How to master the art of travelling light

Whether you’ve booked months in advance or are making a last-minute getaway, city breaks always have an exciting, spontaneous feel about them. Particularly if you can crack the code for fitting a weekend’s worth of clothes into a carry-on bag. After all, when time is of the essence, it’s best to have just the things you need, right at your fingertips. Here are our top packing tips that will help you make the most of every moment, the minute the plane touches the runway.

Look ahead

Check the local forecast before you go, and be aware of typical averages for the season. If it’s looking like a weekend of unbroken sunshine, take a chance and leave the umbrella and waterproofs at home. You can always splash out on some new kit if the heavens open. Whether it will be hot or chilly, layers are your most flexible option – wear your bulkiest one on the plane to save space in your suitcase. 

Create a capsule wardrobe

Adaptable, versatile pieces are your best friend when space isn’t on your side. Think one jacket that goes with everything else, and dresses, shirts and trousers that can take you from day to night. Womenswear trends such as culottes are a great option – light and breezy for warm days in the city, and simple to dress up for the evening. Men can’t go too far wrong with a good pair of jeans and a couple of t- and collared shirts.

When it comes to shoes, bring one pair of comfy flats for walking around in (fashion’s continuing love for trainers is very city-break friendly). Then, if you’ve restaurant or theatre plans that call for something dressier, one pair of heels or smart flats.

Finally, try to bring just one day bag with you. Cross-body is our go-to style – easy to keep an eye on in city crowds, while keeping your hands free for snapping photos or snacking on street food. Choose one with enough space for your essential items, whether that’s just your phone and purse or a guidebook and camera, too. Many airlines now offer the option of bringing one small bag into the cabin as well as your suitcase – handy for quick access to your passport when you land.

Take style tips from the locals

It’s a good idea to be aware of how locals dress – either to respect cultural codes or simply not look too much like a tourist. For instance, if you’re planning on visiting churches or temples, pack something with a longer hemline. A light scarf is also a good idea to throw over bare shoulders.

If you’re visiting a Mediterranean country, you’ll probably notice that people dress quite formally, even in hot weather. It’s rare to see locals wearing shorts and t-shirts apart from at the beach – especially not in style-conscious Italy. So if you’re planning a summer city break to Florence or Rome, think chinos and light, collared shirts, or flowing skirts and summer dresses.

Keep it crease-free

If you’d rather not cut into any city break time ironing your clothes, there are a few tricks you can call on. For items such as shirts, skirts and trousers, roll instead of folding them to avoid hard lines. For a suit jacket, keep it in a dry-cleaning bag, then lightly fold it in half, bottom to top. It can also help not to overfill your suitcase, so your clothes aren’t squashed together.

If you unpack and find a few creases, don’t worry. Hang your clothes in the bathroom and take a hot shower to give them a quick DIY steam treatment.

Eco essentials

Last but not least, toiletries. There’s often no need to bring shampoo or conditioner if you’re staying at a hotel. But if you have a favourite brand you can’t do without, pick up reusable carry-on-size bottles to decant them into.

Try to slimline your skincare routine and makeup bag, too. Some airlines have different rules about what cosmetics count as liquids. To be on the safe side, make sure all your favourite day-to-day products are less than 100ml each, and fit within the 1 litre max limit.