6 Tips for Packing the Perfect Suitcase

With the summer holiday season in full swing and nothing but romantic Italian getaways on my mind (I just returned from an anniversary trip with my husband in case you haven’t been following along on Instagram), I thought now was the ideal time to share my foolproof packing formula. Every time I’m packing a case, I follow a sort of checklist to make sure I always have everything I need—and nothing I don’t. And because I shared my most recent travels on Instagram, I’ve had quite a few lovely conversations regarding the topic, so I figure it’s time to share my bag of tricks (pun intended). Follow these six tips for your next trip and you’ll wonder how you ever did it any differently.

Image:  Marlene Lee

1. Take a look at your holiday photos from your last vacation

First up, you need some inspiration. You are going on holiday after all so get excited! Pull out your photos from last year or the year before and take a look at what you were wearing. I often do this when planning a trip, and the great thing about iPhones and other gadgets these days is that I bet you have some photos right there in the palm of your hand that can help.

You also want to have a think about the kind of holiday you are going on. Is it a mini-break, romantic trip, activity holiday, family holiday, or city break? Take a look at photos from previous holidays in the relevant category. Not only will this remind you what you actually wore last time, but it will give you focus and help you avoid overpacking this time.

Bonus tip: If you really want to nail your packing formula and keep it as effortless as possible, start keeping a list of every outfit you actually wear on holiday. This can be done in a notebook or in the notes section of your phone. I swear by this and have been doing it for years. And by years I mean I could quite easily find a list of every outfit I wore on my honeymoon (the anniversary we just celebrated was our 13th). So you see, I take this whole “packing for a trip thing” quite seriously.

2. Pick a theme for your holiday wardrobe

An important thing to remember is it's about packing outfits and not individual pieces. And you want those outfits to work as hard as possible. Once you've looked at those old vacation photos and thought about what you actually wear on holiday, give yourself a theme. No, I don't mean roaring twenties or circus dress. I mean a subtle theme that will give you focus like all white (I'm seriously tempted by this for a Greek holiday next month) or stripes or bright colours versus pastel colours—whatever suits your personality. For my recent trip, I focused on 'Mediterranean blues' whilst planning my packing. I find that packing with a theme in mind keeps me focused, so I’m sure it will do the same for you.

3. Keep your packing lists

Once you’ve worked out steps one and two, and you’re in the midst of writing your packing list, don’t forget to add the essentials that are not so glamorous. You know—sunscreen, tweezers, contact lens, chargers, tea bags, the right underwear for each outfit, etc.. This is not something that you can sort by viewing your old holiday photos, so write these items down and then keep your list even after your holiday.

I like to keep a mixture of notebooks (I love a blank page) and lists on my phone, but I know friends who actually keep spreadsheets of their packing. This may sound like overkill but think how stressful it is wrapping up things at the office and all the thoughts that fill your mind before leaving. Because if you’re anything like me, it’s around this time that you may find yourself wondering why you’re even bothering to go on holiday because it's so damn stressful to even get out the door! This level of organisation, as over the top as it may seem, will really help, I promise.

4. How much does your checked bag weigh?

It is essential that you invest in some travel scales. Most airlines give a luggage allowance of 15-20 kg and charge high penalties for breaching these limits. Knowing exactly how much your suitcase weighs before you leave the house can provide an immense relief. I also recommend taking those scales with you, as you may be partial to a bit of holiday shopping and that extra weight can creep up.

And speaking of taking the scales with you and travelling home—weigh your bag again before the return journey. A top tip for keeping the weight down is to decant all toiletries into small travel bottles or buy travel size toiletries before you go. In the past, my toiletries bag has weighed 5kg! This is a huge portion of the luggage allowance. Many airlines will let you take a handbag and a cabin bag onboard, so make the most of this, as this can be a great way to keep those checked kilograms down. We usually travel with a cabin bag full of our shoes (who knew, but shoes surprisingly add so much weight). Obviously, you need to check all liquids above 100ml.

5. Fight those creases

Now that you've done all your planning, you are ready to pack that suitcase. There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination, all set for a cocktail in celebration of your arrival, to find that your dresses are riddled with creases and require pressing. And let’s be honest, most hotels are unlikely to offer this service at 9 pm. My best tip to avoid this scenario is to wrap anything that is delicate in tissue paper. I wrap my t-shirts, blouses, and dresses and have always found this trick to work like a charm.

Start by folding up the item with tissue paper in the middle, then wrap a sheet around the item as well. Two sheets of tissue paper per item are essential. This stops all the clothes from being squashed together and so long as you hang everything up as soon as you arrive, everything should look pristine.

6. Have a hand luggage plan

This is the final piece of the puzzle. You already know you can use your larger cabin bag allowance for items like shoes, so now you need to throw stuff in your handbag. In my opinion, hand luggage warrants its own special list, as remembering the essentials could make all the difference.

My list is always the same: book, magazine, notebook and pen, camera, phone, sunglasses, contact lenses, travel documents, hand cream, lip balm, and of course, a cashmere shawl. Again, I have friends who travel with a bikini and fresh underwear just in case their checked bag doesn't arrive. One day I’m sure I will regret that I don't do this as well!

Now all that is left to do is throw on that cashmere shawl and head to the airport! Buone Vacanze!

Jennie Hogg