[Podcast] Episode 1: Interviewing Planepack's Bobby Graham
Episode 1: Planepack - the beginning
Fiona Rothchilds: This is an interview on Sunday, 26th March 2017 in the Joplin room of University House at the Australian National University. I am Fiona Rothchilds currently interviewing Bobby Graham of BG Publishers. We are interviewing Bobby about Planepack travel light experience which is part of Bobby’s latest venture. Welcome Bobby
Bobby Graham: Thank you so much.
Fiona Rothchilds: What is Planepack?
Bobby Graham: Well Planepack is my philosophy of light travel and it’s something that started off quite a long time ago.
Fiona Rothchilds: When you say quite a long time ago, when was that?
Bobby Graham: Back in 1977 when I did my first, my very first trip overseas to Europe I squeezed 14 extra T-shirts into my already bulging suitcase.
Fiona Rothchilds: 40?
Bobby Graham: No, no it’s not 40, 14, fourteen and when I got to Europe I realised that was a bit of burden so I posted those T-shirts back and I realised then the advantages of travelling lightly.
Fiona Rothchilds: Did you travel economy class or business class?
Bobby Graham: I have only travelled economy class, I haven’t been fortunate enough to travel business class yet.
Fiona Rothchilds: What is Planepack to you?
Bobby Graham: Well Planepack is a way of travelling lightly and enabling myself to be free to do quite a few things that I wouldn’t be able to do if I was lugging a heavy suitcase.
Fiona Rothchilds: Is Planepack carry-on luggage or checked-in luggage?
Bobby Graham: Good question, its carry-on luggage. So since 2010 I have been travelling overseas with carry-on luggage only for all my long haul trips and during that time many of my friends have said to me or asked me, 'Bobby how do you do that? You have to teach us how.'
Fiona Rothchilds: When you say luggage what do you mean by luggage?
Bobby Graham: Well I travel with a carry-on bag so it’s a standard small roll on suitcase. Obviously if you like to travel with a backpack you can do that too but the idea is that I only carry on about 7 kilogram of packed clothes for an overseas trip.
Fiona Rothchilds: That 7 kilogram, does that include the weight of the bag?
Bobby Graham: Yes indeed it does. So if you are considering travelling light you need to find a travel bag that weighs no more than about 2 kilos and I personally like to travel with what’s called a clam opening suitcase that opens up into two sections but those are littler heavier than those that zip open and I am always on the lookout for light luggage.
Fiona Rothchilds: When you talk about carry-on do you mean that you are putting your hand around a strap and lifting it yourself or do you mean that’s it on coasters and you push it along?
Bobby Graham: Well the ones that I use, both the bags that I use, have got wheels. So they are standard cabin luggage and they have to conform to the airlines requirements: they have to be a certain size. So the options that we travellers have is in choosing the lightest one of those, but yes it’s carry-on luggage; I don’t travel with any luggage in the hold. In fact last few times that I have done that whenever I stop over at an airport the stewardesses usually look at me quizzically and say, 'What Mrs Graham, only hand luggage? No check-in luggage?' and I say, 'No, I prefer to travel lightly.' So it does require a certain amount of discipline to travel and enjoy a trip like this.
Fiona Rothchilds: When you talk about discipline, what do you mean?
Bobby Graham: Well if you are planning - when I am planning - a trip overseas, let’s say I am going away for two or three weeks, I like to visualise what I am going to be wearing and what I am going to be doing over those few days and what do I actually need to take with me. So I think the first principle of Planepack is that you need to carefully consider what is that I am going to be doing and what is it that I am going to be wearing, principle number one. Principle number two is to find the right clothes for those opportunities and occasions. Principle number three is to prepare carefully before you travel.
Fiona Rothchilds: And then when you are travelling what do you need to remember?
Bobby Graham: Well I think the preparation and the packing helps me to plan appropriately so that I don’t leave things behind. The clothing is obviously quite an issue we as women all want to look nice and we want to be comfortable and happy when we travel but I suppose some of things that you are alluding to are things like chargers, cosmetics, appliances, anything else that you might need for a two or three week stay away.
Fiona Rothchilds: When we talk about chargers and adapters, if we are travelling into different continents what do we need to remember?
