I used to pack nothing when I went on holiday. Mostly because I had nothing. I could squash all my summer clothing options into one half of a small suitcase.
Then I was horrified when I went away with Giles’s smart friends to find that they had 2 suitcases apiece, filled with the latest from Dodo Bar Or and Heidi Klein. I also blame Instagram
for everything for making us all feel like we have to have 9 changes of outfit every day.
Then I wildly overpacked, taking all sort of insane stuff with me, only to get to my holiday and not wear any of it.
But this year! This year I have come full circle.
This year I am going to do a thing I am excited about, which is only to take the clothes I can fit into a biggish rucksack. The kids will share a small carry-on wheelie thing and I’ve instructed Giles only to pack what he can in his own rucksack, too, as Giles regularly takes 10 pristine folded t-shirts on holiday with him, only to bring 8 back that are still folded.
Or maybe we will all pack in one slightly bigger suitcase. Anyway WHATEVER!!!! what I mean is that my plan is to drill my holiday wardrobe right down to the bones.
My packing list so far goes like this:
a load of headbands and scarves
2 bikini – on this, I recently tried on an Eres swimsuit, which people say is very good and made in the same place as Chanel swimsuits. It was £300 and it was lovely, yes, but was cut very badly around the arse and boobs and reminded me that basically it is Heidi Klein who is the queen of good, solid swimwear if you’ve got dem tittays and even a modest arse. I’ve had a lot of wear out of this one.
1 pair flip flops
To wear on plane
1 scarf that can double as a sarong
1 denim jacket
Reading that back really reminds me of the packing list Adrian Mole makes when he runs away from home.
My make-up bag, too, is going to be pared right back to a cleansing balm, moisturiser and eyeliner. Nothing else. Jewellery will be those Roxanne Assoulin bracelets I mentioned, gold hoops and whatever necklace I’m wearing on the plane out.
That’s it. No mad dress that I think I might suddenly wear because it’s a holiday. No heels “just in case”. No clattery case of jewels. No bag of eyeshadow and blusher that I won’t use.
I mean how freeing! How freeing to feel so free! To be unburdened by stuff, to have decisions taken out of my hands. To wake up and think “right, well it’s either the denim shorts or the minidress today”.
Of course this is much harder to do if you are not going somewhere very hot – or if you are going to a smart resort where you don’t want to just wear the long black dress out for dinner every night.
But we are not staying in glamorous resorts and it will be hotter than hell, so I can get away with taking NOTHING.
How about you? What is your packing philosophy this year? And we’re all going to have to bloody get away, Brexit or no, just to get away from this FUCKING RAIN.
Yes to all of this! My great grandfather apparently used to say of holidays ‘take half the amount of clothes and twice the amount of money you think you’ll need’ and that’s always served me very well.
Sarong as scarf on plane, is a very good idea, I’m stealing that.
We’re going to Île de Ré so I have an annoying ‘oh but what if it rains’ dimension to packing this year, including for tiny kids.
Harriet Peart says
I love the idea of this but tried it one year and spent second half of holiday borrowing clothes from friends because I was so bored with the tiny amount I’d bought. 😂
You read my mind! I recently packed about a month’s worth of clothes for me as well as the children for a 5 day trip to my brother in law in Switzerland. Although changeable weather made it tricky, Most of this was ‘just in case’ items, which were left untouched, obvs. I mean, even my messy 4 year old can’t wear 6 pairs of shorts, 6 leggings, 6 dresses in 5 days, with easy access to a washing machine… Madness :-/
I’ve already made a packing list and will buy packing cubes to prevent my old habits.
I think it’s about admitting the reality of family holidays- for most of us they’re just not nearly as glamorous as Insta and the lifestyle sections would make out.
Alexandra Minton says
Genius. And chic.
If you are flying don’t put all your clothes in one case – just in case! I mix up our belongings between suitcases so everyone would at least have a swimming costume and clean pants if a case went missing.
The midi black dress for summer has been game-changing for me, can literally wear it all the time.
Loved this as I’m having the same dilemma in prep for our summer hols! But the last line is the best… I’ve had at least five FUCKING RAIN conversations already and it’s only 1030am!
