With restrictions lifting in the UK, it’s looking like 2021 is the year of the ‘staycation’. Whether you’re staying local or taking a break elsewhere in the UK, it’s a holiday nonetheless. With holidays comes packing, a task that most people dread and have probably forgotten how to do considering our lack of travel plans.
We’ve gathered all of our packing hacks into the ultimate guide! We’ll look at which items you should always pack, a step-by-step guide of how to pack as well as some secret tips that we’ve learned. These tips can be applied to any trip: an overnight stay, a long weekend break or a fortnight’s holiday. This is a meaty post so make sure you’ve got a notepad at the ready!
What to pack
Even for a range of trips, most of us pack similar items. From clothes to electronics and everything in between, you’ll take something from every category on every trip, no matter how short or long your stay. For each category, we’ve come up with the essentials that most of us take (and often forget) as well as tips for how to pack them too.
Clothes, shoes + accessories
Clothes are the one item that everyone struggles to pack. We have a tendency to overpack and come home with a suitcase half full of unworn items. Going on a trip is not the time to take brand new items, unless you’re 100% sure you’ll wear them, such as occasion wear. New shoes can be uncomfortable for the first few wears and it can take time to find items to match with a new item of clothing so take pairs that you know you can rely on.
Pack a suitcase full of your favourites, the items you wear the most, are the most comfortable and that you feel your best in. We recommend taking three tops for each bottom-half item so you have some choice but not too much choice that you’re overwhelmed.
However, this is the perfect time to try a capsule wardrobe experiment. Limit yourself to how many pieces you can take and pick items that all mix and match with each other. Items, such as checked shirts, jeans and basic T-shirts, will always compliment each other and if you stick to a colour scheme, you know for a fact they will!
Unless you’re going to the middle of nowhere, there is a strong chance you’ll buy at least one item of clothing on any given trip so leave space for that.
When it comes to accessories, less is more. Whilst it’s great to have options, you’ll end up sticking to the same pieces anyway. Again, pick items that will go with everything you’re taking. Scarves, belts and jewellery all take up little room and give you more choice if you’re taking limited clothing.
For country ladies, handbags can be one of the most difficult items to make a decision about. You will need a day bag, maybe a tote bag or satchel for exploring the city or a rucksack for days out or long walks, and a smaller night bag, such as a long-strap shoulder bag or clutch bag. Choose your bags in neutral colours so you don’t have the issue of your bag not going with your outfits! If you’re going for a stay for a night or two, a weekend bag is the perfect size to hold everything!
Whilst most of us remember our devices, how often do you get to your destination and find you’ve left your charger/s at home? We charge everything the night before we leave yet seem to forget at least one charger! Pack all chargers in a small make-up bag or pouch so you keep them all together (and don’t leave them at your destination before you travel home!).
Unless it’s a work trip, do you need to take all electronics (i.e. laptop, tablet and phone)? Could you leave the bulkier laptop at home and just take a tablet and phone? Download everything you’ll need onto your tablet in advance, whether that’s movies and TV shows or important documents, and you’ll notice how much lighter your luggage is!
Now is the perfect time to take all those mini products that seem to collate in a box somewhere. If you don’t have any, it’s definitely worth purchasing some smaller bottles to decant larger items into. They’re reusable and so much easier to take than full-size items for most things. It’s also a great idea to take items that are nearly finished so you can dispose of them before leaving. A travel size wash bag is a must too!
Treat yourself to a pamper session the day before you leave. Whether that’s at a salon or barber’s or in the comfort of your own home, it’s just as relaxing. Wash your hair and shower thoroughly, paint your nails, give yourself an at-home spa experience and get all your treatments done. That way, you might not need to take as many products with you either.
Try to double up on products too and take those that have multi-use. Keep them all together in one zipped bag so you know where everything is!
This is the area that will vary per person and trip. Items taken for one trip won’t be necessary for another and vice versa. Important items that we often forget includes:
- Documents (hotel, transport, ID, maps)
- Toys for the children
- First aid kit
- Snacks and drinks
- Notepad and pen
- Glasses/contact lenses/sunglasses
- Umbrella (or waterproof jackets depending on the season)
How to pack: our six-step process
- Gather everything you want to take and put everything in one place (a bed is the best option). That includes everything on the above list, your own packing list and anything you might have forgotten.