Bobby Graham: That’s a good question, each country has different power sockets. I usually buy or travel with an adaptor for each country so there would be a different one for Asia, for Europe, for the United States, for South Africa and that I usually just take one charger with me and one adaptor with me and the one charger then has to do for all my appliances and the only device that I travel with these days is an iPhone.
Fiona Rothchilds: When we talk about iPhones, tablets, smart enabled technology, are there any matters that we need to consider if we are only taking in carry-on luggage?
Bobby Graham: Well my principle always is travel with the lightest possible, there is no problem with taking an iPhone on board, some airlines have instituted regulations these days that you cannot travel with an iPad on board and I advise travellers to check what those might be. As I said earlier my principle is always to travel light. Now in terms of what I do with my iPhone I use it for everything while I am way. So I read my books, I watch my videos, I check my e-mail, I check the internet, I generally use the phone for everything that I would do at home and I travel with good headphones and that’s about it.
Fiona Rothchilds: What is Planepack’s philosophy in terms of mix and match?
Bobby Graham: You are referring to clothing obviously which is the fun part of Planepack I think. So a long time ago I discovered that it’s essential to wear the right colours that suit you. As I am a professional stylist I am able to advise potential clients on the best clothes that suit them determined by their hair, eye and skin colour.
Fiona Rothchilds: What’s a stylist?
Bobby Graham: The stylist is a person who is qualified to work with you as an individual or with an organisation to assist them to dress and pack and look the best that they can. So my advice is generally to assist women to travel lightly wearing the clothes that might suit them. So that is generally driven by the colouring.
Fiona Rothchilds: In terms of colouring, are there different colours that one person should wear and colours that they shouldn’t wear?
Bobby Graham: Oh yes, most definitely and as I said it’s determined by your colouring, by your hair and your eye and your skin colouring. So my base colour for example when I travel is black or grey. So my wardrobe is essentially shades of black or grey but I add a little bit of colour for that evening zing. So if I am, you know, having a drink on a terrazzo or somewhere its lovely to be able to wear a brighter colour, something other than during the daywear but keeping to those principles oft ravel light. So I have a very strict wardrobe that I like to travel with.
Fiona Rothchilds: What do you travel with?
Bobby Graham: Good question, there is a list actually, there are many sites online that offer packing lists and my packing list is available on my blog which is called planepack.com.au but I travel exceedingly lightly and this is a methodology that I have honed over the last few years as I say. So my list contains things like: one skirt, one pair of trousers, one pair of shorts, five pairs of underpants, two bras, two pairs of socks, one pair of tights, one jacket, and three little T-shirts that might be in colour and then I have a pair of sandals and I have a pair of very good comfortable shoes that I fly in, I walk-in and I wear just about every single day and of course I take along some cosmetics.
Fiona Rothchilds: And a handbag?
Bobby Graham: Yes I do take a handbag with me and I travel with a handbag that I have used I think for quite a few years. It’s a very comfortable soft leather handbag. So it can be squished easily under the seat in front me when I fly and I travel with only the essentials with me on the plane that I may need to use on the plane but then that bag obviously becomes my travel bag or my handbag when I am travelling around Europe or Asia or where it might be I can take it to the beach if I want to. It has multiple uses.
Fiona Rothchilds: Does a raincoat or umbrella or poncho figure in your list?
Bobby Graham: Well I wouldn’t travel with an umbrella, because an umbrella is something that might be confiscated at customs because of the pointy end. I actually have a snub-nosed umbrella but I am reluctant to test that because I would hate to lose it. I think that's a good question about the poncho or raincoat. I travel with what’s called a splash jacket. It’s a very nice one that I bought a few years ago in New Zealand and it has sleeves that I can unzip and a hood that I can unzip. So it’s multipurpose and it’s a nice colour, certainly kind of livens up the wardrobe. So I can wear it as a coat or just as a waistcoat, but I usually wear that on the plane.
Fiona Rothchilds: Could also double as a dressing gown I imagine?
Bobby Graham: Oh no, no, I do carry a dressing gown, I forgot to mention that is part of my Planepack list. I have a night dress, a nighty and I have a very light dressing gown which again I found quite a few years ago and its leopard print. So I suppose that could double up as a top too if I want to wear it as a wrap.
