Expert’s top travel hacks for packing for a family holiday


Coronaviirus restrictions have finally been lowered – and in some cases scrapped – meaning holidaymakers up and down the UK are getting ready to jet off on holiday this summer.

But, after several years of staycations and isolation periods it looks like some of us may have lost our knack for what to pack.

MSC Cruises revealed Britain’s packing nightmare and explained that 35% of Brits surveyed found packing stressful with one in 10 finding it so hard that they didn’t wish to go on holiday at all!

Plus, nearly a quarter claimed that the pandemic meant they’d forgotten what to pack with the figure doubling for parents holidaying with children.

Research shows we all struggle with what to take on holiday as 60% of Brits admitted to being serial over-packers.

Two in three women and half of men do not wear all the items they pack and 17% of Brits confessed to being disorganised packers – leaving everything to the last minute.

Many Brits claimed that they’d forgotten how to pack

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Meanwhile, 64% of those with one child have rowed with their other half over packing, going up to 77% for those with three or more children.

Luckily, MSC Cruises has assembled a team of super packers: Emily Norris, the resident family packer; Jeannine Williamson, pro-cruiser and travel writer; Yaya & Lloyd, travel influencers AKA Hand Luggage Only, and Nicola Lewis, the professional organiser.

And, for the rest of us, one pro-cruiser has shared her top packing advice to stop us struggling when we’re about to go on holiday.

Follow these expert tips for a stress free holiday

Follow these expert tips for a stress free holiday

Jeannine Williamson, The Pro-cruiser, top tips:

  • SHOWER POWER: Save shower caps! Put them around all the shoes in your suitcase to prevent any dirt on the soles getting onto other items; wrap up costume jewellery and keep it all together; protect electronics from getting wet or, if you have a fridge in your cabin, put a shower cap around a plate of food to keep it fresh until you want to eat it.
  • DON’T GET BOOKED UP: Don’t pack lots of books and magazines – at most, download them to a device. The busy daily programme of activities, shore excursions, entertainment and never-ending food and drink means there is hardly time to read a newspaper, let alone War and Peace!
  • CAPSULE WARDROBE: It’s very easy to over-pack and end up taking away far too much. Lay out all the clothes, shoes and accessories you plan to take before you go, rather than getting things straight out the wardrobe and putting them into a suitcase. Try to stick to two or three main colour schemes. Put them together as ‘whole’ outfits – and take photos of them a reminder – so you can easily see which tops can be worn with different skirts and trousers and how outfits can be mixed and matched, and accessorised with scarves and jewellery, so they can be worn several times but still look like a different outfit.
  • TINY TOILETRIES: If you really can’t pack light, then buy all your toiletries in travel size on board the ship. That way they aren’t in your luggage, so it weighs less, and you can use them during the cruise and won’t have to bring them all home.
  • LAYER UP: Even if you’re travelling in the height of summer take a variety of clothes that can be layered over T-shirts and shirts, such as long-sleeved jumpers, cardigans, a jacket and lightweight raincoat. Temperatures can fluctuate and it gets cooler at night if you want to sit out on deck with a cocktail. Shrugs or shawls for ladies are also a great idea and the latter take up little room and are easy to roll up in your suitcase. For summer cruises take a sunhat or baseball cap and pack a beanie or similar for winter sailings.
  • WEATHER IT OUT: For Mediterranean cruises take loose-fitting clothing that will be comfortable in hot climates. Natural fabrics such as cotton or moisture-wicking tops are best. Don’t forget wide-brimmed sunhats, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • WRITE ON: If you like writing postcards from different ports of call get a sheet of peel-off address labels and before you go write the names and addresses of the people you’re going to send postcards to. This saves time writing them on the cards when you’re there, or remembering to take an address book with you.
  • BAG OF TRICKS: If you have a fabric suitcase then line the bottom with reusable plastic bags and pop one or two on the top to cover your clothes when you have finished packing. This will keep your clothes dry if bags are left outside in the rain at the airport or before you board your ship. Once you’re aboard and unpacked they can double up as laundry bags for dirty clothes that you bring home and separate them from other items.

Over-packing can cost you money at the airport

Over-packing can cost you money at the airport

And, the experts revealed some of the strangest things people have ever packed in their suitcases.

These included:

  • A hamster (accidentally!)
  • Pole dancing grip gloves
  • Telescope
  • Bread maker
  • Gravy powder
  • Wooden giraffe
  • Ornaments
  • Wooden African mask
  • Kilt
  • Garden spade
  • Crispy fried onions

Anyone who organises a trip with MSC Virtuosa sailing from Southampton has the chance to book 1-2-1 video consultations with a Holiday Prep for bespoke advice and guidance on what and how to pack for their cruise.

A whopping 33% of parents with three or more kids said they would be willing to pay someone to pack for them. Fortunately, MSC Cruises’ Holiday Preps service is free…

To request a packing consultation with a Holiday Prep, guests sailing on MSC Virtuosa this year can visit the MSC Cruises’ Facebook page or the MSC website for more details.

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