TRAVELING: Women should pack lightly and carry a daypack instead of a purse. Leave fancy jewelry at home. Keep your valuables in your money belt and tuck your wallet (containing only a day’s worth of cash) in your front pocket. Keep your camera zipped up in your daypack. In crowded places (buses, subways, street markets), carry your daypack over your chest or firmly under one arm. Ask at your hotel or the tourist office if there’s a neighborhood you should avoid, and mark it on your map.
The bulk of your luggage is clothing. Minimize by bringing less and washing more often. Every few nights you’ll spend 10 minutes doing a little wash. Choose dark clothes that dry quickly and either don’t wrinkle or look good wrinkled. Give everything a wet rehearsal by hand-washing and drying once at home.
Pack Lightly and Travel Happy
Think in Terms of What You Can Do Without. Bring very little. Whether you’re traveling for three weeks or three months, you pack exactly the same. (Besides, we want to buy at least one item of clothing on our trip, so we need room in our suitcase).
WHAT TO PACK AND HOW TO PACK
Author Rick Steves is a master at being able to pack lightly. He recommends: Spread out everything you think you might need on the living room floor. Pick up each item and scrutinize it. Ask yourself, “Will I really use this snorkel and these fins enough to justify carrying them around all summer? Will I use them enough to feel good about carrying them over the Swiss Alps?”
You’ll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags, “Every year I pack heavier.” The measure of a good traveler is how light she travels. You can’t travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two. Call your airline (or read the fine print on your ticket) for details. If you have to check your bag, mark it inside and out with your name, address, and emergency phone number.
Limit yourself to a carry-on-size bag. Regulation size is 9” x 22” x 14” bag for European airlines and will easily fit above your seat on the plane or train, and in the tiny European cars/taxis. It is smaller than the usual U.S requirement for carry-on luggage. When you carry your own luggage it’s less likely to get lost, broken, or stolen. And when you arrive, you don’t have to wait around for your bag. After you enjoy that sweet mobility and freedom, you’ll never go any other way. If you must bring another suitcase, keep it small and light even if you check it, as you will be pulling it behind you and up and down train stairs, as you continue to travel.
You are also allowed a ‘personal item’ like a large purse or backpack that will easily fit under your seat.
1.) Socks: 1-2 pairs
Despite the fact that it feels nice and is a natural fibre, cotton is just about the worst sock fabric imaginable. Walking experts overwhelmingly recommend socks made of synthetic yarns (CoolMax, Capilene, PolarTec, and other polyesters are but a few) to keep your feet comfortable and dry. Blends that add wool or alpaca are also acceptable, especially in cooler weather; they don’t wear as well, though. The main function of socks is to “wick” (draw) moisture away from the skin.
2.) Trench coat: Looks fashionable, warm enough, rain repellent. Can wear on the plane so it doesn’t bulk up your suitcase.
3.) Scarf: necktie, scarf, hairband, bandanna
Accessorizing is a good way to stretch a wardrobe; for women in particular, a well-chosen scarf can dramatically alter the appearance — and thus multiply the utility — of an outfit. Costume jewellery also works well in this manner. In colder weather, a long woolen scarf can add a surprisingly effective layer, as can a warm shawl.
4.) Shoes: Don’t break in a new pair of shoes on your trip. For many women, myself included, shoes are a big weight challenge.
Try to find a pair that works with everything you’re taking. Thin heels are problematic on cobblestones and when trekking uphill (despite the observation that plenty of Italian women traipse all over in their high heels. Modest wedges and chunky heels are more practical. If you do take a second pair of shoes, be sure to utilize their interior spaces for packing purposes.
The Italy Retreat I’ll be teaching in Cinque Terre will involve a lot of walking uphill with some hiking on the trails connecting the 5 Cinque Terre villages. Then I’m staying in Italy for 3 more weeks, so packing lightly is even more of a challenge, as I’ll be tired of wearing the same things for 30 days.
TRAVEL CHECK LIST
Carrying your checklist with you during your travels can also be useful when repacking, by helping to ensure that you have not forgotten anything.
The consistent use of such a checklist (keep one in your bag, or the room where you regularly pack) is the single most important step you can take to lighten your packing load.
- Address list. Taking a whole address book is not packing light—bring a list of email and snail mail addresses. Consider typing a sheet of gummed address labels.
- Postcards or small picture book of your hometown and pictures of your family to share with people you meet as a conversational ice breaker.
- Small notepad and pen. A tiny notepad in your back pocket is a great organizer, reminder, and communication aid (for sale in European stationery stores).
- