Pack it in

Keep­ing up ap­pear­ances gets a lot harder when you’re dash­ing for a plane. FIONA McCANN finds out how to keep your im­age in check on the run

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It used to be the realm of life’s high rollers, but thanks to lower fares, bud­get air­lines and an eco­nomic boom, travel is now ever-more avail­able to the masses, and we as an is­land na­tion have taken to it with a fer­vour we usu­ally re­serve for drink­ing and All-Ire­land fi­nals. But pack­ing, whether for work jaunts or plea­sure trips, is never pleas­ant and ap­pears to re­quire the fore­thought of a clair­voy­ant com­bined with origami fold­ing skills.

How of­ten have you jammed ev­ery­thing you own into a suit­case, only to dis­cover once you touch down in Biar­ritz/Bangkok/Bom­bay that you’ve ne­glected to pack the only es­sen­tial item that would have made your hol­i­day bear­able – and more im­por­tantly, wear­able?

Rest as­sured – it can hap­pen to even the most sea­soned trav­eller.

Sarah McDonnell, ed­i­tor of The Gloss mag­a­zine goes on some eight-10 work trips a year, jet­ting to shows in var­i­ous Euro­pean cap­i­tals, where she’s ex­pected to turn up as turned out as if she’d stepped off the pages of her own mag­a­zine.

But even with all that pack­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, McDonnell ad­mits she still makes the oc­ca­sional mis­take. “I usu­ally get the im­por­tant stuff in, then for­get my hair­brush or some­thing to sleep in. I have a mar­vel­lous col­lec­tion of hair­brushes from all over the world,” she laughs.

To avoid such mo­ments of panic – which do noth­ing for your frown lines and less again for your lug­gage al­lowance – one good tip is to jot down a list of your es­sen­tials, and then build from there. De­signer Louise Kennedy trav­els weekly to Lon­don to keep an eye on her new flag­ship store in Bel­gravia, not to men­tion reg­u­lar trips to Florence, Mi­lan and Venice to visit man­u­fac­tur­ers, and jaunts to In­dia ev­ery cou­ple of months on busi­ness. Her list of travel es­sen­tials com­prises her Black­berry, a Smyth­son sketch pad and pen­cil, a dig­i­tal cam­era, a cash­mere wrap, Crème de la Mer face serum and Vi­sine eye drops. It’s worth work­ing out what your own non-ne­go­tiables are be­fore stuff­ing ev­ery­thing you own into an over­flow­ing suit­case in the be­lief that, if you bring the lot, at least you won’t have left any­thing be­hind.

Kennedy of­fers ad­vice for those try­ing to trim down bulging bags. “I base my out­fits around a mono­chrome pal­ette, there­fore it re­duces the ne­ces­sity for many ac­ces­sories.”

Ver­sa­tile items of cloth­ing are also key. “I al­ways try to plan out­fits that can eas­ily be adapted from day to evening wear. Sim­ply chang­ing heels and adding a few ac­ces­sories can ac­com­plish this,” she says. A lit­tle bit of fore­thought goes a long way when it comes to pack­ing, ac­cord­ing to McDonnell. “You have to choose what you’ll wear be­fore you pack. I try to make all the pieces fit to­gether and tend to leave pieces that take a lit­tle more styling, or that need sep­a­rate shoes or bag, at home.”

If that seems to leave lit­tle room for spon­tane­ity, McDonnell’s se­cret weapon is to add in one al­ter­na­tive out­fit. “Some­times I bring one choice to al­low for a weather or mood change,” she says.

Her own travel es­sen­tials in­clude flat Chanel pumps in two colours, a black day dress, sun­glasses and white T-shirts. “Bor­ing as it sounds, they do prove in­valu­able,” says McDonnell. Cer­tain ac­ces­sories are also vi­tal. “I al­ways bring my three­strand pearls and a scarf or two, easy to squish into a cor­ner, but good for ring­ing changes.”

A tip from some trav­ellers in­volves wear­ing the bulki­est items on the plane to en­sure lighter lug­gage – not en­tirely ad­vis­able if you want an un­en­cum­bered flight and would pre­fer not to ar­rive at your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion look­ing like the Miche­lin man. McDonnell’s must-have carry-ons are: “A book, The Gloss, make-up, phone, diary and emer­gency overnight kit in case lug­gage is lost.” Any­thing else? “Who am I kid­ding – there is al­ways space for a bar of choco­late.” Who can ar­gue with that?

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