outside the Goyard Store in Paris

I have been meaning to write a packing- for- travel blog post for a very long time. Every year in January, and then again around July, my Instagram feed is full of people I follow all around the world bemoaning their lost luggage. I like to think that due to my extremely practical side, I have pretty much bullet proofed myself on this.

 Karl Lagerfield's luggage - he travels light

When once travelling home to Adelaide (from Melbourne where we lived at the time) to attend a Black Tie wedding in the country our luggage was lost by the airline. We had no carryon bags with us,  and the decidedly lackadaisical approach by the airport staff to finding our suitcase was worrying ("we'll send a message to Alice Springs where the other plane was heading as it might have gone there, hopefully they'll get back to us tomorrow, but the airport's closed now"). Fortunately our suitcase was returned about 20 minutes before we had to get in the car to drive the couple of hours to the country wedding the next day, so all was fine and we arrived correctly attired. But that incident, coupled with a view I once glimpsed of the lost luggage room in LA airport (it was vast, and filled with a sea of black suitcases, some tied with a red ribbon to distinguish them) I have worked a few things out.

My first travel tip is:

Buy a suitcase in any colour that is not black

If you want someone to pick up yours by mistake on the conveyor belt, then black is the colour to choose. It's also not very distinguishing when you are describing to lost luggage what your bag looks like. I remember watching former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer talking on a news program once about his suitcase, for which he was apparently teased by his staff. It was a bright yellow, ageing, hardcase Samsonite suitcase, which he hadn't upgraded as he said it was easy to pick on the conveyor belt. Unless you routinely fly by private plane, then this is a tip to make note of. Which leads me to my next tip...

Goyard lineup

Buy a durable suitcase

I like a hardcase, as if you travel through Asia you will sometimes find that a monsoonal rain event might sweep through the airport, just as they're about to load your luggage onto the plane. The staff will take cover during this time, but your luggage will be left sitting out. This means things can be rather soggy at the end of your trip. A hardcase will also protect your belongings to a greater extent than a soft side. Sure, you can't squish things in as easily when you've purchased a few extra bits and pieces at your destination, but it's the tradeoff I suppose. If you're buying an "investment" suitcase - say Globetrotter, or even Louis Vuitton or Goyard as pictured above, unless you get a private plane to go with them, they'll arrive very battered. Airport staff do not handle bags well, so whatever you buy will get scratched, marked, have ugly stickers put on it... you need to select a bag that suits your actual mode of travel, rather than the fantasy one. Keep the fancy brands for carry on where you can treat the case with more care.

my suitcase interior on a recent trip- this pleases my obsessional side

Packing Cubes will change your life

I cannot tell you how much I love a packing cube. My Mother in Law put me onto them first. She likes to pack outfits in a cube, which means you're more organised at the other end and can easily find things without having to rifle through your case. I now have 5 sets in different colours, one for each member of the family, so we are colour coded... I have a very particular method of packing for family travel, which I'll detail below, but I find it far easier to find my things in a packing cube than without. I bought sets of 6 packing cubes off eBay (extra large, medium, small - which fits shoes), but they're easily available in travel departments of large stores, or I've even seen them at my local pharmacy.

Packing for a family holiday

With children in tow, I've perfected packing to ensure that we have minimum disruption to a holiday if our suitcases go missing en route. It has struck me over the past few years of watching the unfolding lost suitcase sagas on Instagram that most people don't pack like this. So I thought I'd write it down, incase it helps anyone else out. Here's what I do: For our family of 5, we pack one or two suitcases depending on our length of travel (one for a few days, two for a trip longer than about 4 days), plus Mr AV and I take a carryon each.

In the carryon, I pack a full spare outfit for every member of family with two spare tops (because I have seen other parents with a vomiting child have to wear the Qantas Pj's off the plane after they have been vomited on). If we are travelling somewhere warm, I will pack a set of swimwear for each family member as it can take some time for luggage to be delivered to your room on arrival, and my kids are always desperate to go for a swim in the pool straight away. One set of PJs and spare underwear , and basic toiletries fill up the rest. If luggage is completely lost, then we can go for just over 24 hours with no real discomfit.

