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Packing Light for two months (and different seasons.) HOW?

Okay, I just downloaded Rick's suggested packing list, after reading the article about packing everything into a carry-on bag. I mean seriously he fits ALL this stuff into ONE carry on? (I'd like to see that!)

So he suggests all the basic clothing, jackets, sweaters, shoes, underwear, and toiletries PLUS:

first aid kit
sewing kit
duct tape
office supplies
gifts for your hosts
hairdryer (!)

He even suggests a laptop if you need to get work done.

Okay, well, I don't know what kind of magic is used to fit all that into a carry-on, but I don't think I can pull that off. LOL

I'm trying to plan for a two month trip, and my problem is that I'll be starting in Southern Italy in September where it will be hot, and ending up in Northern France in November where it will be cold. It is overwhelming to think about packing clothing for basically two seasons - plus all the other items I need - and getting it all into one carry-on bag. At the same time, there will be a lot of traveling (planes, trains, and automobiles!) between Italy and France and I don't want to be lugging around more than I have to.

The last time I went to Europe, I stayed in France for five months, and I packed an extra-large suitcase (I mean a SERIOUSLY big suitcase), plus a carry-on, plus a backpack. It was very difficult carrying that big bag through the airport, on and off the trains and metros, etc. But once I got settled, I only took my carry-on bag for other trips while I was there. Then I just had to haul that big bag back to the airport and home again. I also ended up buying cold weather clothing while I was there (I arrived in Aug and left in Jan) and I had to leave some stuff there to be able to fit it all in going home. But honestly, I don't think I packed one thing more than was necessary, I wore/used everything I brought.

This time, I'll be on the move and carrying my bags with me for at least the first 3-4 weeks until I reach a place I can leave them. I need to travel light but I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around fitting it all into one bag. I think I'll probably end up with a medium sized piece of luggage (one I'll have to check, but not the BIG one) and a good sized backpack to take on the plane. I have to have enough clothes for two months and different climates plus gifts for all the friends I'll be visiting and souvenirs I'll bring home.

As for short 2-3 day trips, I could maybe use the back pack or even one of the larger packing cubes to carry like a small suitcase. Has anyone done this? Any real world advice for a packing list that meets my requirements?

Posted by
1649 posts

Hey lisa,

"packing extra light and Girasole" - not a match, lol.

I do pack smart and well though. Mix and match, monochromatic, tonal - easier to look like you have a different outfit all the time. I normally wear black pants when traveling; different tops or sweaters and scarves < an accessory you can do many things with. Or buy a Pashmina if the vendors are around.

Unless you don't want to, don't forget, you can have an extra "tote" to carry all your valuables or at hand items for the plane. It can be used as your day bag (unless you prefer backpacks.) And RS is a guy, so his needs differ from a woman's. Don't stress. You "can" take a big suitcase if you want. Thing is, you have to haul it around.

If you are looking for bags or backpacks, please check out Kipling. They have a ton to choose from - all sizes to suit most people. They are having a sale now. You can also find some Kipling at TJMaxx and Macy's. They are strong and pliable enough that you can scrunch a bit to meet "sizing" if necessary. They have a ton of inside pockets you can get lost in, lol. Zippers are good and strong. Some come with an extra convertible strap to wear as a cross body if necessary.

Kipling rolling duffels fit a lot- good inside spacing and pockets; lightweight too. I used the "Discover" one - 22" - black, it looks a lot smaller than it actually is.

For ex., In Rome, a lot of the attractions and Churches do not allow big bags. A size of about 14"-15" would be good. Security does not measure, lol, they eye ball it. If they say no go, you have to check your bag - a hassle.

Jokes aside.

Yes, I took mine - a regular one - by Kodak.

I found "moleskin" two pack at TJMaxx in the stationary section. Thin, lined and enough pages. I carry two or three pens. *

first aid kit
This will vary with peeps depending on their needs and length of travel. I make up one and put the items I need or want in a clear cosmetic case.

sewing kit
Yes, you can bring your own - a couple of little spools of thread, a few different sized safety pins, a couple of needles and a little scissors < make sure it is less than 4" I tend to wear clothes without zippers and buttons. Dress slacks and tops are pull on, easier.

I like my shower puff. I do bring a couple of inexpensive washcloths - serves as a mini towel when out and about or a napkin or a bib for the plane, lol

I did not bring mine. They do sell travel size ones though. They can be heavy still. They would be nice for closer looks at ceilings i.e. The Sistine and The Pantheon.

YES! I got a travel size one at Walmart - in the Camping section. It is lightweight plastic and shines a BIG led light when needed! It was only $1 - it proved itself; worked very well. Good "investment." lol. And, I did use it at night in Rome quite a few times.

duct tape
Yes! I prefer to buy the mini rolls - found at Walmart or Michael's crafts. And, they did come in handy on my first trip when I let a man borrow some when his suitcase handle broke. The duct tapes come in all colors. I also use Orange and "put strips" in certain places on the bags (I check one and carry one) so it is readily identifiable.

office supplies
I bring little white envelopes to keep receipts separate, business cards, etc. I also bring the 5x7 ones to put Post Cards in for protection - so they don't get bent, etc.

gifts for your hosts
A little something representing your state or city? I think nowadays people don't want the "trinkets."

hairdryer (!)
Ask your host/hostess. Most B&B's will have one on hand. They do sell Euro travel hair dryers - light but still take up space.
The places I have stayed in - Rome and Sicily had hair dryers. Some say the Euro hair dryers are not that great for peeps with really really thick hair.

