Europe/Amsterdam chief Gillian Tans' tips for travelling light

Gillian Tans travels the world with the one blue backpack.

Gillian Tans is on a tight schedule.

The chief operating officer is in Sydney Tuesday, Auckland Wednesday, Hong Kong Thursday. 

She can't recall off the top of her head how many countries she's been to in the past year but can count on one finger the amount of bags she's lugged around with her.

A well-worn blue backpack with a logo is her one travel companion that fits everything she needs and allows her to bypass baggage carousels.

She is a strong believer in only taking carry-on, mainly as a time-saving measure.

"In the beginning of we were travelling around Europe a lot. Sometimes we'd do five cities in a week. And if you check in your luggage it would take too much time."

The no check-in rule has stayed with her and she recommends it for convenience and flexibility – even if you're travelling internationally for weeks at a time. 

"A lot of my colleagues that travel a lot they also do that. It is easy in the end you just have to get used to it I think."

Tans has had a lot of time to hone her travel routine. 

She took over as COO in 2011 and has split her time between the website's headquarters in the Netherlands (her home country) and visiting the other 179 countries where they have set up offices.

"We wanted to go much bigger than anybody else. That's why we've targeted so many countries.

"We always say we're globally scalable but we're locally very relevant because we have so many people on the ground."

And there is always scope for a 181st office, she says.

"Cuba for instance, now that's opening up. Or Iran, which also now becomes possible. There are still markets we don't operate in, but it's limited."

Tans expects 2016 will see more travellers also branch out to places like Iran.

Technology, she predicts, will help people become emboldened to seek out more far-flung and obscure destinations.

The other trend she expects is that people will adopt her approach of packing light and being flexible.


"For me it's about taking things that do not take a lot of space. Don't take a lot of shoes. I tend to pack a lot of dresses for instance because they take up less space. And my computer in my backpack. That's important."

 - Stuff