In the suitcases, I use the packing cubes, which are a different colour for different family members. I realise this sounds very pedantic, but there is a reason for the madness. I pack roughly half the clothes in rough outfits for each family member into one suitcase, and the other half into the other. If one suitcase is lost en route, then we all have clothes, rather than one person having no clothes, and everyone else having theirs. And when we arrive at our destination, I can pick the cubes out of the suitcases and take them to the correct rooms (we usually have to have two adjoining rooms, so don't share a dressing area). It takes only seconds at the destination, the organisation is before the trip.

During the time away I gradually repurpose the cubes so that some contain the dirty laundry, and again, once home it's easy to sort through the suitcase and unpack for each family member - laundry to the laundry, and each family member's cubes back to their rooms and unpacked.

Easy, and no danger of landing at a tropical island somewhere remote with only a very expensive hotel shop to stock up at and a wait of several days to find your suitcase. There is nothing more upsetting than finding yourself uncomfortable on a holiday washing underwear in a sink and wearing the same clothes while you wait for your case to arrive - it's disappointing after the anticipation of a wonderful holiday ahead.

Ziplock bags are very useful. Pack a couple of spares for wet items too (swimwear) or if you've struck a leak on the trip over and need to discard one.

In terms of other packing tips, my only other one is that I put anything with a cream base (toothpaste/ sunscreen/ skin creams/ deodorant) in ziplock bags in the suitcase as they seem to have a tendency to leak under cabin pressure. Having had bronzer go all through my toiletry bag and having had to spend a considerable amount of time wiping things down and ultimately throwing out the stained toiletry bag, this is a good precaution.  During my last trip my perfume leaked (fortunately in the ziplock), which could have been a pretty unpleasantly heady experience otherwise.

All the other things on packing for a holiday such as capsule wardrobes/ decanting toiletries into little bottles/ the necessity of shoe bags/ crossbody handbags with zips so you don't get robbed etc are far better written by others. I do try to work out a capsule wardrobe and do a bit of colour theming (particularly as when I go away with Mr AV without kids he bans suitcases and its carry-on only which keeps you disciplined), but as it varies so much from destination to destination, I'm not sure I'm going to give any groundbreaking information there.

So, I'll leave you with this final overpacking thought that made me laugh, and I will bid you Bon Voyage

Any packing tips you adhere to?


  1. Excellent tips. I myself almost never go anywhere but when I do I pack a carryon bag only. No waiting for luggage retrieval or to find it if lost. I wear my walking shoes, have one pair of dress shoes, have light weight skirts with co-ordinating tops. So one skirt will go with 2 or 3 tops for different looks. Have a small cosmetics bag, extra underwear. I pack a photocopy of my vital documents such as prescriptions, passport, in case my purse is stolen. Photocopies of travellers cheques (if being used). I have a camera bag onboard too and a fairly big purse. I learned it from a friend who worked for an airline. So nice not to lose checked baggage.

    1. It sounds like you definitely have it down to a fine art - and I'm very impressed with your discipline to do it all with a carryon.
      I can remember years ago a fashion blog (I think it was called something like "Black is the new Black" and she had her honeymoon in Australia for 2 weeks (from the US). She used only a carryon, and had everything in it. She showed her outfits for each day, and I guess the only thing I'd say was that as everything she wore was black, it was easy to mix and match!! Your tip on the photocopy is a good one - as we're all digital these days you can over rely on technology, which can of course be stolen on a trip.

  2. Hooray for all Obsessive Compulsives. I am one of your tribe. Like you, packing cubes (or mess type bags from Katmandu type shops) changed my packing regime. Underwear in one. Tops in another etc. Definitely makes finding things in suitcases easy. I am always being described as a very 'organised person'. Usually spoken with a slight sneer. But boo-sucks to them. At least I can find clean knickers every day.

    1. Ha! You've made me laugh Judith!! I have been described as "organised" and "sensible" a lot. Sensible isn't something that gets bandied around about designers much, so I've always been suspicious it isn't really a compliment! But as you say, I can always find everything!!