Have fun!

  • correction
Posted by
16883 posts

Also see this video demo of fitting it all in:

Once again, it's about layers. A long-sleeved shirt, light sweater, and light scarf that you might use for evenings or boat rides in Italy can combine into warm layers under a rain jacket. You can always buy a warmer sweater, hat, or scarf in France when you need it. You may also still have some at least sunny days in November, even if cooler.

Posted by
3112 posts

I do this all the time. Take medium weight pants and pack 2 light-to-medium weight sweaters to wear over your warmer weather shirts and tops. I find that nice jeans work well for all but the dressiest occasions; just avoid taking heavy ones. Take an extra coat appropriate for the colder period and wear it onto the plane even if departing in the warmer period (takes up too much space to pack). With a little bit of trial-and-error, you should be able to come up with a layered wardrobe that will cover you for the trip. If you find you need an extra lighter or warmer item along the way, stores like OVS in Italy sell decent inexpensive clothing. One time I didn't want to drag around a heavy coat until it got cold, so I budgeted to buy one in Italy. I still have it and it's served me well on subsequent trips.

Edit: A lot of sundry items can be purchased inexpensively in Europe. If you're tight on luggage space, leave them at home, buy them once you arrive and toss the leftovers before heading to the airport for your flight home.

Posted by
10053 posts

I have packed for extremes from 80 degree days to 40 degree nights and days. For clothing I take

  • 3 bottoms (jeans, ubiquitous black pants, and either hiking pants or a second pair of jeans)

  • a blouse for “dressy” use

  • 3 SS tee shirts

  • 2 LS tee shirts

  • a merino wool cardigan sweater for layering

  • a LS merino wool sweater

  • tricot nightgown and robe

  • underthings and socks (always Smartwool for me as hot or cold, they are comfortable)

  • a lightweight jacket that is wind and rain resistant plus gloves

  • athletic shoes and black leather street shoes I can walk a few miles in

The merino is light, fast-drying, and warm. On coldest days you layer a LS shirt under the sweater and jacket. On the hottest days, you wear a tee shirt (I bring at least one that is a little dressier).

You could certainly add a sleeveless blouse and maybe a lacy sweater for the hot climate without taking up much space.

All of this (except the jacket) and my toiletries go in my 22” bag. These days I generally check my 22” bag as we bring hiking sticks on most trips. I am no longer reluctant to check a bag as I like to have my daypack AND a large purse for the flight.

I do not bring everything on the miscellany list you have above, I do pack small bag with medical supplies (Tylenol, Imodium, Sudafed, Bandaids, antibiotic cream, moleskin) but no office supplies, duct tape, or binoculars, LOL! I have a tiny sewing kit from a hotel and I bring no gifts. I do pack a collapsible bag to carry inevitable acquisitions or use as a laundry bag if we need to go to a laundromat.

In my daypack go a laptop, iPad (no paper books; all are e-books), point-and+shoot camera, cords, and usually my jacket. I carry a large Baggalini purse during the flight including a 3-1-1 bag of stuff I will need on arrival if my checked bag is delayed (crossed fingers, hasn’t happened yet!). I also include one tee shirt and a change of underthings just-in-case. I use the crossbody purse for walking about, during train trips, etc.

You may want to take a pair of sandals and if you keep all of your footwear lightweight you can squeeze those in.

Part way through the trip, you can consider donating clothes you no longer need.

As to gifts, keep them tiny and unbreakable. Or buy them something locally as you might do when invited to stay with a friend here at home.

Posted by
1179 posts

Multi seasons is easy once you know how.

They key is layering, but with the right pieces.

Step 1: start with convertible pieces:

  • pants that can roll up into capris
  • long sleeve shirts that have roll tab sleeves
  • a cardigan

Step 2: add in warm weather clothes

  • tee shirt
  • skirt or skort
  • dress
  • sandals

Step 3: add in extender pieces that beef up your warm weather clothes

  • leggings
  • ultralight silk top to wear under tees etc.
  • silk long john pants to wear under lighter pants
  • a puff jacket
  • wool socks
  • light gloves
  • a hat
  • scarf
  • a pair of waterproof walking shoes
  • packable waterproof rain jacket

I suggest for packing light. Google “travel capsule wardrobe for vacation” to get examples of a coordinated wardrobe.

Her Packing List has great light travel trips. Travel Fashion Girl travels very heavily.