THE FUCKING RAIINNNNNNNNNNN
My mum always taught me to lay out everything on the bed you think you are going to take and then remove half of it. We are road-tripping in California this year so our packing is pretty straightforward, I’ll just work out how many smartish things we might do and then take one outfit that works for all of them, plus stuff to wander round in. One issue is something to wear in the car/walking round theme parks in the roasting heat as denim shorts are the worst thing ever for this. I think the Black Dress might be a good investment for this? Also, how do you know of a decent hat I can pack in a suitcase?
With the kids I write a list a bit like yours per child then make them pack their own stuff. We do have added headache though in that we have to pay a million pounds per hold-bag on the flights from Channel Islands to UK before we take the long-haul bit so I have rationed us to three bags between five of us, including space for all the stuff I am planning to bring back.
My big holiday extravagance and best tip is to get everything washed before we fly home – local laundries are dead cheap and also pack it in plastic so you can just drop it into your bag on the last morning. We did this in Bangkok and it was the best £20 I have ever spent.
We did California last summer and south California was so so hot compared to the rather cool north. My fine gauge cashmere jumper served me very well along with a leather jacket in Monterey!
Oooh thank you! This is good info as we are going from San Diego to San Francisco via Yosemite.
We all look borderline deranged on holiday, every time. For some reason I pack like I’m a teenager going backpacking, so never have enough and have to wash it all the time but not iron it (I’m not ironing on holiday) and it goes all crispy drying in the sun so when you put it on it’s like wearing a sandwich board. And being scruffy and grubby is fine when you’re 18 and gorgeous (as all 18 yos are) but harder to get away with at 42.
Love your travel/packing posts!! Please tell us about this rucksack you’re getting it all into. Love a bit of luggage porn.
If you’re channeling AM it must be in an Adidas bag and don’t forget the Winalot for the dog. I think that’s a great list. I always take too much since having the kids and it’s hard trying to shake that sense of having to be prepared for everything. Before I used to pack extremely lightly as I had a bit of a thing about it. The more stuff involved the more anxious I would feel. On honeymoon I took a rucksack – I didn’t even take my glasses but that was a mistake rather than a handy packing tip – and we had to buy matching awful fleeces so we could go up a glacier and they’re my favourite souvenirs. We’re holidaying in the U.K. though this summer so will be taking the contents of the local Mountain Warehouse, Uno, Dobble, Bananagrams, blighted hopes and lots and lots of wine.
“blighted hopes and lots and lots of wine” is pretty much every holiday I have been on.
Same here! In Cornwall one summer I was stood in a beach car park in the pissing rain with a wetsuit and bobble hat on (the glamour!) trying to wrangle three kids out of surf gear and at least three very smart women walking past announced that they were dead jealous and wished they’d packed their bobble hats. I now never holiday in the UK without a parka, a hat and a mug for drinking wine out of.
The bobble hat’s going in this year for sure. One year in Devon we got caught on the beach in hailstorm and I was clinging on to the covered so the baby didn’t blow away whilst attempting to shield the toddler from the worst of it while he screamed in fear. It was actually painful. Went back the following year.
It’s useful to write a note of what you didn’t wear/use on your last trip and in my case it is things like jewellery I never wear anyway, make up, various pointless creams, extra sunglasses, stuff you buy in the sale for your holiday etc. A lot of our summer clothes just don’t work in other climates and buying a few cheap tee shirts on holiday is fun. I have just returned from 6 days abroad and I wore the same comfortable sandals almost the whole time. I still take double the number of pants I could possibly wear, why is this?
Yes I always do this too. If I needed half as many as I pack I’d be staying closer to home.
All good except – 3 pairs of pants???? Are you only going for 3 nights?!
no but I mostly live in swimwear on holiday and can wash pants in sink
The second best thing about going on a sunny summer holiday is not having to make any bloody decisions apart from ‘what book shall I read next on my kindle?’ or ‘shall I have G+T or rosé when cocktail hour strikes?’ Love how simple everything gets by narrowing the outfit options. Also cabin bag only means less lugging around of heavy bags and you can whizz through the airport way quicker and not get cross with the hateful tedium of waiting at bag-drop queues, luggage carousels etc!
The very best thing about going on holiday is not having to wear knickers until you fly home (the aeroplane steps!) I’m planning to leave my awful mithering strapless bra at home as well this year. In my little carry-on case I’ll roll up about few light dresses to wear in the evening and a dress to float around in during the day – trying to be Lady Caroline in Enchanted April.
Hope you have a lovely holiday Esther. Are you going to tell us all about it when you get back?
