Packed with advice

How many pairs of knickers should you take on holiday?

No holiday can be booked, in our house, until the glossies start printing their helpful "holiday packing" articles. Brave is the person who would venture on holiday without such vital infor mation. I remember that, a few years ago, Vogue advised readers to pack "two pairs of knickers for every day you'll be away". I duly did this for my six-week sojourn back to the Motherland and had no room for other clothes, but still felt I'd been given good advice: it's important to feel fresh on holiday. That same issue also had a designer - I think it was Donna Karan - saying how her in-flight "must have" was a scented candle, although thus far every airline I've flown with has been pernickety enough to suggest that I stop burning my candle in the plane. All the glamour's gone out of air travel these days.

Those magazines are also full of advice on what to pack/buy for your holiday if you are a size eight and have a limitless budget. I think it's tremendously public-spirited of them to address this minority, because such people must have enormous trouble making a triangular bikini look good. Whereas we all know that a curvy girl will have few such problems and really doesn't need to be helped. What these wonderful lists and still-life shoots fail to tell you, however, is that no matter what size you are before you go on holiday, when you get there anything with a fixed and slightly restrictive waistband will never be worn. Never bring with you on holiday anything that only just fits you on departure. Although some people lose weight while away by swimming every day and eating fresh fish and vegetables, most of us will up our intake of refined carbohydrates to diabetic-coma-inducing levels and move just enough to keep the pressure sores at bay: thus, weight will be gained. It's simple maths, if you care to do it.

Ditto, high heels - they may look wonderful nestling in the pages of these magazines, with their diamanté toe-thong features, but we all know that such footwear is not practical for sand or slippy-slidy tiles (the only terrain that should be visited en vacan ces, 'cos who wants to holiday on carpets?). All you really need is a pair of flip-flops. Girls who want to look fashionable should get some gold ballet pumps, which have the added benefit of packing almost completely flat. Just remember not to be seen dead in them post September. It's always a good idea to appoint a trusted friend in advance so that, should you die, she (girls are more reliable at this sort of thing) can remove them from your feet and give you a quick French polish.

Much is always said about rolling clothes into your suitcase to stop things creasing, or interleaving your garments with tissue paper. But this is missing the point: that you should never pack (or, maybe, even own) clothes that need to be crease-free in order to look good. As for the tissue paper, sadly sometimes those magazines do get things a bit wrong. Current research shows that if your suitcase crackles on the carousel, it is likely to be the subject of a controlled explosion.