First up, a disclaimer. I don’t know where you’re going and for how long, so this is only a rough guide to packing for a summer holiday based on a standard 7 to 10-day trip somewhere warm in Europe. If you’re off to the wilds of Borneo or a wet weekend in Whitby,* then obviously this is not going to work.
I am purely thinking of myself here (again): we’re going to Italy for 12 days in August, and there will be city visits, sightseeing activities, market shopping, poolside lounging and a WHOLE lot of eating massive amounts of pasta in restaurants. This is more or less what I plan to take with me.
My top tip before packing is to think in terms of outfits, not items. Yes, you might want to take that certain something with you, but if you can’t make it work with at least two other pieces, then leave it be. I lay out all the things I want to take on the bed and then put them into outfits. It really does help you curb that excessive packing. Let’s have a look at my list…
- 3 x DRESSES: Personally, I’ll be taking my most lightweight ones – a black one, a white one and a patterned one. Ideally, one in cheesecloth if you’ve got it as it doesn’t crease and is the fabric of the summer in my book. More dresses here.
- 1 x OVERSIZED SHIRT: To be worn on the beach as a cover-up but also over dresses etc to cover your shoulders in the heat of the sun.
- 2 x SHORTS: I’d go for one denim and one cotton or linen pair. See here for more shorts ideas.
- 2 x SWIMWEAR: In case one is wet from the previous day. I’m definitely a one-piece woman here, but I’ve done a ‘bikini that isn’t too small or too big’ section too.
- 2 x SANDALS: You could probably get away with just one pair if they work in both the city and by the sea, but I’d go for a water-safe pair of sliders along with a leather pair if you’re on a beach holiday.
- 1 x TRAINERS: Your most comfortable pair that work for walking all day while out sightseeing. More trainers here.
- 5 x TOPS: I’d go for a vest top, a short-sleeve shirt, two T‑shirts and a pretty, airy top too.
- 1 x TROUSERS OR SKIRT: I’m more of a trousers girl, so I’ll take either a linen or cotton khaki pair.
- 2 x BAGS: One large tote for the plane and the beach – I’d go for a basket bag. And one small cross body for sightseeing and evening.
- 1 x CARDIGAN: In case it’s chilly at night.
- 1 x LIGHT JACKET: See above, but it’s another option if you don’t want to wear a woolly. Lots of good summer jackets here.
- 1 x HAT: Whether it’s straw or baseball, just something for the beach. I made the mistake of not taking one last year; you definitely need one in the heat of the day.
- 2 x SUNGLASSES: Because I like to have options when it comes to eyewear.
Now we have the list, let’s look at some outfit inspiration…
Air con on an aeroplane means, for me, it’s advisable to have a few layers to hand. I cannot comprehend those people who board from their tropical location in just flip flops and shorts. Foolish enough in the summer, but I’ve seen those jokers freezing on the Piccadilly Line in December. Do they just forget the weather is different at home? Your loose-fitting, comfy trousers and trainers will be your best option when flying.
- Albaray black rib racer vest
- Levis Cara cotton prep denim jacket (on sale)
- John Lewis khaki linen trousers
- Isabel Marant large jacquard pattern bag
- Adidas Gazelle suede trainers
Use your oversized shirt as a beach dress here. I don’t believe in buying specific beach cover-ups. If you can’t wear something in more than one place then it’s a ‘no thank you’ from me. Same goes for swimming costumes. I like to wear mine as a vest top/body with shorts in the summer. I took the plunge and ordered this Hunza G costume after thinking about it for a couple of years (this one from & Other Stories is a great alternative if it ever comes back into stock). I can confirm that it’s an excellent costume. Super, super stretchy and very comfortable. It is quite high cut though, I’m definitely going to have to embrace the wax this summer.
- H&M handmade straw hat
- Anthropologie Business & Pleasure beach towel
- Hunza G seersucker swimsuit
- Reiss Emma relaxed fit stripe shirt
- Adidas Adilette shower slides
- All Saints Addlington straw tote bag
IN THE EVENING
I forgot to say: don’t ever bother packing heels for a holiday. I can 99% guarantee you won’t wear them. However, an M&S cool comfort slip is a good idea, as they stop your sheer dresses being too sheer and really help with the heat. They come in six different lengths and are currently on sale. And I’ve mentioned this brand Faune before, but they make the perfect summer holiday dresses. They’re designed to be nightwear, but are far too pretty to save for bedtime.
- f.a.u.n.e Marigold balloon sleeve cotton dress
- Wilson jewellery daisy cluster pendant necklace
- Boden fluffy floral detail cardigan
- Fat Face leather braided sandals
- Mango natural fibre shoulder bag
This is where you’ll need your most comfortable trainers. Sandals are great, but if you’re planning on covering some serious distances, even the most comfy ones could cause your feet problems. The only exception I’ve found are these Tevas. They won’t win any prizes for prettiness but they’re exceptional for long summer walks.
- Rayban Aviator gold tone sunglasses
- Mikohouse handmade Liberty fabric scrunchie
- Boden flutter sleeve trim detail top
- The White Company stripe straw tote bag
- Cos pleated linen blend shorts
- Nike Blazer low platform trainers
TO THE MARKET
I’m sure there are some good markets in the UK, but European ones just seem to be so much better. Maybe that’s because my main experience of a market here is Wembley Market in the late 90s when I lived in Willesden. Less organic farmers, more wide boys selling a five pack of neon polyester thongs for a quid.
- The White Company organic cotton seersucker dress
- & Other Stories cat eye acetate sunglasses
- Boden oversized cotton shirt
- Dream Paris cloud flat sandals
- Wild Daisy personalised straw basket bag
A short-sleeved, button-up shirt is something I always pack. Perfect for holidays. Wear unbuttoned over your shorts and swimming costume. I love this one from Aligne. In fact, Aligne is strong all round right now. Definitely worth a look.
- Alexis Amor Holly Havana sunglasses
- Mango scallop textured swimsuit
- Aligne Halen short sleeve linen shirt
- Mango front pocket denim shorts
- Loewe Paulas Ibiza straw and leather bag
- Birkenstock leather 2 strap Arizona sandals
This was prompted by a plea from my friend Lisa to find some bikinis that are high-waisted but not great big granny pants (although you know I love a granny pant). I found quite a few really good ones, and they’re on the scroll section below instead of listing them all individually.
Happy packing. Don’t forget the SPF!
*I know Whitby isn’t always wet. Don’t get cross, Whitby dwellers.