Fiona Rothchilds: You mentioned two pairs of shoes, one you will be wearing, the other would be in your hand luggage. Do you carry thongs?
Bobby Graham: I do actually carry thongs, and I am quite comfortable with leaving them behind as well if I need to because people have asked me, they say what happens if you want to buy stuff overseas, well I am not that strict that I say you can’t buy and yes indeed if you want to buy something and fit it into your suitcase or into your carry-on then toss out the thongs or something else that you are quite happy to get rid of.
Fiona Rothchilds: And sport attires: a pair of swimming togs or costume?
Bobby Graham: Yes I do travel with a costume and I have a very nice light sarong which is actually a synthetic material so it dries very quickly. So I can easily wear that from the beach to the shops. I just tie it around my waist or tie it as a little dress.
Fiona Rothchilds: Some people like to go jogging when they have arrived in the country of their destination. What footwear would somebody who jogs be able to wear?
Bobby Graham: That’s an interesting question and I think that the comfortable shoes would most probably be the joggers as well although I personally am not a jogger but my husband who travels with me is and he would include a pair of jogging shoes as part of his wardrobe.
Fiona Rothchilds: In terms of pashminas or silk shawl or something similar, would you pack that in your handbag or in your carry-on?
Bobby Graham: I would usually pack that in my handbag so that I can it use on the plane, because the planes are quite chilly and the blanket is often not enough.
Fiona Rothchilds: Where have you travelled with your Planepack and tested it?
Bobby Graham: I have travelled to New Zealand, I have travelled to Vietnam, I have been to Serbia and Montenegro and to South Africa and to the United States. So it’s quite a few destinations. I have only tested it in warmer climates I have yet to test in cold climates. I have full confidence that those Planepack tips will work. What I would do is exchange the short-sleeve tops for nice long sleeved fine Marino tops and I would layer other clothes.
Fiona Rothchilds: In terms of textiles for the clothing that you take, do you have a preference for wools or cotton?
Bobby Graham: That’s an excellent question, personally I have a preference for natural fibres. A few years ago I thought I will travel with some synthetic fibres, lovely pair of slacks and a top because they can roll up so easily but what I found is that they are very heavy. So my preference is still for cotton, silk, light wool, cashmere, and those, while they might be little bit bulkier, they are simply lighter.
Fiona Rothchilds: In terms of looking after them, the maintenance and care of your items when travelling, what principles for cleanliness do you follow?
Bobby Graham: Yes, well it depends on where you stay. If I holiday in places where I stay in hotels usually the hotels offer you a laundry service. So what I would do is once a week I would bundle everything up, put in a bag, they would wash it and return it, washed and ironed and the prices are not exorbitant. If you are not able to do that I would suggest you buy some kind of washing powder overseas and wash your clothes using that. I don’t think you should travel with washing powder or any liquids.
Fiona Rothchilds: In terms of in hotel laundry, do you have any suggestions to make sure that your clothes come back to you?
Bobby Graham: Well that’s an interesting point, I have never had an issue but on that point I don’t travel with things that are too precious to me. I travel with very practical clothes and I find that I travel with very similar clothes over the years so my aim in travelling is not to dress in my most sumptuous clothes that I might own but to be very practical and then to add atouch of glamour with an accessory.
Fiona Rothchilds: In terms of versatility of your clothing, you mentioned being able to be flexible with your clothes. What would you recommend going from day wear to evening wear?
Bobby Graham: That’s a good question. To address your question about flexibility I make sure that everything works with everything else in terms of colour, that’s important. So it’s very easy to match top with shorts, top with skirt, top with trousers. To go from day wear to evening wear I would most probably wear a pair of trousers or the skirt perhaps with one of the coloured tops and I would throw on a very nice necklace and as you say the pashmina if I am travelling, or a lovely silk scarf.
Fiona Rothchilds: Footwear, what would you wear?
Bobby Graham: Footwear, yes, my sandals that I take along are usually the sandals and if I wear long trousers then I would wear the same footwear that I travel in. I can assure you nobody ever notices your footwear when you are travelling.
Fiona Rothchilds: What about protection of valuable items, your wallet, your passport, your keys? How do you protect those?
