Packing Perfect

by Michelle Snaddon

Learn how to pack like a pro: whether you’re escaping for a country weekend or heading off on a bucket-list safari, we’ve got you sorted.

The ultimate weekend-away bag is one you’ll keep for life. Soft, lightweight elegant styles work best, whether you’re staying in luxury accommodation or going on safari.
The ultimate weekend-away bag is one you’ll keep for life. Soft, lightweight elegant styles work best, whether you’re staying in swish hotels or going on safari

The ultimate guide to packing for a holiday abroad

Over the years, some of us at Perfect Hideaways have admittedly become rather obsessive packing ninjas… but no matter how many times we do it, even we find it a challenge to travel light. And we know that packing for summer in the dead of winter is hard to get your head around … never mind packing for a wedding and a safari, but it is possible!
Going somewhere remote like Kisawa in Mozambique? A capsule wardrobe in your hand baggage could be a lifesaver!
Going somewhere remote like Kisawa in Mozambique? A capsule wardrobe in your hand baggage could be a lifesaver!

Top tips for packing smart

So, just in time for the holiday season, we thought we’d share our top tips for packing smart. But first, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: missing luggage. Until it happens, losing luggage is always someone else’s woeful tale, isn’t it? Recently it was Helen’s turn (co-founder, Perfect Hideaways) on a recent trip to Mozambique. Destination: an idyllic island with no shops. You can just imagine the dilemma when, by day three, said bag still hadn’t turned up! You can only wash-and-wear the same sarong and t-shirt for so long…
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Until it happens, losing luggage is always someone else’s woeful tale, isn’t it?

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Packing for an elegant wedding in the Cape Winelands and a night in a romantic treehouse on the Zambezi? Or will you be exploring on a mokoro in Botswana’s Okavango Delta? Follow our packing hacks below…

Packing perfect safari trip on the river

It was the 18th-century poet William Blake who wisely said, ‘hindsight is a wonderful thing but foresight is better’. In hindsight, what would Helen have done? ‘I wished I’d packed a change of clothes and a pair of shoes in my hubby’s bag because chances of both going missing would have been slim.’ she said. ‘I would have had back-up! But on this trip, I literally had my handbag and put the rest in the hold… never again!’

Investing in quality hand luggage to hold a capsule wardrobe or emergency change of clothes is a must – a soft duffel bag (ideal for safaris and weekends away) plus a durable wheelie bag that’s cabin-size is best.’

Of course, we’re not sure that Blake would have gone as far as photographing the contents of travel bags before checking in and investing in a tracking device, but why not? It’s a damn good idea, no matter where you are headed.

But first, here are our holiday packing tips and tricks for happy travelling this season…

Light, easy-to-roll fabrics are best for a relaxed beach vacation in summer
Light, easy-to-roll fabrics are best for a relaxed beach vacation in summer

Whatever you do, plan ahead!

We really mean this – if you love travel, always make a habit of buying beautifully designed, lightweight clothing that layers easily. At Perfect Hideaways we stick to just five guidelines. Our advice:

  • Find two or three core colours that make you happy and stick with them. Scarves (silk is best, pack two) and earrings change things up easily.
  • Minimal-crease fabrics are the best (but we still can’t resist linen, so simply live with the crushed look!), but get the basics right first. Start by finding the ultimate jacket with pockets that can be worn everywhere. We love the ones with zip pockets – if they’re in front, you can safely store tickets, passports and credit cards here. Waterproofing is a bonus – but you can always spray-on water repellent.
  • Never leave home without a puffer jacket – keep it packed tightly in its little fabric pouch so it’s easy to find in your handbag or day pack. Buy a neutral colour so that you can always use it on safari.
  • Zip-off pants and UV-resistant shirts and hats: these are a whole lot more flattering than they used to be! Shop around. Invest in the best.
  • Shoes are always nightmare. Why is it that we always stuff them in last? Instead, be smart and focus on three pairs. We guarantee you’ll slip another pair of sandals in at the last minute, but the core basics take the longest to decide on and you should wear them in before you go. More advice gathered from fellow travellers on shoes is below, but first – you’ll need a bag…

If you’re coming to Africa, chances are you’ll need everything from the lightest linens to warm jackets and scarves for evening game drives, whether you’re heading for heavenly Kisawa in tropical Mozambique or Victoria Falls River Lodge, where days are spent on the Zambezi river or enjoying game drives in the National Park

Packing perfect safari trip
Duffel bag vs wheelie?