- Group similar items together and see where you can save space. Place smaller items inside socks, roll up socks and underwear and slide into shoes and fold your clothes properly.
- Double check which items are available at your holiday stay. Most hotels, cottages and apartments have towels, hairdryers and basic toiletries. If you’ve included those items, take them out!
- Choose the right luggage. If you’re going on a shopping trip, a small suitcase might be more appropriate. If you’re going to visit friends and family or are going to explore instead, a large weekend bag or large rucksack is perfect. The rule is to not overfill it, just in case you purchase anything whilst you’re away.
- Pack the heaviest items first. Shoes and toiletries should go in first before clothing and anything that creases should be right at the top. When you get to your destination, unpack those items at least.
- Pack early. Do not leave it until the evening before or the morning you travel if you can help it! Try to pack as much as possible a couple of days before or at least put the items to one side if you cannot pack until the night before you leave.
Our top 10 packing tips
Always start with a list. It’s inevitable you forget something but if you start with a list, it’s easier to cross items off as you pack. We recommend having a list brain-dump. Have a look at packing lists online in case you need to add anything else to your own list and have a quick look around the house. Most items can be bought around the UK but if you already own that item and don’t need a duplicate, you might as well get it packed!
Check the weather. Especially in the UK, in the space of one week, you could get snow and a heatwave. Unfortunately, this could mean having to overpack for different types of weather. If you check beforehand, you should be able to get a general idea of what it will be like. And always pack a waterproof jacket, whether it’s something thicker for autumn or a cag in a bag for summer! When do we ever have an entire week without rain?
Have an idea of what you’ll be doing on your trip. Will you be walking a lot in the city or countryside, or will you be spending a lot of time lounging around and exploring the area? Do you have a strict itinerary, a list of places you want to visit or are you just going with the flow? Some activities might require specialist clothing or equipment so it’s best to know in advance if you’ll need them. You could even pre-plan your outfits and pack them together if you want to!
Let each person sort out their own packing. Whilst children might not be able to pack their suitcase themselves, allow them to pick out their favourite clothes and toys. If they’re older, they’ll feel a sense of responsibility and control. If they’re younger, it means you can have fun packing together!
Invest in packing cubes. If you’re prone to over-packing, packing cubes will be a lifesaver. Somehow, separating items into their own cubes seems to allow you to squish more in. Packing them in the actual suitcase can be a bit like Tetris but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Take a spare bag for dirty clothing. If you’re going on a family holiday, you could use one suitcase for laundry and put any clean clothes in another suitcase instead. Whilst it can be a bit of hassle when you’re away, it’s a dream when you come home and all you have to do is separate the loads! If you’re a solo traveller or are sharing a suitcase, take a cloth bag or bin bag and deposit any dirty clothes in like a makeshift hamper.
Focus on layers. Even during the height of summer, it can get chilly. Make sure you pack items that you can layer up easily, from vests to gilets and everything in between. Accessories, such as scarves, can be great to layer up with too, especially if you want to dress an outfit up too!
Stick to a colour palette. Whether that’s neutrals or brights, whatever suits you best. We love to choose neutral items as a base and then add colours on top of that. Especially with bottom-half items, you’ll be wearing them more than once so you need them to match multiple tops. We recommend sticking to 2-3 neutral colours and then adding 2-3 accent colours too. Pick colours and items that complement each other so you can mix and match everything.
Don’t pack items you don’t wear at home. It can be tempting to pack items that you don’t wear and think you’ll wear them when you’re away. You’ll end up regretting packing them and wear the same few items over and over again to avoid wearing them! Pack items that you love and that you know you’re comfortable in. Bonus tip: Never, ever pack new shoes for a trip! Unless you’ve broken them in properly, you’ll wear them once and never again!
Try hand-washing your clothes. If you’re limited on space in your suitcase, you could always try hand-washing tops and base layers in a sink. Some apartments and holiday stays have washing machines so make use of them, especially if you’re away for longer than one week. If you travel a lot, you might want to invest in a travel steamer. Steam clothes after every wear and you should be able to get extra wears out of them!
If you’re usually rubbish at packing, with our top tips, you’ll now be able to pack like a pro. Remember that every person and trip is different so tailor your packing every time. Whilst your curated packing list will work for most occasions, there will always be items that change on every trip. Now you’re free to enjoy your holiday!