What I no longer pack for holidays
IF YOU'VE ever watched a struggling cabbie dump your heavy suitcase into the boot of their taxi, say "Wow, someone's done a lot of shopping on holiday!", but you're actually on your way to the airport for the start of your trip, you know you're an overpacker.
That exact scenario has happened to me twice.
I don't know why I pack so much. I think it's my eagerness to prepare for anything that compels me to cram a heap of unnecessary stuff into my suitcase at the last minute while I still have the chance.
This is obviously a huge problem. Heavy luggage fees - and I've paid a few - are as expensive as they are embarrassing. It means you have less room to fill with new purchases. And it makes it very uncomfortable to lug your suitcase around, especially if you're not staying in one place the whole time. (Once, in Tokyo, I got lost in a train station and cried - CRIED - not because I was lost, but because I couldn't handle dragging my weighty suitcase a single step more.)
So after a lot of soul-searching, these are the things I've bravely decided to give the flick.
I can't tell you the number of times this has happened to me: when right at the last minute of packing, when all my essentials have been painstakingly folded into my suitcase, I throw in some gym clothes and runners "just in case".
I can, however, tell you the number of times I've hit the gym on holiday, even when my accommodation has excellent facilities: zero.
I appreciate my good intentions but I am not going to work out during my holiday. I do lots of walking - and always bring walking shoes - but I never, ever spend time at the gym. And right there is a good bit of weight - from my suitcase, if nowhere else - I can ditch.
REALLY FANCY SHOES
It's taken me years to finally accept I simply won't wear the stilettos I packed in case I wound up at a film premiere, fancy restaurant or A-list yacht party. That's not to say I don't dress up on holiday - I do - but after hours and hours of walking and sightseeing by day, I can never be bothered to force my tired feet into towering heels at night.
Besides, my nights often involve even more sightseeing, and there is absolutely no way I'm doing that in sky-high stilettos. Nice flats take me from day to night and it's very liberating. And if someone swings me an invite to that yacht party, I'll spring for a pair of fancies at the shops.
If, like me, you've been travelling for longer than smartphone cameras have been good, hitting the road without your trusty point-and-shoot can seem wrong.
But it's reached the point where my phone camera takes as good a photo as anything else I own, so I've done away with my camera (along with its case, charger and back-up memory cards) and stick with my phone, which I need to bring anyway.
For a while I was using both - switching from the camera to the phone whenever I didn't want to look too touristy - but organising holiday photos that are split between two devices is annoying. Plus, with the phone you can upload shots on social media right away and let's be honest, that's 60 per cent of the reason you're taking photos anyway.
Jewellery lovers: you know that almighty tangle of chains you have to deal with when you arrive at the hotel? The jewellery rat king? That's part of the reason I've stopped bringing anything other than the few key pieces I'm willing to wear on the plane.
I'm also nervous about losing valuables, and as much as I hate to admit it no one's going to be marvelling at my extensive collection of jewels on holiday. Hide them at home and be happier for it.
THAT SECOND PAIR OF JEANS
The truth is, no matter the clothing options, I'll reach for the most comfortable option every time.
Maybe it has something to do with wanting to be as comfortable as possible in a strange place. Maybe it's because of all the eating and drinking. But the most comfortable jeans are the only ones I can tolerate.
I often come home with a few days' worth of clothes I packed but didn't touch, and that second pair of jeans is chief among them. I've learned my lesson. Ditch 'em.
I'm a big bookworm but when travelling - especially when I'm travelling with other people - I just don't read. I don't read when I return to my hotel after a big night out, and I prefer to listen to music by the beach or pool. On the plane, I'm too mentally exhausted for anything other than a Modern Family marathon, and at the airport, the most my feeble mind can manage is a gossip mag from the newsagency.
I have e-books on my smartphone (though I still rarely read them), and if I'd been reading a travel guide before the trip, I'll jot down a few notes and leave the hefty tome at home.
And if I find I do want to read, I'll buy a book that doubles as a souvenir, such as the old-timey anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories I bought at 22B Baker Street in London, which remains one of the prides of my bookshelf.
I graduated from hostels to hotels a while ago but I still found myself packing things like shampoo, conditioner and shower gel that came compliments of most hotels anyway. Why?
And a lot of places I've stayed at recently have been stocked with free things like toothpaste, combs, razors and shaving gels.
I've boldly begun leaving home without a lot of basic (and very heavy!) toiletries, and buying them at my destination if they don't come free.
And then using them up so I can ditch them before I come home.
And actually, with the exception of clothes, medication, passport, visa, money and phone, there isn't a lot you can't buy from most places you visit.
Finally realising this point has taken a lot of pressure off my holiday packing. I don't freak out and overthink and overpack - and the cabbies and Uber drivers of the world are probably happier too.