Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to pack for a summer in Europe

My beloved passport

One of my favourite things in life is travel. I love it! I love experiencing new culture, new foods, new ways of life. All I need to do for an instant mental release is go open my passport, and I remember so many adventures. Anthony and I have been really fortunate to have had lots of travel opportunities since we got married. This have given me a whole lot of practice when it comes to honing my skills at packing a suitcase. So today, I'm going to write up how I pack to travel in summer. This post is super long. Sorry about that.

I like to travel as light as I can. This isn't to avoid baggage claim. No, it's so I can buy lots of stuff and not have to worry about running out of space or baggage allowance. I do have a smaller suitcase that complies with carry-on regulations, and that served me well on my most recent trip to Japan, where we were staying in a teeny Japanese B+B. But for most trips, Le Grande Samsonite is what it's all about.


My happy suitcase family

This predilection for light packing means that I plan my wardrobe extensively in advance - almost down to what I'll wear on each day of the trip. I don't really like to repeat an outfit, though - I aim to not repeat at all on a trip that's two weeks or less. When we were in Italy for nearly four weeks last year, I repeated an outfit three times. But that was because it was a dress that I'd bought in Rome that I loved. Every other outfit got a maximum of two runs. What this means for packing is that every top has to go with at least two bottoms, and vice versa. Dresses must be able to be dressed up or down. And because I HATE looking like a tourist more than anything - everything has to be chic. If I wouldn't wear that outfit in sleepy Perth, why on earth would I consider wearing it in Paris?

So, without further ado, here's a sample packing list for a two-week summer getaway. Let's say to Italy, seeing as how that's on my mind a lot recently.

Four tops

Four shirt arsenal

Four is enough, so long as I do a load of laundry halfway through. (Honestly, hotels have laundries for a reason. Even hostels have somewhere nearby where you can do your own dirty work.) I always bring one top that covers my shoulders, for visits to religious sites and other places that require modesty. There's nothing less chic than having to wear a paper shawl (or worse, paper pants, like some people I saw at Il Duomo in Siena. YUCK.) For the other three, I've gone with tank tops in neutral colours, because a) neutral colours are Eurochic, b) neutral colours go with everything, and c) tank tops are the best summer top there is. I prefer wider straps but there's no reason why these couldn't be spaghetti straps if that takes your fancy. You could take more eye-catching, trendy tops if you like, but to my mind this limits their versatility. What is important, though, is that the tops are (at least mostly) natural fibre. Clingy, sweaty clothes make everything less fun. Cotton and linen are good, silk is better. Yes, I know cotton and linen crease like nobody's business. I'll get to that later.

Two pairs of pants

Travel pants

As far as I'm concerned, jeans are indispensible for all climates, cultures and seasons. They're great for days with lots of sightseeing. They can look a bit slobby though, so you have to make sure the rest of your outfit is impeccably pulled together. White linen pants, however, never look slobby. Look at me!, they say. I am rich, cool, stylish, and summering in Europe! These ones are straight legged, despite the weird balooning at the hips in the photo. Again, they crease like nuts. Meet me further down for more chit-chat on that.

Two skirts

White skirt, also unironed

Yes, two, though I've only photographed one. For the other one, I like a maxi skirt. This is one item that I would actually go for in a colour or print rather than a neutral. Why? I don't know. More summery, perhaps. But they're indisputably chic in white, too. Ruth had a navy one in Italy that I coveted. I don't own one yet, and it's a gaping hole in my summer wardrobe. I'll be keeping an eye out.

Two dresses

White Esprit dress, unironed Calvin Klein ponte dress

Both dresses have to be able to be dressed up or dressed down. If you're not as comfortable wearing them with stilettos as with Roman sandals, they don't deserve a place in your suitcase. The white Esprit one I have here is good, but not perfect. I'm shooting for a white jersey wrap to replace it. (If you see one, let me know!) The navy Calvin Klein is pretty much perfection in this category. Best versatile dress ever. And again, natural fibres are your friend.

One great cardigan

The world's best black cardigan

Preferably in cashmere. This one isn't, it's superfine merino. But its shape and length make it the best travel-friendly cardigan ever invented. It's snuggly, goes with everything but folds into nothing. It should always be in your handbag, because you never know when you'll find yourself in a chilly restaurant/art gallery/plane cabin. (OK, you might see the plane thing coming.)


(no photo, because why would you want to see my smalls?)

I won't skimp on this.  Lots of packing lists say one bra, two pairs of panties, then just wash one every night.  Ugh.  I want a matching set for every day, thankyouverymuch.  To me, it's worth the luggage space.  I do generally leave the molded bras at home though, because they take up more space than regular fabric underwires.  I guess bathers come in this category too.  One pair if you're doing occasional swimming, two or three if it's more or less all you're doing.


Shoes for a summer holiday

I can't abide travel books that tell you to get by on one pair of ugly walking shoes. NO, PEOPLE. Summer shoes are light, don't take up much packing space, and pull a whole outfit together. Here I've got ballet flats, Roman sandals, Havaianas for the beach/pool, Chucks for days with too much walking, and a pair of espadrilles. No heels, I hear you say. Well, of course not. We're going to Italy, where every street is cobblestone, which will reduce you to a puddle of tears should you try to navigate them in heels. Look alive, people. Also, all the most fun restaurants are totally espadrille-appropriate.  Oh, and wear the espadrilles on the plane.  They're far and away the heaviest individual item you should be packing.


