Over the last 2 years I have had to become a bit of a master at packing a carry on suitcase. It is an art in itself, especially if you are limited to just one piece of carry-on luggage, which includes your handbag, however small it may be (yes that’s you Easyjet, making me stuff it into my already ram-packed case). Plus, the 100ml liquid rule throws up all kinds of issues, causing me numerous meltdowns in my quest to become an expert packer. I’m just thankful they’ve stopped weighing bags!
An example of how the 100ml rule can wreak havoc at the start of a trip, is an incident with my friend J. She was flying out to meet me for a girlie weekend in La La La Rochelle as it is now known (it’s a lot of fun there). She normally pays to chuck a bag in the hold, but on this occasion decided to carry on as it was only a fleeting 2 night visit. However, on arrival at security she was summoned to one side as a lady pointed out that she would have to hand over most of her products as she had failed the 100ml plastic bag test. Not only had she not decanted into 100ml or less containers, but she didn’t even have said plastic bag!
Hysterical and attempting to explain in a high pitched voice at full speed, how her brand new Dermalogica and Clarins were totally necessary for her stressed out skin, and how hideous it is that she’s in her 40’s and shouldn’t even be getting these breakouts, but, life is so stressful at the moment, and this was a special trip to ease the pain momentarily, plus, and more importantly, the products were worth more than the flight itself (Ryan Air special). The lady, probably one screech away from calling security, actually took sympathy on her and allowed her to go back and decant some bits. She then informed her that there were lock ups that she could leave her full sized bottles in and retrieve later on her return. That is clearly a huge secret that nobody else but her knows about, but I guess if you get hysterical and squeaky enough and are lucky to get someone sympathetic they may let you in on it.
I too had a similar but less hysterical incident, and I did have the necessary plastic bag, however, I tried to sneak 2 bags through so I must take a bit of responsibility. My trip had been for a seminar hosted by RED magazine, which I later discovered for this particular one meant lots of great freebies. To me it was a no-brainer – just get another bag! All the gifts fell below the 100ml mark, and my wisdom told me that if they both went in a different box whilst going through x-ray, who would know? The box police that is who, and my word of warning – try it, but risk having to choose between your free OPI nail varnish and the free Elemis hand cream. At this point, if I’d had the time (or courage), I would have opened the hand cream and smothered it on to every bit of skin on display and painted my nails with 8 coats each, just to prove a point, but I didn’t, and had to wave goodbye to things I luckily hadn’t actually paid for in the first place, whilst the lady behind the x-ray looked on with glee at her new nail varnish and hand cream.
I travel on budget airlines quite a bit with work, mainly from Bordeaux to London, and I am pretty meticulous about what I take, and normally manage my packing with ease. However, throw in a friends’ party and a posh dinner where something other than converse are essential, and this is where my packing skills really do get put to the test, as packing more than 1 pair of heeled shoes is a challenge to say the least!
It doesn’t help that I am a beauty product fiend, and of course the 100ml clear plastic bag issue causes a massive headache for someone like me who is nearing 50 with problematic skin. Hence, I have become a hoarder of those little samples and miniatures you receive with magazines. Just before Christmas, 3 magazines were running promotions on cover – Benefit priming mascara, Clinique mascara, Clinique face cream, estee lauder night serum etc etc. It may seem strange to purchase exactly the same magazine 3 times over, and it’s quite a weight to carry, but like Martin Lewis money saving expert would point out, the value of the freebie completely outweighs the cost of the magazine, plus, my friends get a free mag too. It’s a win win situation.
I also always ask for samples whenever I buy products in store, and online there is normally an offer of a free miniature, from which I choose very carefully depending on what is running low in my never emptied plastic bag.
Another very handy collection are the travel sizes at Boots. These are a godsend, and it means that whichever way I’m going, I can either stock up in departures on missing bits whilst flying out, or if I’m flying in, run to the nearest Boots where I grab my long weekends worth of body cream, deodorant, shampoo etc, and leave precious space in my little plastic bag for the important facial products.
The other great thing I did was to invest time in finding the perfect sized case. It’s easy to find cases that comply with the cheaper/budget airlines restrictions, but when you open the case and look inside, the space hasn’t been utilised as well as it could have been most of the time. I used to have the perfect case with hard exterior, necessary restricted dimensions and tardis-like interior, with enough little zip compartments to satisfy the fiercest compartmental OCD behaviour. The best part, it was from LIDL and only cost £30! So imagine my dismay when after a year of bouncing it carelessly across many a cobbled street that the zip broke. It is possibly fixable but the fastest option was to just buy another, and as I was in London when it broke, I headed to both Selfridges and John Lewis to see what they had to offer.
For 3 hours I became the luggage sales assistants worst nightmare. Yes Mr salesperson, it is the correct dimension, on the outside, but what about inside? Those wheels are taking up too much space, I could easily fit my imac cable and a hairbrush there. The bit where the handle is takes up the space of a whole converse trainer, and no Mr Salesperson I am not willing to look at a £500 case. This went on and on until I literally broke them.
I was about to give up and head off defeated, up to the haberdashery department with the intentions of attempting to fix the zip, when there it was. Just to be sure, I took off a trainer and moved it around the inside, carefully placing it at all angles to be certain it would easily fill the gaps without leaving unnecessary unused space. It was like a Cinderella glass shoe moment. But oh lord, what is the price of the holy grail of this perfect carry on case? The make is a Delsey Paris Vavin Securite 55cm, and just the word Paris started to ring alarm bells. It comes in 3 colours, although John Lewis didn’t have this option at the time, so unbeknown to me, my only option was gun mental, which I didn’t really give one about if I’m honest. And the cost – around £170 give or take. SOLD to the mad lady with the roaming trainer.
7 months in, and this case has served me well. It has taken many a bounce around airports and has been pushed to its full capacity limit. It’s whizzed off from me on the odd occasion with its over zealous wheels and knocked over a small child or 2 without my knowledge, but it is a trusty reliable friend. Except of course when I’m heading off somewhere that requires more than 3 pairs of shoes, 2 dress up dinners and a ton of make-up a drag queen would be proud of. On these occasions it is banished to the loft, and its knackered heavier distant relative emerges. A bit older, shabby and wrinkly around the edges but who cares, as you my dear friend are to be thrown in the hold, unseen until emerging on the belt amongst a sea of equally well stuffed cases baring a belly full of shoes, jewellery and as much full size liquids as can possibly be squeezed in!