Posted by
794 posts

I go a little different route. The only thing on that additional list I do carry is a good, small, flashlight. I use the phone camera more and more. But, if I have to choose, I pack light for warm weather, and then if there's a change I buy local. Everything on that list can be found in any city, if you need it. When it gets too much for the bag I make up a package (usually with dirty stuff) and mail it home. Clothes are fairly cheap, I rarely buy much (except socks which I use and throw away), and I don't haul around much that doesn't get used. I usually get by with a carry-on size pack. I've done Europe in the early spring and Hawaii in the fall for upwards of 3 weeks with nothing more than a gym bag, but I'll be the first to admit I men get away with this easier and I was never a fashion plate.

Posted by
3183 posts

You can do this. Get a backpack for your personal item. Wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane. Buy a hairdryer and toiletries at a drugstore or supermarket when you get there. Only pack one extra pair of shoes. Silk long underwear and leggings to wear under your warm weather slacks take very little space. I also just got a jacket from Magellan's that is reputed to be fairly waterproof and has 12 pockets. Take your hosts to dinner. Get a small fold-up bag that you can check on the trip home. No laptop or camera-just your smartphone or cheat and add a kindle. You can get a flashlight app for your phone-do take a battery pack for recharging your phone.

Posted by
5538 posts

I carry on only if I am doing a short 7 night city break somewhere, otherwise I always check in one large bag between the two of us plus a piece of hand luggage each, but my husband’s is full of his camera gear and his laptop. The large bag has 2 wheels, so it’s no hassle and it means we can take the brand of sun screen etc that we prefer. I don’t want to be organising laundry every couple of days - I am on holiday! Who wants to have to buy new clothes if you haven’t packed the right clothes when you have something suitable at home? Take a checked bag. It really isn’t the hassle that most on this forum would have you believe.

I have never taken duct tape on holiday and I haven’t used a hairdryer in years. Forget gifts for hosts - an unnecessary weight.

Posted by
2706 posts

You don’t need a lot of that extra stuff. Think critically about YOUR needs. For me:

Camera - yes, I like photography, but many people are fine with just their phone camera.

book/notebook - kindle and a few scraps of paper for jotting stuff down if needed. No need for a notebook unless you are into journaling. I’m not. Also I can make notes on my phone if I need to.

first aid kit - not as such. A few bandaids, hand sanitizer and over the counter meds I use with some frequency (Advil, tums). Anything can be bought there in the unlikely situation you need it.

sewing kit - ha. No.

washcloth - nope.

binoculars - nope, I can zoom in on my phone. Not perfect but better than lugging binoculars around. Even if I brought them I’d not want to carry them around sightseeing. Too heavy.

flashlight - that’s what a phone is for!

duct tape - Never had need of this.

office supplies - a pen is handy. Nothing else.

gifts for your hosts - if you are staying with family or plan to look up relatives, sure. For b&b or hotels, not needed.

hairdryer - hotels usually provide.

Posted by
705 posts

The RS "carry-on only" philosophy is well honed by his experience with travelers on tours stuck carrying too-large bags up hotel stairs without elevators, or up stairs up to quaint neighborhood hotels - or up the many flights of stairs in the Paris Metro.

Since you can pace yourself, and make your own hotel decisions, you can be more flexible. I would suggest a three bag system. Bag 1 as a rolling back (22 inches, about 40L) that will be checked for Trans-Atlantic Travel. One bag half that size (20L) that fits firmly on top of Bag 1, think business travelers or aircrew who have a top bag with a slot for Bag 1's handle. And a backpack of 20L. Bag 1 and 2 can roll together, and both can be carried up stairs, one in each hand.

A modern cell phone has a camera, flashlight, etc. Get a Telephoto lens attachment if you want distance pictures. Bring a good light down jacket which crushes to nearly nothing, and a gore-tex jacket that fits well over it to be worn together or alone. Invest in excellent merino long underwear top and pants. My wife's new "top" is so nice that she bought two and uses them as regular long sleeve black tops. Everything you can wear on the outside in hot weather including polos can be worn under as layered "underwear" too.

I find that long trips make packing easier since I cannot have everything I might need. I plan to buy toiletries beyond a tiny starter set. And I have to plan to do laundry every four/five days... which is the coffee break I need to lay out the next set of plans.

Posted by
9692 posts

I pack similarly to Laurel - but no dressy blouse...just another SS Land's End Modal Tee. I did ~think~ I was going to have 2 seasons when I traveled in March/April to Paris, Belgium and Netherlands but it was all pretty cool weather so I would have done better with 3 LS shirts and 3 SS shirts.

