Last Wednesday I jetted off to Barcelona for some quality time sans coat and scarf. I’ve been on a few overseas trips this year and last, and packing for them never gets easier. I’m quite a fastidious packer but I have a tendency to fill my bag – I like to have all my ‘stuff’ close to hand. A habit that often leads to frantic rearranging at the airport when I’m three kilos over the limit and Ryanair want to charge me £60 for the pleasure. Which happened last Wednesday.
We experienced the wrath of Ryanair a couple of times on our trip – their baggage policy is very strict but not always enforced, which makes it almost impossible to pack to their standards. And one of the stupider rules is the ‘only one item of hand luggage’. So a suitcase, a handbag or a laptop bag. You can, however, buy a massive bag from duty free and shove as much as you want into it. And don’t think because your suitcase was the correct height on your flight out, it will still be the correct height on the way home. My poor friend Clare was stung for £50 because her suitcase apparently grew a couple of inches between Nottingham and Barcelona. Crazy.
So, with all that in mind, it pays to just carry the essentials. If you have a checked bag (like I did), your handbag can double up as extra space for items that may take you over the checked luggage limit (damn you, curling wand). If you have hand luggage only, keeping your handbag light means you can squash it into your suitcase at a moment’s notice.
My handbag is the Longchamp Le Pliage large shopper. At £72 it wasn’t cheap, but my god – it was worth every penny. These bags are huge but fold down to nothing, with handy press studs to keep them in a neat little square. They’re lightweight and squashable but strong enough for a heavy load (try a DSLR camera and extra lens, MacBook Air and charger, hairdryer, hair straighteners, curling wand, bag of jewellery, two jumpers AND everything you see up there. Yes, I WAY overpacked). They’re comfortable to carry – I used this during the day while in Barcelona – and they’re really secure with a top zip and press stud flap. Plus they come in lots of lovely colours. BUY ONE.
My flight to Barcelona was only a few hours, but airports and planes are sweaty, stifling places. You’re usually wandering round the airport in a coat and scarf, dragging a bag and desperately looking for a seat. And on the plane, you’re wedged between a kicky two year old and an Aussie rugby player who is literally radiating heat. The chance to freshen up should never be sniffed at.
For my short flight, I took a whole load of minis – deodorant, hand sanitiser (have you SEEN plane bathrooms?!), hand cream, lip balm, a perfume sample and a hair brush with mirror. Other than the deodorant, all the minis are from beauty boxes, street samplers, magazines or department stores – I hoard them and save them for travelling. Just remember they need to be 100ml or less and put in a clear plastic bag for security.
The last few things in my bag are practical. I always keep my passport in a zipped side pocket for safety and easy access (nothing worse than the terrifying stomach drop when you think you’ve lost it). My phone in case I fancy some music and headphones, because plane headphones are the living worst and you never know when you’ll be the one sitting next to that kicky two year old. My purse for duty free shopping (natch) and my Kindle with new books loaded and ready to read.
The final thing in my bag is possibly the most important for surviving a flight in style and comfort – a lightweight scarf. Apparently regulating the temperature of aircraft is akin to splitting the atom – the slightest change and it either plummets or soars. Scarves like this one from Cos can be scrunched up in your bag and whipped out when you feel the chill, then stowed away when it gets warm. And they double up as pillows, blankets for your knees and napkins when you spill red wine during turbulence. True multi-taskers!
So that’s it – the What’s in my Bag Flight Edition, with added practicalities to help you navigate through luggage policies and reach your final destination. Anything I’ve missed? What do you pack in your handbag for a flight?