Grace Coddington packs six shirts and six trousers and leaves her address book at home. Patti Smith always takes t-shirts, a black jacket, black pants and her ‘bee socks’ and Joan Didion’s White Album packing list, well, that’s legendary (two skirts, two leotards and a typewriter, for starters… ). I’m going to be travelling a fair bit over the next few weeks: a short press trip to Ibiza, followed by a weekend in Paris with Monsieur Ce N’est Pas Mon Age and then off to New York for the Know Your Style launch. The details of which are almost finalised – if you’re in or around Manhattan, please put the evening of November 2nd in your diary. More information to follow later this week. For shorter trips and summer holidays, I always try to do carry-on. And depending on the season, travel in jeans or joggers, flat shoes or trainers; a wrap-around scarf and a sweatshirt are my in-flight essentials.

These photos are from a lovely Smythson travel series. Last week, Jane Birkin, this week Travelling with Grace Coddington. Our Grace prefers personal recommendations to travel guides, packs the night before and allows plenty of time to get to the airport. Jane Birkin wears men’s cashmere v-neck sweaters and Agnés b silk tops, and ties a red ribbon around the handle of her suitcase.

Wherever I’m going, I always pack a swimsuit and take a book rather than a tablet… What are your travel essentials?

39 thoughts on “What to pack: travelling in style, all year round

  1. Just returned from 4.5 weeks in Croatia and Italy. For the second year, I managed three seasons in a carry-on wheelie and another bag holding my handbag, two black jeans (one for night, one for cooler days); two linen pants (one black, one beige); three long sleeved T-shirts; three short-sleeved T-shirts//tops for day; one evening sleeveless top, one long sleeved evening top; one black cardigan, three Unqlo outerwear tops: one light blue sleeveless puffy, one black long sleeved puffy, one b/w spotted raincoat. Three socks, knockers, two bras. Three shoes: one walking shoes, one Arche boots (light and fold well), one walking sandal. Bingo!

    1. I have problems packing light so I am going to follow your list and see how it works – thankyou in anticipation!

    2. This is a GREAT list! I’ve been searching for a good packing list for Italy. I go every year. But I still haven’t managed to pack light. Maybe next year will be different/better!

      1. The last two years when the weather was hooter, I took two silk dresses for the day…wash and hang, then wear next day. Pack into nothing.

  2. Love your blog! I like to just have a carry on and use packing compression cubes to keep me and my kids organised. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with lightweight cubes from Eagle Creek (but not that easy to find in the UK).

    1. Yes, I LOVE using the cubes. Wow, what a difference it makes to use these! I know where everything is and no more suitcase jumble. I also keep one for dirty clothes to keep them separate. I also save all the cloth drawstring bags that come with my handbags and I use them to put my shoes in when I travel.

  3. I loved the Jane Birkin interview … her enthusiasm for travel, her goofiness, her range of life experiences, her simple pleasures. Cool woman !

  4. Being almost 60, and having travel ramp up to such a priority in my life, plus a husband who at first insisted on never stopping at baggage claim, he’s a man of efficiency and speed, I’ve become very good at one carry on!
    Does not change for length of time or destination. My formula is this: 2 pairs of pants, which two depends on weather and plans. 1 top for each day. One packed pair of shoes, also depends on weather and events. One dress or skirt. One sweater. Always!
    Travel in, black comfy pants, loose top, cashmere wrap that doubles as scarf. One bag, stowed under the seat , with my entertainment, always a new magazine purchased at airport. Toiletries! The magazine was something I started ages ago that somehow I felt lessened my anxiety about being in the air! Plane would never crash while enjoying a good fashion magazine!

  5. A thin-ish unpatterned very large scarf cum wrap or blanket. It serves as a pillow rolled up, a scarf, a throw, a blanket etc. I have a navy one and bring it with me on every holliday.

