Dolly Alderton | Contributing Writer | Thursday, 4 June 2015

Packing Mistakes We Always Make (And How To Avoid Them)

Packing Mistakes We Always Make (And How To Avoid Them)

The Debrief: That massive floppy hat you bought in 2012 from Accessorize? It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now

The gap between expectation and reality is never quite as capacious as when packing for a holiday. There’s the you you pack for – the person you want to be (sips Fiji water on a flight while wearing a face mask, takes a capsule wardrobe with a mix of basic tees, vintage kaftans and Chanel espadrilles).

And then there’s the you you don’t pack for – the person who needs factor 50 sunblock and verruca plasters. The person who can’t wear heels when dancing on a beach hut bar and won’t realistically get round to reading The Goldfinch. 

So here it is – the mistakes we all make when packing. 

The wide-brimmed hat

There is no item that represents Delusions of Holiday Luxe quite as much as the wide-brimmed hat. And when I say wide-brimmed, I don’t mean a neon visor, nor a white trilby – I’m not even talking a floppy fedora. I’m talking about the gigantic straw hat you purchased in an Accessorize in 2012 for no real reason other than “AREN’T I FABULOUS! WHAT IS THIS LIFE WITHOUT A BIT OF FABULOUSNESS! SURE, I DON’T NEED IT, BUT THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING FABULOUS!”



And, indeed, it is fabulous. The kind of hat Holly Golightly would have worn on a visit to Sing Sing; the sort of hat that makes Hugh Grant fall in love with you the first time he sees you at a wedding. But, in reality, it’s also monstrously impractical. It’s so big it would block everyone’s view in a church and one gust of wind on a sunny day in Regent’s Park and you’re running around chasing it like an embarrassed dog owner.

So The Massive Hat is destined for a life in the corner of your living room – only ever picked up when you’re entertaining guests and are in a flamboyant mood. 

That is – until you start packing and you see it out of the corner of your eye and you suddenly realise, finally, where you’re meant to wear this hat. On holiday! On the beach! Running through cobbled European streets or batting off the sun on safari. It’s Brigitte Bardot in Viva Maria! It’s Roman Holiday! It’s Out of Africa! Your hat has found its calling!


Except, it hasn’t. It’s just as cumbersome and embarrassing in Kos as it is back home. On day one of your holiday you retrieve it from your bag – crumpled and deflated – and wear it to the beach only for everyone to stare, before it flies away on a gust of wind. 

That was a waste of suitcase. 

The complicated swimwear


Inspired by the bondage bikinis littered all over Instagram, with their stringy bits that wrap around your body, you buy a sort of bodycon swimsuit made of bandages, with lots of bits cut out of it. 

Big. Mistake. 

Not only does it cut you up and squeeze all your flesh around, like a Cumberland sausage reluctantly poured into a slashed casing, it’s a nightmare to take on and off. Oh, and well done on those criss-crossy tan lines. Lovely. 

No aloe vera


Or plug adaptors. Or lip balm. Or hair dryer. You haven’t packed razors or a brush, you haven’t even packed a bag to take anywhere, so you have to share Suzie’s, who’s getting quite grumpy about it. 

However, you HAVE packed: two beachside kimonos, a flower hair garland, two pairs of gladiator sandals, four pairs of wedges, a tan shimmer booster thing, salty beach spray hair and speakers for when you and Suzie are getting ready for a night out. Hey, Macarena! Ay! 

The massive books 


You when you’re packing: ‘I can’t wait to catch up on all this reading. I never get time to read when I’m at home, always on Facebook, always watching Don’t Tell The Bride. Reading has becoming a lost art and that’s such a shame. “We read to know we’re not alone,” said William Nicholson. And how right he was. I’m going to take all the books I have been avoiding for ages. The Blair Diaries and Infinite Jest and War and Peace. I wonder if that will be enough though, I roar through books on holiday. Oh, what a treat!’

You on holiday: ‘I can’t believe I had to pay extra because of the weight of all those stupid fucking books in my bag. No, no. Not stupid. I’m glad I brought Les Miserables. And I WILL read it, but I have to get through these magazines from the airport first, I don’t want to have wasted all that money. And then a quick go on Twitter. Might need to borrow Suzie’s phone for her Wi-Fi again. She’s getting quite grumpy about it.” 

Too many hooks spoil the cloth

The bra as a contraption for traditional support feels so out of place when packing for a holiday. All those cheesecloths maxis, all those spaghetti strap tops and boob tube dresses. A bra would spoil the free-flowing summery vibe! 

So instead of packing any bras, you decide to rely on bikini tops for a fortnight.

But by the end of the holiday, you have red marks round your neck from the constant tie of a halter neck string and you’re longing for the sturdy hoist of your trusty M&S T-shirt bra. 



(Aware this particular heading doesn’t make much sense, but I hope you will welcome my efforts and enjoy the pun in the relaxed and convivial spirit in which it was shared. Second working title was ‘bra from the packing crowd’ which made even less sense.)

‘It can get very nippy in Ethiopia’

The safety jumper. Or the safety jeans. Perhaps you always pack a safety scarf or, if you’re so inclined, a safety pashmina. This is the unnecessary, bulky item of clothing you convince yourself you’ll need when the country’s hot weather – constant since the dawn of time – decides to suddenly change and become freezing during your visit. 



You can take the girl out of Britain. But you can’t take an overly-cautious, uptight and fussy obsession with bad weather out of the girl. 

Liked this? You might also be interested:

Confessions Of A Summer Phobic Dresser 

My Perfect Pinterest Life Is A Big Fat Lie

In Defence Of Having A Floordrobe 

Follow Dolly on Twitter @dollyalderton