Arriving to find you’ve left something key out of your suitcase is a hassle. Frequent traveller Benjamin Law makes like Joan Didion and shares his packing list here.

Travel enough and it’ll eventually happen to you.

You find yourself in a new town, it’s midnight, and though you’re exhausted and have completed your late check-in, you realise you haven’t packed toothpaste.

Or it’s the morning and you’re dressing for that fancy interstate work event, only to discover you didn’t pack a belt. Or socks. Or shoes.

All it takes is one thing missing from your luggage and you’ll find yourself madly reduced to running down the main street on foot (yes, you forgot to pack your myki or Opal, too), searching for the nearest chemist on Google Maps in an unfamiliar place, blinking weirdly because you’ve run out of a very specific type of contact lens solution for your eyes.

If this is you, start doing what American writer Joan Didion did by keeping a personalised packing list inside your closet.

Back in her day, Didion’s included skirts, jerseys, leotards, sweater, underwear, shoes, cigarettes, mohair throw, bourbon, baby oil and a typewriter.

Mine includes underwear for every day I’m away (plus one extra), noise-cancelling headphones (so screaming kids and engine noise don’t break my brain), dark bottoms and light tops (so all possible combinations work) and iodine throat gargle to destroy illnesses caught mid-air.

Also vital: a portable USB charger, so I don’t need to get on my hands and knees like some garbage animal, desperately looking for an AC outlet to charge my phone on an airport floor.

Still, even my foolproof packing method isn’t entirely watertight, as proven the other week when I jumped in a taxi at my final destination, only to tear a massive hole in my crotch.

I was MC-ing an event the next morning, it was 11pm, and I didn’t have spare trousers.

The lesson here? Always pack two pairs, always demand a sewing kit, and there’s no disaster a safety pin can’t fix.


Benjamin’s list of travel essentials:

1. Noise-cancelling headphones

Whatever you do, don’t skimp on these. Decent ones (Bose is the gold standard) will set you back several hundred dollars.

But once they’re switched on, hotel lobbies become offices, engine noise disappears and screaming infants become white noise. Best investment, ever.

2. Stainless steel water bottle

S’well makes the best. They’re insulated like a thermos, lightweight and you can fill them up at most airports with filtered water before you hit the gate.

Save money, save the environment, save your sanity.

3. Laptop

There’s a reason you see them everywhere: MacBook Airs are still the best portable computer ever made.

Just the right number of ports, lightweight enough to stow in your magazine sleeve and powerful enough to smash out email after email mid-air.

4. Speedos and Goggles

If you’re a swimmer and travelling in Australia, swimmers and goggles take up nil space.

And chance encounters with lakes, public pools or beaches en route are the best reset for the most weary traveller.

5. Pawpaw ointment

Air travel is drying, which means cracked lips and cuticles. Pawpaw ointment will fix you.

Another unexpected bonus? It’s decent emergency shoe polish.


Need more tips on travelling? Check out Air travel tips

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