You would think I’d have family travel down by now, after having flown Sydney to London with babies and toddlers in tow more times than I care to count, but there’s always room for improvement. Now that my brood are a bit more independent: they now have their own backpacks for which they are solely responsible and can fasten their own seat belts, I can focus on sharpening my own travel style and packing skills. This includes pondering what’s ahead and what the weather may have in store, anticipating what the dress codes might dictate, knowing how to make a silk shirt work for me five ways but always, always expecting the unexpected.

They may not be babies anymore but I find it’s always helpful to have a few items packed in carry on luggage for emergencies, such as the one that befell us the last time we were travelling in the US. We stumbled through two long days of multiple flight cancellations and road closures ending up one particular night starving hungry in a truck stop in the Midwest. Someone tell me what midnight truck-stop chic is supposed to look like because I’m pretty sure I didn’t pass muster.  I was grateful, however, for the spare underwear and thermals I’d placed in the kids’ backpacks and my tote before we departed 18 hours previous, so there was at least something fresh the morning we checked out. It sure wasn’t the orange juice or the nicotine-y bedspreads. As we sucked in the crisp mountain air I found myself grateful, once again, that I’d put my giant black scarf in my carry-all.

Do you possess an indispensable wardrobe item you can never travel without? That would somehow make your trip incomplete if you chose to leave it at home? In my case that is the aforementioned giant but now holey cashmere pashmina that I have had since I was pregnant with baby number one. Yes, I realise that pashminas are naff, but I simply don’t care. I feel something like intense loyalty towards this particular hard working accessory. This single piece of cloth has done such a vast amount of service for our family that it deserves a retirement package and a holiday all of its own.

It is the scarf of a million possibilities. Over the years it has served as a baby wrap on long-haul flights when all others had been puked upon, an invisibility cloak while feeding babies in airport lounges on work trips, a sun visor over prams when doing endless plane changes to get to far flung destinations, a neck wrap in cooler weather, a hood for the stroller, a turban when things turned unexpectedly fabulous and a blanket for my knees when the ones provided by the airline just wouldn’t do. It has also enabled dolls’ picnics and has been known to morph into a cape when a pint-sized super hero finds himself wanting in the wardrobe department.

Over the years this somewhat unfashionable thing has been left behind in cinemas, parks and cafes but I have always managed to find it, as I feared the world would stop turning if this piece of fabric that has swaddled babies and cheered up motel rooms had been left behind, discarded or God forbid, put out with the rubbish?

So, the slightly ragged pashmina gets dry cleaned before every long haul flight. The holes I won’t repair because they mark it’s character- and hey, don’t the Olsen twins do holey scarves?  A trip wouldn’t be the same without it waiting to spring into action in my super-light carry-on Rimowa luggage, alongside my iPad, loaded with EW magazines in its green Marc by Marc Jacobs case, my flattened and folded Celine two-tone tote, my Urban Ears headphones, adaptor, phone charger, white Nikon camera and my book- old fashioned I know, but I like to have something in my hands distracting me in the all-electronic- devices- should-now-be-switched-off phase of the journey. I’m hoping JK Rowling aka Robert Galbraith’s next crime installment will hit the shelves of my local bookstore in time.

For flight-wear I opt for Stella McCartney tracksuit pants and my ubiquitous layers of t-shirts with Dries V-Neck for warmth . My sons wear J Crew tracksuit pants and hoodies on board while my daughter is lucky enough to be the right age to fit into the Isabel Marant for H and M range. I love her Smile sweater. I also envy her black and white Hershel backpack which will bulge to contain her Loom Band kit for those in- transit emergencies when the iPad runs out of juice, her pale grey beanie and navy J Crew blazer which is perfect put together with denim and ballet flats or her favourite new wardrobe addition, pink Adidas hightops. My boys are never without flatcaps, brightly coloured trainers, denim by Finger In The Nose and a stack of comics.

When it comes to packing clothes I fall somewhere between minimalist and packing, as my fashion designer friend does, with loads of luggage and tons of outfits thought out in advance and matched to the events on her crowded itinerary. I think I’m somewhere in the middle, in the vicinity of ‘does this particular item work equally well in a hotel lobby, museum or on a crowded flight? Because otherwise its OUT!’  (As much as I adore it, my full-length fringed skirt stays. (You try wearing that in an Easy Jet queue!) What fits the bill? Items like my men’s style denim shirt, a faded beauty I snapped up in a London sale and that I have worn hundreds of times since; on the beach as a cover up, to take me from pool to lunch at the hotel, paired with cut offs or jeans for the double denim look or with the long white Zimmermann skirt I intend to take this trip and wear in the Italian resort town we’ll visit.

My The Row leather pencil skirt is a go-to piece, buttery soft and fab with heels or Birkenstocks, ditto my two lace shirts which look great dressed down, layered underneath with wardrobe staples Alexander Wang tees or dressed up with the Venessa Arizaga necklace my boys gave me for Mother’s Day.

I’m predominantly a jeans fanatic, so I’ll take a pair in black, blue and grey and some leather for good measure. I favour J Brand and Rag and Bone put with my worn to death white Martin Margiela trainers which can easily take me from the London Underground to a West End theatre in comfort and style.

I’ve liberated a skinny belt from an old Prada ensemble I uncovered in my dusty archives which works well with the oversized Margiela cardigan I’ve, er, liberated from my husband’s closet. The Helmut Lang boyfriend blazer I bought in last year’s Xmas sale is great go-to jacket in case London’s weather turns unpredictable, as it predictably will. And for the beach segment of our vacation I have a multitude of my favourite Zimmermann swimsuits and cover-ups which are a riot of colour and print and put a smile on my face every time I spy them in my suitcase.

Even though I stress my vacation wardrobe must be hardworking and versatile, every trip’s manifest should have a little piece of whimsy and this time I intend to pack a Missoni tunic bought for a family wedding in Europe seven years ago. Its trippy colour scheme might be enough to put a trucker off his breakfast but I’ll wear it as a beach cover-up, with shorts at the market and dressed up with heels if things turn unexpectedly glamorous.  You just never know when that can happen.

But when it comes to travelling with family some things are a certainty. My husband will always laugh at me when I board the plane wearing a hat.

“It’ll crush in my luggage!” I’ll protest weakly, feeling slightly ridiculous, to which he’ll shake his head and smirk.

“You’re going to find overhead compartment space for that hat where it won’t crush, then carry it on and off three planes for the next twenty-four hours with a bunch of screaming kids in tow?”


“Why not just buy a cap when you get there?”

Because a cap is not a camel Fedora I’ve had for years and love to death now is it?