Here at Gowns and Heels we are counting down the days until we jet off on our much needed summer hols, but mixed in with this excitement are overwhelming feelings of panic and dread about the prospect of what to pack in our suitcases. It seems we are not alone, because women, in particular, suddenly feel the need to literally pack ‘everything but the kitchen sink’. I mean, think about it, what happen if it rains; better pack an umbrella and raincoat and we’ll probably want to try out the hotel gym so better pack a full gym kit and trainers and oh what about that gorgeous new pair of heels that you haven’t even tried on yet; they would just go perfectly with your new maxi dress. Sound familiar? The fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg once said, “When you figure out your suitcase, you figure out your life”, which sounds as though she’s pretty much got it spot on! According to a survey by the Post Office, 37% of holidaymakers confess to being disorganised packers, with, unsurprisingly, women finding it harder to pack than men. So, as our gift to you and in a completely selfish means of sorting out our own chaotic suitcases, here is the Gowns and Heels guide to packing the perfect holiday suitcase!
First things first, let’s strip it back to the very basics and look at suitcases. It is important you get the right size weight and suitcase, as baggage limits can vary between airlines and some may be more restrictive than others. As a general rule of thumb, weight limits for checked luggage in economy is usually somewhere between 20-25kg (44-55lb). Just bear in mind that if you do go over this amount you can expect to be charged an extra fee, so by keeping within the limit you are going to save some precious holiday spending money! Some airlines will let you check in more than one suitcase, for example easyjet allow you up to three. However don’t get caught out, as the overall weight limit is based on the combined weight of all checked bags; not on the weight of each bag individually. Ok so on to material; do you go for a rugged hard case or a soft sided material one? There are perks to both, but we personally favour the softer variety, which has more give and therefore allows you to cram more in! Yes, hard cases will protect your belongings better, but also consider that it may well add up to 10lb on to your weight limit. Soft material cases are likely to stay looking nicer for longer and luggage handlers will arguably handle them with more care, as they will appear more delicate than hard cases, which are much more likely to be carelessly lobbed about. Another benefit of a soft case is that it may have pockets on the front, thus providing more storage space for all those small last minute must haves. One last thing to consider when buying a new suitcase is that 70% of suitcases on any given airport carousel are black. To make your life a lot easier when you come to collect it at your destination, think about either buying a brightly coloured case, or if you already have a perfectly good black suitcase, try customising it with a coloured strap or ribbon to make it a lot more eye catching.
Now let’s move on to what to pack inside your suitcase and, perhaps more importantly, what NOT to pack!
Hairdryers, straighteners and other electrical beauty gadgetry
We are the first to admit that there is no way we can contemplate even just one night away from home without our trusty GHDs stashed securely in our luggage. And if you’re travelling abroad, where humidity and frizziness go hand in hand, then I am sorry but those straighteners NEED to find a place in your bag. The compromise you should make is with your hairdryer. Most hotels have them as standard in their rooms and they will already be hooked up to the mains, meaning you don’t need to worry about taking endless amounts of travel plug adaptors. If you are staying in self catering apartments, then consider buying a small travel sized hairdryer that will take up far, far less room in your case.
Come on now, you’re not really kidding anyone, are you really going to use the hotel gym when you’re actually on holiday? What may start off as all the best intentions in the world, is pretty unlikely to materialise when the lure of cocktails on a sunlounger is also on offer. Be honest with yourself and instead of using up space in your case for trainers and a sports bra, shove in another pair of Havianas.
Multiple jackets and coats
Well, my black bolero goes amazing with my bodycon dress and my denim jacket looks oh so boho with my on trend gypsy top and yeah I better pack my raincoat, because it might rain oh and I can’t leave behind my bejewelled shrug. Do you see where we’re going with this? Nobody actually NEEDS that amount of jackets on holiday. Extra, often unnecessary, layers are going to add extra weight to your case, when you could simply wear your heaviest jacket and take one lightweight evening cover-up. And if you really are that concerned by whether it might rain on holiday, think about how the locals cope, after all, they do sell raincoats, umbrellas and ponchos in places other than England you know!
Well chosen accessories can add some much needed versatility to your holiday wardrobe. Just simply by adding a necklace, scarf or belt to a dress can instantly change it from a relaxed, touristy day outfit into glamorous and chic evening attire. Don’t go silly though, as taking too many chunky necklaces is certainly going to do you no favours when your suitcases sit on those scales.
What girl doesn’t love shoes? But do you really need loads and loads of different pairs when you go away? Handy tip: wear your heaviest pair, for example some sturdy trainers suitably for walking around in the daytime. The only other footwear you should need is a pair of flip flops for the beach and a pair of jewelled sandals for the evening. We’ve certainly been guilty of packing too many pairs of shoes in the past, but in actual fact when you start to unwind and chill out on holiday, the thought of wearing skyscraper heels is so unappealing that they end up sitting untouched in your case. If you really must have some kind of height to your shoes, then take a pair of wedges – practical but also pretty.