  6. I’m a bit like Grace C. in creating a pile and editing it down. Other than that, this all seems so over the top and fussy. I remember needing to buy extra luggage in France, and went to a lovely luggage store where I fell in love with some beautiful high end stuff and the owner kindly told me not to buy any of it if I was flying as I would be a target for thieves. I try to blend not impress when I’m travelling (I always appreciate how you show us high and low, Alyson) but this may not be an issue if you are using private cars, not the metro! I use see through plastic not leather or fabric bags for internal storage as it molds, you can see what’s what immediately, and doesn’t take up extra space or weight. I also take little transparent plastic baggies for local change/currency for immediate access. (I’m usually going to several places.) Most important: water resistant outerwear with hood and zip out lining and mini travel umbrella for pocket or purse. (Why do the British never mention this? You know you need it 😉 )

    1. You are so smart. A policeman told me many years ago to never carry expensive luggage or an expensive handbag. Thieves see a swinging, costly handbag like the metal pendant that a hypnotist swings! And also a word for stowing credit cards, passport, and cash in one of those sacks that goes around the neck and fits under your shirt.

  7. When I travel I take 2 pairs of black, one dark wash…then 1 pair of black good pants. A black trench coat serves as a coat and a drape on cold planes. I have 2 pairs of shoes; one is for walking and one is for dress..a heels. I wear gold or pearl earrings, faux diamond ring, and a simple watch. I take 3-4 navy and black tops..long or 3/4 sleeves depending on the season and 2 cardigans navy and black. I bring 4-5 scarves that work with both color ways. Besides a medium rolling suitcase I use a computer case for travel documents, magazines, and medication. I can also tuck a small crossbody purse into it. This case was purchased in a thrift shop 10 years ago and has been a trusted travel item. I do not take electronic stuff..irritating to try to get Wi-Fi in places they promise you you can such as tiny hotels in France! Look forward to calm and enjoy the scenery other than fuss about your cords and doodads that require a clanking set of plugs to drag along.

    1. I like the idea of wearing a faux diamond ring. I never wear my wedding rings abroad, but I think I will get something fun and try this! Thanks for the idea.

  8. As someone who regrets the demise of steamer trunks (though nothing else about the Good Old Days), I actually enjoy the challenge of carry-on only and have packing for a ten-day trip down pat. My tip is to make your “personal item” a rather large squishy piece that will A) fit under your seat and B) hold your “real” purse. I use this as an extended suitcase for oddly shaped items, extra shoes, reading material and souvenirs. Bravo to Anna; I’m going to cc her list as well.

  9. I love the input here, especially Anna. I’m about to embark on 2 weeks in Italy with only a carryon and my trusty Tumi tote (which will, of course, contain my day bag, specific bag undetermined). The hardest thing for me – I don’t travel abroad every year – is honing back what I bring. But what I find is once I get somewhere, I tend to wear the same things repeatedly because they’re comfy, look good, and don’t show dirt. So the HUGE pile on the guest room bed will be curated this week and I’m off next week. So excited…Italy has been top of my bucket list FOREVER. Cheers!

  10. I don’t go anywhere without one of my own beauty bags! – The ones that hang up are particularly useful – transparent sections, wipe clean, waterproof – Sorry for the shameless plug, but as a regular commenter to TNMA I thought I might be allowed… and it’s actually true!

  11. Thank you Victoria Green 🙂 Yes to noise cancelling headphones for travelling, a big scarf or cashmere wrap for comfort.

  12. Today, as it happens, I am going to do some investigations into buying The Perfect Damned Leather Bag for travelling. I know it will cost but it will be worth it. Trundling bags on wheels is tiresome: I managed to damage the handle on a bus in Portugal recently when it got caught in a door so now you can’t pick it up when you meet stairs. Another bag has wheels which have twisted and locked. They pull on my elbow joints. So I am returning to a proper bag. Stout. Dark. Leather. Not so big that I overpack, not so small that it looks like a handbag and something that will be a joy to tote. And: it will be mine, mine only.