Both. Duffel bags are ideal for safaris as many small planes require soft luggage shells. They go in the hold or with you on the plane. Light but durable fabric is important if you’re going to travel within the 7kg limit. But you also can’t go wrong with a cabin-sized wheelie bag. Buy the very best 4-wheeler you can afford. Best to buy sustainable luggage products.

Best handbag?

Find one with interior pockets and hidden, theft-proof zipped compartments. A black leather handbag/rucksack with the zip handle that can be unzipped to create two straps is the best investment ever. It’s worth spending quiet time packing this ahead and using it for a day or two so that figure out what you’ve forgotten.

Shoe sense

Stick to three, max four pairs and wear the bulkiest walking shoes or boots on the flight. For walking shoes, brands such as Skechers, Hotter, Merrill’s, Palladiums are favourites – all super comfortable, mostly lightweight. Buy ahead and wear them in. Elegant leather sneakers, such as Basic Supply, are also fab.

They must be able to do double duty: can you walk the streets of Paris in them? Use them on safari? If yes, you have a winner. Ideally choose classic colours with dark soles so that they don’t look dirty.

At Perfect Hideaways, our mantra is: always go for all-leather sandals for summer travel but FitFlop (try the Tia), Pesso, Birkenstock or Tsonga are all a good place to start. Froggie’s classic Spaghetti Strap Sandal, a design they’ve kept for years, has padded leather inner soles to keep feet happy and cool. 

Come prepared for an active holiday: zip-off pants, water- and dust-proof bags for cameras, plenty of sunscreen and UV-resistant hat. Enjoy poling at Tuludi in the Okavango Delta, quad biking from Jack’s Camp into the Makgadikgadi Pan, exploring Walker Bay near Coot Club or kayaking at Azura Mozambique

Packing cubes and reusable, waterproof bags

Packing cubes are simply the best: buy at least three in different sizes and you’ll never need to unpack your clothes – just pop the whole cube on the shelf when you arrive. Expandable designs that may be zipped to compress down further are a winner – found easily online. Waterproof, resealable bags from outdoor stores have endless uses (especially good for shoes but also on safari) and are allowed in countries that ban single-use plastic (Kenya, Rwanda for example). 

Power bank, cords and adaptors

Don’t buy online: go into a store and feel how heavy they are and compare capacity. You won’t regret it! The Perfect Hideaways team are always on the road, and power banks are absolute lifesavers, especially in South Africa where we often have ‘loadshedding’ or power outages. You’ll thank us when you go trekking with gorillas or find yourself on a secluded sandbank in East Africa with little power on your phone and you really want to record the memories. 

Whatever you do, be sure to have a pouch for all of life’s absolute necessities: your mobile phone charging cord (plus a fast-charging adaptor – another best buy), as well as an international adaptor so that you can charge anywhere, anytime.

Watercolours, sketchpad, e-books and music

Pack something you’ve never tried before like miniature travel watercolours or postcard-size sketch books.  Download playlists, guides, e-books well ahead of time because travel in Africa is often on ‘Africa time’. Logistics are a very real thing here so not everything runs according to schedule, but that’s the beauty of a holiday here. 

Pack, weigh, click and tag

Think you’re ready? If you’re likely to be a bit stressed with work or kids just before you travel, the best advice we can give you is to pack your clothes a week or two ahead. Lay everything out on the bed or sofa, take a photo and then start packing. Sounds daft but it means (a) that you can pack at the last minute without forgetting anything as you simply follow the photo and (b) it makes a baggage Insurance claim so much easier. 

Once packed, check the weight (some safari flights only allow 15kgs) and then write legible luggage tag details but also do what all lost-luggage handlers suggest: make sure your contact details are inside the bag too. Luggage tags get ripped off easily.

Whether you’re sleeping under the stars in a treehouse like this one at Ngala or a five-star lodge, we suggest you pack light… you’ll never wear everything
Whether you’re sleeping under the stars in a treehouse like this one at Ngala or a five-star lodge we suggest you pack light… you’ll never wear everything

A final word…

And, lastly, do yourself a favour: photograph the clothes you wore the most when you get home. You’ll never find it hard to close that zip again! Always double the money and halve the clothes because you’re bound to buy some on your trip!
Before you travel, check whether you can hire all your diving gear so that you don’t have to bring it with you (Azura Benguerra/Claudia Pellarini)
Before you travel, check whether you can hire all your diving gear so that you don’t have to bring it with you (Azura Benguerra/Claudia Pellarini)

What to pack in hand luggage?

