It’s A Holiday Not The Apocalypse, Pack Accordingly. Here’s What You’ll Need.

5 min read

‘Pack light’ is a phrase I cannot comprehend. And so, as I read of Joan Collins’ famous struggle to pack less on holiday I found myself thinking ‘Gurrrrl, I can relate’.

Although I am yet to eclipse Joan’s 30-bag haul, I admit that when I travel I do double as a pack-horse. I’ve always been a notoriously bad packer and my latest trip to Europe was no exception.

So now, as part of my post-trip rehab, I’m fessing up to all my packing faux pas in the hope that you can avoid the same fate. And, I’ve come up with the perfect packing list for my next trip.

Packing List for European Summer vacation The packing list for packing light

Don’t pack like you’re preparing for the apocalypse

My recent seven week holiday to Europe took me to Italy (holiday with friends), the U.K. (work) and France (wedding). To be fair, my packing list needed to be ‘all things to all people’. Its remit spanned resort chic for the Amalfi Coast, modern nautical for Venice, walking attire for Florence, Vatican-conservative for Rome, corporate wear and off-duty items for the unpredictable London summer, effortlessly chic ensembles for Paris and an elegant dress (or two) for the French countryside wedding.

Even the most seasoned of travellers would have struggled with this brief. But instead of packing smart, I packed assuming I would spill gelato down my front twice a day, errrrryday.

On departure, my bag weighed 33kg. The check-in lady took pity on me and labelled it ’32kg’, the maximum. My cabin baggage weighed over 15kg. Lucky for me the airline didn’t weigh it. Win.

On my return, my bag weighed 37kg. Oops. So, I was forced to suffer the indignity of sprawling myself, as well as the contents of my suitcase, in front of the masses at Paris International Airport. Please God don’t let a piece of dirty underwear fly across the Departures hall.

I managed to re-pack five kilos into an airline-supplied canvas bag and paid the extra luggage fee. The nausea eventually subsided…

packing list for europe in summer
What to wear in europe summer

The Packing List

Avoid packing like a raving lunatic – follow these packing list dos and don’ts

This trip, my packing was so bad that the guys who owned our hotel in France came up with a running gag along the lines, ‘Lucy’s killed her rugby playing ex-boyfriend and smuggled his dead body out of Australia in her suitcase’. Ha. Real funny.

Take note zealous packers, here’s how I plan to avoid being the butt of Franco-hotelier’s jokes on my next vacay.

Don’t pack for Instagram

So your packing list currently notes which items of clothing you’ll wear at specific locations because you’ve done your Insta research and that red top will look amazing against the chalky white of the Spanish Steps (@bochiehq if you want to Insta-stalk).

Yes, your photos will be insanely good. But this also means you’ll pack too many items and often they’re impractical for travel. The cost of your extra luggage will add up and, unless your Insta following is above 20K, think twice about that fifth set of bikinis.

Sadly, I don’t have a large enough following to justify packing for Instagram moments. I’m a lawyer, not an heiress… or Joan #myparentsreallyletmedown.

Packing List for European Summer vacation
What to wear in europe for spring
Packing List for European Summer vacation
What to wear in europe in summer 2017 – your travel clothes packing list

Leave ‘just in case’ items off your packing list

Full disclosure: I packed three sets of fancy underwear… just in case.

Didn’t wear any of them.

Barely get to use them at home.


Your packing list should limit shoes, bags & toiletries where possible

These items are HEAVY. I packed 15 pairs of shoes (purchased three more), four handbags (bought two more) and four toiletry bags.

I should be committed.

Your packing list should avoid multiples

I packed seven breton striped tops. I wore four. One on the plane home.

I packed four pairs of sunglasses. I wore three. Should’ve packed two.

It’s not mandatory to wear clothes by designers from the country you’re holidaying in

I really struggle with this one. If not in Italy, then where is it more appropriate to wear a Missoni turban? France meant Kenzo, Iro, Dior, Chanel, Isabel Marant and Equipment. Italy meant Dolce & Gabbana (#boycottdolceandgabbana), Gucci, MSGM, Aquazzura and Antonello Tedde.

