It's been three years since I moved to the UK and thanks to the pandemic I haven’t yet had a European beach holiday. As is the case for many of us, this summer is my first real (and safe) opportunity to go on an extended trip so this week I’m finally headed on a very delayed holiday to Portugal. In preparation, I'm refreshing all of my packing hacks in order to fit a week’s worth of outfits into a carry-on suitcase.
Thanks to a few recent weekend trips and longer visits home, many of my best packing tricks are fresh in my mind. What's more, my TikTok has been inundated with packing content for months, from full luggage rundowns (from travel creators like @nowboardingallgroups) to budget airline tips (see @letsbefranc, for example). With #packinghacks reaching over 140 million views to date, I’ve bookmarked my fair share of related videos to ensure a more seamless packing experience than ever before.
And this time I'm taking you along with me (on the packing front, not the holiday, sorry). Scroll on for my top tips for efficiently packing a carry-on for a beach holiday.
Write a packing list
Sometimes the best way to stay organised is going old school with a pen and paper. Packing for a holiday can be overwhelming so I like to plan all of my outfits on paper and note down everything else I need to pack, from jewellery to undergarments to travel adapters. As I typically plan to film lots of content on my trips, I don’t want to forget anything. This makes it less stressful when I actually start packing (plus I get to cross things off my list as I go).
Plan outfits from head to toe
At one point in my life I was a chronic overpacker, always making room in my suitcase for 'just in case' scenarios. All that ever did was take up valuable space and leave me out of pocket – because checked luggage always comes at an extra, often exorbitant, cost. Now what I do is plan every outfit across my entire itinerary (see the above step) and pack one or two 'just in case' outfits only if I can fit them in. That way I ensure every outfit in my case is going to be worn and has a purpose.
Choose versatile clothing
This is something you have to be strategic about because clothes that go a long way can make holiday dressing so much easier. I like to choose co-ords that can be mixed and matched with other items, like my shorts suit, which will work for a cooler night out and for a more casual city walk with a crop top sans jacket. I also make sure to pack swimsuits and tops that are easily mixed and matched so every outfit feels a little different even if you’re rewearing something, which I always do on holiday to save space.
Be smart about accessories
Accessories are a huge part of any outfit so they shouldn’t be an afterthought when you’re packing for a holiday. When it comes to jewellery, I like to stick to a uniform. For this trip it will be a stack of two or three gold necklaces and a rotation of three sets of gold earrings. As for shoes, I’ll wear my trainers on the plane (necessary for walking on cobblestones and hilly terrains) and pack three additional pairs because I’m extra: low heels for nights out, flat sandals for walking and platform sandals for a more stylish look. Finally, for bags I’ll use my big beach tote as my hand carry, and pack a handbag and canvas tote, too. The great thing about planning so heavily is that I can afford to overpack on certain things without missing out on others.
Use packing cubes and compartment bags
This is one hack that you’ll see everywhere on TikTok, and for good reason. Packing cubes are an easy way to organise your suitcase and separate things like day clothes from night clothes, pyjamas from underwear – you name it. I like to use one packing cube for my swimsuits and beachwear and another for my softer separates. I’ve also got a hard case for makeup, bags for shoes so the soles don’t dirty my clean clothes, a travel case for my jewellery and a hanging toiletry bag that comes with me on all my trips. These simple tools make my life so much easier.
Really utilise hand luggage
Especially when you’re only packing a carry-on, your hand carry is an essential part of your luggage and should not be underestimated. I like to keep my handbag inside my hand carry, which will hold my wallet, passport, headphones, chargers and other valuables. I also use the hand carry to pack a water bottle (essential for the whole trip), my holiday book, all my travel liquids and my extra tote bag for easy access and any airport buys.
Some other things to note? Make sure you pack a portable steamer (or an iron) if your accommodation doesn’t have one. Contrary to TikTok hacks, which are all about rolling your clothes, you should choose whether to roll or fold based on the item’s material. I like to roll thinner items and fold really thick ones, which will take up lots more space if rolled. Finally, pack an extra bag to keep dirty laundry separate as the trip goes on.
Now you’re ready for the trip you deserve – and I am too.
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