Petro’s Ultimate Guide To Packing
- Words By
- Bibby Sowray
- Edited By
- Petro Stofberg
- Photographs By
- Eva K. Salvi
Let’s be honest, packing is a stressful precursor to any trip away. It can have you tying yourself in knots as you try to cover all eventualities, overpacking unnecessarily and ending up with a very heavy suitcase and a holiday wardrobe that’s neither coherent nor enjoyable to wear.
But it needn’t be this way – packing smart shouldn’t be hard. All it requires is some careful consideration and a few helpful tips and hacks.
It’s usually Laura who takes the reins when it comes to our annual packing guide, but this year Petro is sharing her wisdom, perfected over years of practise. With her guidance, your suitcase will be a work of art, full of pieces you’ll actually wear and products you’ll actually use, to keep you looking and feeling great. For stress-free packing, read on.
Choose an item that can act as an inspiration hook for your whole holiday wardrobe – this is a great way to focus the mind when it comes to packing and can help you weed out the pieces you’re not so bothered about from those that you really want to wear. This beautiful striped dress has a relaxed, bohemian feel and really captures the mood I’m going for this holiday season.
Based on your hero piece, select a colour palette and stick to it. This is such a simple way of ensuring that all the items you pack go with each other – meaning you have multiple outfit options from just a few well-selected pieces. I always abide by the rule to pack outfits, not things, so that I’m not using up space on random items that won’t work with the rest of my holiday wardrobe.
Often, underwear is the last thing you chuck in the suitcase, but it’s something that really needs to be considered. Think about the outfits you’ve packed; for example, do you have sheer items that need specific underwear? Perhaps you need some seamless options for under tighter outfits. Ensuring you have the right foundations means you’ll be comfortable, so it’s really important to get it right.
If you favour a neutral palette, the tendency can be to just stick to more sober colours, but if you’re going somewhere hot and sunny it’s nice to have a pop of colour. Just one or two bolder pieces – like a bright linen shirt or bold skirt – can elevate your neutral looks to something a little more exciting.
Overpacking footwear is a cardinal holiday sin. Shoes take up a lot of space, so consider what kind of place you’re going to and how you need your footwear to function for you. For example, I don’t wear heels at the best of times, so I’m never going to wear them on a beach holiday. If, like me, you opt to take three pairs of flat sandals, make sure each serves a different purpose – a beach pair, a comfortable pair for walking and an evening pair, for instance.
Think about your accessories. It’s easy to leave them to the end of packing, by which point you’ve often lost your focus and might throw in an array of things you won’t necessarily need or wear. Considering them will pay off. Do you really need multiple clutch bags or would one neutral style suffice? Can you make do with one pair of wear-with-everything shades, rather than four different styles? Less stuff means less stress.
Jewellery is an easy way to take a holiday outfit from day to night, so give it some thought when you’re packing. Holidays are the perfect time to wear your more colourful pieces and really layer up necklaces and bracelets as you have more skin on show. Opt for pieces that aren't too precious, though, so you can wear them in the sea and pool.
Hang everything on a rail before you pack it to ensure you haven’t got any repeats. Having it clearly laid out really helps you to see your holiday wardrobe as a whole and identify any pieces that don’t work with your chosen colour palette.
SPF is essential. I start with factor 50, then, if I’m going on a long holiday, I may drop down to factor 30 after a week or so. I take separate SPFs for my face and body and like to keep them all in a dedicated case so I don’t have to rummage through my Tardis-like washbag.
Edit down your beauty bag before you go. I love multifunctional sticks, like those by Beauty Pie and Jones Road, as they work on your lips, cheeks and eyes so cut down the number of products you need. You probably want lighter make-up for a beach holiday than you would if you were going for a city break, for example, so think through your travel plans and what you’ll really need.
I’m a terrible one for overpacking swimwear. Realistically, no matter how long you’re going away for, you don’t need more than three pieces. Take some time to try on all your options so you only take the ones you really feel comfortable and confident in. Then, roll them up and put them in your case – trust me, you’ll fit in so much more if you roll small items instead of folding them.
This silk T-shirt dress is great for both day and night; the perfect example of a multifunctional piece that will save on suitcase space. I wear it in the day with Birkenstocks and a basket bag, then elevate it with jewellery, a chic clutch and metallic sandals for the evening.
Outerwear is often the trickiest part of packing as it can take up a lot of space. Even if you’re going somewhere tropical, you’ll still need a warmer layer for travelling (plane air-con can be brutal), or popping over your shoulders on breezier evenings by the beach. A linen blazer is a great option as it’s light to pack and breathable in warm weather.
It can be tempting to jam your entire beauty cupboard in your suitcase, ‘just in case’. But don’t – think about what you really use every day. I like to take a multipurpose shampoo and body cleanser that are especially good for washing away chlorine. A micellar water or face wipes are great for mid-travel freshening-up, so add some miniatures to your hand luggage, especially if you’re set for a long-haul flight.
It’s inevitable that your holiday wardrobe will come out of your suitcase looking a little creased; I like to pack a handheld steamer, laundry mist and stain remover, so I can decrease and freshen up pieces if needed. Not only does this keep my clothes looking pristine, it also means I can get more wear from them – a quick steam is often all you need to remove any smells or bacteria from clothes.
I learnt this tip from Laura. If you can, pack everything on hangers – it makes unpacking so much quicker and easier. Depending on the size of your case, you won’t always have the luxury to do this, but if you have, do!
I like to pack my hand luggage on the assumption that my main luggage could go missing, so if it did, I’d have all the things I needed to get by. I’d even recommend putting a swimsuit or bikini in there, just in case. In my travel beauty case I have all my essentials – like a toothbrush and my essential skincare.
These are super-helpful to keep things organised, especially if you’re going on a holiday that involves multiple stops and therefore lots of unpacking and repacking between destinations. These can be used in so many different ways, whether it’s dividing your wardrobe into categories – such as T-shirts, skirts, dresses etc – or using them to keep outfits together. You don’t even have to unpack them if you don’t want to; simply transfer them straight into your shelves or drawers at your destination.
Instead of thinking about your travel outfit as a separate entity, look at it as part of your holiday wardrobe – it’s a simple way to add a few extra pieces without using up packing space. It’s all about being smart and having a good overview of everything you’re packing.