I have what can only be described as a psychotic preoccupation with traveling light. I don’t know where this came from, but somewhere along my travels, I realized that 98 percent of the stuff I own is not actually useful, and checking your bag is a fool’s errand.
I’m going to Europe for 12 days, and here is my luggage:
The black bag is Eagle Creek’s Emerson travel tote, and the red one is a Longchamp Le Pliage (doubles as an everyday tote bag). Both are easy for me to carry. I weighed each bag at the airport; the black one was 14 lbs, and the red one was 7.5 lbs. Totally manageable schlepping weights.
Contents of the bags:
How did I do this weird thing that almost all normal people do not care about? Follow these five simple rules and you, too, can travel around Europe for 12 days without ever having to check anything!
FIVE RULES FOR PSYCHOTICALLY EFFICIENT OVERSEAS PACKING
1. Versatile, well-selected clothing > variety. Clothing is the No. 1 biggest waste of space in most travel bags. You don’t need a variety of the same item (multiple jeans, sweaters, etc). Just bring one versatile version of each piece (i.e. a dress that doubles as a tunic, jeans that can be dressed up or down, etc). Also, everything needs to be black, white or gray, and match everything else.
My travel wardrobe might sound rather dull, but I’m not going to Europe to show these Parisians a thing or two about fashion. The nice thing about being a tourist is, no one’s going to look at me, like, “Ugh. She totally wore those same jeans yesterday.”
Do you know how many times I’ve wished I could wear the exact same thing to work that I wore yesterday? The answer is ALL THE TIME. When you’re traveling, you can do this! No one you meet today even saw you yesterday — take advantage!
This Spartan method is really helped if you have access to a washing machine (I will). Otherwise, that sweater is going to get a little… ripe. Although, I’m lucky because I don’t really sweat, so I can re-wear clothes quite a bit. I don’t know if it’s an Asian thing, or if my aversion to physical exertion in my youth was so extreme, my sweat glands never developed all the way and are permanently stunted.
Anyway, here are the clothes I brought to Europe:
- Black wool sweater
- Button down white shirt – classic, goes with everything
- Black cardigan – nice enough to wear over the one dress I brought, and makes the white button down look more polished
- Black and white t-shirts
- Classy black l/s tee – Bella Luxx makes great fancy tees
- Pair of nice dark skinny jeans
- Pair of black leggings
- 3 pairs wool socks (wool is the best for travel – good in all weather and doesn’t get smelly as easily)
- Black l/s dress – doubles as a tunic to wear over leggings or jeans
- Running shoes – the really light, thin-soled kind
- Light jacket
- Unmentionables (the one category where you should not limit yourself to 1 piece — you’re going to want enough clean unmentionables for your whole trip)
2. Bundle wrap your clothes and use packing cubes. Bundling is easily the best way to conserve space when packing clothes, and reduces wrinkling. After I bundle everything, I pack it into a travel organizer. Eagle Creek’s Specter line is my new favorite.
3. Wear all of your biggest, bulkiest things on the plane. Here’s what I wore:
- Black, lined track pants
- Nice heavy wool trench with deep pockets for travel documents, phone and snacks. (Bonus: if you have a nice looking coat with deep pockets, you don’t need to bring a going-out purse!)
- Long sleeved shirt
- Tank top
- Sports bra (no underwire — I don’t need Germans wanding my boobs at the airport)
- Comfortable black leather boots that are nice enough to go with everything I brought (I like Aquatalia for all my walking boots)
- Compression socks (shut-up, they work. also I am a grandma)
4. Procure locally. If you need things like sunscreen, lotion, or other potentially bulky items that you’ll use up on your trip, just buy it at your destination. No one should be bringing full bottles of Coppertone to Hawaii, that’s all I’m saying. They sell sunscreen there.
Related: Never, ever bring your hairdryer to Europe. It will make an alarming whirring noise, emit a steady stream of smoke, and fill your room with the smell of burnt hair. A converter cannot help you. American hairdryers are not made to work in countries that value energy efficiency; that is to say, every other country in the world.
If you need a hairdryer and your hotel doesn’t have one, buy one at the local drugstore. If your trip is too short to justify the purchase, you can always wear your hair in a ponytail or, may I suggest, a sleek chignon? Just look at all the hairstyles you can achieve without a hairdryer that were “InStyle” as recently as Summer 2011!
5. Use sample and travel sizes for your liquids, creams and gels. I will never, ever understand people who throw full things of shampoo and conditioner into their luggage. You have to check your bag because of a family-sized bottle of Pantene Pro-V? I don’t even know how to help you right now.
Also, take advantage of hotel supplies. I didn’t being shampoo and conditioner with me because I knew our Paris hotel would have that.
Finally, a bunch of other things I like to do:
I position all my narrow pouches and travel organizers vertically so I can see and access them easier. I always stash the liquids, creams and gels bag on the top so I can grab it right away in the security line.
Do not place hard objects like shoes against the wall of the bag that will be facing your body — it will feel like you are being jubilantly kicked in the ribs as you race to your gate.
I like using these pill bags accessories like earrings and bobby pins. You can get these at Walgreens. The ones at CVS, for some reason, are thin and crappy. And yes, it is weird that I know this.
That reminds me, bring more medicine than you probably need. It’s really hard and sometimes impossible to locate certain meds (especially prescription) overseas, so just bring a lot of it in case you really need it.
Chargers: Do not take that long thick cord that attaches to your Mac brick. It’s unwieldy, and has a grounded plug, which is not supported in all outlet converters. Swap it out for the 2-prong attachment instead.