From beach holidays to travelling with kids, with some clever packing you can avoid having to check in a bag and carry everything you need on board
We’ve all seen the images of mountains of lost luggage stacked up in airport halls. Then there’s the horror stories — people left without vital items, precious mementos or, in one particularly upsetting case, their parent’s ashes.
This summer, checking any bags into the stow feels like a gamble, and one most of us are eager to avoid. Carry-on is the safest bet.
Packing everything you need into a teeny carry-on case can be a challenge, but according to top Irish stylists, it’s achievable.
Firstly, summer clothes tend to be much more lightweight fabrics and can be shoved and rammed into suitcases with greater ease than, say, an Aran jumper and a winter coat.
There is an art to learning how to condense everything down into a 10k or 15k bag (depending on your airline — make sure to check before you fly). Here, experts give their advice on how to pack for different holiday scenarios.
The beach holiday
The most important advice is don’t leave it to the last minute and pack in a blind panic at 5am as the taxi is parked outside. You will inevitably lose something, and shove too many items, none of which compliment each other, into your case.
“The most common mistakes people make are over-stressing, not allocating what to bring properly and then over-packing and bringing everything including the kitchen sink,” Stellar Fashion Editor, Zeda the Architect, says. “So plan every outfit out before you even think of folding clothes.”
Fashion stylist Lawson Mpame starts packing at least two days in advance of travelling. He then rolls all his clothes rather than folds them to maximise space in his luggage. This also prevents creasing, and with all the items rolled and packed side by side you can clearly see what is in your case. This means you won’t have to go rooting around to double check you have your favourite T-shirt
“Keep it minimal,” he says. “Bring items that are super versatile.” For example, Mpame recommends picking and packing swim shorts that can be worn both in the pool, and to dinner. He also recommends travelling in your bulkiest clothing and shoes, and packing your lightest to reduce weight. “Wear your sneakers and put your mules or your sliders into the carry-on as they are light,” he says.
Fashion stylist Corina Gaffey recently travelled to Ibiza for a week-long holiday with just carry-on. “It can be done,” she says. Gaffey advises selecting separates that can be mixed and matched together. Linen shirts and shorts sets are really popular on the high street and are very versatile, she says.
“You can wear the shirt over your swimming togs by the pool one day, you can wear your shorts and your swimming togs for lunch. The shirt, and the shorts to dinner,” Gaffey explains.
“You only need two swimsuits — everything dries so quickly on holiday, and you can rinse it in the sink at your hotel and hang it on the balcony. I would bring a one-piece swimsuit that can be worn with shorts or a maxi skirt as that will reduce the number of tops you have to bring.”
Gaffey also recommends bringing one good dress that can be worn on the beach during the day but dressed up at night. “Summer is more casual so go with that,” she says. “I also always bring some jewellery so I can layer up necklaces and add earrings and that can really elevate T-shirts and shorts or a dress in the evening.”
The destination wedding
Packing for a destination takes some reconnaissance. Check out the weather of the country you are travelling to and the dress code. Having an understanding of the terrain of the venue is important, too. If your pals are getting hitched on a cobble-stoned courtyard, will stiletto heels be advisable?
Gaffey recommends wearing the shoes you intend to bring around your house in the days before you leave to see if they are comfortable. You may need to factor in heat expansion. If so, don’t pack a snug-fitting shoe.
Fashion stylist Lorna Weightman advises packing formal wear last in your suitcase, and at the top to prevent creasing.
Alternatively, you can bring a folded-up suit bag as your designated ‘handbag’ in addition to your carry-on, and a compact and neat hand steamer if you’re really worried.
Mpame recommends building outfits for the rest of the weekend around your wedding ensemble.
Items should be reusable, and he says it is good to play around with different combinations.
“A linen suit is perfect because you can wear the trousers with a T-shirt, and pair it with loafers. The next day, you can wear the jacket with shorts. It’s very versatile,” he says.
Summer weddings tend to be more informal so you can get away with a printed shirt if a jacket feels too constricting in the heat.
The city break
The most important thing to get right on a city break is footwear.
“You should really think about how you are going to feel on holiday,” Gaffey says. “Pick outfits based on what will keep you cool and comfortable, not what will look good in a photo.”
According to Weightman, a smart sneaker is your best bet when flying to a city. It should be sturdy enough to keep you marching about all day, but stylish enough for evening time.
“I would go with a New Balance or Veja shoe, sneakers that look less like a runner and more like a smart shoe. They are great because they are stylish — you could go out in the evening wearing them and look great.”
She also recommends choosing a sandal, and opting for neutral tones so that they compliment all the items in your case.
Casting your mind’s eye back to previous holidays is also worthwhile. What was your holiday MVP? Did you wear the seven different pairs of palazzo pants you brought or did six of them remain in your bag? Be honest with yourself and put together a very practical inventory of clothes.
“Packing for holiday can be a challenge but it is also enjoyable. You’re creating a travel capsule wardrobe,” Weightman says.
To maximise space, she advises opting for a rattan visor instead of a large brimmed hat, and to bring foldable handbags.
It’s a good idea to run through your schedule for your holiday — are you going to a show? Or a museum? What sights do you plan to visit? The more detail you have regarding your schedule, the better you will be able to plan your outfits.
“I pick out outfits for each day and then hang them in the order I intend to wear them when I arrive at the hotel. I also think this is a great way not to double up. You don’t want to arrive with five of the same white T-shirt,” Weightman says.
Mpame also recommends bringing a blazer if you are travelling to a city. “You may find a really nice restaurant you want to go to but it may have a dress code. I think a smart blazer is a must.”
All that wandering around in city centres can be sweaty business. If you want your clothes to stay fresh and you’re staying in an AirBnB, bring a travel-sized tub of detergent granules. There are also gadgets such as Bosch’s FreshUp which removes stale odours and gives the T-shirt you traveled over in a new lease of life the next day.
The family holiday
Travel with children is intense and can feel like you are part of a three-ring circus. So it is all about preparation.
“There is a certain level of military planning,” fashion stylist and mum Judy Gilroy says. “Make a list of everything you need. I use packing cubes and find them really helpful. I put my daughter Stella’s clothes in pink coloured cubes and my clothes in beige so they are easy to identify. I also put clothes for travel and our arrival in one cube so if we get there in the evening all the pyjamas and sleep suits are together.”
There can be a tendency to bring every conceivable baby ointment, nappy rash cream and teething gel in your medicine cabinet. But remember that there are shops, and pharmacies, where you are going.
“There are certain brands you may want to bring, like specific formula for feeding,” Gilroy says. “But only bring enough nappies for the flight and then buy them when you get there. You can get so much over there, there is no need for it to take up space in your carry-on.”
Kids’ clothes tend to be small and light so if your child can bring their own backpack, they can carry some lighter items (underwear/ swimsuits). “I would also bring a few select toys and a colouring book for the flight rather than a bag full of toys.”
Prams and strollers can be brought to the gate but if you don’t feel comfortable checking them at that stage, it is worth checking out services like The Stork Exchange in Dublin Airport where you can rent Baby Zen prams that can be stowed in overhead lockers. It’s important to bring snacks and water on board for kids. This can be kept in the small bag that you can carry on board in addition to your case.
Lastly, Gilroy recommends making sure you think of what you want to wear. “So many mums I talk to have packed all these gorgeous outfits for their kids and when they get to the resort realise they have left all their own clothes behind. So think about yourself, too.”