The holiday season is very nearly upon us which can be exciting and stressful in equal amounts. The excitement of discovering unknown beaches, sampling exotic food and experiencing local cultures hopefully outweighs the stress of attempting to pack our ultimate oh-so-chic capsule holiday wardrobe. To most of us packing is the last thing on our pre-holiday to-do list after making sure everything is as organised as it can be at work, trawling through those last minute emails, sorting out travel money and renewing your 6 year old's passport, ensuring all the kids clothes are washed, ironed and packed and then at midnight the day before your holiday you think about what you're going to take yourself.
It's no surprise that many of us are panic packers. We go through all our drawers at the last minute, pack what we took last year and then just throw in an extra 10 tops, dresses and pairs of shoes 'just in case'? "What if we go to a really snazzy restaurant? I'll need my cocktail dress, just in case." "But we're going camping in Cornwall." "Yes but you never know." You probably do know but you don't want that situation to arise where you have Nothing To Wear (as if you'd turn up naked if you hadn't packed your cocktail dress....)
Then there are the packers who have a wardrobe that is just for holidays. Clothes that only see the light of day when we are hundreds of miles from home and hope not to bump into anyone we know - except our own families of course, but they don't count. My mum is a classic separate wardrobe packer and I'm sure it's just an excuse to book more holidays so all these clothes actually get worn. Sounds good to me.
If you are a panic packer, or indeed one who finds packing tricky, here are my tips to take the stress out of filling your suitcase:
Think about what you'll actually be doing on your holiday. What will you wear to breakfast? What does your day involve? How will you spend your evenings? If you're at an all-inclusive beach resort chances are you'll mostly be packing bikinis and cover-ups. A city break requires shoes you can walk all day in and camping is going to require something practical.
Make a list of what you're going to wear each day you're away down to shoes, bags and accessories. I know this sounds like a step too far but it will stop you panic-packing and taking too much.
Don't go overboard on shoes and bags as they take up precious suitcase space and weight. A pair of flat sandals for the beach/daytime, heels/wedges for the evening and a pair of day shoes that you can walk and travel in. Take a day bag and a clutch in neutral colours that co-ordinate with everything you're taking. Metallics are the way to go.
Travel in some of your holiday clothes (unless you're going long haul with young children and then you'll need 3 changes of clothes in your hand luggage) and layer a lightweight cardigan/jumper with an loose jacket so you have two options if it gets chilly when you're dining alfresco of an evening.
Look for pieces that can work double-duty for you. A maxi dress can be a beach cover-up and an evening dress; shorts can be teamed with a tee for sightseeing and heels and a blouse for dinner; a lightweight cardi can keep the sun off your shoulders over lunch, the chill at bay over dinner and be part of your travel outfit.
Keep jewellery to a minimum; one statement necklace, one long layering one, a few stackable bracelets that can be worn together or individually and some light earrings. Nothing too valuable either.
Don't forget your sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen - even if you may not be going somewhere particularly sunny.
I know it all sounds like a lot of preparation and not enough time but it will be worth it, I promise. Whether you're off to a far-flung beach or just enjoying the delights of your own back garden, have a fabulous holiday and relax in the knowledge that you left plenty of room in your perfectly-packed suitcase for lots of holiday shopping.