Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Vix Does India - How I Pack My Travel Bag

That's it. I'm almost ready for India and I've managed to condense a month of my life into 11 kg.

Here's how:

  1. I got the suitcases down from the top of the wardrobe. (Everything summery got washed and put away when winter started)
  2. Tipped the contents out.
  3. Put back any clothes that couldn't cope with a bit of vigorous hand washing, anything too long to wear with flip flops or stuff that required fussy accessories to look good. 
With a bare face and with my hair scraped up I drag the full length mirror into a well-lit spot and try what's left on. If it makes me feel fabulous when I'm at my worst then it's a contender.

When I've done away with the not-so-flattering, what remains gets laid out on the bed and my selection is whittled down to the bare minimum, clothes that can take me to beaches, ride on trains, visit markets, temples, Maharajas' palaces and holy places, dance till dawn or watch the sunset.

Here's the final cut:
Clockwise from top left: 1970s patchwork maxi (Ebay) , denim waistcoat (had for years), cotton sarongs (bought in India), crochet scarf (Yvonne's giveaway), Lamani gypsy top & Rajasthani leather bag (both car boot sales), 1970s pink and orange maxi dress (bought on our blogger day out to Nottingham), Free Spirit vest (flea market, India), leather chappals (bought in India), 1970s maxi (from Op Shop Mama), 1980s cotton bralet (charity shop), Ganesh tote (Yvonne's giveaway), reworked cotton tee (Grassroots giveaway courtesy of Style Eyes), Free Tibet cami (charity shop), Dollyrockers maxi skirt (eBay), Rupee print headscarf (bought in India), Vintage sunglasses (second hand), paisley maxi skirt (charity stall)
  • I've stuck to a mostly pink and brown colour scheme (which doesn't tend to show the bauxite dust, which stains most fabric a pinky orange).
  • Three maxi skirts with an assortment of tops that work with all of them. If a top doesn't work with all three - it's out.
  • A couple of dresses - I get more wear from separates but they're good for lazy dressing, walking back from the beach, popping to the market for a bottle of water & a bag of fruit.
  • A top with shoulder coverage for visiting religious sites, train travel and venturing away from the beaten track. Of course, being a foreigner, one attracts attention but let it be for the right reason, not for causing offence by exposing flesh the locals choose to cover.
  • My beloved denim waistcoat. I've disguised the bald patches by sewing on a Mexican cross stitch bought from a jumble sale. 
  • Heaps of sarongs, used for everything from constructing makeshift beach shelters, as towels, bed covers and shawls. 
  • A single pair of leather chappals bought last time I was in India (for around £3.50). If they start to show wear I'll get them fixed by a roadside cobbler.
  • A large bag which doubles up as hand luggage and a smaller, cross-body one. 
  • A cotton headscarf. Hats don't stay put on the breezy sea shore and rarely stay looking good after being crammed at the bottom of your luggage for 10 hours. 
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses, just in case one gets mislaid, broken or scratched.

You might have noticed that everything I take is vintage/second hand. Well, there is an exception to the rule, a brand spanking new ruffled bikini courtesy of British label, heidi klein. My old faithful bit the dust on my last trip and although I've bought a couple of cheap replacements from eBay I was dubious about well they'd survive a month of near-constant wear. (I learnt my lesson with a Primark maxi dress bought in a charity shop, consigned to the rag bag after a couple of outings).
I'll let you know how the battle between high end vs cheap as chips worked out!

                                     Hopefully this will be my life in two weeks time.

With a minimal wardrobe a girl needs a good selection of jewellery to ring the changes.
  • If I spot these hanging fold-away bags at jumble sales or car boots I grab them, they're ideal for keeping everything tidy even in the smallest beach hut. 
  • Every year I turn up at the airport wearing my bangles, anklets & rings and have to hastily yank everything off in Departures. This year I WILL remember to only put them on after I've gone through the gate. It's enough hassle to have to explain away my metal hip when all the alarms go off .

