The holiday season is just around the corner, and with it, the annual challenge of getting a fortnight’s worth of stuff into one case.
I’m a seasoned traveller and I like to think I’ve honed my packing skills over the years. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way but I’ve learnt a lot too. So, what are my golden rules for getting to your destination with everything you really need in place, stress-free?
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1. First, make a list
I’m a lists kind of gal. Give me a notebook and I will make you a list. I adore the satisfaction of ticking things off so I will compile a list of must-haves depending on the length of the holiday and the destination. I start with the basics and, like I did for a recent two-week holiday in the States, I plot outfits.
But there’s a firm rule: nothing gets into the case unless it works three ways with the other packed items. My countdown usually starts about two weeks in advance when I start lists, assemble piles of clean clothes and book the travel insurance, making sure to include that vital run-up time to departure when anything can go wrong!
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2. Colour coordinate
Like Picasso once upon a time, I’m currently exploring my blue phase and everything I want to buy either for my wardrobe or my home is invariably blue, or blue and white. Colour-theming works brilliantly, it puts manners on you and prevents potential ‘pitching in’ extravagance. Colour-blocking makes an assortment of favourite separates look more than just a handful of odds and sods, almost vaguely ‘curated’. At least if I’m coordinated, my milk bottle water legs won’t stick out so much.
First into my summer suitcases goes a stripy Breton T-shirt which will be worn with white shorts (kayaking) and with white linen trousers (shopping). The holiday favourite is a Breton striped T-shirt dress with a cropped white jeans jacket. I found mine at H&M and with a white straw hat and basket, you can look half reasonable day one when you go out for what I like to call the ‘priest’s run’… for water and wine.
On the subject of exploring other colour themes, you could do the whole Diane Keaton tone-on-tone neutrals with cream, white and caramels. Throw in stripes and it looks insanely chic. I usually travel in my faithful, super comfy black jumpsuit from COS and it doubles up with a Lucy Nagle cashmere hoodie on grey days, and then works for evenings with my gold Dries Van Noten coat which is my get-out-of jail piece if I’m invited somewhere special. That will be folded in three and wrapped in dry cleaner’s plastic at the end.
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3. Think versatility
If you cannot remember what worked especially well for you on your last sun holiday, go through the photos on your phone and based on that, introduce the newness. My best-in-service beach-to bar and dinner pieces are a black silky maxi from M&S and two Helen Steele silk dresses which roll up really small.
My ‘most used’ holiday piece on either city or beach vacations is my striped bardot top (pictured, top) in cotton shirting which does not crease! It was from Studio by Preen at Debenhams two years ago and thank the lord I had the sense to go back and buy a second. If you love it, and it is super handy, buy a duplicate. The elasticated bardot shoulder look is super handy for any age and works on those days when you are waiting for the clouds to burn off, and when the sun comes out, you just hoik it down. No outfit changing required.
I always roll up and pack a tunic. Soothing on the skin for that post-beach period, they work well with plisse trousers for dinner. New to the market this year are 100pc silk twill tunics from kdk.ie whose tissue soft cashmere scarves are my preferred option for long flights, and duplicate as evening wraps.
4. Take care of your tootsies
One of the best advances in fashion in recent years has been the movement which sees runners and trainers now acceptable footwear 24-7. They have moved firmly out of the gym and gone main stream and super luxe.
The heavier of the two pairs of trainers that I’m currently in lust with will go into the case and become receptacles for beauty products, which I stuff inside. And I’ll pack my two ‘Faro’ barrel hair brushes for a DIY blow-out. I’ve just started travelling with hair rollers to achieve an instant flick-out while doing my makeup – heat them up with the dryer before using them.
I travel in my Michael Kors silver runners (€150 from Brown Thomas) and a metallic sandal flat instantly lifts the most basic outfit. I always leave room to buy shoes so in France, it will be K Jacques leather flats from St Tropez while in Spain, I buy the iconic Castañer espadrilles.
5. Embrace minimalism
I enjoy the process of ‘miniaturising’ my beauty products into acrylic stacking pots from Muji where I also buy garment cases and mesh bags for underwear. I use see-through large Ziplock bags for incidentals.
I downsize my makeup too and buy miniature eyeliner and mascara from Benefit. Tom Ford does my favourite red lipsticks in a super small size and I’m working through my box of eight, travel size (7.5ml) falcons of Kilian perfume. Instead of-liquid cleansers, I always travel with small sachets of Clinique powder cleanser with pure vitamin C and Laroche-Posay have brought out a 30ml pocket-sized ‘Anthelios’ with SPF 50+ – super handy for handbags. They also do one for kids and I wear their Shaka tinted fluid instead of foundation.
6. Don’t forget to eat
Airline food has gone downhill and I rarely eat at the airport so I’m all about being prepared and bringing something with you. I like to bring a salad in my favourite discovery – the beige bag from The Kitchen Whisk on Dublin’s Wicklow Street (€14.95) has all the style qualities of a handbag but it is, in fact, an ice cooler bag. Pop it in the fridge to cool, transport your food on the flight and on arrival, the bag can also double up for wine duties. I like to keep my rosé wine in it chilled under my sunbed and it works in another guise, as a bag for evenings.
7. Leave the diamonds at home
I’ll always remember the night I went shopping for nappies in Portugal and when I looked down, there was pink flesh where my lovely emerald had been. Since then, I’m always careful about bringing good jewellery away because of the sun oils, dips in the sea, sand and moving hotels.
If you really need to sparkle on holidays, take a look at the jewellery from Brilliant Inc which could confuse a diamond thief. You will find them online and inside the door of Brown Thomas on Grafton Street. I’m also an avid collector of affordable earrings that you won’t be crying about if you lose one on the dancefloor. I make a habit of going to the airport early so I can shop at Parfois in Terminal 1. The earrings usually cost less than a tenner and their body bags, sunglasses and scarves are gorgeous too.
8. Carry a kaftan
I love how a colourful kaftan can completely dress up a basic cami and jeans or boho dress. They work as dressing gowns, beach robes and are star performers on those nights when you’ve had too much sun and can’t bear the hassle of dressing up.
9. Charge ahead
Walking miles through airport terminals, I’m always fantasising about owning a ‘Modobag’ – motorised, ride-on suitcases with a built-in charger port. Stress over battery power is a killer so I’ve started to keep a dedicated charger in the outside pocket of my case for the journey home, when you want to ring people on landing or order a taxi.
10. Finally… pack your passport!
How many people misplace their passports at airports, usually at the security check? The Irish Passport Card can be used in the EU and is available if you have a valid passport. It’s a handy back-up, but never keep it in the same bag as your hardcopy passport – just in case!
Bairbre Power is the Irish Independent’s Fashion Editor.
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