Packing wisely

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on a quiet morning.
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, wonderfully quiet on my last day in India.

Before my nearly seven-week trip to Pune, Bombay, and London, I debated about luggage. Initially I planned to travel light: rolling carry-on, plus computer backpack and messenger bag. In chatting with colleagues, however, I decided to bring a 26-inch check-in suitcase.

Dorabjee’s is Pune’s superstore, with three floors of groceries, household supplies, and small appliances.

One friend always packs important items  such as survival tools in her carry-on bag, but checks in a suitcase stocked with favorite foods, such as Brazil nuts, and her OdorKlenz Sports which she can’t find in India. Others want luggage space to bring home yoga props, books, textiles, cookware, or souvenirs.

I asked people, “Can I find rolled oats in Pune?” since oatmeal is my standard breakfast. They said that I probably can, but that the quality of Canadian oats might be better. The consensus: I can find almost anything in Pune nowadays, but it might be inferior to what I get at home.

With 20/20 hindsight, I can now advise other oatmeal eaters: Forget the oats. They are easily available in India.

What I should have brought was more hair product. My hair was a wreck, an absolute wreck. The Indian monsoon season is devastating to my particular brand of Japanese long curly hair. (Actually, I did bring enough hair product, but it was no match for the humidity anyway.)

If you need extra clothes, go to Laxmi Road and choose from countless fabrics and then find a tailor.
If you need extra clothes, go to Laxmi Road and choose from countless fabrics and then find a tailor.

At the beginning of my trip, my suitcase weighed about 17kg (37.5lb). Returning home, it dropped a kilo. While I found a large suitcase cumbersome, I had no problem filling it up, both ways. If I’d done more traveling in India, I would’ve opted for a carry-on. But since I stayed put in Pune, in Mumbai, and in Oxford/London, a suitcase was probably the better option.

Here’s a list of things I’m glad I took:

  • My best pocket knife for peeling fruit (my Kuhn Rikon Colori was perfect)
  • flashlight (my keychain light was a lifesaver during power outages (a given in India), but my Mini Maglite would have been better)
  • portable cutting mat (Coghlan’s, meant for camping, is as light as paper)
  • mosquito repellent (JR Watkins has almost no fragrance; the main Indian brand, Odomos, smells very flowery perfumy)
  • Chacos, Crocs, or other footwear that you can scrub with soap and water
  • Adidas Sambas or other sneakers (I rarely wore them in India, but occasionally wanted full coverage from street muck)
  • three sets of yoga outfits, minimum (I ended up repeatedly wearing my mid-calf-length yoga tights for mosquito protection, but you can buy “Pune shorts” and get into the spirit of things)
  • cell phone (my iPhone was invaluable, both as phone and as camera)
  • mask for air pollution (I recommend the I Can Breathe mask, available in Canada by mail order from Modern Alchemy)
  • currency (it was handy to have cash (British pounds, Indian rupees) from day one, having exchanged money pre-trip at Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange, which supplies crisp, clean bills)
  • small mirror (my apartment mirrors were tiny and out of the way, so I relied on a palm-sized travel mirror)
  • nail clippers, mini scissors (high-quality tools are probably available, but hard to find)
  • computer (my MacBook Air was essential for working and blogging; otherwise an iPad would be ideal)
India Today costs 40 rupees; The Times of India, 5 to 8 rupees, depending on page count.

Here are things I didn’t need to bring:

  • oats, cashews, walnuts (available at the Maharashtra store, Dorabjee’s, etc; bring if you need organic or the finest quality)
  • nylon rain jacket (nylon is too hot during monsoon season; I preferred using the apartment umbrellas)
  • money belt, neck wallet (probably unnecessary unless you are traveling overnight on trains)

Here are things I found optional:

  • Evolution neck pillow (this memory-foam version effectively holds the neck upright and probably helped me to sleep but, for 10-hour flights, it’s a toss-up)
  • Light on Pranayama (I had little time for books and preferred reading local newspapers and magazines in Pune; you can also buy books very inexpensively there)

Here are things I might take next time:

  • lightweight yoga mat (I lucked out with an excellent Manduka eKO Lite mat in the apartment, but that’s probably rare)


  1. I echo Jayne. What a beautiful travel writer you are, and I love how you didn’t hide India’s warts, but instead told us how to deal with them more easily. I’m told you cannot avoid stomach disorders but you can keep them within the range of survival. Barb and I may sail with friends in the Seychelles next year, and if so a trip to India will be involved. But no oats. – Doug


  2. This is so helpful, Luci! I’m off to Pune later this month so am reading your posts with great interest. Thank you for your clarity. I will take my iPhone. Did you need to buy a new chip for yours in Pune?


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