  • The toiletries are packed inside another hanging (and plastic-lined) bag.
  • Most products can be bought in India for a fraction of the UK price so there's no panic if anything gets forgotten. 
  • Odomos - the leading Indian brand of mosquito repellent is available almost everywhere, from kiosks on street corners to big stores. Its less than a quid and so gentle that even new born babies can wear it. I keep a small tube in my hand luggage and apply it on the plane if I'm landing at dusk or dawn (prime biting times).
  • In the past I've been known to just pack sun cream and buy everything else when we get there, but more usually I'll take what's already in use on our bathroom shelves and replace it locally when it runs out.
  • I buy once-a-day sun care as I don't need to pack as much of it (so there's less to lug about).
  • I take my own hair dye so I can touch up my sun-lightened roots when I'm there. L'Oreal is widely available but I stick to cruelty-free products.
  • My travel essential is a Lush Karma shampoo bar, which in addition to keeping my hair tangle free and clean also serves as a body wash, is great for shaving your legs and washing clothes and, if you leave the lid off the tin, it makes even the grottiest room smell gorgeous.
  • We always pack a bath plug. It's quite rare to find one in the guesthouses we stay in and Jon says it's an essential for shaving.

  • I never bother with my fingernails when I'm away, but feet without nail paint? That's a step too far! I'll stick to the same colour for a month.
  • These Eylure semi-permanent lashes are a bit of a fiddle to apply but once on they'll last the best part of a month with enough spare for emergency repairs.
  • Bathrooms are invariably poorly lit so a handy handbag mirror is a useful extra.
  • I'm bare-faced during the day with a slick of black kajal and occasionally some lip gloss at night. 
  • The blusher is to keep me looking human on the flight, it's left in the bag after I get a tan.
Hair kit
  • When I first went to Goa I had blonde hair and a fringe and the heat & humidity, daily swimming and sun bleaching made it awful. I look back at old photos and cringe.
  • Nowadays I just pile it all up on top of my head, pin it with a hair stick or a fake flower and it's good to go.
  • I leave my hair to dry naturally, the rooms we stay in aren't equipped with anything as fancy as a hairdryer and its rare that it isn't warm enough for my hair to dry naturally.
  • Black hair grips and bands are plentiful and cheap so I stock up when I'm there.

  • I always take my 1950s travel hangers, a journal, a pen and the latest edition of the Rough Guide.
  • We also pack a mosquito net, duct tape (for attaching it to the walls), rope (for fashioning makeshift beach shelters or using as a washing line), a torch, a couple of Melamine cups, a bottle opener, the first aid kit, a double sized silk sleeping bag (bought in Kerala years ago and extra protection against bed bugs), MP3 player with mini speakers, a cheap, unlocked phone and camera, rechargeable batteries and chargers.
  • We take a holdall each and divide our clothes between the two that way, if a bag was to go missing we'd both have enough to wear.

Jon bought me an E-Reader for my birthday and loaded it with 600 books. That means that I won't have to take my usual supply of 25 paperbacks which has made an enormous difference to the weight of my bag.

1970s metallic Indian blouse, made for a New York boutique (courtesy of Jo), West German mushroom print maxi (My friend Ella's vintage stall), Turquoise suede boots (Queen Helga), 1960s Nordiska belt (the 20p man, car boot sale), battered Delsey bag on wheels (TK Maxx in the 1990s)
Phew, if you're still reading you deserve a medal!
See you soon.


  1. I'm so impressed by how light you can travel - I'm hopeless at packing, can never decide what I'll want to wear and end up taking about this much for a couple of nights. Having my flat repaired this week after the flood, so I had to pack clothes for at least a week and it was a total nightmare!