Fight the urge to pack Italian-themed pjs, t-shirts and eye-masks. Fight real hard.

Mine is a cautionary tale…

The packing list I should have followed…

  1. 3 x t-shirts – one white, one black, one striped (linen or cotton)
  2. 1 x pair of shorts (black or white)
  3. 1 x pair of denim cut offs
  4. 1 x pair of sneakers
  5. 1 x pair of jeans (blue or white)
  6. 2 x singlet tops (linen or cotton)
  7. 1 x denim jacket
  8. 2 x sunglasses
  9.  2 x handbags – one black, at least one cross-body
  10. 2 x dresses – one black, one white or block coloured A packing list for your European summer holidayA packing list for your European summer holiday
  11. 1 x straw hatA packing list for your European summer holiday
  12. 1 x beach cover-up (either patterned kaftan or a striped oversize shirt)A packing list for your European summer holidayPacking List
  13. 1 x cashmere jumper (in case of a chill, and also for the plane)
  14.  2 x pairs of bathers – one patterned, one block colouredPacking List Summer in EuropePacking List for Europe Summer
  15.  2 x pairs of sandals – one black, one metallic or leopard print
  16.  1 x beach bagPacking List for holiday in Europe Summer
  17. 1 x silk scarf or turban (essential for bad hair days)Packing List for holiday in Europe Summer
  18. 1 x piece of statement jewelryPacking List for holiday in Europe Summer
  19. 1 x shirt (brightly coloured silk or cotton off shoulder)Packing List for holiday in Europe Summer
  20. 1 x cotton skirtPacking List for holiday in Europe Summer
  21. 1 x pair of relaxed trousersPacking List for holiday in Europe Summer
Does anyone else out there commit serious packing sins? Confess (so I’m not alone out here). What does your packing list look like?
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  1. Gillian Kent says

    I learn more about what to pack from stories like yours than the packing lists. I recognize myself in some of your dilemmas. On a recent trip to see my brother I thought I had been totally minimal but only wore two of the 4 white shirts I packed.

    1. Iris Lillian says

      Ahah, yes I tend to over pack on the staples as well – t’shirts, shorts, undies, socks, work out gear. Something to bear in mind for our next trips. Where are you going next?

  2. Jessica Hughes says

    Great advice!

    1. Iris Lillian says

      Thanks! Do you have any packing tips to share?

  3. Larissa Joassaint says

    My mouth dropped at 15 pairs of shoes! That’s impressive you were able to pack so many. Also, you had to pack for a wide variety of events, so that’s also kind of tough to not overpack. I usually tend to overpack as well, but I’m definitely working on it. I don’t have a specific packing list; it just all depends on where I’m going. I pack everything in my carry on bag, then I’ll go back and take out at least 1/4 of what’s in there. I aim for half, but you know, sometimes that doesn’t happen ? These are great tips for me to keep in mind while packing for future trips, as well as a great packing list!

    1. Iris Lillian says

      SO IMPRESSIVE! Do you have any packing tips you can share? We’d love to hear them!

  4. ThoughtsInTheBreeze says

    This happens every time we fly a discount airline. I have to really adjust my packing. Great advice. and nice post!

    1. Iris Lillian says

      Haha! Discount airlines are THE WORST when it comes to packing. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to ditch a bunch of stuff just to get my luggage on board. Good luck with your next flight!

  5. Cindy Bryan says

    I remember as a teen I packed for a month in Singapore staying with relatives. I took my entire wardrobe. The ENTIRE teenage wardrobe and wearing exactly an eighth of what I packed. It was nonsensical and I looked at everything thinking “why did I even bother?!” Fantasy holiday self consistently fights with reality self all the damn time.

    1. Iris Lillian says

      hahahah! Totally. You need a different pair of sneakers EVERY day, right? I do quite like ‘holiday-self’ she’s pretty cool. 😉

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