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packing for ladies in 12 Easy Pieces

After countless hours of research, innumerable variations and multiple trials of packing, I think I’ve come up with the perfect packing list for women. For this 55 yr old woman, anyway.

My third trip to Europe is coming up soon; 3 weeks in southern Spain in April. My previous 2 trips were to Italy, once in May and once in October. On both trips I travelled with only a carry-on bag, but in both cases I came home with clothes I didn’t wear.

I am not including the following in the count: undies (4); bras (1 nude, 1 black); sport bra (1 white); socks (4); bathing suit (1 tankini); sleep wear; rain jacket (1 black packable nylon shell); lightweight running vest (1 black); scarves (1 cream/black; 1 red/white); costume jewelry (1 long silver pendant, 1 short silver necklace, 1 silver cuff bracelet, 1 “statement” necklace). Oh, and a money belt which I wear all day, every day, containing my passport, credit card and extra cash.

In addition to the carry-on rolling bag I will carry a black nylon tote bag as a day bag/purse. I’ll pack a foldable red nylon tote which will act as a second day bag/purse. I also have a tiny black wallet on a string for evening paseos. Other than the roll-a-board, all these bags are cross body. That’s what I use at home, and that’s what I’m comfortable with. I don’t think it makes sense to try out a different style of purse when travelling. I'll stuff the red tote full of dirty laundry on the way home and that leaves room for purchases made.

It all starts with the shoes for me. After an excruciating 12 month bout with plantar fasciitis several years ago I am very selective with the shoes I purchase, and especially the shoes I travel with. I have not included shoes in the count either, and I will take 3 pairs: red sneakers (Keds Pro – my orthotics fit perfectly in them), flat black Mary Janes (Ecco brand) and black flat sandals with ankle strap (Taos brand).

Our plans involve site-seeing, tapas crawling and soaking up atmosphere. Everything very low key. No operas, weddings or extreme sports on the itinerary, so no specialty wardrobe items like heels, cocktail dress or heavy hiking boots required. Other than a 3 day stint with a rental car we will use buses and trains to get around. No need to lug over-sized, heavy suitcases on and off trains.

Here are the 12 easy pieces:

Bottoms (3):
1 pr jeans, hemmed for flats
1 knit skirt, black
1 pr capris, stone

Tops (6):
1 long sleeve tee shirt, red & white Breton stripe
3 tee shirts (1 black, 1 white, 1 red print)
2 tank tops (1 black/red/white multi, 1 black)

Sweaters (2):
2 cardigans (1 black ¾ length sleeves waist length, 1 red boyfriend style)

Dress (1):
1 sleeveless, knee length, knit, black

Thanks to the magic of the “Polyvore” website and app, I have created a clothing set as a visual aid that includes all the above items. I can move the bottoms and tops around to create “outfits”, so I can visualize what I will wear. Just search for the items you plan to pack and add them to your set. Don’t worry about the price, you are just selecting items that look similar to what you own (or will shop for). Polyvore revolutionized this process for me, and it’s easier than getting out everything you own and laying it on the bed when you are still in the planning stages. I probably created a dozen sets through this process before I settled on this set. Other online resources that helped me along the way were the Vivienne Files, TravelFashionGirl, and searching on Pinterest for “travel wardrobe”.

I'm posting with the hopes it may help other ladies struggling with the concept of not overpacking, yet having the "right" outfits for each activity. This may not work for everyone, but I know it will work for me. Happy packing ladies!

Posted by
11898 posts

Polyvore is great isn't it? I love a black/white/red clean and sharp looking!

I have a Plantar Fasciitis suggestion for you. No, not how to get it, you know it and unfortunately so do I! I was still having pain several months after changing shoes and getting orthotics when I saw a link to the MELT system by Sue Hitzman. It is 3 small balls (now I think she has 4) that are different sizes/density. I did her program for 3 consecutive nights (right before bed) and my pain was gone. I took them with me on an 8 week trip last fall and used them on days where I had walked a LOT (Rick's 21 Day BOE) and had no problem. I am in no way connected with this program, it was just so miraculous for me in providing pain relief and in keeping it at bay. I am not sure I buy her theory on why it works, but it doesn't matter, because it just does! I now have it on my packing list and will always travel with them!

Posted by
537 posts

Packing list sounds good. What will you be wearing on the plane?

Posted by
2014 posts

Thank you - I love this! I really appreciate the pared down quantities. I seem to come wearing fewer items that I took and it's nice to see other's quantities and how they matched them up.

Posted by
367 posts

On the plane I'll wear the jeans and sneakers for sure. I'll check the weather the day before we leave, and either wear the long sleeve tee, or a tee and cardigan. The jeans have a no fly or button "comfort" style stretch waist so they will be comfy. And thanks for the foot tips.

Posted by
9559 posts

I love the colors you're taking. Thanks for the tips!

Posted by
193 posts

Thank you for the tips & info about the Polyvore app!!! I'm preparing for my FIRST European trip & will be traveling with my husband, daughter, and a group of 250+ high school/music ambassadors from Kansas/KC this summer. We travel for 16 days and visit 7 countries!! I had no clue how I could pack for that long without taking a HUGE suitcase - but I am learning so much from reading these forums. By the time our trip gets here, I should be a packing expert!! :)

Posted by
1922 posts

Hi Kathleen, sounds like you're a very good packer! I'm doing better each trip and make a list of the things I didn't wear so I can bring even less next time. Last year I took photos of each of my mix-n-match outfits with my I-pad. Sounds silly but it made me feel better to scan through them when I was worried that I didn't have enough clothes with me.

Posted by
524 posts

Great post! I am not going until September to italy...our first time in Europe, so I have some time. I have a list I started several months ago of things to take from reading posts like yours, I'm a planner and I love to do this. This month I have been focusing on shoes to take. I also suffer flare ups of PF, so shoes come first for this type of walking , followed by clothing rather than the other way around. I have literally ordered or tried on 20 pairs of shoes or walking sandals. Although almost all of them would be fine at home, only a couple are a possibility for the pounding my wide weird feet are going to take. I think the Keen Rose Sandal is going to be one of the winners...anyway back to clothes.

It's so hard for me to imagine paring my clothes to a mix or match like this. I know it makes sense, but RS so foreign to me. I will only be taking a carryon and backpack tote for extras. Since it's still summerish, I'm only going to take one light weight white sweater. We are there 10 days. I don't think I'll do as well as you, but have given me a great place to start, and I will also look for some mix and match lists for men.

Posted by
1179 posts

It sounds like you have a great capsule wardrobe in black & white with red accents.
May I make a few suggested changes that will give more options?
1) Instead of bringing jeans, how about bringing stretch jeans instead? I'd also make a color change. Instead of going for blue jeans why not do it in black? I have a pair of Lee Easy Fit stretch jeans in black and I like them way better than regular jeans. The material is lighter, dries faster, and feels like I'm wearing my pajamas all day. It gives a dressier look while still being casual. You'll find stretch jeans are cooler than regular jeans.
2) You are already bringing a black skirt and a black top. Worn together, they create a black dress look, especially if you belt it. Why not bring a dress in another color that compliments your current color scheme? I'm thinking a rich olive, tan, or chocolate?
3) You have stone color capris but are bringing 2 black tops. Why not change out one of those tops for a stone color? Then you would have a nice elegant monochrome look. If you wear it with your black sandals and cardigan it gives a nice color block look.

Posted by
367 posts

Thanks for your suggestions Cindy. I'll fire up Polyvore and play around with your ideas. I'm really enjoying these and other similar threads over the past few weeks, it's nice to know others share my interests, and we can work together to perfect our individual travel wardrobes. I'm with you on the stretch jeans, that's what mine are! I

Posted by
1179 posts

Glad to suggest things, Kathleen! I use Polyvore for my initial planning the same way you do. Sometimes I'll post the combinations to my blog for people to see. I usually stick to just 9 items when I travel (though sometimes I bring more). I usually bring 2 bottoms, 4 tops, 2 jacket/cardigans, and a dress. I can get that into a personal sized bag (minus the clothes I wear on the plane). On a longer trip like yours it's nice to have the extra tops. While I don't need them, I get bored of my clothes. The extra 2 tops and 1 bottom give a LOT more combinations.
I've got a crazy trip coming up that involves cruising/caving/jungle trekking/snorkeling. My caving helmet takes up 1/3 of the space in my regulation sized carry on bag. I'm extensively using Polyvore to get the most powerful clothing combinations for a wide range of activities. Looks like I'm taking 12 pieces which includes a rash guard shirt and swim leggings. I have a separate tee and nylon pants that will probably get shredded in the cave activities. I guess I could take less if I wanted, but I like variety in my outfits.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks for the simple but coordinated list. Polyvore sounds very helpful.