  2. I knew you were seriously organized but this is really impressive. You've thought of everything. I'm actually printing this up and saving it as a template for the next time I travel. Especially if I go to India. I can dream....sigh. You're so right about dust masking colors. Gosh you're smart. But we already knew that. And if that is you at your worst...we should ALL look so awful! Ohhhh...I'm drooling over your wardrobe. You are going to have such a fabulous time. Eeee....I'm so excited. I almost feel like I'm going, too!

  3. You look so gorgeous with or without a stick of make up. I love your priorities- simple practical and secondhand dress and loads of baubles and bangles. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and looking forward to your pics when you get back.

  4. E-book readers must be the best invention ever!! Though I love books themselves, it's so convenient and light, expecially reading Murakami at 1000+ pages Have a great time.

  5. Oh Vix, I 'm so excited for you! I Your posts are the ultimate guide for stylish and impeccable traveler and I should save your advices for my next Holyday, I loved the fact that you try your clothes on without make up to see which one flattered you most, but with your figure and beauty is difficult to Find a thing that doesn't suits you well! And I really apprecciate the fact that you choose a colour scheme so it's Easier to combine the clothes, I guess my boyfriend will thank you if I bring less useless stuff in my luggages!
    Have a great time, I'll miss you!
    Love xxxxxxx

  6. You are the queen of packing Vix! Roll on holiday time and long sunny days of chillaxing on the beach!

  7. Really impressed of your light packing ! Wish you could teach me...

  8. not bad :-)
    i love to travel with light luggage - and always shook my head over the girls with suitcases heavier then them self.
    once a countergirl at the airport did ask us 3 times where are our other suitcase, could´t believe that hubby and i shared a small one for a week istanbul ;-)

  9. You are uber organised, how I wish I was. Much easier to travel light when you can rely on the weather, I travelled round Oz for several months with just a backpack. The Kindle is a boon for travellers, not sure if I'd use one otherwise though. Bet you can't wait to see the back of this incessant rain.

  10. everything looks so practical and simple, but so glamourous too!, I admire your talent to light packing, to carry just necessary things, and to make them look fabulous with your magical touch: bijouterie, nail lacquer, pink shades and lots of sarongs!
    wish you enjoy everyday so much as possible, even though I'm going to miss you!!
    besos & viajes

  11. Loved this detail of your great escape. It's fantastic. can you please come over right away and organise my LIFE for me, hee hee? Also love how much pink you've used here, remember what Diana Vreeland said? That pink is the navy blue of India. Go Girl! x

  12. Fantastic post, thanks Vix! Where to start? Well, what you're wearing has you looking gorgeous! I love, love your love of colour! Your to go items are clothing have me longing for beaches and warm breezes. And, it was great to see your essentials. I always find it's these items that take up the most room in my luggage..oh and shoes! Bravo for really limiting your footwear choices. I'm getting better at that with each holiday!

  13. Bonito bikini!!

  14. I must say I haven't looked back since G bought me a Kindle, frigging fantasmo for travel reading!
    Another truly brilliant, concise and inspiring travel post!!! I think we pack nearly the same, except for clothes, as I always have a spazz about those......and we don't take music, never have! Not sure why. It's clearly very similar to South east Asia for product availability too.
    Gawd, it's been TOO LONG since I've been to Asia!! You're making my feet itchy!
    Love Helga xxxXXXxxx

  15. Ha, forgot underwear? Half my bag would be bras! LOL!!!!!! I find it fun to see how much people take to the airport when they travel. Ladies, you DO NOT need that full size blow dryer. We stay with family and they have stuff like toothpaste and soap.

  16. I wonder if you have discovered the packing cube - just the best thing since the sliced loaf. Here is where I found it.

  17. @Maureen - thank you, what an interesting link! x

  18. Awesome on the ereader!! They make it easy to have a library at your fingertips!!

    You will be the most fabulous gal on the beraches of Goa!!