As to Rick's list:

  • camera - I use my phone
  • book/notebook - I do take a Moleskine for a travel journal
  • first aid kit - Like others I have various bandaids, paper tape, antibiotic cream, etc stashed various places
  • sewing kit - I'd traveled with a small kit for years and never needed it so took it out. Then in June I got a splinter in my hand in - Yellowstone, couldn't get it out with tweezers (well, got part of it but it broke off, blah, blah) so had to wait until I got back home and could go at it with a needle. SO....small sewing kit along with alcohol wipes are back in
  • washcloth - I take a Salux exfoliating wash cloth - cut in half and placed in a small ziplock
  • binoculars - I do travel with a small pair of Nikon binoculars. I am a casual birder so I like to look and they are fabulous for looking more closely at things in churches! I've done with and without, with my good birding binoculars (too heavy) and for me I use them nearly every day. YMMV. If you don't have a lightweight pair and don't use them on a daily basis anyway you'll probably not need them. I DO use them daily and when I travel I always have them in my purse.
  • flashlight - use my phone for this
  • duct tape - I DO carry a small roll of duct tape. I've never needed it but a person on a Rick Steves tour had a huge suitcase malfunction and we were able to tape his bag up at the final stop to get him home.
  • office supplies - I carry a couple of pens, a pencil, a few paperclips and a few rubber bands. If I am on a tour I also take some greeting cards from home in case I want to write a thank you note.
  • gifts for your hosts - no
  • hairdryer (!) - no - I have wash and go hair. If I need a hair dryer I'm not sure I've ever been in a hotel in Europe without one.

I pack in Rick's 21" roller bag with packing cubes. I do have a waterproof rain jacket, a dri-fit pull over and sometimes a cardigan along with a spare pair of shoes (wear one, take one). Sometimes I take a puffy vest. Here is a link to my last Trip Report with my packing list. This was for 3 weeks but I could easily have gone 6 or 8 with the same set. For 8 weeks I would have added another pr of capris.

Posted by
1649 posts

duct tape - I DO carry a small roll of duct tape. I've never needed it but a person on a Rick Steves tour had a huge suitcase malfunction and we were able to tape his bag up at the final stop to get him home.

Yes, like Pam, I had a similar experience at Termini with a man whose handle broke as he was walking to the trains. We got it "fixed enough" for him to continue on his journey.

I think duct tape is invaluable for a lot of reasons, lol.

Lisa, I ran out of room in the first post to you, ha ha. - I would like to add that I take some sheets of bubble wrap when traveling. I know some peeps use their clothes; me too, but after I wrap in a sheet of bubble wrap.

I put larger jars or bottles in checked of course. I put the bubble wrap sheets under the zipped lining of the luggage until needed. .

I also take zip lock baggies and some thick elastics.

Posted by
21045 posts

I have stayed in way over 100 lodgings in Europe oin the lads 5 years. Only one didn't provide a hairdryer either in my room or at the desk. It was an apartment in Burhas, Bulgaria. Unless you have very long, thick hair that must be washed often, don't cart a hair dryer around with you. If you drcide you really need one, they are widely available in stores.

One thing I don't believe anyone else has mentioned is the virtue of using solid versions of toiletries wherever possible and taking just the right quantity of everything you need. Almost all lodgings provide some form of soap and shampoo, though it may be a single liquid and intended to serve both purposes. If you aren't picky, you can save considerable weight by taking just a tiny bar of soap and one hotel/courtesy bottle of shampoo for emergency use.

I once took a pair of binoculars. Never again. Heavy and bulky, and of no use to you unless you carry them around with you just about every day. Unless you're a birder or nuts about gargoyles, etc., I wouldn't take them.

Posted by
30 posts

We traveled for 2 months last year in both hot and cold weather. We started in Italy where is was very hot and ended in Northern Ireland where it was cold and rainy. DH and I each had a 22" roller bag (travelpro) and a RS day bag we could attach to the roller. We did just fine and actually had some room to bring back a few souvenirs. We packed clothes we could easily wash in the sink at night (Columbia shirts and underarmour are great options for this) We also invested in a good quality, light weight sweater (Land's End has some good sales) We wore layers in colder weather and did just fine. We didn't really worry about being "fashionable" but rather focused on comfort and light weight/non bulky items to wear. A couple of items that we found invaluable were Columbia packable rain jackets with a hood and Exofficio travel underwear. Leggings also were a great way of making the simple t-shirt dress I had worn in southern Italy warm enough to wear in Ireland. I used an old pill bottle to make a little sewing kit and didn't worry about things like duct tape, office supplies, hair dryers or flashlights. Instead of a washcloth I brought dry disposable facial wipes that had soap embedded in them (I just used the Walmart brand).

Overall we adopted an "only bring things we will actually use" approach to packing for this trip. Typically I am a "bring it just in case" kinda gal, but with limited space and weight in the suitcase, we didn't worry about things we could easily purchase along the way if we really needed it One thing I didn't bring because I thought it fell into the "just in case" category was Zicam (which we find useful in warding off colds) . Unfortunately we had a hard time finding it so we will bring a bottle with us next trip.

Posted by
250 posts

Wow, great replies you guys, thank you!

For the record, I don’t plan to take many of the things on Rick’s list - no binoculars, duct tape, flashlight, office supplies (other than pens and a small notebook), books (that is what Kindle is for) and DEFINITELY no hair dryer! Maybe a small pocket camera, though.

But as for the gifts, I have a number of friends in France I’ll be visiting - people who bring me gifts when they come to my house - so I’ll definitely bring gifts for them. Geez one friend always makes room in his luggage for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. How can I top that? Lol.

I forgot to add this part of my plan: my DH is accompanying me for the first three weeks of this trip, then he flies home from Paris (he has to get back to work, I get to stay and visit friends!). One possibility, I guess is to put things like gifts in his bags, since he’ll surely have plenty of room, and then send sandals, bathing suits, and other warm weather items back with him. By the time we’re in Paris in October, I probably won’t need those anymore. Then I can SHOP and buy some new stuff!

Posted by
6624 posts

Bite the bullet and check a bag. Its not a crime. Once you offload the gifts, you'll be alright.

Posted by
503 posts

. As for Rick's list, it definitely can be done and people do it all the time. You've gotten some excellent advice. The key is choosing clothing that can "multi task" and choosing pieces that pretty much all go together. I've packed for similar weather conditions and this is what I packed:

2 pr jeans
2 pr lighter weight cotton pants
3 short sleeved t shirts
2 long sleeved t shirts
1 camisole
1 long sleeved collared, button front shirt
2 merino wool sweaters (1 pullover and 1 cardigan)
packable down jackets (think Uniqlo version)
1 waterpoof rain shell
2 scarves (1 wool one and one cotton one)
1 pr gloves
2 pr. long underwear (long sleeved tops and bottoms)
4 pairs socks
4 pr. underwear
2 bras
1 set pajamas
1 pr. short boots
1 pair walking shoes
1 pr. walking sandals
toiletry kit
liquids bag
Miscellaneous items
camera kit
day bag with cell phone,wallet, kleenex and all the little bits and bobs.
small (quarter size cube) medical kit
teeny (2 inch by 1/4 inch) sewing kit
duct tape wrapped around a pen
2 carabiners
2 binder clips
highligher and pen
documents - maps, reservations, etc., etc.
small charger and cable bag
noise canceling earphones

List includes what I wore on the plane.

For the warmer days I wore the cotton pants and either a short sleeved shirt or a cami with the button front shirt left open with the sleeves rolled up and sandals. As the weather got cooler, I'd wear either of the above and if needed, add a sweater and switch to the walking shoes.
When the weather got really cold, i'd wear either jeans or the cotton pants with long underwear underneath, long sleeved top, sweater and rain jacket. For the frigid days, I'd add the packable down jacket under the rain jacket and add the wool scarf and gloves.Weather ranged from highs in the mid 80's to a high of 37 degrees.

Luggage was a 21 inch carry on suitcase and a softsided 6 x 9 x 12 inch briefcase bag. Briefcase bag held my day bag, laptop, kindle, earphones, liquids bag and bag with chargers and cables as well as my mirrorless dslr with two lenses. Briefcase bag slides over the handle of the suitcase for ease navigating airports. Once at my destination, liquids get transferred to my toiletry bag, camera goes in the day bag and so I have plenty of room in the briefcase for things I pick up along the way.
Now having said that, yes, for two months the wardrobe does get a bit monotonous - but you can supplement along the way - a new scarf or a new sweater or top.
I didn't use compression packing cubes for this trip and everything fit really well in my suitcase.
In summary, this is totally doable if that is how you want to travel. There is no "right or wrong" answer here - it really comes down to your own priorities and what you are most comfortable with. Travel is ALL about the tradeoffs!!
Good luck!!!

Posted by
11450 posts

We just did 5 weeks - London , Prague , Greece Paris , London .
May thru June , packed a wind/ rain jay let and fleece for London ( I’ve needed them there in August lol ) and “ hot weather gear “ for Greece .

22 inch suitcase .

Wash stuff - you don’t need 8 weeks of clothes - you need one week -

If you get bored ( which i usually do ) I’ll buy a new top - doubles as a souvenir- I’ll dump
A top I’m bored off .

Posted by
123 posts

I have a similar situation and posted this question a few weeks ago. The responses are posted in the packing forum. I’ve learned some additional information with your post. Thanks

Posted by
250 posts

@ Nancy,

Just like with Rick's list, I have trouble visualizing how you fit all that into a carry-on bag! I guess I haven't mastered the knack of getting it all in there. But I did recently purchase some packing cubes, which I've never used before, so maybe that will be a game changer. If you guys can perform this feat, maybe I can too! Your list looks very much like what I'm preparing (except that I will take skirts. Skirts are a good alternative to shorts when it's warm because they look a little dressier. Then you can add tights when the weather is cooler.)

Posted by
3789 posts

I think it is time for you to do a test pack with your new packing cubes. If visualizing is the problem, then do it and you'll know what you can accomplish or have to adapt.

Posted by
10053 posts

Good idea on the test pack, Maria. I always do “practice packing” as my DH calls it, 4 weeks before a trip. Helps me finalize most wardrobe choices and gives me time to act on possible changes/acquisitions needed. Plus I get SO EXCITED because the trip is close!

Lisa, give it a try well in advance and keep editing until you find the right combination for you,

Posted by
9692 posts

I'm "thirding" the suggestion from Maria and Laurel to do a test pack. To me packing cubes have a learning curve so you might need to try a couple of different ways to see what works best for your clothes. I flat pack my pants/capris and use cubes for my shirts, unders and Dri-Fit/cardie. I'm also a plus size so what works for me might not work for you.