    1. Annie. Hope your quest for a bag was successful but if not it’s worth taking a look at MISCHA. Based in Hong Kong but they ship worldwide. Their overnighter is made in coated canvas with leather handles and a longer over the shoulder strap. Lots gorgeous new colours in their AW 17 range and they also do leather totes. Just about to invest in one myself.

  13. A large tote that holds my purse, open space planned for extra purchases that I’ll make on the trip that might be fragile, jewelry, slip on comfy slippers for a long flight. A large, sturdy canvas duffel with hand and shoulder straps. These are lighter than leather, and always fit in even small overheads. Wear chunky shoes on plane/ trainers or hiking shoes, rather than adding to bag weight. Pack light tunics, t shirts, travel pants rather than jeans, leggings, dress that is simple for dressing up or down, multiple scarves.

  14. I always bring a cashmere throw, I’m usually cold on the plane and it’s serves as my security blanket. A good book is also essential, I relish the flight time to read uninterrupted. I hope to come to your NY event!

  15. I’ve found it best to limit myself to one pair of jeans which I wear on the plane since they are the heaviest/bulkiest. Three pair knit slacks in neutrals – grey, camel, and navy or black. For cool weather destinations, I bring long sleeved tops & sweaters that coordinate with all bottoms plus a pewter packable down jacket and neutral raincoat. One lightweight dress for nice restaurants, a folding umbrella, crossbody purse, and RFID wallet. Good jewelry is left at home and I’ve acquired silver pieces over the years including a link bracelet to which I’ve started adding charms from places I’ve visited. I separate tops, sweaters, bottoms, undies & sleepwear into extra large ziplock bags so I don’t rip my suitcase apart trying to get dressed in the morning. Did a 3 week trip to Great Britain last September with one carry on. Only issue was your unusually hot weather in the beginning!

  16. Besides city stuff my trips usually involve hiking in natural areas, whether in the UK or Minnesota. So always real hiking shoes/boots and the required socks. Other clothes depend on season and are generally somewhat technical but neutral enough to go urban as well as woodsy.

    For a temperate climate in fall: a pair of nice sneakers and dressier walking shoes/booties; nice black pants and a snazzy top; two slim dark jeans (black and navy) with some stretch; yoga pants; hoody; appropriate cotton/modal/spandex long and short-sleeve t-shirts and silk camisoles; a comfortable but not boring cardi or two; packable black primaloft jacket; raincoat; pajamas; undies; toiletries; several scarves, simple jewelry and watch; small leather backpack; umbrella and gloves.

    If traveling by car, duffel plus big tote. If by plane or train, rolling carry-on plus either big tote or technical urban backpack and small cross body bag that goes in tote/backpack. Always a book, magazine, notebook, diary, pen and pencil, small crochet project; phone and charger. If traveling for business, sometimes a laptop, but try to avoid this.

  17. I’ve become quite the expert at packing a carry on case only, for up to 10 days by limiting my wardrobe pieces to 3-4 colours. Black, white, grey & navy & then accessorising with colourful jewellery & a bright lipstick. I hardly pack shoes which take up so much room so usually wear a pair of plain white trainers that go with almost everything & another pair of smarter shoes in my case. I wear the heaviest items & buy most of my bathroom essentials when I get to my destination just making sure to pack my trusty hair products, perfume & This works pillow spray? You never ever need as much as you think you do?
    Great post as always Alyson X

  18. I love this post ! So enjoyed reading about these two favourite ladies and their travelling tips. I can especially relate to Grace Coddington’s angst -making issues i.e fear of flying, needing to be at the airport or wherever well in advance, and the big one, finding a cat sitter.
    Like you, Wanda, I always have a magazine to take my mind off being in the air, seems to work better than a book.
    As far as packing is concerned, I don’t mind it, it’s part of the excitement of going away, but I usually take too much, and leave out stuff that I should have taken ! For the trip, comfort is the main issue, usually comfy pants, trainers, a t-shirt and cardi, and on top the heavy coat if I’m going to need one, to save packing it.
    While on the subject of comfy pants, my go-to when the weather turns cool is usually jeans, but I just bought a pair of bubble trousers from Sahara , I love them but not sure what kind of tops look good with them. Any suggestions ?