    I read "bath plug" as "butt plug" and did a double take!!! LOLOLOL

  19. You are the packing expert, Vix! But then you're an old hand at it, and know exactly what you need for a month in the Goan sunshine. I like your pink-based holiday wardrobe (I hesitate to call it a capsule because that makes me think of a fistful of bland neutrals, and your selection is anything but that!) Practical, pretty, colourful, individual, and uniquely YOU!
    Now - let's have a gander at Jon's Speedos, please!
    Not long now, lucky you!
    Ooh, nearly forgot, beautiful blouse and skirt combo, you look gloriarse! xxxxx

  20. You are a champion packer! I am a ridiculous over packer and always have too much in my bags for the what if occasions (that never occur!).

  21. This is a really good example for me to look at when we go away. It'll only be for a week but I always always overpack.

    I can certainly tell you've done this numerous times to get it down to such a science.

    I wondered about the bed bugs...

    I love your maxi and blouse.


  22. I bet you can't wait to go! I'm terrible when I go away and always have so much stuff! x

  23. you still look good without make up have a fabulous time and have much deserved rest x

  24. Ooh look at that fantastic Heidi Klein bikini - it's gorgeous. what a great colour and shape. I can just imagine how fab you are going to look in it.

    I could geek out all day long over these travel posts. It almost makes me feel involved somehow. It's the details like taking a bath plug which make me go 'ooh'. So how many sleeps have we to go?! The e-reader is a good move for your travels. Makes sense.

    I love your green and red outfit - very I can't say the word to you, given your antipathy towards the occasion, and those travel hangers are gorgeous. Glad to see the Nottm dress is going on an adventure! Xxxxxxx

  25. Wow ... I'm impressed ... you make it look easy. I hate packing ... absolutely hate it ... I find it really stressful for some reason. I always end up taking way too much ... but if I pack light ... I get struck by the dreaded "what ifs". Next time I'm going to use this post as my guide.

  26. what and excellent tip about the dust colouring your clothes! Thanks

    we went for a trip around SE Asia for 6 weeks. I some how only had 9.5kg in my suitcase. It was so small they let me take the bag on to the plane and not put it in the hold.

    What I did miss was moisturiser. I ran out my week 2. and every where I went the moisturiser had bleach and brighteners in it...

    I am so jealous I want to come with you

  27. So very interesting, and informative! Sounds like you have it down to a science. I love your metallic. Louse here, and your outfit is so Christmasy. Xoxo

  28. Oops, always proofread: that would be blouse, not louse, lol,

  29. If I ever go back to India I'm going to refer back to your fantastic posts! Have a wonderful trip I am more than a little jealous! xxx

  30. you're almost making me want to go....

  31. Im off to Tunsisa in January, cant wait for some winter sun. We too split our luggage between the two bags, at least then we have some clothes instead of none if the bags go missing :-)

  32. Oooohhh what an impressive and comprehensive post! I am so into packing and love seeing what other people take away with them. Boy, an e-reader would be amazing for travelling. I am going on a big camping beachy road trip with my fella next week, but the long-term forecast is set for rain the entire time, so my planned uniform of a 1950s swimsuit, big straw hat and roman sandals is to be replaced by tramping boots and a raincoat :( So depressing!

  33. I'm excited for you! you are a champion packer, even eyelashes! I love it! (I now want to try them, semi permanent lashes are clearly the way forward!) even the travel hangers are fab and all 11kg! I love your green sparkly top and skirt, you look gorgeous in all your pics too, not long left now for beautiful beaches and hot pink bikini's!! x x x

  34. I have a very similar packing method and I'm actively applying it to life, too. :D Don't have/use/wear anything that isn't amazingly functional and doesn't make you feel AMAZING! I love packing light and wanna apply that light feeling to life, too. Enjoy your vacation!!

  35. An e-reader is a brilliant choice for travel. Ditto a brand new bikini! And I too rely on several skirts that go-with-everything when I travel. Easy and comfortable and (you make them) super-lovely. xox

  36. You have some really great traveling tips. It sounds like you think of everything to ensure no stress when it comes to departure. I don't often travel, and have no yet even been overseas. But I'm very sure that these little tips and tricks will be remembered when the time comes! I loved this post.