Some people roll their clothes into the cubes, I don't. I've used a couple different kinds of cubes and found folding worked better for me. When I used Eagle Creek compression cubes I actually cut a template out of a cheap bend-y plastic cutting board so I could fold them to the exact size of the cube. I'm using a different brand now and can just use the width of the cube as a guide when I am folding.

Posted by
11805 posts

I've gone through dozens of packing iterations. Each time packing lighter and smaller. Now I use a shoulder bag that fits carry on requirements for anyone (including Frontier and Ryanair). It's essentially half the size of a "full-size" carry on.

For clothes, it's all about layering. When I layer a t-shirt, button up shirt, warm layer (polar fleece, packable down jacket or light wool sweater) and my rainshell, I'm good for down to about 30 degree weather. If I'm still cold. I go to a store and pick up gloves, scarf and ski cap (sometimes I'll pack gloves and cap, I'll only buy a scarf on my trip if needed).

I suggest packing shoes and socks that give you maximum flexibility for long walks on cobble stones, getting wet, going out to dinner, etc. Socks should be non-cotton because cotton is worthless when it gets wet from either rain or sweat.

All my clothes (shirts, pants, underwear, socks, sweater, etc.) are selected to be mix and match with an eye toward ease of laundering, fast drying and non-wrinkle fabrics.

For all that other stuff on Rick's list. I wouldn't say forget it, just keep it to the absolute minimum.
Camera - use your smartphone. If you don't have a smartphone with a good camera, invest in that rather than a camera.
Book/Notebook - Books on Kindle you can read in your smartphone, make notes on a word document you save in your smartphone.
First Aid Kit/Sewing Kit - mine is in a little zip up coin purse about half the size of a deck of cards. In it I carry a very small nail file, tiny sewing scissors, a handful of band-aids, and one or two pills each of allergy tabs, Imodium, Dramamine plus a tiny sewing kit that is often included in better lodging's toiletries ensemble. This often gets looked at by TSA but everything is good to travel with. My bag is so small it only takes them a second to check it.
Washcloth - I bring a travel size plastic poof(?). I let it dry as much as possible then put it in a Ziploc (and squeeze all the air out) for packing.
Binoculars - unless the point of your trip is bird watching, don't bother. I've packed a few small monocular options but they never get used enough to justify taking up space.
Flashlight - again your smartphone includes this. If the only electronics you bring is the smart phone, you only need one charger (and maybe a backup battery charger, I don't even need one of those) which saves room and space in your bag.
Duct tape - I used to pack the remnants of a small roll, flattened for easy packing. I haven't needed it enough to keep including it in my pack list. If you really need it, it can be purchased there.
Office supplies - No, use your phone to email, text or call people. The days of post cards, letters with envelopes and stamps are gone. You won't need office supplies. If you find you need it, they sell it there.
Gifts for your hosts - buy there. In Germany flower shops have vending machines out front to buy a last minute bouquet. Every grocery store has a wine section (prices for good wine in the EU are much lower than here).
Hairdryer - definitely buy one there. They're more trouble to pack than buy. You won't need to worry about a plug adapter or voltage issues. If you like it, bring it home for your next trip.

For shorter trips, I used to pack the Civita day pack. Primarily because it wadded up very small for packing (when European airlines say one bag they mean it, not one bag plus a personal item). I think that would work well for you. I went to a reusable shopping bag (from a French grocery store) because it folded up smaller in my bag and carried more stuff (groceries, picnic items, sweater, laundry, etc.). My last trip I went to an even tinier fold up day pack purchased from a travel section of Nordstrom Rack, primarily because it was even smaller and lighter than the others. I don't generally leave my bag to strike out with an even smaller bag so needing one to pack two or three days of clothes isn't on my list of worries.

Posted by
503 posts

Hi Lisa! Definitely try a test pack!! Skirts are a terrific choice - sadly I'm at the age where they just don't work for me otherwise they would definitely be on my list! The list looks long, but it really does all fit! Couple of notes - I carry on my rainshell with the down jacket inside and wear my bulkiest shoes on the plane. Let us know how you do!!

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21045 posts

About the duct tape: It is not necessarily easy to find in Europe if you need it. I had a gash on my suitcase in 2015 and asked many folks in Italy where I could buy strong tape (I Googled for a suitable Italian phrase). I had no luck. I'm sure duct tape exosts in Italy, but if you can't find it... I wrap some around an expired credit card or unneeded plastic loyalty card.

Posted by
842 posts

All of us have things we think we need but don’t and things we should have brought but didn’t.
Based on my experiences:
camera—no, use the phone
book/notebook—absolutely yes but I’ve journaled for fifty years so my notebook and fountain pens are always in my purse
first aid kit—minimum stuff, bare minimum. Most of us need some emergency meds like charcoal or Imodium and a few bandaids. Anything else is a trip to hospital, yes?
sewing kit—nope
binoculars—personal choice. Carried binoculars always when traveling and only recently discovered the joys of new technologies that give me power and less mass. I use them often in museums, churches, scenery, galleries, streets, any place i want to sit back and see details without getting in the thick of the crowd.
flashlight—I always have a tiny LED headlamp. Habit. Never needed it traveling.
duct tape—Actually, yes, about 2 meters.
office supplies—nope
gifts for your hosts—nope
hairdryer (!)—not only no but heck no.

