. You already have your boarding card so there’s no need. I typically allow an hour max. Even this usually gives me 30 minutes airside for a coffee and a browse, but on the rare occasion that security queues are snaking, you’ve built in a little wriggle room.
The sense of smugness you feel as you trot past horrendous queues at check-in with enough suitcases to stock a market stall is exquisite.