  19. Oh, I love this post. I travel a lot for work and have this pretty down pat now on hand luggage only. I am currently in Madrid for 6 days for work and have packed 3 pairs of trousers, one black, one navy and one patterned navy and green. Three tops in shades of navy. One dress, Leona Edmonton, multi-coloured and never creases. One pair white birks, two flats (green suede and burgundy suede), black Nikes. On the plane I wore, black nikes, black trousers by MEL (never crease, always look great), long sleeved top, puffer vest (keeps core warm and pockets) and an amazing cashmere wrap/poncho I got from Cable Melbourne (amazing knitwear). I adore the This Works pillow spray Karen mentions – for a brief halcyon time, the Crowne Plaza chain used to leave a tiny set of this on your pillow instead of a chocolate and got me hooked (sadly, they no longer offer this). I decant shampoo into small containers, ditto moisturiser and cleanser. I always take a proper book, noise cancelling headphones, eye mask (the emirates one is the best one I got free on a plane) and compression socks.

  20. Hello Alyson. Good luck with the book tour. I’m the opposite of most of these correspondents. I pack heavy and don’t regret it. I’m currently in Seoul and had to pack for three weeks here with a variable climate from day to day and different types of events. For long haul flights I’m always cold. So I wear Uniqlo vests under t-shirts and jumpers plus a lightweight down Uniqlo jacket. Extra layer of socks and sturdy slippers for the plane and hotel. I also carry music old iPod reading material and noise cancelling ear phones and big cashmere shawl. I’ve got many layers with me to put under silk blouses, and pyjamas and lightweight dressing gown. Extra layers needed to counteract severe air conditioning. Always a dress blazer and shoes to wear with a skirt dress. A few cardigans. Loads of silk scarves and some necklaces and bracelets to smarten up the outfits. I always have trainers and other comfortable walking shoes plus bathing suit bathing cap track bottoms and thirsts and a hoodie to exercise in as well as lounge in. I bring many toiletries, my perfume, make up etc so I don’t have to waste time and money going shopping for these things when away. For me more is more when I see the coordinated outfits I somehow managed to bring along. As Alyson advocates in her book lay things out ahead and try on combinations of clothes before leaving home. I have a four wheeler suitcase in a distinctive colour with colourful labels so it’s easy to spot on a carousel when tired. A cross body bag for everyday wear and a tote bag or two packed in main case Bon Voyage.

  21. I wish I was a more diligent and stylish packer. Despite being a frequent traveller I too often leave it to the last moment to pack. I wish I could be more like Grace Caddington in having six shirts washed, ironed and ready to pack.

  22. I wish this post had come out two weeks’ ago! I went to Palma not having a clue what the weather would be like – warm/sunny/chilly or wet. Took far too much and then had Nothing To Wear. Fortunately it was warm and sunny but I had taken such a mish mash of clothing I think I may have resembled a Bag Lady. Will take serious note of Anna’s comments when I travel again.
    Bought a copy of Porter today – as you told us – Ali Macgraw is totally bloody magnificent! She reminds me a little of Georgia O’Keeffe. This lady should be made an honorary member of TNMA. Have a wonderful, successful trip and above all, Enjoy Yourself x

  23. I admire anyone who can just do carry on, but on a recent week to Lake Como I took the medium biggie suitcase. Not to stuff with clothes but to carry my essential down pillow. As it turned out there was plenty of room to bring home some large bags of amaretti so that was a plus.
    My other new travel essential is a lightweight knit or cashmere poncho, which transitions from warm to cool nicely when traveling!

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