TEst packing and an overnight road trip to a nearby tourist feature is a good way to debug your equipment and laundry system.

You can also see literally hundreds of packing lists online from folks who travel extensively and have refined their loads to suit their styles and needs.

Posted by
250 posts

I'll definitely do a test pack before I go, but I'm still gravitating towards the medium sized suitcase (one step up from the carry-on size, I guess.) I don't care about checking a bag, I get it free with my Delta AMEX Gold card so that's not an issue. And once I'm out of the airport, it's only going to be a little bit bigger to carry, and it still rolls, of course.

Gifts for the various hosts are non-negotiable, and there are at least five different families I'm visiting/staying with between Nice and Normandy. No way will I arrive empty handed. I might can get some gifts there in Europe, but I'll also want to bring some local goodies like they always bring to me. (Champagne, Armagnac, salted-butter caramels from Brittany, even a raclette grill are some of the gifts they've brought to me!)

And shoes will be my undoing. Yes, I get all the rules about shoes - you only need to two pair. You only NEED two pair. I get it, but I would be so unhappy with that, it is totally worth carrying the larger bag to bring all the shoes I want. Shoes make me happy. Shoes make jeans or skirts go from casual to dressy so you have another outfit without changing clothes. I like shoes, I will bring shoes. LOL

But the following won't be taking up the room I can use for shoes:

Laptop. Nope, I'll just use my iPad.
Hairdryer. Nope. I don't even use one at home.
Binoculars. Are you kidding me? (Don't even own any... lol)
Flashlight. Got that on my smart phone.
Camera. Got that on my smart phone (but might bring a little pocket sized point-and-click)
Office supplies. Anything like that I can buy there, I'll just carry a pen and small notebook.
First aid items. Minimal (I just carry a couple of bandaids for blisters, and maybe some Advil for a headache that strikes when I'm not near a Pharmacy.)
Duct tape. The last time I was in Europe, I was there five months and never missed having duct tape.
Washcloth. Probably just the packaged face wipes. Don't have to wash and dry, just use and toss.

Posted by
3789 posts

You mentioned that you couldn't visualize the packing list volume, so I suggested you do a test pack - now - so you could visualize it. Doing it well ahead of the game lets you see how it fits into the suitcase of choice and then reap the joy of knowing how many pretty shoes you can fit in as well. It just seems that you are spending current time guessing and stressing because you can't visualize it. Granted, I plan and do way ahead so I know what to do when packing time comes, but it was one solution to alleviate the question.

Posted by
250 posts

@ Emma - you're right, at the end of the day we need to pare it down, yet not so much that it doesn't work for us. Less isn't ALWAYS more!

@ Maria - I am almost ready to do my "Test" packing. This will be interesting!

Posted by
3789 posts

Hopefully it will be fun as well as interesting. Bear in mind, shoes provide voids that can be filled with bits and bobs and socks. That offers advantages going and returning. I wouldn't plan on putting packages of macarons in your Louboutins for your flight home, but a washable Breton Mariniere might fit. Let us know how it works out.

Posted by
2909 posts

I agree with Emma, again:

I certainly don't pack heavy but I have realised a couple of choices is important to me. Work out what is important to you.

And likely you will never pack completely the same way for each trip. That being said, I barely have more than 8 days of outfits at home so I can only pack so much. And I love laundry services when traveling. LOL

Posted by
1179 posts

I have to disagree with Emma.

I once tried to do the "packing light" thing for a business trip and I was miserable.

So you basically gave up after trying something once.

I’ve never been able to master something the first time I did it. Usually the first time of anything is a disaster for me. The first time I tried rock climbing it snowed and I got my shoe stuck in a crack. The first time I drove I got stuck in a ditch. The first time I tried to do carry on only I was a disorganized mess.
I sat down and said “Hmmm. I must have done something incorrectly if it turned out this badly.” Then I tried to figure it what went wrong. And I fixed it.

While a certain travel style my not be right for you, giving up after a single attempt really isn’t fair either. It’s not right to talk someone out of something when you’ve only made a single attempt at it yourself.

OP will find her own way, but I hope at least she tries.

Posted by
250 posts

At the end of the day, we all have to decide what trade-offs work for us.

Does taking four or five pair of shoes provide me with a benefit that makes it worth lugging a slightly larger bag all over Europe? Maybe!


Is it worth the extra expense to take a smaller bag, and then BUY some shoes while I'm there? Hmmm...

In the second scenario, I could pack a lightweight nylon duffel bag for the purpose of bringing home stuff I buy that won't fit in my suitcase going home. Then I could take home one bag on the plane and check the other (and I get a free checked bag with Delta.) It won't matter if I have an extra bag to carry when I arrive at my home airport, because I'll just get in the car and go home.

