Packing 101: How Not To Overpack

I used to be the queen of over-packing. I was the girl at the airport with two suitcases jammed full. I used to think nothing of packing enough shoes so I had a different pair for each outfit, each day. Fortunately, that’s not the case anymore – after years and years of chronic over-packing,  I’m now one of those dreadful smug people who always seems to manage to take just the right amount of stuff away with her.

I realise this is one of those subjective things – what I consider the perfect amount for a holiday would also be excessive to some and horribly minimal to others so this isn’t a prescriptive list of what you SHOULD take on holiday. More some general tips that I always use to make sure I don’t end up lugging a bunch of stuff halfway round the world that doesn’t actually get used. 

I’m a list-maker in general in life but I really find making a list of what I’m going to wear each day really helps. My list differs depending on what type of holiday I’m going on – for a city break with lots of different events I’ll make a very detailed list split for each day into a daytime and an evening outfit, for a more casual beach holiday I’ll just jot down enough outfits for each evening and add some general notes for through the day to set myself limits for things like swimwear and sundresses, including accessories and even making a note of how many pairs of knickers I’ll need! Making these kind of lists helps you think in outfits rather than individual pieces, so you’re far less likely to pack things that won’t get worn / don’t work well together.

I start my list with the key details for my trip to help me focus. Here’s what the start of my most recent list looked like:

LOCATION: Kos, Greece
STYLE: Relaxed and casual

Then I list out the outfits for each day, or per clothing category, depending on if it’s a city break vs a beach holiday.

I also make lists for toiletries and make-up. When it comes time to pack, I check things off my list as I add them – so these lists are useful both to help me not over pack and also to make sure I don’t forget anything essential.

Even when I started to become more restrained with my packing I still wasn’t being totally realistic with my outfit choices, particularly for casual beach holidays. I’d always take a couple of pretty dressy outfits and heels and never end up wearing them. Nowadays I realise that what I wear on a night out at home there is no chance I’ll be bothered once I get away so take some time to review your list and think about your previous holidays – if you know you always end up in a maxi skirt and sandals then there’s really not much point planning outfits that have bodycon dresses and heels – you’ll either end up not wearing them, or wearing them and not feeling particularly comfortable or happy about how you look.

If I’m going away for a week, I try to only take five evening outfits – I have a couple of maxi skirts that look lovely on holiday so I usually just take a clean top for each evening and wear those skirts twice each. I don’t do this for city breaks but I know that on beach holidays I’m not going to be out dancing till the small hours becoming a hot, sweaty mess. I might be staying up late, but it’ll be low key and casual so there’s no chance all of my outfits would ever get dirty enough to not be able to be worn more than once. Similarly, I used to take a different sundress to wear for each day of a beach holiday which, for me, is wholly unnecessary. Whilst I might have lofty ideas of exploring where I am, but experience tells me that on a beach holiday once I get away I’ll probably make one or two outings during the day. The rest of the time I’m lazing by a pool in a bikini, just throwing on a sundress to grab some lunch. I’m probably wearing it for an hour a day and, again knowing yourself and being realistic is key here, I know I don’t really sweat a great deal so I really don’t need a clean one each day. The same goes for swimwear. For a week, two options is plenty and you can definitely survive with one!

You don’t need to be too strict with this, I’m definitely not saying you have to wear the same colour your whole trip, but I do find it helpful to keep things generally quite tonal so you can mix and match. This is great is you have some kind of getting ready disaster – last year I managed to smash a bottle of red nail varnish on a white top, but because I’d kept to a rough colour palette it meant I could just swap in a different top to wear – and it also makes it easier to take less accessories if you don’t have wildly different outfit colours and styles.

This is kind of an obvious one but pack the minis! I try to keep miniature beauty products from beauty boxes and if get a gift with purchase or a tester that I think would be useful when travelling and they come in so handy. I’m also generally willing to buy miniature version of the products I use regularly and wouldn’t want to travel without but if this isn’t in your budget, or you can’t get your favourite products in a mini form, then decanting is your friend. This is also essential if you’re travelling with hand luggage only and you need everything to be 100ml. You can pick up little plastic bottles from places like Boots and supermarkets and they’re really cheap. Decant away!

As I mentioned, I try to take a couple of skirts that I know I can wear more than once but, once I’ve packed everything on my list, I often toss in a couple of extra vest tops in neutral, go-with-anything colours. Just in case. I also always add in a couple of lightweight cardigans, usually one white and one pale grey that will go with anything – if I’m near the coast I often get chilly on an evening from the sea breeze.

There’s a world of difference between packing 20 outfits for seven days and adding one or two extra basics in case you spill or stain an item and end up being unable to wear it as planned. There’s nothing wrong with popping in a couple of emergency extras, just make sure you don’t go completely rogue and start flinging in completely random items just because you like them, without thinking if they work with what you’re already taking.

I’ll be sharing my packing list and what items I’m taking with me next week.

Do you have any tips to avoid over-packing? My suitcase will thank you…

3 thoughts on “PACKING 101: HOW NOT TO OVERPACK

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