Friday, November 28, 2014

How to Pack Light--2 Weeks in Italy with One Carry-on and One Small Backpack

Tops: aqua rain-resistant jacket, in ivory color: a turtleneck, half-sleeve shirt, and long-sleeve jewel neck, sage long-sleeve knit, beige short sleeve knit, lightweight v-neck sweater, cable cardigan, rust short-sleeve knit (forgot to include in photo).  Bottoms: grey knit skirt, black jeans, grey slacks,  silky black pants. Also: scarves and black shoes.
     Packing light requires creativity, planning, and courage. Why courage, you may ask? For me, it requires courage because I like to be prepared for all possibilities. I need to radically pare down that "What if I need this?" pile in order to travel easily and lightly. The photo above shows the pieces that made the cut for two weeks in Italy in October. These clothes (plus, socks, underwear, nightshirt, etc.) easily fit into a small, wheeled carry-on case (20" x 13 1/2" x 9"). I also packed a sturdy tote bag that folds flat in case we bring home souvenirs and gifts beyond what will tuck into our luggage. If we carry an extra tote, of course, we need to check one larger bag. The small photo shows the comfy knits I wore for the flight plus the fleece jacket I carried.

Worn on the plane
     Instead of trying to pack enough different outfits for every day of the trip, I plan a flexible group of clothes, knowing that I will need to wash a few things along the way to wear again. When we will be in the same room at least two days, I may wash (using a few drops of shampoo) a shirt, a bit of underwear, and some socks--maybe even one of the lightweight pairs of pants--and hang them to dry. To me, this is simpler than dragging around a heavy bag with twice as many clothes; most of it just dirty laundry after the first few days. For longer trips, we pack the same number of clothes and either find a laundry that will wash, dry, and fold a load for a reasonable price per kilo, or we use a do-it-yourself launderette.

My luggage--lightweight and compact
(see the yardstick behind the wheeled case
for an idea of its size)
     My small backpack carries my toiletries, curling iron, medicine, Kindle tablet, logic puzzle book, small camera, chargers, and other small personal items. Since I usually carry the small backpack for sight-seeing with water bottle, camera, map, guidebook pages, emergency rain slicker (the cheap dollar store kind), etc., I do not use a purse when traveling internationally. A small case in the bottom of the backpack holds one credit card and enough local cash for incidentals that day. For crowded tourist areas more prone to petty crime, I use a slim money belt that rides around my waist under my clothes for cash and credit card. The money belt also safely holds passport, train tickets, and other papers when we are in transit--say running through a train station.

     Most of us know the basics of assembling a travel wardrobe: mix and match pieces, layers if the weather will be variable, a simple neutral color scheme with a few touches of your favorite, most flattering color. Add a few accessories (for me, scarves and earrings) to vary the look of these few pieces. In addition, each piece MUST serve more than one need. For our October travel in Venice and Tuscany, Italy, we did not expect to need dressy clothes. If needed, I would have packed one washable dressier top to wear with the silky black slacks.

      Our luggage is from the Rick Steves (of public TV) store on-line. What they sell is very lightweight, sturdy and durable, and fits international carry-on standards. My wheeled case converts to a backpack when that is handier. My husband used a slightly larger (but still carry-on) Rick Steves backpack with no wheels or stiff frame. It holds an amazing amount and can be stuffed into an overhead bin with ease.

Question of the Day: What is your favorite tip for creatively traveling light?   


  1. Alas, it has been quite awhile since I've traveled...but I don't think I travel light at all! I am always doing the what if I need dance myself. Looks like you have it down to a science, Mary!

  2. It did work well for the Italy trip, Sherry. However, you'd really laugh at the contrast if you had seen the array of luggage and odds and ends piled into our car trunk to visit our son and wife for Thanksgiving. I CAN pack light, but for a car trip--it really varies.

  3. Mary - these look like wonderful clothes to pack and I love the idea of packing light. Thanks for sharing these tips. I have always enjoyed Rick Steves program. Hope you have a great day.

  4. You are welcome, Debbie; thanks for checking in. It's always fun to hear from another Rick Steves fan. We have found his travel information and recommendations to be absolutely reliable and tremendously helpful--besides which, his show is fun and informative. You have a great day, too.

  5. Can you give some me tips. How to pack when i go on vacation. I use pack to much. When i am getting ready for a trip or a vacation. How is your husband doing. I am praying for you and your husband. Yall both are like family to. Yall will always be like family to me forever. I hope you have a great week.