We’ve got just one thing to say on this matter, you need either a rucksack or spacious crossover bag for the daytime and a small tote for the evening. Don’t even think about taking more because you just don’t need them. End of.
There are two lines of thought with this one. You are either someone who likes their products and simply can’t bear the thought of a couple of weeks away from your must haves or you’re pretty easy going and any products will do as long as they keep you clean and sweet smelling. Well, today’s your lucky day, because we’ve got a solution for both. Let’s start with the latter, if you’re not that fussed about what you put on your face and body then why bother packing any toiletries in your case at all? No, no don’t worry we’re not saying you shouldn’t wash the whole time you’re away, but presuming you’re not going to the hidden depths of the jungle, they do still have shops abroad. Buying your toiletries when you reach your destination will save you space in your suitcase, prevent any risk of said items leaking in your suitcase and, depending on where you are travelling, may even be cheaper than what you would have bought here. Also, most hotels supply their guests with daily toiletries such as shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion etc. anyway. If you can’t do without your products, then think about decanting all your staples into smaller travel sized containers, or look for products in the same range that do more than one job. For example, try an all in one compact instead of a separate foundation and powder, a BB cream that can double up as a concealer or lip gloss that can also be used as blusher. Micellar water is a fantastic product, as it removes makeup from eyes, lips and cheeks as well as cleansing and hydrating at the same time. You must also remember to check the liquid limits for your particular route, as some airlines and countries will have different allowances. Gels, creams, pastes and other liquids in your hand luggage must still be in containers of no more than 100ml and placed in a transparent, re-sealable plastic bag no larger than 20cmx20cm. However, this liquid restriction does not apply air-side, so if there is anything you need to buy in larger quantities, make sure you do it once you have gone through security.
Plan your outfits
Organisation is the key and if you leave your packing until the very last minute of course you’re going to go into panic mode and ram it full of unnecessary items. In the week leading up to your holiday lay out everything you think you would like to take with you and then cut it by a third. Yes, it’s harsh but honestly you can do it. Key points to consider when putting together your outfits:
- Check the weather forecast of your destination.
- Have a rough plan of what activities you may end up doing.
- Create a capsule wardrobe, which, if you’ve already sorted out your main wardrobe at home, should be an absolute breeze.
- Try to take items that are made from synthetic materials, as they are lighter and easier to pack.
- Wear your heaviest items, you can always strip off layers once you are on the plane, and fill the pockets with heavy items like cameras, chargers, books etc.
- Try to stick to a colour palette of no more than three shades and as if by magic everything will go well together.
- Make your clothes work hard for their space in your case. Set yourself the rule that if you can’t wear something with two different pieces, then it doesn’t go in the case.
Right, so you’ve got the perfect suitcase and you’ve narrowed down your list of what to pack, now you need to pack it in the best way possible. Always pack your heaviest items, like shoes, at the bottom of your case near the wheels. And for the ultimate Gowns and Heels tip, fill the insides of your shoes with things like jewellery, underwear, toiletries, chargers etc., as an empty space is a wasted space. Many travellers have conflicting views on how to best pack clothes; do you roll it or should items be neatly folded? Having tried both techniques we can’t rate rolling highly enough. On first appearance it may seem as though you’ll fit more in your case if you fold items up nice and flat, but believe you me you can definitely fit more in when you roll. Take each item, fold in any sleeves and then roll up as tightly as you possible can. You should bunch any smaller items together and then roll up in the same way. Simple, but highly effective and don’t worry about any creases in some of your more delicate items. Hang them up in a steamy bathroom upon arrival at your destination and those creases will simply drop out. If you are travelling with others, it is always advisable to divide your belongings between cases, just in case one of the cases goes missing. By doing this you can guarantee you will at least have some of your things. Lastly, don’t be tempted to use those vacuum packed storage bags you may use already at home. They are fantastic, don’t get us wrong, but think about it…they’re great on the way out but what happens when you pack for your return journey? It’s not exactly going to be easy to get your hands on a vaccum cleaner to extract all the air.
Whilst we’re on the subject of packing to go home, many of us will throw everything in, regardless of whether it is clean or dirty, and worry about sorting it out when they get home. But for those of us that need a bit more order in their life, there are some fantastic services out there that you simply MUST be told about. The upmarket concierge service, Practical Princess, will sort all of your packing needs, including laundering and ironing your garments so when you get home all you need to do is hang everything back up in your wardrobe. Or, if you can’t even face the idea of unpacking your case, how about trying London based company, Jeeves of Belgravia? Leave your suitcase with them and they will perform their magic; they’ll unpack, sort, launder and dry clean all of the contents and then deliver it all back to you. How amazing is that!
So, there you have it, the Gowns and Heels ultimate guide to packing your holiday suitcase. All that remains to be said is Bon Voyage and send us a postcard!