5 Tips for Smart Packing

We’ve been back from our trip to Italy for three weeks now and I’m still not ready to let it go. So I’ll continue dragging out this blog series by sharing some tips I have on packing for long trips.

Not pictured: The evil black duffel bag
Not pictured: The evil black duffel bag

During our first trip to Italy, we used Blake’s large backpack and then brought a separate duffel bag to hold all of our stuff (and all the things we purchased along the way). By the end of that trip, I wanted to set that duffel bag on fire. It was difficult to carry, especially when crammed full, and it made it hard to maneuver through crowds. As soon as we returned from that trip, we headed straight to REI to buy a smaller backpack for me. If you are planning a multi-city trip, or will be using lots of public transportation and walking to get around, you have to get one of these backpacks. It is no fun to drag one of those more than a few blocks, plus no one wants to hear your wheeled suitcase bumping along cobblestone roads.

His and hers backpacks
His and hers backpacks

Now that we have our bags, deciding what to put in them for a 10 day trip can be the hard part. Here are my five tips for packing for a longer trip.

#1 – check the weather. Hopefully you won’t be going to several different climates during your trip, which makes it easier to narrow down the types of clothing you need. For this trip, we saw some lows in the upper 50s and highs in the upper 70s, just depending on where we were in the country.

#2 – learn about how the local dress. In many places outside the US, locals don’t wear shorts except to the beach or in very hot climates. Meals at restaurants might also be less casual than you are used to, so it can be helpful to do some research ahead of time. You should also consider the places you will be visiting. Many churches request women to cover shoulders and legs before going inside. While it is easy to pack a large scarf for these occasions, impromptu covering of legs can be a challenge.  Plan to wear long skirts or pants on days you will visit conservative locations.

Layering is key - add a scarf and jacket for chilly evenings.
Layering is key – add a scarf and jacket for chilly evenings.

#3 – book an apartment or hotel that has access to a washer/dryer. We typically always use AirBnB and try to strategically book somewhere with a washer halfway through the trip. This makes it easy to do a load or two of laundry and allow for air drying before our next destination. This means less to pack and more room in your bags for new purchases. 😉

#4 – stick with items that you can layer and mix to create several outfits. I try to pack 3-4 pairs of pants and several shirts that go with at least 2 of the pairs of pants. That way if you end up with gelato on something, you haven’t lost an entire outfit until you can do laundry. I also try to stick with one neutral pair of shoes that go with everything since shoes are often the heaviest item in the bag. I’ll pack a day pair of shoes for all the walking around, then a pair of sandals or maybe Tieks for the shorter walks to dinner in the evening.

I packed 3 pairs of pants for this trip - white jeans, blue jeans, and black casual slacks.
I packed 3 pairs of pants for this trip – white jeans, blue jeans, and black casual slacks.

#5 – invest in travel size toiletries for everything you would normally use. They make smaller versions of many products, or you can buy a few sets of travel size bottles and fill with your products. You can also find travel size makeup brush kits, hair straighteners and curling irons. I would avoid the smaller hair dryers. Most hotels and AirBnB hosts have these already and it is very easy to blow up a power converter trying to use your US hairdryer in another country. Plus lugging around a hair dryer in a backpack seems like a horrible plan.

I did pretty well and only packed one shirt that I never wore during the trip. Normally I have at least a few pieces, so maybe I’m finally getting the hang of things. I should probably book another trip so I can practice packing again!

Dresses can be a good option for the daytime, just add some casual shoes for walking.
Dresses can be a good option for the daytime, just add some casual shoes for walking.

These are just a few ideas to help you get organized for a long trip. My sister likes to pack older clothes that she can leave behind or throw away during the trip. This is genius – it makes more room for purchases and means less laundry when you get home! What are your tips for packing?

Kendra Sig