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How to pack for a holiday? June 1, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Advice.
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If you are are anything like me, then you are probably pretty crap at packing. I am going on holiday tomorrow, and am pretty much packed (hah!). Somehow, in the short space of time that I was packing, it all went terribly wrong. I swear, whenever I turned my back another item somehow managed to creep in and nestle amongst its messy comrades. Now, the bag resembles (in some aspects at least) a torn apart bomb site. Shoes balance on my underwear, bikinis are crumpled in a corner, there are enough strappy dresses to clothe a small nation. Simply put, it ain’t good!

This got me to thinking. As long as I’m not the only packing failure in the world who encounters this, then we have a problem. An epidemic possibly, but this may be an exaggeration. Just how difficult can it be to fill a bag with useful, necessary and pretty items for a simple week away?! Ten minutes and a few scribbled notes later, and I have devised a set of rules that, when followed, should theoretically result in a neat and functional holiday wardrobe.

packed suitcase

(Image from here)

Rule #1

Start with the essentials. I can’t tell you the number of times I have managed to go away with nothing to sleep in, and barely any underwear. Shopping for knickers abroad isn’t a typical holiday activity, so try and avoid it! Last minute items can go in hand luggage, but be careful of any restrictions.

Work out which items you can’t survive without – my list involves:

  • Bikini/s
  • Underwear – both top and bottom
  • Towel (or two)
  • Face cream/toothbrush/toothpaste and other toiletry necessities that tend to get forgotten.

overflowing suitcase

(Image from here)

Rule #2

How many items do you need? Judging by the fact that currently I have enough clothes for 3 weeks of outfits (only the tiniest bit of hyperbole here folks), this is a vital question to ask yourself. Do you wear something new every day, or do you take lots only to stay in your comfy shorts for the whole of a trip?

A typical wardrobe for a weeks stay probably needs the following  –  just edit the list to include your favourite type of outfit (i.e dress vs. skirt) and be MORE restrained than you think you need to be.

  • Shorts – vital if it’s sunny and you don’t want to deal with wind all the time. 2 pairs is acceptable for a week, particularly if you think you may wear these lots.
  • Strappy tops are y favourite holiday item. Whether halternecks or spaghetti straps, these beauties are packed in about 4 colours – this lets me wear many different “outfits” or colour themes, without bulking out my suitcase.
  • Dresses – delightful for holiday fashion and keeping cool alike. Again, 2/3 dresses max, preferably ensuring one at least is suitable for transferable into evening wear.
  • Other basics – a cardigan for if it gets cool, a smart jacket to dress up evening clothes. A single pair of smart jeans is acceptable, but only if you plan to wear them in the evenings.

Rule #3

The most difficult one to stick too – for me at least! That is, don’t pack too many shoes! I have been good this holiday, and followed these trusty rules exactly!

You should only need (dependant on holiday type):

  • Easy walking shoes – in hot countries, choose flip flops (make sure they don’t rub!) or sandals like gladiators. 2 pairs of these max, as most tourists will need these for wandering around in. For these, comfort has to rule over style!
  • 1 pair of trainers – more is generally unneeded, unless you are a trainer addict (and I know a few!). This will come in handy if you fancy a trek or big activity, not to mention for being comfy on the way home.
  • 1pair of day time heels. NO more! Chose something summery and that will coordinate with two or more of your potential outfits. No one trick ponies in this suitcase!
  • Finally, one pair of smart heels. Black is generally a good option to go with anything. I have packed my black patent peep toes and am planning to wear them for any smart nights out. If you are only going on nights out, pick two, or make sure that your pretty day shoes can double over.

too many shoes to pick

(Image from here)

Rule #4

Pack neatly. If you get all anal (as helps in a situation like this), it really comes in handy to pack your items in logical sections. Rolling them up is also advised if you have a teeny case and no idea how to fit even this compressed kit of clothes in! Just make sure lumpy shoes are on the bottom, shower materials are wrapped in your towel or in a bag in case of explosions, and that your first days outfit is easily at hand to cover for jetlagged panicking. It is also worth packing a general all-em-compassing outfit in hand luggage, just in case your bag goes astray.

So there you have it – how to pack well and not take too much. Please remind me to do this next time I go away?!!!

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Comments»

1. Top Bird @ Wee Birdy - June 1, 2009

Such a great, systematic and completely rational approach to packing! I shall have to refer to it for my next holiday. xx

2. gildedfolly - June 1, 2009

Great approach. Superior to mine, which is
1) Throw in everything you want to in a crumpled mess
2) Force the zip three quarters done up
3) Realise you haven’t packed basics (see your rule 1) and force them through the remaining gap until the zip gives
4) Give up, remove everything, pack basics first then 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of combat trousers, 1 skirt and 1 dress for a 5 week holiday (yes, this is what I did when backpacking – NOT clever!)
I did have lots of teeny strappy tops though, as per your rule 2!
Hope you’re having a lovely time! xx

3. Sophie - June 2, 2009

Cool guide! I usually just plan what I am going to wear and when, that way I have a clear idea of how much I should carry with me.

xo
Sophie

4. ElementalGrace - June 2, 2009

Hope you’re having a good trip! The rolling trick does save masses of space as does balling socks and putting them in corners and odd spaces and stuffing underwear and other small items in your shoes (major unused space). Sitting on your suitcase is also a good way to get it closed before chaining it shut.

5. dreamsequins - June 2, 2009

Love this checklist! My husband, a frequent traveler and an anal packing freak, has taught me to pack well… I completely agree with you to start with the bare basics first… and if you’re heading to a shopping-friendly destination, why not leave a little breathing room in the bag, and also pack a roll out duffel or tote for your splurges as well? I view travel as an opportunity to unplug from the STUFF that weighs down my life at home. And always leave spare room for a shopping day :D

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10. MissRedLips - June 5, 2009

i am bookmarking this for my next trip! i need all the help and advice one can receive for holiday packing!

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15. Cafe Fashionista - June 7, 2009

Love this post. It’s so difficult to know exactly what to pack; and what should be kept with you as a carry-on. I will definitely be perusing this checklist the next time I have to travel!

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19. sar. - June 10, 2009

thanks for such a great list – i will go away in 5 weeks time and was considering to start packing now – my approach is usually to stick all my favourite things in the case weeks before, unpack, re-pack and end up with 12 pairs of shoes but no matching dresses…so this time i will follow your rules and stay relaxed..as you say sometimes you end up wearing all comfy stuff and have wasted space – i also like dreamsequins advice on leaving space for gems you find on your trip..THANKS for this and enjoy your trip..

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21. Teresa - May 5, 2011

Mostly good advice. I’m travelling to the States later this year and haven’t been before, however I have travelled extensively around europe at one time spending over twelve months. I’m thinking I will pack underwear and pyj’s that I want to throw away therefore I’m forced to buy new ones. The same applies to shoes and clothes.


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