How not to pack for overseas travel.

This is the second post in my Ni hao China travelogue blog series .

I was part of the South African education delegation that was invited to visit China for ten days.

Even packing my travel bags was a mission for me, a novice international traveller.

I fretted about how to pack because I needed at least four formal outfits for the official visits to San Yat-Sen University, two schools and Hanban Headquarters. Then we were going to tour a few historical and cultural sites as well.

Bag was packed only 80% at this point!

"Go minimalist," the blogger travel experts ranted.  "Maximum two pairs of shoes, flip flops, three bottoms and about five tops to mix and match."

I struggled. I don't know how these travellers combine business and leisure outfits into a shoestring travel wardrobe. When I sent my friend , Tertia, a picture of my travel case, she replied in a nano second.

"Are you losing your mind, girl", she said." Get rid of that truck load. Of course, I paraphrase here to protect my readers' sensitivity to my friend who calls a spade a front-end loader.

"Take one pair of dress shoes only. And throw out that jewellery. What are all those scarves doing in your bag? "

Tertia was on a roll and I was feeling more confused.

Eventually I relented. I got rid of the hiking boots, a dress, two blouses and a shorts. And some of the toiletries. And a few scarves and two clutch bags. And a few of the costume jewellery pieces. Ouch!

Tertia wasn't done. A text message came through:

"Sharon, take tips from me. I travel a lot. 1. Drink a disprin day before you fly, while you fly and day after you landed. Do the same in return. Keeps your blood from clotting. Long flight to China. 2. Get saline nasal spr ay. Keep your nose wet it dries out in plane then you pick up all the germs in that bubble 3. Walk every 2 hours to prevent feet from swelling and fly with comfy clothes and sandles no straps. 4. Get a broad spectrum antibiotic from your GP. You (sic) when getting sick abroad. Ask me, I was in hospital in Marocco. 5. Get stuff for upset stomach to prevent dehydration.

My bestie, Naomi, checked all my documents and made sure that I had enough insurance cover.  She  wanted to see the photocopies of my passport, medical information and so forth. Naomi also ran through the medical kit list with me.

These are the lessons I learned:

  1. Follow the advice of seasoned travellers. Do pack lightly because you won't need all those clothes  shoes, jewellery and toiletries.
  2. I only used two pairs of shoes for the formal visits: a black pair of heels and a blue pair of pumps.  I could have left the white heels and the leather sandals at home.
  3. I only needed the three formal pants: two black and one beige. I could have taken along one pair of jeans instead of two.
  4. I packed in enough toiletries to use for a 6-month holiday. I should have only packed in a small travel pack of essentials in my carryover instead of a duplicate set of toiletries that was in my checked luggage.
  5. I only used the same pair of earrings throughout the trip and wore only one piece of costume jewellery on ONE occasion. The clutch bag that was filled with a few pieces of jewellery was a waste of time and space.
  6. The scarves I packed in, were the best multi-functional items. They doubled as headgear, scarves, belts and throws.


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