Bobby Graham: I also slip in a very small off the shoulder bag that I can wear on my body if I need to. I generally don’t travel with keys, I leave that to my husband or otherwise I take one key if I need to get back into my house. My passport is usually locked away either in the room or in the passport safe in the hotel and I don’t take any other things of great value other than my phone and I don’t travel with much cash; I pay for everything with the card. So if I do have to carry my passport, my phone and my wallet with me it’s usually on that bag which I can wear off my shoulder and if I really feel uncomfortable about it I could wear it under my jacket.
Fiona Rothchilds: In terms of identification of your luggage and your items, do you have any tips of how to make sure that everything comes back to you if lost?
Bobby Graham: Well if I am travelling with it in my hands it doesn’t get lost and getting lost is a very good question because that’s one of the issues that drove me to travel with hand luggage and carry-on early because in recent years my suitcase has been lost twice, once for three days and once for six weeks, and that is what actually determined me to travel with hand luggage only. So my luggage is really never out of my hands.
Fiona Rothchilds: When we go through airport checking and the security wand goes past us is there anything that you are wearing that would draw attention to you?
Bobby Graham: No because I usually travel with soft shoes and I don’t travel with chunky jewellery. I do take some jewellery with me. I don’t travel with a belt. The biggest benefit of travelling light with carry-on luggage is that you don’t have to wait for a suitcase at the carousel and that can save you half-an-hour to three-quarters-of-an-hour when you exit and for me personally the best experience is walking out of the plane, walking through passport control, leaving the baggage claim carousel to my left or right and walking straight through the exit.
Fiona Rothchilds: Heading for the taxi.
Bobby Graham: Absolutely right.
Fiona Rothchilds: How well received has Planepack been by your colleagues?
Bobby Graham: Very well, they are intrigued by it. The plan is as I mentioned I have a blog at the moment that I am writing and I am slowly building up a following, when I have mentioned it to my friends all said we will buy the book, we love to have the book, so hopefully this will become a book. I would like to write more about product, may be do some product reviews so I would say generally it’s well-received and people surprize me by saying, 'Goodness this is the way that I have been travelling for a while!' and I hope to interview those people. Some of my friends of course say, 'Well I never will be able to do that!', and it is my mission in life to try and assist them through that process.
Fiona Rothchilds: What is it they perceive prevents them from travelling light?
Bobby Graham: I think they need to have more clothes with them and I think my argument is to persuade them that they can actually travel comfortably, they can look as good as they want to and they don’t need to burden themselves with the handicap of a large heavy suitcase. Just because you can take it on the airplane doesn’t mean that you have to.
Fiona Rothchilds: When we are travelling and we find all sorts of trinkets or clothing or books that we would like to bring home with us, how does Planepack manage that?
Bobby Graham: Well I would suggest that you post them back. That would be my first suggestion. Alternately if you are happy to travel back with luggage in the hold and it’s usually easier on the way back home you could just buy a small inexpensive suitcase and put those things into it or generally there is room for an extra little trinket or two in the Planepack hand luggage and the thing to remember is always to check with airlines because some airlines have different rules. I am flying with another airline internally soon and I see that they allow up to 12 kg - so in fact with some airlines you can buy capacity for more hand held luggage.
Fiona Rothchilds: What extra items would you take with you?
Bobby Graham: If I were to fly? I hadn’t thought about that, I am so strict with myself on limiting the amount of things that I carry. Actually I think the thing that I would like to find a better way of travelling with is a hat because I like to wear a Fedora in the summer and they don’t squash up very nicely and when I was travelling through an airport about a year or so ago I saw a woman carrying a beautiful hat bag and I thought it might be, it was a rigid hat bag and I thought oh that would be nice but I am really not sure that I want to add another bag to what I have in my hands. So I think maybe I am looking for hats that look elegant but fold up nicely.
Fiona Rothchilds: Will they be wool hats?
Bobby Graham: No, I am thinking about summer hats for the extreme heat and I did buy myself a nice one recently that’s got a mosquito net for countries or areas where you might be plagued by flies or mosquitoes, so I might try that one out next time.
Fiona Rothchilds: When you are packing your clothes - your items in your luggage - do you have a system of packing one goes in before the next?
