Anyone who’s ever met me will tell you that I like stuff. I like experiences too, but I have a lot of stuff.

Which is why it generally surprises people that I like to travel light whenever possible. They often furrow their brows and say, ‘But where’s all your stuff?’

This is because I travel practically.1 I’ve been on holiday with friends who’ve brought more makeup, toiletries, lotions, creams, and bathroom stuff than all of my stuff put together. I hate carrying stuff. My motto is, ‘if we forget it, we’ll buy it when we get there’.2 And if it’s something super important, well, I guess we won’t ever get there anyway.

When packaging luggage, you should always have a goal in mind. My goal is always entertainment. Trust me, you don’t want to spend any time with me when I’m bored.

How to pack for travelling

Here’s what I packed for Amsterdam:

What I pack in my hand baggage

For long haul flights I tend to have the same stuff, but generally I throw in one or two more books.

You’ll probably notice I don’t have any liquids or bottles of any kind, not even 100ml. I just can’t be bothered. They’re all in my suitcase.

01. Travel card

My Mango card, which is a travel card for my home city, happens to be in this shot because we were flying from our local airport. If I’m flying from London, which I usually am, I also have an Oyster card.3 These are basically how I get to/from airports, as public transport is really good and I hate long taxi journeys.

02. Money, in pounds sterling

I’m always starting from the UK and ending in the UK, so having some cash in pounds sterling is a good idea, just in case it’s useful. Apart from those direct Ukrainian flights between the UK and Ukraine that only accept Euros despite the fact that neither of those countries has Euros as their official currency. But anyway.

03. SD cards

A wallet of SD cards for my camera. I keep these with me in my hand luggage (in my camera bag usually) because trust no one.

04. Money, in the currency of the location we’re going

I prefer to pay cash for everything when I’m abroad. The only exception to this is in the US, when credit cards are sometimes required for hotel etc.

In this case, as we were off to Amsterdam, I had Euros. This has only ever failed me once, when we flew from the UK to Turkey and our plane was delayed and we missed the connecting flight. We ended up in Germany with pounds sterling and Turkish lira and no Euros. So now I try to always take Euros. Even to America. You never know.

5. A book

Length and number depending on how long the flight is. I always read a book or magazine for takeoff and landing because I hate those parts (did you know they’re the most risky parts of a flight? Why yes, I have watched at least fifty episodes of Air Crash Investigation). Pro tip: Make sure your book isn’t a long drawn out story about people stuck on a fast rollercoaster train crashing and burning.

6. iPad mini

I love my iPad mini. LOVE. I mostly use this for reading magazines, taking wide angle photos of the view outside the window (I’ve recently become one of those people and I’m quite enjoying it), and for playing games. I usually play Lords of Waterdeep with Joe while reading.

7. Nintendo 3DS and games

Keeps me quiet for a while, which is never a bad thing

8. Emergency socks and underwear

I ALWAYS carry Emergency Socks because they’re always useful for something. See also: nearly dying in the Grand Canyon. Since getting stranded in Germany, I can assure you that spare underwear in hand luggage is an essential when your suitcase is in an entirely different continent to you.

9. Tissues

They don’t have to be Hello Kitty, but Hello Kitty is preferred. (I bought these in Austria. Good times).

10. A reusable shopping bag

In case I buy more stuff. Or in case stuff needs packing into other stuff.

11. A retractable USB cable

These things are a god send. They take up hardly any space, and you can colour code them at home so no one gets confused. This only charges my phone, not my iPad, but still.

12. Passport

Kind of important. Nothing special here really. It has the cool symbol on which means I can go through those automatic scanning gates that never want to let me through. And it has a couple of stamps from Ukraine and Vegas (it’s a fairly new passport).

13. Earphones

For listening to music, watching Netflix etc. (even though I only listen in one ear just in case there’s an important announcement, like the oxygen masks are coming down or something. Did you know that those things only have one to two minutes of oxygen in them?). Joe has the earphone splitter, because I’m not responsible enough, and also so he has something to blackmail me with when I insist on summarising every episode of Air Crash Investigation I’ve ever seen.

14. My phone

Currently a Samsung Galaxy 7. I can’t go anywhere without my phone, I WOULD DIE. Or other people would. (Did you know that a guy once survived a plane crash because he’d taken his shoes off for the flight? He just happened to be putting them on again and was therefore in the brace position when impact happened. Totally saw that on Air Crash Investigation).

15. My camera bag

This is usually the bag I carry around during the day when we’re actually out and about abroad. It contains my camera plus my favourite lens, my credit card, two camera batteries (these are lithium and not allowed in hold luggage anyway), a USB battery charger, and my SD card wallet. Normally I have to get this bag out of my rucksack when going through security so they can actually see what’s in it. If I’m in Germany, accidentally or on purpose, they normally get my camera out and look through it too. I’m not sure what they’re looking for. Maybe they’re just admiring it (?!)

16. Umbrella

This isn’t something I normally take but it was definitely a mistake as it flagged up the security check both ways. Next time it’s going in my suitcase!

17. Toiletries bag

I don’t normally have this in my hand luggage, but I put it in temporarily to save on suitcase space. It contains the usual stuff – toothbrush, comb, hair ties, cotton buds, face wipes, deodorant, etc.

And all this stuff fits in…

…a little(ish) daysack. It’s not the most attractive bag in the world, but it is practical – I can just chuck it on my back and go. I’m forever getting things in and out of my bag, so I always want one that I don’t have to store in the overhead lockers on planes.

How to pack hand luggage

And that’s how to pack hand luggage like a Jenni! What are your travel essentials?

  1. Well, there’s got to be something practical I can do, right?
  2. Note: This didn’t work out for me when my camera battery died on a small Norwegian island that didn’t sell camera batteries.
  3. I have three Oyster cards. Really long story.