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Travel essentials

india Updated: Jul 28, 2010 00:18 IST

Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The lost art of packing a suitcase
The secret of good suitcase packing is to fold as if your life depended on it. Fold each item as tightly as you can and then crush it a bit for good measure. Think of packing as a game of Tetris played with bits of sponge; be careful not to leave any empty space, and avoid taking awkwardly shaped green things.

The passport
The first hurdle here is working out where you left it last time. Classic passport hiding places include last year’s suitcase, a folder full of bank statements, and the drawer in the kitchen with all the screwdrivers and bits of string in it. If you’re holidaying with friends they’ll ask to see your passport photo. This request is to be refused at all costs.

The armrest conundrum
Conventionally, the first person to stake a claim to the armrest is its owner. However, there are two ways to combat armrest loss; by force or by stealth. Force requires you to be comfortable with a simultaneous armrest sharing situation, and to withstand the awkwardness of arm-to-arm contact.

Stealth requires patience of a different sort. You must wait until the armrest is vacated, even just momentarily, and then, in one motion, rest your arm, slump your head and pretend to be asleep. Both are high-risk strategies. But worth it.

The holiday book
Holiday reading is all about the gripping thriller and the tragic or sensual romance.

The schedule
There are two schools of thought here. The first takes the guidebook as a comprehensive to-do list and so fills the day with cursory visits to every landmark, museum, restaurant, theatre and amusingly shaped tree in a five-mile radius.

The effect here is to create a holiday so exhausting that another holiday is needed at the end just to recover. The alternative is to pick a single destination for each day’s explorations and then spend the rest of the day either sleeping, sunbathing or walking around in a circle. This is hugely preferable.

The mysteriously friendly couple
No matter how remote your destination you will always arrive to find a suspiciously friendly couple effectively shadowing you. Every day, by the power of some dark voodoo known only to over-eager compatriots, their itinerary will have morphed to match your own.

Nip their chumminess in the bud before it blossoms into a full-grown friendship or you’ll soon find yourself eating dinner with them, or worse, exchanging phone numbers. This is a disaster.

The sun-cream dilemma
The sun-cream dilemma is two fold; first how, or who to get, to apply sun- cream to your back and neck? Second, how to politely refuse to do the same for sweaty, hairy and occasionally scaly friends and relatives?

In the first case, the situation can be avoided with sufficient practice beforehand. Applying fake tan is, ironically, good experience for evenly applying sun-cream. The second dilemma, your best bet is to avoid the issue by running off into the sea.

The clothes and shoes
If you’ve spent the rest of the year longing to punish the area between your big toe and your second toe you’ll be glad to have bought a pair of flip-flops. Otherwise sandals or a light gym shoe is the way to go.

Wear without socks in either case. When it comes to shirts, shorts and skirts just about anything.