Once you accept that a certain degree of failure is inevitable, the business of holiday packing becomes a lot less painful. A freakishly organised few may boast of their fail-safe capsule wardrobe and patent-worthy origami method of compressing it all into an envelope, but the rest of us are likely to be scuppered, if not by last-minute panic purchases or unexpected weather, then by pure psychology. Whatever you have left at home will suddenly be exactly what you need to look as chic as the woman on the sun lounger opposite.
That is not to say, however, that there is nothing you can do to improve your chances of success. As our three imaginary bags here show, there are certain items that will make you feel immeasurably better about your off-duty style: a flattering pair of sunglasses; smart, flat shoes; a couple ' of lightweight scarves. In many ways, it's accessories like these that count more than the actual clothes you take. Far wiser, in balmy climes, to keep the latter simple and comfortable and let glamorous jewellery or great shoes do the work.
While life may be too short to choose a colour palette for your holiday clothes, your time off is definitely too brief to waste any of it messing with mismatching clothes. Brights look great in strong sunshine, earthier colours feel right in the Med and banish white if you are going on a city break.
If you're still in any doubt over what you need, think back to your last escape. Over the course of a holiday, the items you genuinely felt good wearing will be those you practically lived in, while any that came home unworn can be struck off the list.
Finally, make sure you enjoy packing your bag – if nothing else, it means your entire holiday is ahead of you.
What to fit in a... rucksack
Grey leather backpack £125, eastpak.com
Sunglasses £170, Karen Walker, from urbanoutfitters.co.uk
Checked shirt £51, store.americanapparel.co.uk
Checked scarf £51, APC Madras, tel: 020 7409 0121 Red espadrilles £30, Toms, from office.co.uk
Polka-dot bikini set, £25, topshop.co.uk
Black lace-up sandals, £26, urbanoutfitters.co.uk
Dr Bronner's 18-in-1 Organic Liquid Soap, £3.50, rbronner.com
Wei Chrysanthemum eye-treatment pads £44 for 10 packs of two, spacenk.co.uk
Black panama hat £160, La Cerise sur le Chapeau, from net-a-porter.com
What to fit in a... carry-on suitcase
Rimowa Salsa cabin trolley £289, harrods.com
Straw boater hat £26, urbanoutfitters.co.uk
Red wedge sandals, £95, Castaner from matchesfashion.com
Striped satchel, £28, urbanoutfitters.co.uk
Striped scarf, £135, paulsmith.co.uk
Tortoiseshell sunglasses £215, Linda Farrow Vintage, brownsfashion.com
Striped bikini top £59, myla.com
Ballet pumps £305, Lanvin from net-a-porter.com
Spotty top £185, Acne from net-a-porter.com
Cream striped top £85, Joseph from my-wardrobe.com
What to fit in a... large suitcase
Samsonite Cosmolite Spinner trolley (size medium), £289, johnlewis.com
Blue leopard scarf £285, Dolce & Gabanna from brownsfashion.com
Bead necklaces £250 each, paulsmith.co.uk
Orange scarf £29.95, House of Cashmere, tel: 020 7499 4089
Coloured strap platform sandal £385, paulsmith.co.uk
Diptyque scented travel candle set £58, spacenk.co.uk
Gold bangle, £60, Pebble from liberty.co.uk
Round sunglasses, £120, Chloe from urbanoutfitters.co.uk
Yellow leather passport holder with slide closure £125, smythson.com
Mini hair straighteners £15, babyliss.co.uk
Crème de la Mer pot from "The Miraculous Beginnings" seven-piece travel set, £270, tel: 0870 034 2566
Turquoise necklace £220, Pebble from liberty.co.uk
Orange thong sandals £180, Tory Birch from matchesfashion.com
Blue travel clutch £390, smythson.com