The ultimate guide to holiday packing

Photo: Jemimah Clegg

Photo: Jemimah Clegg

There’s nothing better than the anticipation before a holiday. You bound out of work and imagine your upcoming days of relaxing, sight-seeing and all-round fun, only to be let down by one tiny detail; you haven’t packed.

Depending on where you’re going and how long you’re going for, the packing process can be as quick as 10 minutes of chucking things in a suitcase or as lengthy as weeks of meticulous planning.

As an avid traveller (and a somewhat obsessive organiser) I’ve honed a system to make sure you’ve got the essentials covered. Follow these steps, and all you’ll have to worry about sitting back, relaxing, and hoping the person sitting behind you on the plane isn’t a seat-kicker.


Now, it may sound unnecessary and a little intense, but making a list of the things you’re going to need can be really helpful. Start with staples including underwear and tops, and work out how many you’ll need based on how many days you’re away.

Next figure out what bottoms, shoes, swimwear and accessories you’ll need. A small handbag with a long cross-body strap is handy for your day-to-day outings, as it frees up your hands while keeping your goods where you can see them. Sort of the same concept as a bum-bag, but you know, not ugly.

Usually you’ll only need two jackets – one casual and one for evening – but if you’re going somewhere freezing you’ll likely need one more and a bunch of warm layers for underneath. Don’t forget PJs and comfy stuff for lolling about in the hotel.


Once you’ve got your list, you can figure out if there’s anything you really need that doesn’t currently reside in your wardrobe. Concentrate on things you’re not going to buy while you’re away (shopping on holidays is for buying fun stuff, not an extra pair of undies or socks).

Also hit up the toiletry aisle at this point, but try not to be tempted by the fun-sized shampoo and conditioner. Instead, invest in little refillable bottles for your liquids, and also some sandwich bags to seal them up, lest your lotion explode all over your luggage. Make sure you have enough of your favourite makeup, fragrance and first aid items including medication and Band-Aids for blistered feet.

Photo: Jemimah Clegg

Photo: Jemimah Clegg


Spending a lot of time on trains and busses? It might pay to have your device of choice stocked up with TV shows and movies to occupy you on those long journeys. And if you only have one device between two of you, invest in a double headphone jack adapter.

Don’t bring maps, download them. The City Maps 2Go app allows you to download your maps ahead of time, and then uses your phone’s GPS to show you where to go – no internet needed.

Make sure you have the right international adaptor for each country you’re visiting. A good trick is to bring an Australian power board that can plug into one adaptor, that way you can charge your phone, camera and tablet and use your hair straightener all at the same time.


Once you’re ready to get packing, lay it all out before putting it in the suitcase, then refer back to your list and tick it all off. Again, I know, this is slightly over the top, but you don’t want to be halfway to the airport and realise you forgot the camera.

Put heavy items including shoes and your toiletry bag at the base of your suitcase, then fold clothes and place them in piles in the rest of the space, making sure they’re packed in tightly. Lay dresses, skirts, suits and jackets flat on top, or in the top compartment if your suitcase has one.  Accessories and other items can slide neatly down the side.


Limit what you take in your hand luggage to what you will actually need on the plane. If it can all fit into one large handbag or backpack, then don’t bother with a smaller suitcase – it’s just more fussing than it’s worth.

There are limits to the liquids you can take on board international flights; no more than 100 grams, and it all has to fit in a plastic zip-lock back that’s no bigger than 80 centimetres squared. This includes cosmetics and aerosol cans, which must have a lid. Also – make sure all your sharps are in your checked luggage. Get yourself a travel document holder for your passport, visas, boarding passes and any other important documents. And of course, don’t forget a good book!