Pack as if your hold luggage might go missing…
Here’s a quick checklist:
  • Toiletries (NB all less than the international requirement of 100mls), packed inside a resealable transparent bag for customs (and in case anything leaks). Squeezy silicone travel tubes work a treat and are re-fillable.
  • Decant vitamins or supplements into holders plus any other vital medication, including malaria tablets and all tummy remedies. Don’t exceed 10g of codeine, ever. It’s safest to carry scripts for painkillers etc. Please check with the airline if in doubt.
  • Core spare change of clothes should always include two tops, a dress (Poetry’s reversible ones are a winner!), culottes and/or zip-off pants for safaris. Culottes can be dressed up or down, worn with walking shoes or sandals. Great for keeping mosquitoes away on a hot night.
  • Choose the one pair of shoes you can’t live without.
  • Spare underwear for 3 days (ever tried replacing these in a hurry in a foreign city or island curio shop/street market?!).
  • Sunscreen: always have a tiny one in your handbag that you can reapply while you’re on the go – put the large one in a waterproof bag in the hold.
  • Swimming costumes alwaysgo in hand luggage. And if you’re headed for an island, keep a kikoi or wrap with you too – doubles as a skirt if your luggage doesn’t turn up.
  • Find a hat that’s gorgeous yet crushable and preferably UV-resistant: these are expensive and often hard to find.
  • Scarf: silk is best. Flights often get cold, so pack at least one in your handbag, along with a puffer jacket.
  • Buff: great for dust and protects your neck from sunburn.
  • Refillable water bottle with a climbing carabiner to attach to a day pack, if needed.
  • Eco-friendly mosquito repellant (even if the lodge supplies it).
  • Wedding? Pack the gift, the whole outfit (including shoes) in your hand luggage. Not negotiable.
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Santorini, just north of Vilanculos in Mozambique
And finally, a last-minute handbag list:
  • Mobile phone, camera, all cords, power bank, chargers, international travel adaptors, bag locks, cable ties.
  • Passport, travel insurance, wallet (make sure someone has scans of the passport and cards in case they get lost).
  • Vaccine passport, masks, small refillable sanitizer spray.
  • Sunglasses and prescription glasses.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones and Kindle.
  • Make up: keep it all with you.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss.
  • Hairbrush (those fold-up brushes with a mirror in the handle are genius).
  • A pair of sock liners for temples or homes where shoes are left outside.
  • For winter travellers: sheepskin inners that are transferable from shoe-to-shoe are a lifesaver.
Hot-air ballooning at Kwessi Dunes, Namibia
Hot-air ballooning at Kwessi Dunes, Namibia

Forbes magazine once interviewed the founder of our safari division, Michelle Snaddon. Here was her advice:

‘Think earthy colours—grey, shades of green or khaki. No brights, spots or stripes. You won’t regret it—there’s nothing worse than arriving at a lodge and looking like you didn’t get the memo, but more importantly, you’ll be safer with predators around. Packing ahead of time gives you time to shop for that fold-up hat that won’t fly off your head (be warned: safari hats are deeply unsexy; you’ll need to search for the perfect washable, crushable hat); a UV-resistant shirt (try and find a long-sleeved, shapely one with air vents); and a pair of light, closed shoes that do double duty (day and night; snake and mosquito proof), plus flip flops and sandals. Leave your precious jewellery at home. Find a lightweight duffel bag with pockets inside [duffels or soft-sided bags are best, as some small safari aircrafts don’t allow for hard-framed suitcases]. Aim for three or four outfits. Lay it all out on your bed two weeks before, pack, and then remove at least 25-percent. I promise you won’t use everything!’

  • Extracted from The beginner’s guide to planning your first safari, published by Forbes magazine.
Packing for an elegant wedding in the Cape Winelands and a night in a romantic treehouse on the Zambezi, or will you be exploring on a mokoro in Botswana’s Okavango Delta? Follow our packing hacks below…
Pack soft duffel bags for helicopter transfers: no hard bags are accepted. Keep weight down to 15kgs

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