  37. Super great tips! I love all the jewelry and the red bikini is smokin'!

  38. It has to help that your clothing size is so petite! Once again, I am drooling over your jewelry selection.

    Don't forget to pick up cheap Retin-A while you're there! I don't know what I'd do without friends bringing it back for me...

  39. Here is a nice post About How to pick my travel bad. There is services about Metro Airport Taxi.

  40. Oh wow, Vix you're super-organised - we fly tomorrow and I really need to get my shit together!

  41. wow! such a great packing list method. I normally over pack for holidays because im a 'just in case' sort of person. i hope you have a ton of fun while your there!

  42. Wow! You are so efficient!
    My daughter and I usually start packing the night before, which can be a bit of a nightmare at times, but it's become a tradition, so we have to stick to it :)

    You look just as beautiful without make-up on and I think you would even rock a bin liner!

    I love how you whittled everything down to a single case full of belongings.

    I especially love that you'll be taking a bag and scarf from that Yvonne girl :)

    I'm not sure when you're leaving, but have a safe and enjoyable journey. I hope to see plenty of photographs to fill me with envy when you return xx

  43. Love this post and how lightly yet stylishly you manage to pack :-)
    I would do well to take a lesson from you as I am prone to completely over pack.... will be thinking of you when I start my pack for Thailand next weekend (yipeee!)
    Hope you and Jon have a fabulous, fabulous time and come back with lots of tales of your adventures...

  44. I've been loving the lead up to your time away. I think you should be writing your own Rough Guide...such good stuff and valid for a whole host of trips.
    Love the wardrobe selection, you'll look gorg for all the holiday deffo!
    Z xx

  45. I think you should start this post with, after 22 times I better have this down:). I look forward to the post on how you pack for Portland:). Jokes aside I love seeing how you do it! I was surprised to hear you do your roots while there I wonder what my hair would look like after a month. I'm so happy you have the e reader this time less to lug around. I think this year has been rough since we didn't go anywhere but in Feb we go to San Diego to see family and friends, after that I crave foreign soil:). Love you and speak soon!

  46. I almost forgot to mention how adorable your bikini is! Can't wait to see you rocking that hottie!

  47. Gr8 post & you're fortunate to do away with the facepaint if desired!


  48. What do you mean 'if I'm still reading.' I hung on your every word. I have learned so much from you, and packing for a long trip is one of your specialties. I could use some of your tips.

  49. You are the lightweight packing queen love it :-) wish I was coming to I could do with some heat on my joints. Your hips will be in heaven :-) cant wait to see the post holiday photos again. Love dee xxx

  50. You definitely pack like a pro. That's a lot of stuff. I can't wait to follow your adventures.

  51. Wow that is a proper capsule wardrobe, bet you'll look fab!!

  52. That's organized for you!
    Plus very informative- you never know i might be there one of those days -
    But I'm pretty well organized to when we travel so is Mr.D -

    Love your clothes selection and i didn't kow that you chose those colours because of the dust over there -

    When is the big day?



  53. NHS doesn't give you some sort of card to carry specifically for the airport & your hip? When my brother had a steel rod in his leg he got one, then when that came out he broke his hip and had a pin in there and got another (he used to race motocross and street bikes, the hip injury made him give it up as he was about to go pro but couldn't anymore, so what now he races go-karts, mini race cars, yes from a family of speed demons me included!) That would make things so much easier for you at the airport. You amaze me with your packing genius! And of course look as gorgeous as always! Bon voyage! XXX

  54. I loved this post! You are so organized and tidy. Puts me to shame with my usual packing the evening before going away. I need to check out Lush for that multi-purpose bar.

