SUMMER holidays may seem a long way off – but East Lancashire women are plotting their escape to the sun in droves IRMA HEGER finds out...

January and February are the most popular months of the year to book a holiday, according to Joy Witham, branch manager at The Co-operative Travel on Chancery Walk in Burnley.

And what to pack for a much longed-for break is a subject close to most women’s hearts – with some insisting on taking everything except the kitchen sink, or should that be toaster?

“Everyone wants something to look forward to in January, so this is always our busiest time of the year,” said Joy.

“Luggage is something that’s very important, especially with the allowances people have to stick to. People do like to take all kinds of things on holiday.”

Among the more unusual ‘essentials’ Joy has come across is a full-size toaster – the travel must-have of somebody who also insists on taking English butter and toaster bags to make tasty toasted sandwiches abroad.

Trish Sommerville, travel clerk at Althams Travel Services on Darwen Street in Blackburn, said one of her customers never goes on holiday without an electric desk top fan.

“I would personally rather pay for airconditioning in the room,” she said.

Her colleague Jodie Pilkington has a customer who is always willing to part with extra cash to have an increased luggage allowance – just so she can bring her own pillows and a non-slip bath mat.

Meanwhile Jodie always packs a bucket-and-spade set for her five-year-old daughter to play with on the beach, as she disagrees with paying ‘extortionate’ prices in resorts abroad.

Trish said her only holiday essential was a pair of hair straighteners.

“I’m very limited, I use my luggage allowance but I don’t take hand luggage – I only need my handbag, tickets and money at the airport.”

Joy said most women struggle to travel light, as they prefer to pack different outfits for every day and every night, with a fresh bikini daily, too.

“I take lots of clothes and shoes,” Joy confessed.

“I always roll everything up, I think you can definitely fit more in and clothes get less creased.”

A study by The Co-operative Travel shows a third of us admit tea bags from home are on their holiday must-pack list.

“Tea just never tastes the same abroad,” Joy agreed, adding many people also take a travel kettle.

Jodie said many travellers also insist on bringing cereals and other food items which may be hard to come by abroad. “Everybody uses their luggage allowance differently,” she said.

Towels, too, remain essentials, along with high-tech items such as a Kindle, iPad, mobile phone – and of course, the travel adapter, according to the poll.

One in 10 of us also takes a photo of our pet on holiday, the survey found.

The same number of people will take gifts for local people, it was shown. Joy explained this is often the case when people revisit countries such as India and Gambia.

Joanna Wild, retail director at The Co-operative Travel, said: “The psychology of the suitcase is an interesting concept and reveals a lot about us as individuals and as a nation.

“It’s not just what we pack, it’s how we pack too. Brits seem to have strict rules for folding or rolling, layering and ordering items inside their case.”