Tips, Tricks, Packing, Points & More
"Be wary of any enterprise that requires new clothes." Henry David Thoreau
Packing stresses me, I like to bring everything I own with me, I like options, I love shoes and I have a lot of face creams. So, when my daughter and I decided to travel across Europe for six weeks, I was a bit panicked about how we would manage our luggage. We would be on and off trains and subways, up flights of stairs at stations, Airbnb apartments and in Venice…I started doing some research on how to pack light and discovered that there is a whole community of people who travel carry-on only. Traveling for weeks or even months with just a backpack! What? Mind blown! Could we do it? YES…and no…We didn't carry our bags onto the plane, but we did each only bring a small (US sized carry-on) suitcase (which we checked, mainly because of liquids) a small backpack and purse. This was in 2015 and I have been carry on(ish) ever since. How did we do it? Click read more to find out what what worked and what didn't...
Sketch out your agenda
Make a list of the activities you are doing each day. On our 6 week trip, we were mostly doing tourist things, but we were also going to afternoon tea in London, attending a concert at the Barcelona Opera House and had a few fancy dinners planned. On several days we would be biking, doing a few days of hiking and going to the beach. So, we needed a dress and dressy pair of shoes with a few different accessories to change it up, some breathable athletic clothes and runners, a swimsuit, cover-up and sandals. Sounds like a full suitcase already!
Bring what you love
Chances are you have a handful of go to outfits you wear at home, start with those. Bring your favorite, seasonally appropriate, outfits and then add to the mix. Aim to have everything go together…it wont, but a top should go with most of your bottoms and vice a versa. Look at the color palette of your favorite clothes and add some solid pieces that can be accessorized. I like to try the different combos on and take photos of the outfits (for longer trips) with different accessories, shoes etc. This helps me see just how versatile a piece is…does it go with lots of things…can it be dressed up or down, can I wear this top to dinner and then another day out touring? Once I photograph my outfits (I usually have way too much at this point) I start to deduct things and pair outfits to my agenda. For longer trips taking photos of the outfits helps to remind me of different outfits I have planned...especially when I am tired.
Add layers and a season appropriate coat
When you travel for an extended period of time, you will run into weather changes and you need to be able to adapt. I almost always bring a packable, lightweight, raincoat that is great in a storm but also looks good over a dress. A tank top with a lightweight cardigan or button front shirt will keep you protected from the sun and covered at religious sites. Ditto for scarves, they will protect your neck from the sun, soak up sweat, jazz up an outfit, serve as a blanket on a chilly flight or as an impromptu picnic tablecloth. Traveling in colder weather...try a packable down jacket. I have one from Uniqlo that fits into a pouch the size of my fist.
My Achilles heel of packing…no pun intended. Shoes can make or break a look, but no matter how cute my outfit, if my feet hurt and I have a bunch of blisters, I am miserable. I’ve found that a lot of shoes I wear IRL don’t really work for traveling, they aren’t sturdy enough for walking all day and my feet swell when I travel. I recommend that when you think you have your shoes picked out, wear them a bunch, take them on long walks, because shoes you think are comfortable at home may not be great for walking around town all day. Those packing pros say 2-3 pairs…I brought 5 and still managed to be carry-on(ish).
Size way, way, way down on toiletries, makeup and other liquids.
Not only do these things take up space but they add a lot of weight to your luggage. There are very few things you need 3oz of on a trip of even two weeks, yet travel size items seem to only come in 3oz containers. See how may days a trial size item lasts for you (toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner etc.) I found I use .1oz of shampoo per day…so for two weeks I need 1.4 oz (if I wash my hair everyday). Collect little sample bottles wherever you can, from the cosmetic counter, Sephora, Ulta etc and decant your items into the little containers. Think outside the box too…I use contact lens containers for vaseline, night cream, cream eyeshadow and face primer and there are tons of little containers you can get from Amazon.
eBags Pack-it-Flat toiletry kit
This thing is the clown car of toiletry kits…you can fit a ton of stuff in this fantastic bag and yet it takes up almost no space. Unlike a traditional toiletry kit, which is more like a shoe box, this little gem is not even the size of a pair of pants. Your bag can be totally packed and you just lay this across the top and done…you don't have to rearrange everything to squeeze in your toiletries. It’s magic…buy one here now!
Packing cubes, extension cords and other misc items
I always travel with an extension cord (or 2)…there are never enough outlets in hotels or Airbnbs, you only need one adapter to create multiple outlets in foreign countries plus it’s light and takes up no room.
I remember thinking, "Why would I need packing cubes?" and then I tried them...they are the best thing ever…especially if you are traveling around, moving every few days…they keep your suitcase neat and organized and save you so much time when packing and repacking. It’s like have a bunch of dresser drawers in your suitcase. They also compress your items so you can fit a bit more into the same space, which is important when you are only brining a small bag. My favorite are the eBags slim packing cubes, see them here.
Flight pak 001
I love this little pouch with 4 zippered compartments. Before a flight i load it up with the tidbits I will need during the flight: lip balm, hand lotion, wet wipes, headphones and chargers, eye mask, ear plugs, glasses, medications…then, it serves as my “nightstand drawer” while traveling.
First aid pouch
I always pack a small bag with a few otc medicines for various ailments, some bandaids, Neosporin, Benadryl, a sewing kit, a pocket knife with a corkscrew (only if I check the bag)…enough stuff to get me thru a day or two. The packing light gurus say to buy things when you need them, but this little pack saves me from having to immediately find a pharmacy…which is usually in the middle of the night…am I right?
In the end, I cannot tell you how many times my daughter and I were thrilled to have such a light load (especially when we got surrounded by pickpockets in Pisa…you can read about that here). We were able to get around easily, had no problem hopping on and off trains, negotiating thru crowds and we we had plenty of room for souvenirs along the way.
Need more inspiration? Check out how the pros do at Travel Fashion Girl here.