Bobby Graham: Yes certainly it’s always good, I always pack my sandals first, I pack the rigid things at the bottom and then I roll and pack my soft clothes around the shoes and around the harder items. I use the rollup model but then as I get to the top of the suitcase they became flatter. So it’s a combination. There are definitely people online who show videos on how you can pack beautifully. My principle is just take the right things with you and make sure that it’s not heavy enough and what I generally do is I weigh my bag before my cosmetics because the cosmetics are very heavy. So cosmetics are something that you can play around with as well and to decide on what you want to take with you when you are going.
Fiona Rothchilds: Towards the end of your travels you might have a few items which are soiled which need the wash. How does Planepack manage those items?
Bobby Graham: I usually have a small laundry bag that I put in and my suitcase has a partition that’s kept away from the others so I would put the soiled clothes into those.
Fiona Rothchilds: With your cosmetics do you travel with the 100 ml containers? How do you manage all the fluids?
Bobby Graham: Yes absolutely, that is something you have to be very strict and manage carefully because if you travel with anything over a 100 ml in your hand luggage it will get confiscated at customs. So I buy those clear plastic containers and I decant some of my cosmetics into those or otherwise before I travel I make sure that I have my essential items like toothpaste for example in 100 ml containers. I also build up a collection of samples that I get during the year, you know what it’s like, you can go into a shop and they say try our products and then I use those when I am overseas so that’s always fun because it gives me an opportunity to do a new something different.
Fiona Rothchilds: In terms of taking care of your luggage itself what principles do you apply?
Bobby Graham: Are you talking about the bag itself? Well I have been using the same bag now for 10 or more years and I like a rigid bag, I find those hard case bags are very useful and remember if I am carrying it, it doesn’t get thrown around as much as it would if I was putting it in the hold. I think the softer bags are nice because they are lighter. I am not really concerned that they might get torn or ripped because they are always within my reach but the other reason why I like a rigid bag is if you have a long layover at an airport you can use that as a footrest. So it doubles up as something en route.
Fiona Rothchilds: So if you are staying over there has been some timing issues with the flights you can use the luggage as a footrest.
Bobby Graham: Exactly, that’s right.
Fiona Rothchilds: When you are in the plane, in your seat, where do you place your carry-on luggage?
Bobby Graham: In the carry-on luggage above me yeah. A friend of mine has mentioned that she might have an issue raising 7 kg above her head and my advice in that case would be to ask for help from the airline staff to do that because you are within your rights to carry that weight on board with you.
Fiona Rothchilds: When you talk about Planepack as a venture for Bobby Graham how did you come to this name?
Bobby Graham: That’s an interesting question. It arose last year: I studied further, I studied to become a stylist and as part of that course I had to put forward some kind of a business proposal about where that I would like to go forward in my styling career and because my friends had mentioned that they love to know more about travelling light, packing, etc. The name came to me and I had to seek something that I could research as a domain name for a website and because it’s all about packing and it’s all about travelling light and it’s about planes, the name Planepack just came to me and it stuck and I quite like it and it was available so people have responded positively and said, 'Oh you can do other things as well. You can do travel pack or you can do camping pack or you can do baby pack or you can do . . .', I don’t know what else, it’s sort of, it kind of resonates with people. So I thought it was quite a nice name.
Fiona Rothchilds: How does the world find out about Planepack?
Bobby Graham: At the moment the world can find out about Planepack by following me on my blog planepack.com.au where I am writing about the how and the why of Planepack itself. So I hope it’s an entertaining blog where readers can read about the experiences that I have had travelling because since that long ago trip when I travelled with 14 additional T-shirts I have travelled quite a bit more and I have also down a bit of sailing and I have holidayed in a mobile home and all those experiences have led me to believe strongly in something like Planepack. So that’s a good way of finding out more about Planepack and of course through my social media: I have a Planepack Facebook, I have Planepack Instagram, I have Planepack on Pinterest. So there are quite a few ways that people can find Planepack.
Fiona Rothchilds: Thank you Bobby Graham. This has been a recording with Bobby Graham of BG Publishers about Planepack travel light experience. This is Fiona Rothchilds, copyright of Fiona Rothchilds Voiceprint, is owned by Fiona Rothchilds TM 2017. Thank you.