I’ve been asked a few times of late to do a packing blog. It’s a tricky one to try and cover everyone’s trips. There are city breaks, beach holidays, girls’ trips and far-flung exotic destinations. I’m also learning from the mistakes I made packing for my recent holiday. I think I got so over-excited at actually going abroad for the first time in nearly three years that I packed almost every summer dress I own. We only had seven nights, so I REALLY didn’t need ten dresses. What I should have packed is a better beach cover-up (not a shirt I dragged out from under the bed that was too small) and a decent sun hat. Live and learn.
I think I did my best-ever packing on the last summer holiday we had. That was a multi-stop tour of Italy. Rome, Florence, Lucca, Sienna, so good. I took just one medium-sized suitcase for 17 days away. We went on trains and only hired a small car for part of it, so had to be very sparing with luggage. It was one of my best holidays ever and one I hope to replicate one day. So I’m going to loosely base this ‘packing for a holiday’ on a fantasy week away where you will do all kinds of things – sightseeing, nice evenings out, pool days, beach days and going out for lovely lunches in a place where it’s always nice and hot during the day but might be a tiny bit cooler at night.
YOUR BASIC PACKING LIST:
I’m not including your undercrackers: that’s up to you, as are all your toiletries. I would say don’t bother with a hair dryer, as all hotels have them and so do most Airbnbs. I’m sure I will have made a glaring omission somewhere, but let’s start with this…
1 x pair of cotton or linen trousers: a good comfy pair for the plane and for casual evenings.
1 x cardigan: an easy one to throw on for chillier evenings.
1 x lightweight jacket: I usually go for the classic western denim jacket, goes with everything.
2 x swimming costumes: or bikinis if you’re that way inclined. I’m not anymore so I can’t tell you which ones are good.
2 x sunglasses: just in case you want to mix it up.
1 x sun hat: I failed to take this and I had to borrow my teenager’s bucket hat. Rookie error.
1 x pair of trainers: for walking. Take your most comfortable pair.
2 x bags: one basket bag for travelling, shopping and the beach plus your regular small handbag.
Now we’ve got the basics in order, let’s have a look at some outfit inspiration.
TRAVEL OUTFIT FOR THE PLANE
First up, who ARE those people who wear their flip-flops and shorts on the plane? Especially those returning to the UK from some far-flung destination in the depths of winter. I used to see them shivering on the Piccadilly Line in December. A tan won’t keep you warm in this country mate, you need a sweater and, for the love of god, put on some socks and shoes.
So for the more sensible amongst us, I would suggest a comfortable outfit that will keep you warm on the plane, but with a loose-fitting T‑shirt underneath so you can feel breezier once you get off. I usually take a small handbag so I have all the tickets and passports close at hand and my basket bag for the magazines I never read, the bizarre snacks I only buy at airports and the emergency neck pillow bought at duty free because you couldn’t find the four others you already have at home.
5. Axel Arigato clean 90 trainers
A DAY AT THE BEACH
You’ve arrived! You’re finally on a beach in the sunshine. Somewhere that’s not in this country. Firstly, don’t do as I did and think the sun is the same as at home. It’s not. It’s WAY stronger, or maybe it just feels that way. You can’t just apply a lax amount of factor 30 and sit in the sun for three hours straight. Your nose will be peeling by the end of day one. Take Factor 50. For swimming I do swear by my Boden Santorini costume (more on that later) but I also took an old, really simple, stretchy low-back one with me this time too. I think I bought it in Target in the US about 12 years ago. This one from M&S is a similar style and they do a great range overall.
ALL TERRAIN SIGHTSEEING
This is when you’re going to need your most comfortable shoes. For me, that’s the Adidas Ozweego trainers or my slip-on Vans. Both have served me well over the years. For shorts, sadly the Topshop denim ones we all loved in 2020 are no longer, but if you’re looking for a flattering pair, seek out those with wide hems. The wide hem will make your legs look slimmer. A clingy pair of shorts are not your friend. Uniqlo do a great linen pair in a multitude of colours.
A DAY OUT SHOPPING THAT MIGHT TURN INTO DINNER
God, I love a white dress on holiday. It feels so much better wearing one on the cobbled streets of Rome than it does going to the big Tesco’s in Osterley. Take a cardi with you for when you’re done with your shopping and you stop in the piazza for an Aperol Spritz and a bowl of the best pasta you’ve ever tasted. Seriously, I would consider a day trip to Rome JUST to eat the pasta again. My all-time favourite is the pasta amatriciana. It’s got some kind of crispy pork in it called guanciale that is literally making me salivate writing this. I’m 100% heading to the Italian deli this weekend to get some. Here’s a recipe in case you’re also a crispy pork pasta fan.
Here’s the Boden costume I swear by. It can be a bugger to get on, so you’ll have to do the old ‘pull aside to pee’, but if you’re looking for a swimming costume that will hold you in, give you good coverage and keep the boobs in place, look no further. I also like it as you can untie the straps to avoid tan lines and it won’t fall down. Get your regular size. These Birkenstocks are a great pool or beach shoe as they are basically plastic. Let’s call them the grown-up alternative to Crocs. Now, I haven’t tried these Matalan shorts, BUT others have told me they are a great alternative to the now-defunct Topshop wonders. Elasticated too – always good on the beach. An oversized linen shirt is great for a cover-up. Why buy an expensive beach cover-up that you are literally only going to use once or twice a year?
DINNER AND AN EVENING STROLL
How much do we love those summer-holiday nights where you wander around in your linen dress, sandals and denim jacket? A LOT is the answer. I love this ME + EM dress as it would look as much at home in a little tapas place in Mallorca as it would in Carluccio’s in Richmond. You may have guessed by now that I don’t like to buy things that you can ONLY wear on holiday. Swimming costumes excepted. I like to be able to wear my clothes in various locations.
I hope this was a little bit helpful, if nothing else, get down to your local Italian deli and buy the ingredients for that pasta.