A long time ago I shared some tips about packing, the most important being that you don't need to travel with as much stuff as you think you do. Trust me - there is absolutely nothing to love about hauling a large and unruly suitcase from place to place. All those ankle bruises and shoulder injuries and outright frustration, especially when it's peak hour in a Tokyo train station? Not fun. And then you get to the end of your trip, bruised and battered, and half the stuff in your suitcase is still folded neatly, untouched? Not fun at all.
Years of travel, years of packing, have shown me that you can travel light. Scratch that - it's shown me you have to travel light. And the good news is you don't have to look like a backpacker doing it. If you pack smart, you can look smart. You can travel with a cabin bag and still look like your normal, stylish self.
To prove it I'm taking you inside my suitcase, showing you what I pack for different climates and different holiday types. I'm basing these posts on what I'd pack for two weeks away. For a shorter trip just subtract a frock or two, for a longer one just add more underwear!
Packing for a winter holiday is pretty advanced stuff, so we'll kick off with an easy one - summer in the city. Basically this is what I took to Hong Kong last month. Note that my wardrobe is very much frock based (it makes packing so much easier!) but if you are a pants and jeans kind of girl then just switch out 'fancy frock' for 'fancy pants and top'.
Some general principles:
- Pick a colour scheme, so that everything in your bag will basically work with everything else.
- Pack early and then edit, edit and edit some more.
- A few belts, some jewellery and a scarf will mean you can pull countless different outfits out of three frocks and a pair of heels. Well chosen accessories will help you avoid TWF*.
(*Travel Wardrobe Fatigue: when you feel like you've worn everything in your suitcase a hundred times and you're completely bored and uninspired by it all.)
- Only pack tried and tested items. I learnt this the hard way when I had to bin a brand new pair of shoes because they made my feet bleed. Oh the pain! Never again. Think wardrobe staples; the things you love and turn to day in, day out. Think comfort and style.
- Don't forget the basics. Underwear, a good range of bras (matched to your outfits), socks and something to sleep in (I pack singlets which double as pjs). And I always travel with at least one pair of black leggings.
In the end the key to good packing is having a good wardrobe to begin with. Edit your wardrobe, hang on to what you love, buy what suits you, take your time to build it piece by piece. If you're happy with your home wardrobe, then packing for your next holiday will be a breeze!
Casual Dress x 2 - Think something you can throw on without thinking. Something you can spend a whole day sightseeing, shopping, sipping and eating in without having to worry about anything. Light weight for summer, non-iron fabric, with pockets. Casual dress one from Petit Bateau, casual dress two from Obus.
Super Comfy Dress - When I fly I tend to wear a stretchy cotton tunic over leggings. This outfit gets washed when I land and then doubles as 'loungewear' for lazy mornings in the hotel room. This stripey number is from Japan. It's wonderfully soft and has big pockets - exactly what you need for passports, pens and documents as you're rushing through the airport.
Dress Up, Dress Down - This is possibly my favourite dress ever and I will most definitely cry when it dies. It's from Top Shop. Yes, it has pockets (see a theme here?). It's perfect with flats for daytime strolling, or with heels for nighttime bar hopping.
Go With Anything Jacket - Something that you can throw on over everything in your suitcase. For me, it's a light blue denim jacket from Uniqlo.
Lightweight Scarf - I always take a scarf on the flight, sometimes those
flying sardine cans cabins can be cold. Also handy in places like Hong Kong where the air con is almost always set to deep freeze.
Bright Belt - For adding a bit of fun to all your frocks. This happy orange suede belt from Gorman almost always travels with me.
Fancy Frock - For dinners at nice restaurants, classy corporate cocktails, long luxurious lunches...that kind of thing. This one is from Marimekko, and it's ridiculously comfortable (no pockets though - its only drawback). Nights getting a bit chilly? Just add leggings!
Clutch, Bracelets - A simple frock can look pretty special once you add a great clutch. I scored this one in Tokyo; it's vintage Italian leather and it's freaking gorgeous. When I pack, whatever clutch I'm taking doubles as storage for my bling - something shiny and cheery and not too precious. Your bling might be a beautiful brooch, a nice necklace, ome elegant earrings. My bling is always bracelets. Whilst I'm a big fan of the mix and match enamel bracelets from Kate Spade, my current favourites are stackable resin ones from Sly Pony.
Neutral Summer Heels - I'm a certified shoe junkie, so it has taken years of heartache and intensive
ridicule training from the husband to get the shoe side of packing right. You don't need fancy heels and daytime heels and shiny flats and boring flats and shoes for that dress and shoes for this dress. You do need one pair of heels that go with everything. Neutral leather strappy heels always work for me when I'm on a warm weather trip.
Trench Coat - More stylish than the Go With Anything Jacket, a trench takes up minimal room in your case and pretty much works with everything. I adore this quirky polkadot one (another Tokyo find), but a classic light tan or plain black is also ace.
Slightly Fancy Frock - Casual enough to wear to brunch, but with heels, bright belt and clutch it looks lovely at dinner too. (Notice how almost all of these clothes do double or triple duty?). This frock is from the now defunct Kate Spade Saturday. RIP. And yes, it has pockets. Of course it has pockets.
Ribbon Belt - A wide grosgrain ribbon, tied in a little bow at the side or back, makes a super cute and/or elegant belt and takes up virtually no room in your case. They are the best travel thing ever! Pack three if you want!
Swimsuit - For the hotel pool, of course. This one piece is from Jets, and it's a super flattering fit (like this one).
Underwear - I pack my underwear in zip mesh bags from Muji. There's one for briefs, one for bras, one for socks and stockings. Keeps everything neat and tidy, especially if you're hopping from hotel to hotel.
Sneakers - For those days when you know you're just going to walk and walk and walk. As a bonus if you pack them you can also pretend you'll use the hotel gym at some point during your holiday. Sure you will.
Jeans, Shorts, Belt - More basic, everyday stuff. One pair of my most favourite jeans ever, one pair of shorts and one more belt (this one works with jeans and looks cute with dresses too).
Tees - Two tees, too easy.
Then just add a few pairs of hard working shoes (flats, heels, flip flops - stop), minimal toiletries (more on that later) and a backpack with all your gadgets (laptop, camera, chargers) and you are good to go! Happy travels!