Bags for a summer holiday

You need at minimum, a tote for daytime, and a clutch for evening. I'd also add a fabric beach bag if you'll be swimming, and a smaller sized shoulder bag. Nothing that begs to be stolen. And no Birkins. I've travelled with mine and it's completely impractical. Heavy, needs too much babying on the plane, and you can't throw it over your shoulder. (It's a super bag. Just not for travel.) Also, my clutch is actually my travel document wallet. I stash the tickets and so on in the hotel room safe and take the wallet out to dinner. (By the way, I bought the travel wallet and a whole lot of other equally useful stuff from Ciao Bella Travel, which is a super Aussie travel shop that I buy from before every trip.) (And another item from CBT that is invaluable in the bag category is this - it makes it really easy to switch between bags at a moment's notice.)


Travel accessories

This is your opportunity to differentiate your outfits with jewellery, hats, scarves etc. Again, I don't really agree with the notion of leaving all your treasured jewellery at home. You're no more likely to lose it by wearing it overseas than you are at home, and it's just as safe in a hotel safe as in your jewellery box in your empty house. If you love it and want to wear it, bring it. And for the record, hoop earrings are never the wrong answer.
I would never consider going on a summer holiday without a big hat, because I have skin so pale that I get moonburn. Plus I think big hats add an element of wealthy glamour, but maybe that's just consolation for the fact that I'll never have a tan. This one is from a Mimco collection a few years ago, and it's great because it packs completely flat.
Anyway, the selection above is a few of the things I would take. If I had a Pucci scarf, it would definitely be in the photo up there. Those things are the best. Make sure your jewellery goes in your carry-on. And your pashmina, too - much warmer, more cuddly and less revolting than the airline-issue blankets.

Toiletries and makeup

Makeup etc

I am always on the hunt for mini versions of my favourite products. eBay is a really good way to find sample sizes of toiletries. I bought a teeny Chanel No. 5 parfum (like 1mL or something) that has lasted me eight weeks overseas and is still going strong. The most important thing to me is to bring the skincare I use at home, and if I can't find mini versions, then I'll decant from my large bottles into little jars and bottles. I know, this isn't rocket science. But there's no sense in depriving yourself in any way.  If I use La Mer at home, then I'm not going to put some cheapo moisturiser on in a foreign country that my body is still adjusting to anyway.
As far as makeup goes, I think it's best to keep a natural daytime look and then pump up either eyes or lips for night with heavier liner or lipstick. Here's what I take:
  • Powder foundation with SPF.  (I like Benefit's Hello Flawless)
  • Illuminating concealer (why would you go past Touche Eclat in this category?)
  • Blush (NARS Orgasm is a safe bet)
  • Lip stain (Stila Yumberry Crush)
  • Shimmery nude eyeshadow (Stila kitten)
  • Black pencil eyeliner (MAC or Chanel)
  • Mascara (Benefit Bad Gal Lash)
  • A red lipstick for evening (at the moment, Laura Mercier's Mistress)
And that's pretty much it for makeup.  Keep your routine simple, and you can carry it all in your handbag.
Right.  Hair.  Like skincare, I look for minis of my home products.  I ALWAYS get a haircut right before I go away.  A good haircut makes you look fresh and polished without much time or effort on your part.  However, I take my GHD flat irons with me anyway.  It only take five minutes with them after a long day's sightseeing to make me look salon fresh again.
One last thing - I usually go with a nude nail, redoing it after a week.  But I'm thinking I might try BioSculpt gel next time, seeing they're supposed to last for a month.  The aim is always to look great with minimal effort.  Not having to waste an hour's sightseeing time on doing my nails sounds like a good idea to me.
Oh, and don't forget to pack tweezers, nailclipppers or bandaids.  You'll hate yourself.

Other vitals 

Travel steamer

This mini steamer is what you need to deal with wrinkled clothes.  Everything will become new again.  Trust me.  And don't forget adaptors for your appliances.  If you can't get a steamer, the best option is to hang everything up in the bathroom and have a really hot shower without turning the exhaust fan on. But the steamer is a much better idea. Other things I can't do without include a camera, my iPod, Kindle, and a notebook and pen.

All of this should fit into about half of a carry-on sized suitcase.  So if you're using a regular suitcase, you have about 3/4 of it left to fill with purchases, all the while looking breezy and stylish.  You're welcome.

Oh, and a quick word about getting it all in there.  Roll the clothes as tightly as you can.  Remember being a Girl Guide and having to roll your sleeping bag to fit into a matchbox?  Relive those days.  Steaming them at the other end of the trip will make everything better.  Take a cloth bag for every pair of shoes.  Bag them and put them on top of your clothes - the weight will stop the clothes from shifting too much.  Likewise with any handbag you're packing.  Make sure to bag up your underwear into something discreet and opaque.  There's nothing worse than having to open a suitcase and having your bras burst out in front of the customs man.  (Been there.  Don't do it.)  Take a couple bags for laundry - one for underwear, one for clothes and one for wet bathers.  (Ciao Bella Travel does really great ones.) (Hey, Ciao Bella? If you want to sponsor us, I really don't mind.)  And take an extra foldup bag, just in case your shopping is too prolific even for all the space I've saved for you.  Longchamp is always cool.

I think that's all! I really want to go on holiday again now. Ant? Shall we go back to Italy for our anniversary?

- Hayley xoxo

PS Another good webshop for stocking up on travel goodies is Flight 001. They're much more unisex than Ciao Bella (that's why I love you, Ciao Bella, because you're all about flying glam and girly) but they have so many things you never knew you needed.

PPS The most glam travel guides are these:

Louis Vuitton Rome city guide Luxe Rome city guide

PPPS I like to book hotels with Mr and Mrs Smith.


  1. I think I already did! Slap a cover on that post and publish it! I'm embarrassed by how long it is...