Case study: top tips on packing your bags

From vacuum packing to cool-weather layering, the canny traveller's luggage mantra is all about economy.

Most of us fail dismally at packing. Here's some advice from professional travellers, from luggage selection to hints on what to put in it and what to leave behind.

- Check the expiry date on your passport. Many countries require at least six months' validity. And if you do have to renew, make sure you leave plenty of time, especially during peak travel periods. You can check if a visa is required at iatatravelcentre.com.

- Make your case stand out from the crowd. Tie a ribbon, clip a rainbow-coloured strap around your case or put stickers all over it. Think how many identical black, roll-on cases there are spinning around the carousels in airports. Bright colours will make it easier for you to spot and might just make a baggage handler pick it out sooner.

- Pack for your bag to be lost - and leave anything you can't bear to lose at home. This means having a change of clothes in your hand luggage and keeping anything you need to get yourself settled in - such as vouchers for hire cars and hotel room reservations - on your person rather than in your suitcase.

- Some airlines, especially budget airlines, restrict hand baggage size to less than what is specified in the International Air Transport Association regulations (iata.org). Check before you travel, as many airlines now charge to check a bag into the hold. In some cases, this fee is higher if you haven't pre-booked. This might mean deciding how many suitcases to take when you're booking your flight.

- You might get away with a larger and heavier carry-on bag than restrictions allow if you check-in online and go straight to security. The X-ray folk are less bothered about size than contents.

- A decreasing number of hotels, especially budget chains, offer an iron. In some places they won't provide you with one even if you ask, so you may need to pack a travel iron.

- Pack as carefully when you're heading home as you would before a trip - thousands of items are left in hotel rooms every year. A quick look around the cupboards, drawers and floors in your room - don't forget under the bed - should be part of your checking-out routine.

- Hot places can be cold at night, particularly if at high altitudes. A warm jacket or fleece will be handy. Rather than carrying a bulky overcoat, consider using layers as another way to reduce the volume of clothes you're carrying.

From the experts:

"Take a pair of tights everywhere. Cut up, they make great bandages, balaclavas, head bands, mosquito-net construction tools ... and even for wearing on your legs."

- Sally Broom, founder of Tripbod (tripbod.com)

"Always carry a pillow slip and double sheet or, better yet, a duvet cover you can slide into. You never know where you might end up sleeping on your travels and what state it will be in, so it is comforting (and far less of a health risk) to have your own bedding to wrap up in. If you can afford it, fork out for silk bedding — the tight weave makes it all that harder for bugs to crawl through."

- Neal Bedford, Lonely Planet author

"Go to the butcher before you leave and ask them to vacuum pack one set of spare clothes. Shove at the bottom of your rucksack and you'll always have some nice-smelling, dry clothes ... in case you get invited somewhere nice for tea."

- Sally Broom

"I never travel without a second bag: a foldaway one which folds inside itself and weighs almost nothing. You can fill it up and leave it behind when doing a side trip, or take it with you on a day out."

- Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet

This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet's Best Ever Travel Tips by Tom Hall (Lonely Planet, $14.99).

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