  55. Have a wonderful, glorious time!!! I loved reading about your packing suggestions. I'm an abysmal packer and am so impressed with your organization. Experience clearly helps, too. Your selections look beautiful.

    I'll miss you!!! XXXXOOOO

  56. You are the packing pro! It seems I am the complete opposite to you. I always take too much stuff. Xx

  57. Clearly, packing is a science for you! You've thought of EVERYthing! I tried to read closely.....Did you add anything based on last year's experience or to fill up the space previously occupied by paperback books?

  58. I hope you have a lovely time :) I look forward to the day I get to pack a bag and go on holiday.

  59. Have fun Vix. Normally I would be insanely jealous but this year I am off to Mexico in Febuary so enjoy the sun and save some for me.
    Jane X

  60. I'm a sucker for details. Now just pack me with you and you'll be all set!

  61. i love 50s travel hangers. they can save you fashionable life :)
    wow, love to see your packing concept ...
    i packed for ten days at home today ... means a bigger weekender bag for ten days! two 50s skirts (one of them i will wear,with the petticoat underneath) then 6 tops i can pair with both skirts ...
    we travel with our little car and take two people with us, that means not much room for bags next to the christmas presents.

    have fun in india, my dear!!!!

  62. oh, the green metallic blouse is absolutely adorable ...

  63. Holy smokes, you're set!! I'm going to make sure to share these posts on Pinterest. I'm sure someone really needs to see these helpful posts right now as we speak.

  64. I am a notorious over-packer, and can't imagine what I would take for a month long trip. After 22 times, you could probably pack for your India trip with your eyes closed! Your travel wardrobe certainly doesn't sacrifice style for efficiency - a great tip about the dust staining clothes. I love that you pack false eyelashes and a good supply of bling!

    The locals will be knocked senseless by the sight of you in that orange bikini - tell Jon to keep an eye out that you're not kidnapped. Safe travels and have a glorious month enjoying sand and sun.

  65. Amazingly light and efficient packing style you've got, my dear Vix. How exciting -- you are going away for a month!!!

    Love you!

  66. Can see you have done this traveling route before ~ you have a marvelous system and what a great packer you are !
    Loved seeing the pic of you with the naked face ... and you STILL looked gorgeous !
    Have a blast ... I can't recall when your leaving ,but all the best !

  67. Of course I read every word - a medal to you for putting all this together! I like to see your process and many of the ideas would apply whether you're shacking it or staying upscale, such as dividing the luggage. I'm glad you like your Kobo. I love paper but the Kobo is so much lighter and great for waiting rooms. And it keeps the charge forever. I'm excited for you and Jon and your next Great Adventure.

  68. I am sure you will have a great holiday! I love love your jewellery collection..

  69. Aww, thanks VV, next year I'm planning a trip to your neck of the woods to see you in your natural habitat!

  70. vix i love reading travel packing posts. so fascinating what we all take with us. i learn so much from others.

    i hope you take a snap of you in your new bikini. i think a new purchase every now and again makes least for me it does.

    have a wonderful trip! x

  71. I really enjoy these kind of posts Vix, there is an art to holiday packing, wherever you go, isn't there, and I love seeing how other people do it. I'm slowly being swayed to getting an e-reader, a friend has just bought one too and absolutely loves it, and I think ipods were one of the best inventions ever for travellers, wish they'd had them in the days I was travelling around working in hotels, I'd have been a lot less weighed down! xx

  72. Very good! I am impressed by the outfit sselection. I packed my bag for 11 days in Marrakech and I don't think I can be as disciplined as you.
    I hope you have a wonderful time :)

  73. I'm the worst when it comes too packing and I blame my jewelrys.

  74. What a fabulous and cohesive travel post! Thank you!
    I know how very much time and effort goes into quality writings ... that's precisely why I do so many photos!

    Have a safe and exhilarating trip dear Vix!


  75. Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year
    old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear."
    She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  76. Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day.
    It will always be useful to read through content from other authors and practice something from other websites.


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