Alicia Healey

The art of packing

The art of packing
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I have a recurring dream where a taxi is waiting outside to take me to the airport and my suitcase is empty. I’m not sure what a dream psychologist would make of this, but for someone who has 15 years’ experience in packing other people’s suitcases for work, this kind of dream is the stuff of nightmares! As a former Royal Lady’s Maid, and now a Travelling PA, I’ve packed literally hundreds of suitcases for my employers and myself, so have learned a few things along the way about how to perfect the art of packing and make it as stress-free and streamlined as possible.

With travel restrictions easing in the latest move out of lockdown, many people are starting to plan trips abroad after a very long year of staying at home. If travel is back on your calendar, here are some of my top tips to help you pack like a pro.

What to pack

In the words of Diane von Furstenburg, ‘I get ideas about what’s essential when packing my suitcase’. If you have packed well it can feel quite a liberating, rather than stressful experience, concentrating what your essential items are. Preparation and planning are key when it comes to efficient packing. Spend time planning outfits that will work for the location you’re visiting. Try everything on before packing – if your summer wardrobe has been gathering dust during the pandemic, you will want to make sure everything is still wearable and fits properly. Select pieces that are versatile and easy to dress up or down for multiple outfit opportunities. Don’t allow anything into your suitcase that hasn’t been planned into an outfit. Try to limit your accessories to neutral colours – tan/white/metallic will go with most summer outfits.


Packing Cubes are a game changer for organised and streamlined packing. Use them for packing different categories together (e.g. swimwear, underwear, etc) to maximise the space within your suitcase, and help prevent the contents of your travel bags from becoming a jumbled mess. I find them especially useful for smaller items that tend to go walkabout easily, such as electronic cables, plug adapters and chargers. 

Packing cubes can also be unpacked straight into your hotel wardrobe, thus minimising time spent unpacking at your destination, so they are ideal for shorter trips. They are usually made of lightweight, flexible and breathable material with mesh windows, so it is easy to see what is where, making them very efficient.

To roll or to fold

Many travel experts recommend rolling clothes for packing efficiency and to minimise creasing. Personally, I’m a folder – I was trained to fold professionally at Buckingham Palace and it’s the way I have packed ever since. If you fold along existing seam lines, this will minimise creasing. Aim to keep the lighter, more delicate items at the top of the suitcase, with bulkier, heavier items (coats, shoes, toiletries) at the bottom. 

Pack in even layers to keep everything as flat as possible. Folding into the case also helps minimise creases; for example, when packing a pair of trousers, leave half the trouser leg hanging over the side of the suitcase and place something else on top, such as knitwear, before folding the trouser leg into the case. Packing shoes and handbags in dustbags will protect them and help create even layers within the suitcase.

Packing makeup and toiletries

I favour transparent hanging washbags for travel, like this one by Victoria Green. I like being able to hang up the bag so that I can easily view the contents without having to unpack everything inside; it makes it much easier if you travel frequently or are hopping from one destination to another. The 3-in-1 bag allows you to use it as a hanging organiser, with the option to detach the larger bag at the bottom and use the transparent middle pocket for airport security. The smaller zip bag is also great for keeping essential handbag items together, such as face masks and hand sanitiser. 

Victoria Green washbags have a leak-proof design to prevent spillages – I learned this necessity the expensive way after a brand new bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier Eau de Parfum leaked its entire contents into my suitcase en route home from a work trip to Balmoral one year. On the plus side, my suitcase smelt lovely on arrival! If you’re worried about leakages, it’s worth packing your lotions and potions inside ziplock bags within the washbag.

Another makeup organiser which is good for travel is this new flat lay make up bag by The Flat Lay Co. The bag opens up to serve as a cosmetics mat and closes into a bag that allows you to scoop up everything quickly – handy if you missed your alarm call and have to grab and go.

Written byAlicia Healey

Alicia Healey is the author of Wardrobe Wisdom from a Royal Lady’s Maid

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