Posted by
5697 posts

And there's a reason the RS tour guides talk about the "don't-tell-Rick" foldup bag.

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5697 posts

It's the "Hide Away Tote Bag" in the online store.

Posted by
128 posts

Moleskin for feet and for writing stuff down.

If you will be walking a lot I would pack moleskin before anything else. Even with well broken in walking shoes I got hot spots and that helped immensely. You probably don't need to pack office supplies except for a pen. As far as gifts for your hosts I would buy them a nice bottle of wine at the destination assuming they drink of course. The hotels have hair dryers so you don't need to pack that either. You can take a small moleskin notebook like this . I found that very handy to carry in my purse at all times to jot down notes. Some people use apps on their phones for that too.

Posted by
842 posts

OP wrote: I don't care about checking a bag, I get it free with my Delta AMEX Gold card so that's not an issue.

The expense of checking a bag is not why onebaggers use only legal carry-on.s and personals. It’s the peace of mind of having everything within reach and knowing that, whatever happens at the connecting points, one can be comfortable and fully equipped for any unexpected change of plans. Plus, there’s never any wait8ng at the carousel. But onebagging is a commitment to a particular traveling and packing style. It’s fun and easy and carefree but onebagging is not for everyone. However, we know from years of practice and monitoring these types of discussions, successful onebaggers rarely revert to conventional luggage and packing methods, even when going on cruises or whitewater rafting trips.

As others have said, the important things are to pack whatever you need to be comfortable, do it in a way you understand, and to enjoy yourself.

Safe travels.

Posted by
250 posts

onebagging is a commitment to a particular traveling and packing
style. It’s fun and easy and carefree but onebagging is not for

Well, that puts it in perspective. I find it so stressful to worry about how I can fit two months worth of clothing and other items into one small carry-on bag that it is becoming counterproductive to the point of the whole trip which is to have FUN and ENJOY myself. I want to wear cute clothes and cute shoes, especially in fashionable cities like Paris and Rome. I'm not going to Europe so I can wear a couple of non-descript interchangeable outfits with my one pair of sturdy walking shoes every day. I'm not going to wear cargo pants with a zip off bottom that double as shorts. I'm not going to wear my "windbreaker in a bag" that I take on camping trips. Yes, I'm going to try to coordinate my clothing so I can get as many outfits out of a few pieces as I can, but I'm also going to take all the clothes and shoes I can fit into a MEDIUM sized bag, and I'm going to check it. Waiting around at the baggage carousel isn't that big of a deal to me - I'm going to be in Europe two months, so it's worth an extra 20-30 minutes to collect my bag.

My main concern is hauling my luggage everywhere I go, which is why I'll get it all into the one medium roller bag. I'll also have a good sized backpack which I'll carry on the plane and which can suffice for day trips (it can hold a change of clothes and toiletries.)
For me this IS packing "light." I'm not trying to win any contest for the least amount of clothes I can take on my European tour - I'd lose that contest. Oh well...

Posted by
1179 posts

I'm not going to Europe so I can wear a couple of non-descript interchangeable outfits with my one pair of sturdy walking shoes every day. I'm not going to wear cargo pants with a zip off bottom that double as shorts

Most one baggers don’t dress this way. You’re proposing a strawman fallacy that doesn’t exist.

Feel free to pack how you wish, but don’t use hyperbole to justify your decision! Own your choice!

Posted by
21045 posts

I have no problem checking a bag; I do it on every trip. I do not enjoy carting a heavy suitcase up a long flight of stairs at a train station, sometimes under time pressure, or up three flights of stairs in a hotel with no elevator or a broken elevator. More weight in the suitcase means more stress on the wheels as you bounce the bag over non-smooth pavement. Having to replace a bag mid-trip is no fun. It's always a trade-off.

As for having a lot of cute shoes, they will probably limit your walking. How often are you going to go back to your hotel room mid-way through the day? My answer is "virtually never", so I would never start the day wearing anything other than supportive shoes with cushioned soles. I walk 6 to 12 miles a day and spend a lot of time standing on hard museum floors, and I intend not to be in pain while on an expensive European vacation.

Posted by
250 posts

@ Cindy - I did just “own” my decision - that was what my last post was all about. I want an adequate (for me) wardrobe, spanning two months and two seasons. And it won’t fit in a carry-on.

As for the shoes, I’ve got this. I already walk a LOT, I’m good with walking. (I do other sightseeing, I recently spent a few days covering Manhattan by foot.) I know which shoes to wear which are cute but comfortable for a day of walking. But I’m also going to be visiting friends, including friends in Paris, and we’ll go out to dinner or clubs and I’m gonna wear nice shoes and outfits!

Posted by
1179 posts

Cindy - I did just “own” my decision - that was what my last post was all about.

If you truly owned your choices then there would be no need to justify them by putting down other techniques. You basically stated that one baggers wear “nondescript interchangeable outfits” and “cargo pants with zip off bottoms”. That’s not usually true. Look at the Vivienne files or Une Femme. They have lovely wardrobes.