We have all been there. It's the day before traveling, and you are waiting for that motivation to kick-start the grueling packing process. When you finally start looking for clothes and gear, you end up sleeping too late, which leads to early morning wake-up, and you are already tired before your trip even starts. Sounds familiar? No matter whether you are playing domestic or international tournament, packing tends to be some form of hassle no matter how experienced we are with it. I've had to pack several times in very different environments with varying time pressure, but I also think I've improved throughout the years. Here are some insightful tips to crush your packing process next time.
- Prepare well in advance
The worst thing you can do as an athlete is to not rest well the day before traveling. It's already stressful enough for your body to try to find public transport, find something to eat, and land in a different country with an unknown language and unfamiliar environment. Having a packing list with some essential items will certainly improve your organization before the tournament. Tournaments vary in length and climate, but there are still a lot of similarities. Maybe you have some items that you always take to your tournaments, or always wanted to take but tend to forget. That's when a pre-made packing list comes in handy. As American productivity consultant David Allen stated, "Your brain is for having ideas, not for holding them." Please don't take this quote literally, but hopefully, you get the point.
- How to fit everything
Depending on your mode of transportation, we oftentimes reach the limits when it comes to packing. Having too many bags when traveling by car is not a problem, but flying is a different thing. There are two ways to pack for your international flights (unless you are spending several weeks abroad): You can either travel only with hand-luggage, or have your massive checked luggage with you. From my experience, it's possible to travel to an international tournament only with hand luggage (racket bag and a back bag), so my writing will focus on this. You need to be precise and only take essential items, but I still find it better to not have the checked bag with me. Some airlines may be more strict if you have your racket bag as a hand luggage, but I have myself never had any problems. Of course, if you are playing at the World Tour -level, you may need the checked bag because of the increase in clothes/rackets.
The benefits of using only hand-luggage are: it's way cheaper compared to checked-in baggage, you save more time as you don't need to check-in the large bag plus you don't need to wait at the baggage area after landing, you will not become mad at airline for missing your bag (which is actually surprisingly common). Convenience is also a big plus when it comes to traveling, so having only hand-luggage massively improves your mood.
There are different scenarios when taking your rackets as hand luggage. In general, the security check will scan the badminton rackets separately, but this is completely normal, no worries. If you enter the airplane with rackets in your back bag, some airlines will not allow it under the seat (because of the height). Therefore, be careful if you are advised to put your rackets in the storage locker, as they may break without proper protection. That's why I prefer racket bags over back bags as a place for my rackets.
- Interesting hints
Here are a few (uncommon) ways of using 100% of your packing capacity. Fit your socks inside your shoes, which enables you to use the extra space efficiently. Also, if you are very desperate for some extra space, you can bring an empty pillow on the flight with you, and fit some clothes inside that. I've tried it during my trip to Lithuania (four flights) with good success. Lastly, wearing a piece clothing, suitable for multiple purposes will increase your efficiency, so you don't generally need a different piece of clothing for all the various activities.
There are some rumors that your string tension will decrease because of the air pressure in the cabin, but I have never had a problem with this. Even if there was a slight change of pressure, it's equivalent to the air-pressure at 8,000 feet above sea level (2,5 kilometers) above sea level, which could be a possible altitude for some badminton tournaments.
In the end, simplicity is key when it comes to packing. There is no need to take your whole wardrobe with you when going somewhere, and we often end up not using all of our clothes. Having some favorite items goes a long way, and you can even wash your clothes when being on the road. Always keep some extra space in your luggage, as you might want to put that winter jacket somewhere if it's hot outside, or just to have space for some food/souvenirs. If you are a tall person, sitting in economy class is not the most comfortable place (especially in the middle). Having unnecessary items will only take up extra space, so I'd advise you to be thoughtful of packing. I wish you all pleasant and mindful traveling:)