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
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?