  3. I agree with all of this.
    H is smart.
    Be like H.

    1. Haha! Thanks for the ego boost :) xx

  4. Such an interesting post Heidi, love it. I haven't used cubes but lots of ziplock bags and see through mesh bags which zip up as well. I have been quite lucky with lost baggage, only happened once. I hand carry all valuables and do not leave any overhead luggage on the plane during stopovers. My cabin bag had been riffled whilst we were stretching our legs. Couldn't believe when we boarded, the steward was walking the isle asking if anyone owned a pink cardigan. Well I did! but mine was overhead, wrong! Lost one shoe and a few other things as obviously thief ran out of time to find the other shoe. I try and travel light these days.

  5. Excellent tips,all of which I do.

    Love packing cases & when I tell people about them you'd swear I was earning a commission! Noticed even Big W now sells them. The first lot we bought over 6 years ago included some packs in which you pack shirts,trench coats and even after 6 weeks of travelling, anything I packed in these rectangular packs looked pristine when I take it out.
    The only thing I'd add is if you do have black suitcases,do as we did which is to write in large capital letters in white permanent marker one word on each side of the suitcase. We chose the suburb we live in and it throws people as there's a similarly named suburb in London. Since we did that about 6 years ago,our luggage has never been lost or misplaced. No one picks up our suitcase with a name written on it. Den xx

  6. Oh gosh I have to get myself some of these packing cubes! Excellent tips Heidi. I wish I had known you when my kids were young, we often went on ski holidays and I would pack up in big ski duffles which ended up a disaster after the kids went through them.
    These days our one rule is carry-on only. Now that my husband and I have more time to travel by ourselves I've bought some navy blue Briggs and Riley carry-on bags, one is a smaller "cabin" size. It's plenty of room for even a week away. The key is not bringing too many shoes!
    But I'm going to up my game with these packing cubes, I'll have to get some for our upcoming trip to Scotland.
    Thanks Heidi for the great post xx

  7. I'll be referring friends who travel with kids (God help them) to this post, Heidi. I love all your posts that describe how you reasoned through to the optimal, functional solution. This is especially rewarding when you do so in your interior design and architecture posts. Your adherence to beauty, filtered through your rigorous approach to function, have taught me a lot. You give me hope for a world with so much abysmal design hidden beneath social media glitz. Thank you thank you thank you!

  8. That is truly impressive organisation Heidi. Yep, I'm a packing cube addict too and my newest case is a glorious bright indigo colour from Travelpro. Sadly I was one of those who thought Lost Luggage only happened to Other People..until this year when BA lost my husband's suitcase between Rome and London and it didn't turn up for a week. We will definitely be swapping a few things between our cases from now on.

  9. Great tips and some I already adhere to. Although I don't use packing cubes, I do like to use lots of those dry cleaning plastic bags, which I place around things like dresses and more formal clothes to keep them as crease-free as possible. It actually works and I just keep the plastic bags stored in my suitcase ready for next time. Who wants to get the iron out when one is supposed to be on holiday?

    A tip about packing toiletries - even when in zip lock bags - make sure to squeeze out as much of the air in bottles before screwing the lid back in place and before placing it in a zip lock bag. That way any air around your product is removed and won't expand - and explode the contents everywhere - during a flight.

  10. Great post, Heidi. Love the Goyard bags and trunks you pictured (though not the added stripes) and the LV too of course. But as you say, quite unsuitable for modern airline travel (suspect they might also add to the risk that your bag will be stolen en route - or at least ransacked). Although I think Karl always travels by private jet. I read somewhere that he has it written into all his business contracts that the company/person buying his services must provide private jet transport (at his own exacting standard). So it wouldn't be any problem for him.
    We travel with red hard shell Samsonite, quite light and v strong. With a black strap around each bag and a wildly patterned coloured ribbon on each handle. Clearly identifiable. Touch wood, have never lost a bag. Have heard some airlines are more prone to losing bags than others but probably shouldn't name names. Best wishes, Pammie


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