On the long list of Things That Could Go Wrong On Holiday, taking far too many clothes with you isn’t exactly in the top 10. Nevertheless, spending the evening before stuffing anything that’s clean and what you’ve just panic-bought into a suitcase, only to find that you wear two tops and the same pair of shorts all week, is annoying.
I can’t profess to being the world’s best packer. I am sure that there is a secret art, involving lots of tiny piles and "re-edits" that I am yet to master. And, to be honest, packing shouldn't be too prescriptive; it should have an element of fun – it’s a holiday, after all. However, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to streamline the packing process and cut down the overspill.
Match your case to your holiday
Here’s what we know about bags – the bigger the bag, the more things you’ll stuff in it. It’s just a fact. It doesn’t matter if you’re only popping to the cornershop, if you’ve got a giant tote you’ll fill it with the kitchen sink and then some. The same applies to suitcases. A big suitcase = loads of clothes; a small suitcase = not so many. Match the size of bag to the length of time you are going away for (eg a carry-on for a weekend away, a small case for a week, something bigger for two) and you’ll find it much easier to not overpack.
Use the "Stick Woman" method
My fashion-editor friend who travels at least once a month for work uses the Stick Woman method for packing. Get a piece of paper and write every day that you’re away along the top, then draw two stick people under each day – one for the morning and one for the evening. Make a note on each stick figure of what you want to wear that day. Visualising it makes it really easy to see what you need to pack, what you can double up on (eg beach dresses that can also be worn in the evening with different shoes) and what you can leave behind. It might sound elaborate but, having been away with her several times, I am yet to see her get it wrong. You can also write down the place and climate that you are visiting on your drawings and then use them to refer back to next time you travel somewhere similar. If you can be bothered.
Take things that are easy and that you can wear more than once
Often referred to as "multi-tasking outfits", these are the Holy Grail of holiday packing. You can chuck them on and breeze around during the day, then "re-work" (aka shove a bangle/necklace/different top on) for subsequent days or evenings. I find all-in-ones helpful here, as there is minimal mixing and matching to do, and when it’s hot, it’s hard to think about separates. Jumpsuits and loose, throw-on dresses are simple, airy and require no brain space.
A friend was telling me about a pair of slouchy, ankle-length trousers in stretch-cotton that she always takes away with her. She can pull these on over a swimsuit during the day and then razz them up with a nice top and jewellery for the evening. What’s more, they take up hardly any space in her case and don’t crease. Remember to take a little bottle of travel wash, so that you can freshen things up as you go.
You only need two bags and two pairs of shoes (three at a push)
Right, this one strikes a particular chord with me, as I am the queen of taking too many bags and shoes on hols. After years of heels, boots and clutches, I have learnt this: you need just two bags and two pairs of shoes – three at a push.
As far as bags go, you need a big beach bag for towels, books and suncream on the beach, and for keeping all your stuff in while you travel. I’d go for something fabric or a fun basket bag – the brighter, the better, why not? Then you need a small cross-body bag for sightseeing days and evenings. I also use it as a pouch to keep my valuables safe and stuff it in my beach bag. When you are packing, stick all of your jewellery in this to stop it getting crushed.
As for shoes, beach shoes (flip-flops or espadrilles), sandals you can wear out to dinner (heeled or flat; I like a clog or something metallic) and, if needed, a pair of plimsoles or trainers for walking. That’s all you need. Promise.
Wear things that make you feel nice
Quite simply, you are on holiday and this should be all about relaxing and enjoying yourself. This includes your clothes. Pack clothes that feel nice against your skin and make you smile when you look at them. For me, this includes what I like to call a boho blouse – lightweight, embroidered and a bit smock-cum-kaftan. I wear this with boyfriend jeans or over a bikini top; a long-length dress that makes me feel glamorous and wafty; denim cut-offs (the only shorts I’ll consider wearing) and some "holiday" jewellery (aka something with a fun charm, tassel or bead).
My final piece of advice? Once you’ve packed, zip up your case and step away. You know those five extras you chuck in at the last minute? You don’t need them and you won’t wear them. So, stop it. Oh, and make sure you have plenty of pants. Happy hols.