Holiday: undoubtedly one of the finest words in the English language. Seven simple letters that signify a well-deserved chance to leave adult life behind, wallow in pools, sip exotic cocktails and relax mind, body and soul.
‘Relax’ being the operative word, it does seem a little counterintuitive to begin a holiday in the manner that has become somewhat customary. That is, by wrestling a towering pile of clothes into a battered old suitcase at 5am, finding out at the check-in desk that it’s overweight and, finally, arriving at your hotel only to discover you’ve forgotten half of the things you actually need.
The key to avoiding this common series of unfortunate events lies in streamlining your holiday packing. That means planning, preparation and, perhaps most importantly, having the right tools at your disposal. Here’s everything you need to know, from what luggage to take, to the accessories that’ll help take the sting out of getting it there.
Step 1: Pick The Right Gear
Packing like a pro starts with picking the perfect vessel for your holiday essentials. Think about where you’re going, how much room you’ll need and how much time you’re going to spend carting it around.
“There’s nothing worse than lugging around a heavy case when it’s not needed, or the inverse, having too little space in your luggage,” says Joe McAvoy from Swedish cargo brand Thule. “Going on holiday can often bring stress, so the choice of luggage should make the trip easier and give you peace of mind.”
Hard Shell Suitcase
Tried, tested and about as trustworthy as it gets – a hard-shell suitcase has long been one of the traveller’s key companions. Solid, sturdy and with plenty of room inside, this exoskeletal marvel will stow your resort wear while protecting it from overzealous baggage handlers and terminal-transfer shuttle bus tumbles alike.
Pros: This is very much the K2 Black Panther tank of the luggage world. If you want to keep your belongings safe in something that’s built to take a hammering, there’s no case better suited to the task.
Cons: That said, have you ever tried to store a K2 Black Panther tank in a one-bed, city apartment when it’s not being used? Something to consider before adding one to your luggage armoury.
It’s small, it’s compact, and it’s perfect for a weekend getaway. The cabin case can take everything a man needs, nothing he doesn’t, and allow it all to be conveniently placed in an overhead locker. Meaning no need for checking luggage or waiting in long bag-drop queues.
Pros: This bite-size piece of baggage offers all the perks of a large suitcase, without any of the cumbersomeness. Simply rock up at the airport, stroll through security and you’re ready to jet off and start sipping tequila.
Cons: Any trip longer than a couple of days is going to be a struggle. That manageable size comes at a price. That being the inability to take more than one pair of shoes and, two outfits and a change of underwear. Because, remember, turning them inside out doesn’t count.
We’re not for a moment suggesting that you should attempt to fit your entire holiday wardrobe into a 14” x 14” canvas sack. However, when it comes to carry-on luggage, or something for a short weekend away, the humble tote bag can make a handy companion.
Pros: The best thing about the tote bag is that it’s packable. Once you’re off the flight, simply put your valuables back into your main bag, fold it up and put it away until the plane home.
Cons: On the downside, tote bags often don’t close, meaning there’s an increased chance of something valuable slipping out by accident.
The short-breaker’s best mate, the duffel bag has been a go-to receptacle for weekends away for as long as we care to remember. It’s roomy yet compact, simple yet stylish, and if you pick wisely, it’ll likely be accompanying you for many holidays to come.
Pros: With a shoulder strap, handles and often small enough to pass as carry-on luggage, the duffel bag eliminates the need for a suitcase while still carrying everything you need for a few days away.
Cons: Because it’s essentially just one big compartment with no outer casing, maintaining a sense of order among its contents can present something of a challenge.
Whether you’re heading off to do some serious travelling or just need something strapped and sturdy to use as your carry-on bag, backpacks of various shapes and sizes are perfectly equipped to deal with your holiday requirements.
Pros: When it comes to carrying the essentials for a day of exploring (foreign currency, maps, water bottles), the backpack is unmatched in its practicality. Plenty of pockets, comfortable to carry and right on trend.
Cons: In hot climates, this particular piece of luggage does have a rather unfortunate tendency to encourage sweat patches. If it’s blazing heat outside, expect a soggy back and underarms within the first 30 minutes of leaving your accommodation.
Step 2: Stock Up On Packing Accessories
Baggage allowances, liquid restrictions and just good ole common sense considered, it’s not overly practical to take the entire contents of your bathroom cabinet away with you. Instead, invest in a Dopp kit, complete with a tightly curated selection of grooming essentials such as a collapsible toothbrush, sunscreen and some shaving tools.
We’ve all experienced the frustration of getting home from a relaxing week in the sun, only to realise that our favourite T-shirt has gone walkabouts. Lessen the risk by keeping things organised when you’re not wearing them. Clean clothes go in the wardrobe, dirty ones go in the laundry bag. Plus, it’ll save the inside of your suitcase from taking on the aroma of sweaty socks come the journey back.
Throwing everything into a big, unorganised bundle may have been the go-to method of sorting clothes when you were living in student halls and subsisting on instant noodles for breakfast. When it comes to holiday packing, however, this haphazard approach is not going to cut it. Packing cubes will help everything to stay in the right place, so things are easier to find and, ultimately, easier to pack in the first place.
Single-use plastics are killing the planet. Do your bit by investing in a set of travel bottles to transport your grooming goods and refill each and every time you go away. Not only will you feel a little better about yourself, but you’ll also save money in the long run, too.
Putting a pair of dirty sneakers in a bag full of nice clean clothes is never a good idea. Footwear should have its own space, away from things that wouldn’t ordinarily come into contact with dusty pavements or beach-bar toilet floors. Get a shoe bag for each pair you intend to pack to keep things as they should be.
Step 3: Learn To Pack Like A Pro
Pack With Purpose
“Whether travelling for leisure or business it is always easier to pack according to what you are going to need as soon as you arrive,” says James Fisher, brand director at premium luggage brand Globe-Trotter.
That means the change of clothes you want at the airport should be right on top, while things you won’t need until you arrive at your final destination – bucket & spade, sombrero, etc. – should be at the bottom.
Invest In Luggage That’s Built To Last
There’s no point shelling out for a bespoke suit only to transport it across timezones in a carrier bag. So be sustainable and save money in the process by making an investment in the quality of your chosen luggage.
“It will cost you less in the long run, and you won’t get stuck mid-trip with a broken zipper and an open bag,” says Abel Samet co-founder of London-based luggage purveyor Troubadour. “You also end up helping the planet by [buying fewer] over time. It just makes sense.”
Write It Down
From what groceries to buy to the best rooftop bars to visit this summer, making lists is a pretty reliable way to keep things in check in all aspects of life. But nowhere more so, perhaps, than when it comes to packing for a holiday. Helpfully, there are a few travel apps that can help.
“Writing down everything you need will ensure that you have everything freshly laundered in time and that there won’t be any last minute panic buys at the airport when you’ve invariably forgotten something important,” says Fisher.
Roll, Don’t Fold
Normal people fold clothes. Expert packers, on the other hand, know rolling is best. Particularly when it comes to T-shirts and underwear.
“[This method] works really well as it allows you to fill gaps between awkwardly shaped items like shoes,” says Fisher. “I also find that socks and underwear rolled and stuffed keep your shoes or boots in shape.”
Curate Outfits Ahead Of Time
Streamline the packing process by figuring out individual outfits and their components before you begin filling your suitcase. Think about beach days, evenings out and the odd fancy dinner in a nice restaurant to get a better idea of the sort of clothes you’ll need.
“By planning what you will wear ahead of time you will be able to pack less and have more of what you need,” says Samet.