Packing your own clothes for a holiday when you are also packing for your children and also family essentials like phone and Kindle chargers, nail clippers, ibuprofen and headphone splitters just seems like one horrific task too many.

You can end up packing shitty clothes just because you are too tired and overwrought to contemplate packing anything vaguely nice or smart. “My life is just fucking drudgery,” you think to yourself, and pack mulchy stuff, crapola denim shorts, not one single necklace and forget your hairbrush.

The good news is that, in fact, you hardly need to take anything on holiday – and you probably have most of it already. You just need to focus and take the right things.

PACK BY ACTIVITY

Yes okay, this is the most obvious piece of advice ever, but it is true. Finding the physical and mental space to even contemplate the activities and appropriate clothing is the hard bit.

But if you can just shoo your husband away for the evening, even if he takes the piss out of you for packing 48 hours before you go, (just tell him he’s a c*nt from me), get those kids in bed and stay off the white wine for 45 minutes you will be able to do this.

1 JOURNEY THERE

You will wear your chinos, boyfriend jeans or culottes with trainers and a t-shirt. Your tassel necklace and a scarf if you really want to wow Terminal 5. No matter how early your flight is, do not wear a leather jacket. It will be a complete pain to look after for the whole holiday. If it’s really chilly on the day of your flight, take a denim jacket.

2 POOL AND BEACHTIME

I only take 2 pool or beach dresses because they always get completely trashed, covered in sweat and ice cream and suncream and god knows what else. I’ve got a blue and white striped big shirt dress and then some trashy white embroidered beach dress and that’s it.

I’ll bet you’ve got 2 perfectly good beach dresses in your cupboard somewhere. Take those. If you really don’t, or really want to modernise, I think the following are really good. They could also perform the function of the Sundowner dress (see below).

ASOS

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ASOS

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LEMLEM

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This one is expensive, if you’re feeling like blowing the budget…

GAP

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And last but not least this is very nice from White Stuff

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And what is that crap that people talk about taking things that you can “dress up” for evening? I can’t imagine anything more disgusting than putting on at night something I’ve been wearing all day in a hot country. What is wrong with these people. Am I supposed to wash it in the sink? Send it away to the laundry? Honestly fuck right off.

I don’t take denim shorts because I try to avoid taking any denim on holiday at all – except maybe a denim jacket to travel in. It just says British. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country and my fellow countryfolk, but denim shorts are really just for slopping about at home in. They’re not for holidays, not for dreamtime.

3 SWIMWEAR

Take 3 – one on, one drying, one dry. I don’t mean to be unhelpful, but buying swimwear and bikinis is such a nightmare and so different for everyone that I can’t even begin to make recommendations.

Please, Spikers – help. You have been so brilliant at making your own recommendations for things you have bought that suit your body shape and type – leave tips in the handy comment box below!

Personally I buy something – only ever navy or navy/white – from Heidi Klein about once every three years and try to look after it so it doesn’t go saggy.

4 SUNDOWNER DRESS

This is a long, floaty cover up that you only ever wear after your evening shower while you’re getting the kids squared away and before you get dressed for dinner. It could also be a light dressing gown if you’ve got one of those. Anyway take something like that and designate it your Sundowner dress and keep it only for that for the week so it doesn’t get covered in sun cream and snot and crap.

5 EVENINGWEAR

I actually take quite a lot of evening wear. Dinner is the one time when I rather mind how I look on holiday and I want options. I take every light black dress I own and a ton of jewellery in its own bag and operate on the principle that more is more.

This is when to pack that slashed-to-the-navel emerald green maxi dress, or the slip dress that needs a complicated bra, or those fondant pink floaty trouers or that playsuit. Bring all the mad impulse buys you never normally wear because of the kids and then wear them!

6 SHOES

I take 1 pair of trainers, 1 pair of flip flops, (if your Havaianas are shabby and rotten, replace them), 1 smart sandals – and this year I will also be bringing my Zara tie-up wedge espadrilles.

7 HAT

I’m very excited about taking my Panama hat on holiday this year as mentioned in Accessories. As a reminder – Davina Mulford gave me mine and Spikers get 15% off at checkout.

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8 PYJAMAS

Air-conditioning can make holiday rooms really quite chilly at night. I am insanely in love with my pineapple print pyjamas from asos.

I can’t even explain how soft and beautiful and featherlight they are. I put them on and feel instantly as if embraced by happiness and calm. Not too hot, not too cold. I don’t understand why they are only £28. I would pay £150 for these pyjamas.

Alas the pineapple ones are sold out now, but I have studied carefully the video for this pair of cactus pyjamas below, also by asos and I think they are absolutely identical to my pineapple ones in fabric and fit, just a different – but also awesome – print.

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Plenty of sizes left, mine are a 12 for sweft and roominess. Sweft isn’t a word, but it describes these PJs perfectly. They have ideal sweft.

9 1 SMART DAY DRESS

Only one, mind. I’m talking about this kind of thing.

H&M

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H&M

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H&M

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This one above is the kind of thing Julia Stiles wears in Riviera – with a lot of gold jewellery and the sleeves rolled up it would look super.

This is just in case, you know, there’s an unexpected thing that requires a smart day dress. It does occasionally happen and you really don’t want to get chatting to the British ambassador to Spain – (Simon Manley CMG) – in the buffet queue and get invited to a smart lunch, (kids also welcome, they’ve got a bouncy castle and an entertainer?), only for worry and fear to cross your face because you only brought the cactus pyjamas and the beach dress.

Some other practical things

I never go anywhere without my micro fibre hair turban. If my holiday is going to plan, my hair ought to be wet quite often. This little thingy, with its loop-and-button closure system is just entirely awesome at keeping wet hair up and out of the way, with a magnificent touch of Margo from the Good Life about it, while you chase your kids around the villa and clamp them between your knees to apply suncream. (“Come here you little *@@  @%^ *  £()$ !!!*%*) ….

Not sure if the model below is real or computer generated?? Anyone else feel sometimes like they’re in Blade Runner?

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I also never go anywhere with my kids without

  • a pair of rubber gloves
  • 1 bin bag
  • my own tea bags (PG Tips)
  • 2 Ziploc or press-seal medium freezer bags

At some point in every holiday, I’m afraid, you will just need those things and if you’ve packed them you will just, like, fall to your knees and be like *weep* I can’t believe *weep* I actually packed these *weep weep*. Particularly the teabags. I’m an addict, what can I say.

What unconventional essentials do you take on holiday? Please leave a comment in the handy box below.