An art, a science, a necessary evil, packing is a task all travellers must undertake before the real journey begins. As many of us head off to sun and sand this month, an excerpt from new book Lonely Planet's How to Pack For Any Trip by WriteYou Travel Editor, Sarah Barrell reveals what essentials you really need to cram in that suitcase.
Where are you going?
The blustery, rugged beach
If you want more than bronzing from the beach, pack your walking boots and go coastal to spots where simple sun-seekers are rarely seduced. When it comes to packing, think action. Trekking boots or fishing tackle? Save on space, and possibly money, too, by phoning ahead to see what can be hired at your destination. Will it be riding Wales’ surf or tackling the long-distance walking trails that carve up the limestone karst landscapes of Croatia’s mountainbacked coast? Saddling up for a hack around Denmark’s broad, sand beaches or biking New Zealand’s glacier-hewn bays?
Whatever rocks your boat, plan ahead.
• Wetsuit: kids go in whatever the weather, but if you want more than a quick dip, consider a halfsuit. Not a huge investment, but these buy you more swim time in chilly waters and have become de rigueur in British waters.
• Waterproof shoes: waterproof walking boots or rubber shoes are best. When repacking, wrap each in a plastic bag and stuff with dirty linen to save space.
• Talcum powder: when it comes to ridding skin of sticky, damp sand, there’s nothing as effective as talc – just sprinkle, rub and remove, then slip socks back on to hike onwards in comfort. Talc also doubles as dry shampoo, stops backpacks chafing shoulders and, should there be a heatwave, cools clammy sheets.
FAST FACT: Exploring Scandinavia’s shores? On the region’s seafood safaris, fishers offer insight (and lunch) on lobster-farming, netting mussels, shucking oysters and more. Warm hats recommended!
Case study: Cornwall
Contrary to British belief, you cannot bring on warm weather by dressing for it. Cornwall’s golden sands and its much-vaunted microclimate may bode well but, even in summer, it pays to come prepared.
Think sweaters, along with hopeful swimsuits and a lightweight anorak. Drysacks are brilliant for keeping grit and moisture from terrorising your tech. And consider packing a windbreak. Protection on elemental beaches can be the difference between fun and fail.
Where are you going?
The barefoot, exotic beach
When hitting the sand, you need little more than a colourful swimsuit and a smile, right? That’s the spirit on a tropical beach break. But from the islands of Thailand to the white-sand atolls of the Maldives and the sun- and fun-sure beaches of Brazil, there are some key packing requirements. For example, coral often comes with both mesmerising colours and a sting. A basic medical kit may seem a bit Boy Scout, but it’s essential, especially if you’re cast away on a far-flung island. Oh, and that swimsuit? Take extras. Humidity means things don’t dry well and swimming togs are likely to be your daily outfit.
• Aloe vera: with great medicinal and cooling qualities, lotions made from the plant’s juice make the best after-sun solution. If it grows locally, simply strip the outer leaves and slather the inner goo on to skin.
• Nature-friendly sunscreen: the world’s coral is getting a bashing from overfishing, El Niño and rising ocean temperatures, so don’t add to its problems by layering on the sunscreen before swimming. Cover up with a T-shirt or pack creams that eschew harmful oxybenzone.
• Wet wipes: you may not be a middle-aged mum, but these are great for coping in skeezy loos, freshening up in lieu of a shower, cooling hot face and hands, sanitising cuts and scratches, and even sprucing up dusty sandals.
PATCH IT UP: Even practised beach bunnies burn in these climes. Try the new ‘smart’ skin patches, which track the skin’s exposure to harmful UV rays.
Case study: Thailand
In other parts of the world it may not be considered manly, but in Thailand both men and women can celebrate the sarong and a locally-bought cotton one is both a norm and a necessity. It’s a useful shield against both freezing bus air-conditioning and fierce sun, and also doubles as a beach blanket, sheet and bath towel (with a quick rinse in between).
Duct tape is also your friend. You may have a mosquito net over your bed, but chances there’ll be a hole (or five). Also useful for patching ripped backpacks… and taping that increasingly annoying travel companion’s mouth shut. Jokes aside (we hope), tape is a handy fix. But pack your own net if you’re going Alex Garland-style remote where mozzie protection can’t be guaranteed.
BEACH PACKING: Top 5 Tips
Avoid struggling into your wetsuit by putting plastic bags on your hands and feet so you can slip it on more easily.
Do you really need to squeeze a beach towel in your suitcase? A sarong is just as good for drying as for wearing.
A telescopic umbrella is easy to carry and could provide relief from the sun on a deserted cove with little shade.
Forgot the bucket and spade? That takeaway coffee cup and spoon will keep your pint-size builders busy.
In-ear headphones are small, light and a less sweaty proposition under the burning sun. Get the sports variety that hook over your ear so they don’t drop out and fall in the sand.
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