I've been lucky enough to travel abroad a handful of times over recent years and four-day city breaks have turned into one of my favourite ways to explore the world. However, the only downside of a short city break is knowing what to pack. Having the right combination of options whilst still staying in your hand luggage limit can be tricky, but I like to think that I've got it fairly sorted.
1) Bottoms. Depending on the time of year it will depend on what exactly you bring but my general rule of thumb is one pair of jeans or shorts and one pair of trousers. You can interpret this how you want but if I'm going somewhere warm I like to have a full length loose trouser to cover up with and if I'm going somewhere cooler I like a smarter trouser option for evenings. You might be tempted to stick with the trousers you're traveling in - especially if you travelling in jeans and you're not going anywhere that you want to get your legs out - but trust me; if you only take one pair of trousers you will spill something on them (probably before you've left the airport) and you'll have to walk around with a huge ketchup stain on your crotch for the rest of your holiday! You can, of course, swap the alternative trouser option out for a skirt - it is up to you.
If you're worried about running out of room or weight, remember what you're going to wear to travel in. Jeans (and jacket) are often the heaviest thing that I take with me when travelling and I almost always wear them on the plane. This frees up space in my luggage, so realistically I'm only packing my alternative bottom option - even though I'll have both with me when I'm away.
2) Tops. I usually stick with t-shirts when I'm travelling. They go with everything, they can be tucked into high waisted options or left loose, and you can dress them up or down. At the very least, I'll have one white, one grey, and one dark t-shirt. I might also throw in a patterned tee, or a slightly smarter shirt, but these tend to be more restricted in how you can mix and match them with your bottoms.
3) Dress. I almost always take at least one dress with me when I travel. In the winter this might mean taking a pair of thick tights, too. Dresses are perfect if you suddenly find yourself eating out at a smarter restaurant and, even when worn with trainers, they can make you feel more put-together than your jet-lagged self really is! If you're going somewhere warm, you can always pack more dresses and fewer tops and bottoms, as summer dresses are ultra-versatile and easy to wear.
With all of these three, I find that it is best to pack options but be realistic. You might love a specific t-shirt but if you know it only goes with one of your bottoms, leave it at home. Similarly, that strappy body-con dress might look great on a night out but if you're not planning on hitting the town it probably won't see the light of day on your holiday.
4) Underwear. This is one area when I would much rather over pack than under pack. As someone who has a menstrual cycle, I always pack a couple of extra pairs of pants. Even if I know that I'm not going to come onto my period, unexpected spotting can happen at any time and I don't want to be walking around with that in my pants all day long - if I can help it! Packing extra pairs of socks is also important, especially if you're going to be spending a lot of time on your feet. Nothing feels nicer than changing socks if your feet have been stuck in sweaty trainers all day long and it is a quick way to freshen up without having to take a shower. Although I over pack socks and pants, I tend to err towards under packing bras. Realistically, I don't change my bra all that often, so I don't need a new one each day I'm away. Bear in mind that you'll probably be wearing one on the plane, so it is up to you if you'd like another option with you. If you've packed any strappy clothing you might want to take a multi-way bra or if you're wearing a lot of white you might want a nude bra in your arsenal, but it really is up to you.
5) Jackets. As I said when talking about jeans, remember you'll probably be wearing this to the airport, especially if you're heading off for some winter sun. Even if you're going somewhere warm, it pays to have a jacket with you to cover up with. Personally, I tend to take my leather biker jacket. This is another item that you can dress up or down as you like and it is both warm and a little bit waterproof. If I’m headed somewhere I know will be warm, I also take a super lightweight cover-up style jacket. Recently, this has been my bomber, as it is silky (so it looks smart) and lightweight (so I won’t overheat).
6) Shoes. If you’re going somewhere where you want to walk and explore, packing comfortable footwear is a must. For me, that means a pair of trainers. Not only are trainers engineered to support your feet, but they are also usually ultra-lightweight too. If you’re not a trainer fan, or you’re not going to be doing a tonne of walking, I recommend a solid pair of Converse. These shoes are versatile and comfortable enough to wear for hours on end. I almost always pack a pair of smarter shoes, too. Again, these are just in case I find myself out at a smarter restaurant. The shoes you wear can smarten or scruffen up outfit, so they are a lightweight and low-space way of packing outfit options.
7) Pyjamas! This is one item that is so easy to forget, but it is absolutely essential to take. It’s completely up to you how you go with this one but if you’re staying in a hostel with a shared room you might want to take something a little more covered up…
8) Optional Extras. Once you’ve packed up all your clothes, toiletries, and any electrical items you might need, you can start adding in alternatives. This is usually the point of packing when I throw in my extra t-shirt, a skirt, and any other items that I had initially cast aside.
As an aside, it pays to have a system for packing – especially if you’ll be living out of your suitcase for the duration of your holiday. I tend to pack all my underwear in one end of my suitcase, under my spare bottoms and toiletries. At the other end of my suitcase, I’ll pack all my top options – as well as any dresses. This makes finding clothing simple and I don’t have to play a game of jenga each time I want to put together an outfit.
That’s it for the clothing! I mentioned toiletries at the end there and I was originally going to talk about these here too but, on reflection, I’ll save that for another day.
Are you going away for any short city breaks? Do you have any top packing tips that you think I missed?