Confession: I'm a little bit of a packing light obsessive. My hatred of the luggage collection carousel at airports borders on the irrational. I will do nearly anything I can to get away with just taking carry on. So, over time I have developed a list of those items that are all killer, no filler. I think there are really 7 things you need to take on your any trip (no matter where you are going).
Below are, in no particular order, my top picks to optimise your luggage.
1. Turkish towel
I have used my Turkish towel as a blanket, scarf, sarong, shawl, towel, pillow and just about everything in between. Whether you are after another layer on a freezing flight or needing to preserve your modesty at a temple, the Turkish towel is your friend. I have imagined that it could be used as a sling but (luckily) thus far I have not needed to find out. When using for its intended purpose it dries amazingly fast as well. Rolling into the space of a drink bottle, it is without doubt a traveller's best friend.
If in doubt, take it. Trust me, no matter where you are going, you'll use it every day.
2. Pawpaw ointment
Cuts, burns, grazes, unidentified party injuries, the paw paw ointment heals all. Hard to find outside of Aus, and coming in a handy little tube, it takes up zero space and is always needed.
Pictured above: Lucas Pawpaw Ointment, $4.99 from Chemist Warehouse.
Flip flops, jandals, call them what you will, I think we can all agree that no one wants to risk a hostel shower without them. Light, slim, super handy, they are easy to fit in your bag. But - let's be honest - if you are going to a warm country they will be on your feet most of the time. Buy a plain black pair and take them everywhere.
Pictured above: Havaianas Slim Thong, $29.99 and Havaianas Top Thong, $24.99 from Surf Stitch.
4. Notebook and pen
They say everyone has a novel in them, and it's on holidays that the great ideas start to form. Don't miss the opportunity to jot down your breakthrough because your iPhone is out of battery. Also useful for filling in various forms, taking directions and scoring the endless games played on long haul train rides.
Pictured above: Moleskine Classic Pocket Notebook, $24.95 from Officeworks.
5. Good quality shampoo and conditioner
Don't let your 10-day trip ruin your $300 foils! Take my advice - settle for the cheapo hotel shampoo at your peril. Take a mini sized one you actually like (personally I'm a sucker for the mini Moroccan oil shampoo) or just decant some of your normal bottle into a small container. You can buy an appropriate one at most chemists or supermarkets. No one wants to come home with green hair.
Pictured above: Mini OGX Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo, $4 from Chemist Warehouse.
6. One good jumper
Choose the right jumper for your trip and you won't stop thanking yourself. Light enough to squish down small, warm enough to keep to snug, but old or cheap enough you aren't heartbroken but an accidental rip or spill. Go for cashmere if you've got the coin - it really does keep you warmer in the cold and is lighter and thinner than anything else. If you don't mind being seen in polar fleece, go for that. Personally I'll always opt for a wool or cashmere number, and these days it's possible to pick one up really reasonably from uniqlo. Chalk it up as a cost of the trip, don't expect to bring it home, and if you do see it as a bonus!
Pictured above: Cashmere jumper, $109.90 from Uniqlo.
7. Refillable water bottle
Given the ever-changing rules about whether you can or cannot carry-on bottled water to planes, I think it is infinitely handy to have a good-quality bottle on you that you can empty and re-fill as you go. These are also great because it encourages you to fill it up every morning and take it with you, meaning you are drinking water when out and about (something I nearly ALWAYS forget otherwise).
Also, there is nothing worse than dry-mouth on an aeroplane, begging the cabin crew repeatedly for those mini-bottles which you down in an instant. Solution: BYO bottle.
Pictured above: Nalgene bottle, $16.95 from Paddy Pallin.
For reals. Sometimes you get sick. Sometimes it's in a foreign country, where you don't speak the language, can't read the packets in the pharmacy and miming diarrhoea to a confused greek lady is the last thing you want to be doing. Take the following: paracetamol, hydrolyte (also useful after a holiday bender), immodium or gastro-stop and, if you are travelling somewhere that has a very high food poisoning risk, an antibiotic.