J. and I are pretty proud of how minimally we pack for long trips. Keeping our baggage to a roll-on and a backpack means we do lots of planning, but then have very little to mess with on our trip. At this point our toiletries and gewgaws take up almost more space than our clothes!
As this post goes live, we are in Greece. This trip includes a day in Frankfurt and several in Paris, so we have some tricky bits to navigate: it’s not just all sun and sand, but also some city walking and dining.
Here’s how we do it.
The most important choice we make is to not worry about wearing the same clothes several times. I know that sounds basic, but when you can take one less pair of pants or shirts you can free up a lot of space. Relatedly, each trip we’ve taken has had special issues to take into account. (More on that later.)
The second choice we make is to wear only clothes that will go well together — no ‘one off’ outfits. Every top goes with all the bottoms, and vice versa. Even our shoes are very carefully chosen (and kept to a minimum!) to work with as many outfits as possible. A sub-choice of this one is that we choose to look as much like locals as possible. We don’t wear sneakers, or jogging suits, or branded/ themed t-shirts. In most of Europe, this meant that people presumed we were from the UK — a compliment! Our third strategy is to wear the heaviest items on the plane. The fourth decision is to use compression packing cubes. (That’s not a sneaky affiliate link, just a page in case you need an explanation.)
My luggage has:
- (2) blouses
- (2) sleeveless tops
- two dresses
- pajama set (doubles as ‘at home’ shorts and t-shirt)
- 5ea panties and bras
- 5 pr socks (Smart Wool)
- bathing suit
- beach coverup
- swim shirt
- (city)walking shoes
- hanging toiletry kit
- compact umbrella
- sun hat
- cribbage board and cards
And my backpack has:
- travel books & maps
- mp3 player
- onboard amenities kit (my own design: includes nasal spray, eye drops, moisturizer, chewing gum, comb, and deodorant)
- roll-up water bottle
- journal and pens
I’ll be wearing:
- long skirt
- hiking shoes
My sneakers are the All out Blaze Aero from Merrell. With a body made of mesh (which helps air circulation) and a very sturdy bottom they are great for clambering over dusty hillsides. I won’t wear them in Paris — too touristy, but for Athens and elsewhere, they are perfect.
In Paris I’ll be wearing Merrell’s Dassie Slide. A little dressier, but with a low profile that keeps them walking friendly. Note the sturdy bottom (which will help protect me from cobblestones). I can wear them with low cut, no slip socks from SmartWool and be comfortable all day.
My nice sandals are the Leisa Annual from Clarks. These are a new purchase and I love love love these sandals. Like all of Clarks’ shoes they are well made and comfortable. I first wore them for our 2014 Italy trip and have been wearing them ever since. For this trip I bought a new pair.
Once the shoes are figured out, I find everything else falls into place as we just make a list of scenarios:
- dinner out
- around the house
- sightseeing (walking/ metro/ city)
- sightseeing (car/ country)
- ocean/ pool time
- traveling (plane, bus, and car)
Of course each of those scenarios doesn’t require entirely new clothes; quite the opposite. We pick clothes that overlap in as many ways as possible, factoring in the weather. I’m planning on it being in the high low 80s to mid 80s during the days, dipping to the low 70s at night, which means I’ll want to be wearing dresses and skirts most of the time. The addition of nicer jewelry, my cardigan, and make up will turn my daytime dress into a dinner-worthy outfit. Paris might be chillier since we’ll be arriving there at the end of September, so I’ll use my travel outfit of the long skirt there. Pool outfits are the swimsuit and a coverup, easy enough. Sightseeing will likely be the sleeveless tops with shorts or a dress. Nice enough to look good over a long lunch, but cool in the heat.
Everything will fit into a a carry on — we love love love our TravelPro Crew 22″ suitcase. It has a 2.5″ expansion zipper which means you can count on having space in suitcase for your return . . . as long as you check your bag. It’s also super sturdy. We got ours for our honeymoon in 2012 and they’ve done a lot of traveling since then. They still look good and the zippers are perfect. Here’s a pic of a similar model (ours are teal, not purple):
We also have ‘personal’ carry ons which we try to use to maximum effect. Mine is a laptop backpack that I use everyday. It easily holds my camera and other electronics, as well as bottled water and a change of underclothes. (Let me tell you, being able to change your undies after a cross-ocean trip makes for a much better transition into the world.) My bag looks like this:
We are prepared for any meal: simple to five star. Any reasonable environment: sun, rain, cool, or hot. It’s true that if it pours (like it did in Rome!) we won’t do well, nor if it gets below 60* (I’ll be a bit cold if that happens, J. would be alright). But whether we are hiking around a dig, or sitting in a cafe in Paris, we will look appropriate.