What to Pack for a City Escape

Long-favoured by chic urbanites and those who are time poor but rich in curiosity, the city escape is no longer the lesser-loved sibling of the beach break, but rather a culture-filled genre. From timeless favourites — think: the canals of Venice, boutiques of Paris and honey-hued architecture of Rome — to the more offbeat, underrated cities edging to the fore — Lisbon, Madrid and Tbilisi — a city escape done right sits at the height of sophistication, offering endless opportunity for fun and frolics, and zero chance of boredom.

An urban break means you can flit from a thought-provoking exhibition to rooftop cocktails, or from a business meeting to the panoramic pool of your member’s club’s foreign outfit, foraying into the boutiques and brunch stalwarts that line the streets on your way.

Plus, a city escape is short, so easy to fit in around your schedule, and almost as simple as it gets when it comes to travelling light, with many of us choosing to breeze through with just hand luggage and a pair of oversized sunglasses (the fashion set’s number one holiday essential).

The question that many of us still have though, even those who fly frequently and are well-versed at throwing together a holiday outfit, is, how do we ensure we’ve got everything we need no matter what our concrete-jungle jaunt throws at us, while also maximising space, minimising stress and not sacrificing on our signature looks? In short, what to pack for a city escape that ensures our limited luggage doesn’t limit our style?

We’ll avoid patronising any style connoisseur as to the basics, but we *will* share some of the tried-and-tested insider secrets from those in the fashion world who now see a carry-on as their second wardrobe and have perfected the art of packing for a city escape. Here’s how to get the most out of your trip, your luggage, and your holiday looks.

The wardrobe

Just as we have a capsule wardrobe for each of the seasons, so too must we curate a capsule wardrobe for our city breaks. Fashion is fun, exciting and offers endless opportunities for self-expression, but, as with everything, we need to get the basics right and build from there, and it’s often useful to split this out by weather.

So, come rain or shine, here’s an example of our capsule city break wardrobe, all easily packed into a chic carry-on and ready to be dressed up or down depending on where the well-trodden streets take you.

Warm weather packing essentials

Hammered Satin Tie Woven Maxi

The dress

Sultry, timeless and uber comfortable, this satin woven maxi is soft and easy to move in, as well as being figure-skimming in all the right places and effortlessly elegant. Pair it with chunky dad sandals for a daytime look or pointed-toe mules to take the look, and the night, up a level.

The sleeves mean you don’t need to worry about a jacket during the spring/summer days, and the voluminous shape will also keep you cool as you gallery-hop.

Checked belted dress

The second dress

Because sometimes one dress just isn’t enough, and, in the warmer climes, a versatile dress is a ready-made outfit in the day and simple to layer (alongside a neutral jumper or an oversized denim jacket) as the temperatures cool at night - this flattering, feminine checked belt dress will float alongside you as the pace the pavements,

The sleeveless style is cut with a wide collar and is cinched at the waist to create an enviable shape, add a pair of strappy black heels for an upscale look or a pair of white trainers to bring the look down a little without compromising on style.

Black button trousers

The trousers

No frequent city breaker would step foot on a plane, or train, without a comfortable pair of trousers stored away in their luggage. And though you can never go far wrong with jeans, for spring/summer, we’re preferring these super-soft tailored trousers that elongate the leg, keep you cool and add serious style points to any outfit.

The wide-legged trousers work dressed up for dinner worn with a cami top and barely-there heels or teamed with a fresh-white T-shirt and your favourite trainers for a more casual daytime look.

White knit top

The top

It’s always recommended to go neutral on any mix and match pieces, which is why this lightweight knit trim top is such an effortless hand-luggage essential when packing for a city break. It hugs the figure to provide a flattering outline and is a versatile take on an achingly cool, enduring sartorial staple.

Cream stripe jacket

The jacket

The good thing about packing for a spring/summer city escape is that you don’t need to tone yourself, or your hand luggage, down with a heavy coat (though we have found a particularly chic one for rainier breaks below), you just need a light throw-on for the slightly cooler evenings, or simply to take your look from day to night.

This timeless - and sumptuously soft - satin jacket, is a simple way to add some tailoring and texture to your holiday capsule wardrobe.

Block heel mule

The shoes

Available in both black and brown, these low ruched mules elevate any outfit and are comfy enough to pound the pavements all day, as well as slip on for an evening jaunt. The square toe lower makes them a timeless addition to your wardrobe, and they’ll earn their keep to and from the office, drinks and day-to-day errands back at home too.

Cold weather packing essentials

Shirt dress

The dress

Avoid letting unexpected cloud or rain ruin your sartorial choices, instead try a versatile flattering, long-sleeve dress that just needs a pair of tights and boots added to complete the look and keep you warm as you move through the city.

The striped pattern will break up anything you add to the look and give the entire outfit a more playful, lighter feel.

Black skinny jeans

The trousers

When in doubt, pack a pair of high-rise jeans and you’ll be covered whatever the weather. Available in three colourways, this skinny pair flatters the waistline, moulding to your body to feel like a second skin, so you can get as adventurous as you like on your city escape, and not worry about your wardrobe keeping up with you.

Trench coat

The coat

A detailed take on a timeless style, you can rarely go wrong with a trench coat, and especially not one made of Italian wool. Seen on the catwalk again-and-again and a long-term secret of fashion insiders for instantly upgrading a look and keeping it classic, this belted trench coat can be thrown over everything and anything for instant luxe style success.

White leather loafer

The shoes

Another easy implementation to upgrade a look, a pair of neutral loafers will take you from the plane to the hotel to the shops to dinner and then to drinks afterwards. The gold trim horsebit on the upper upgrades the entire piece and the slightly padded lining with leather interior will keep your feet comfortable and warm.

The rest

Toiletries

It’s the worst-kept secret in the world, but one worth knowing nonetheless, that the well-heeled, well-travelled among us have a designated toiletries bag that stays in their hand luggage in between trips so that it’s always ready to go. Invest in mini versions of your favourite skincare, perfume and hair products, or find yourself mini refillable bottles that you can decant the right amount of product into yourself.

Makeup

When it comes to makeup, less is more, so keeping a good mascara, foundation, bronzer, blush and lipstick in your on-the-go makeup bag will mean the basics are always covered, and then you can always add a little flair as you’re tempted to shop whilst walking through Duty Free.

Self care

A city break is full on, so it pays to pack those little extras that will help keep you in good spirits as you fill up on culture. Foot pads are a must so that your feet stay comfortable all day, and your favourite bath oil from home is a wonderful way of soothing and grounding yourself in between your packed schedule.

Accessories

To save on space you can leave the accessories behind for a mini break, though a straw hat, oversized pair of sunglasses and simple everyday jewellery are all pieces that can be worn through the airport and so needn’t take up any space at all. A silk scarf screams continental-chic, and a handbag should be adjustable to a cross-body so that you can keep your hands free to really explore your destination and give your arms a break.