FUCK THE MITHERING STRAPLESS BRA! not going anywhere for ages, heading off in August sometime. I doubt there’ll be much to tell tbh
My sentiment exactly! Best holidays are the ones where nothing happens other than lazy peacefulness and a nice view. Just make sure you pack enough tea bags! In my revery of imagining I was an Elizabeth von Arnim character I forgot to mention that half of my cabin case consists of Yorkshire Tea…
I love that word mither must start using instead of swear words. Packing light is most definitely the way forward Ive come back so many times with a load of clean unworn stuff. So annoying. We go for 2 weeks so I always wash knickers in the sink too! I love the simplicity of sunny holiday clothing. It makes you realise that we dont need all this mithering shit we have in our homes. Sometimes I fantasise about living in a hut somewhere hot with my kindle and a yoga mat. I dont even do yoga but you know what I mean. So much STUFF. My husband and I will be travelling light problem is my instagram addicted teenagers wont be and will be doing continuous outfit changes and selfies with expensive cocktails they purchase on the hotel bar tab when we’ve had too much wine and agree to anything X
So glad someone else appreciates the usefulness of the word ‘mithering’ and totally agree about too much stuff at home being an albatross around the neck! Except cookery books for which I have a ‘the more the merrier’ policy. I may of course have to eat my words when we move house and I sustain a back injury from heaving my Nigel Slater section… What you said about the yoga mat made me laugh!
I wish I were going anywhere so I could try out The Spike packing theory. Reminds me of the time we were island-hopping in the Caribbean (get us!) and our luggage went to St Kitts but we flew to Nevis, so close we could almost see it. V smart dress code at our hotel too. Luckily I travelled in a dress, bit casual but that night I wore every item of bling in my hand baggage. A lesson learned …
Love this. I’m in. We go away next month but from cold (NZ) to Fiji. I’m spending too much brain time already on how to efficiently streamline the transition of being dressed for middle of winter until we get to airport and then vice versa. And wrangle two boys (7 and 10) and a husband.
FIJI!!!! I am hideously jealous. I totally fantasise about mega-tropical islands like that.
Okay well my advice is always that on the way out you won’t need to be *that* warmly dressed because it’s just cab-airport. So – leggings, long-sleeve top (thermal?) and slim Uniqlo-type puffa will do. Do you get Allbirds trainers in NZ? They are amazing – you don’t need to wear socks with them. The wool runners are warm when it’s cool and cool when it’s hot.
THEN in your hand luggage roll up a non-crease dress that you can wear with your Allbirds. Before you land change in the loos and roll your leggings, top and slim puffa and put them back in hand luggage. Boys and husband can fend for themselves it will be a lesson for them in forward planning.
Funnily enough I’ve been eyeing up Allbirds! This might be the sign… or something – thank you Esther.
oh my god. they are LIFE
also very patriotic as they use NZ wool
Esther – yet again you come to the rescue, thank you! I had to pack for an unexpected trip to Barcelona last week and was in a total muddle over what jacket to take, given it was 23 degrees (with actual sunshine – hurrah!). Your Packing Light post popped into my in-box and I was reminded about the existence of my denim jacket, unworn for about a decade. I brushed off the dust (!) and it was perfect. Incidentally, I’ve been a light packer (that sounds wrong…) since Easyjet delivered our luggage on the fifth day of a seven day Ile de Re trip, so now I’m a hand luggage only kind of gal now. Er, alas, the light packing approach backfired slightly on said trip to Barcelona when I discovered that my cocktail party outfit for the Friday night was actually still hanging up in the wardrobe in London…
I didn’t know how much I needed a pretty nightie until I started looking at the site you linked to! Some gorgeous stuff!
I’m in Palma, just about to leave after a short stay and I packed pretty well, probably one dress too many. I have bought a bag that I need to stuff into my carry on case but it’ll be fine!
sheila birch says
Just back today from Ibiza…
Aside from the ridiculous amounts of clothes I lugged there, plus jewellery, make up etc . (weighed a ton)
I also Took my watercolour paints, a selection of brushes and a large heavy pad …oh and a large hat to shade me
Box of sketching pencils …
So excited I could picture myself sitting on a rock, my long red chiffon skirt blowing gently over my fake tanned legs, me dripping water onto the pad adding paint, creating a watery masterpiece.
never left the case! Any of them.