A woman trying to shut an overflowing suitcase.

I always pack too much. Try as I might, when I arrive at my destination, I’m invariably alarmed by the amount I have stuffed into my suitcase. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been ‘overweight’ (well other than needing to shed a stone or so on a personal level) and in fact luggage-wise, I’m usually just under the limit.

This is fine for any outbound flight, but very tricky on a return journey when I can guarantee to be laden with presents and souvenirs. My husband, Patrick, despairs at yet another frock for our granddaughter, or why I might need a third Harris Tweed handbag (I’m writing this in the Outer Hebrides and trust me, they are gorgeous).

I have come to the realisation though that I will never stop supporting the local economy, so other than travelling everywhere by train or coach, it’s a case of curbing my initial packing or finding ingenious ways to carry my stuff home. Preferably both.

My best solution yet was on a flight back from Amsterdam. I was minus Patrick, who was busy at the time performing in The Mousetrap, the West End’s longest running play (now in its 66th year and if you haven’t yet seen it I urge you to go – it’s perfect for group bookings too).

Anyway, Patrick’s dressing room was a tad dingy, so I thought I’d brighten it up as a surprise. This involved replacing the slightly moth-eaten curtains adorning his huge window (which had obviously been in service for the entire run of the play).

Fast forward to a street market in Amsterdam, where I discovered a pair of the jolliest, whitest curtains, with quite a butch pattern on them. (OK, butch might be an exaggeration, but they certainly weren’t twee.) Boy, were they heavy though, and I had hand luggage only on that occasion (a rash mistake).

So I wore them home. I did, honestly. All six metres of them (it was a big window) draped around me like I was sporting some sort of bridal toga. Easyjet probably thought I was bonkers, but other than looking strange and sweating profusely, I got them safely back with no excess charges. (And I did take them off on the plane). Although Patrick has since moved on, to our knowledge they are still gracing that window; a little bit of Holland masking a less than glamorous view of central London dustbins…

But back to packing. I mean to lay everything out on the bed - I really do - it just somehow never happens. Which is why I currently have two pairs of shoes too many, a stupid amount of fleeces, and trousers that are never going to fit after the lobster, scallop and salmon feast our lovely hosts gifted us last night. (I can heartily recommend ‘Cartwheel Bothy’ by the way - unfortunately not suitable for groups, as it’s a tiny self-catering haven for two on Scalpay, off Harris, with the most breathtaking views).

There are items I would never be without on a trip of course, and I’m sure you all have yours. Mine are Oil of Olay (a staple for the last forty years) CK One and TCP; Benadryl because I sneeze a lot; my alarm clock; a notebook and pen, and last but not least, ‘Perfect’, the treasured sock teddy Patrick made me, and who travels with me everywhere.

As always, I’d love to hear from you, with any must-haves you carry and invaluable packing tips (even any curtains you’ve worn!?)

Please email me at Julie@groupleisureandtravel.com and we’ll print your best photos and suggestions.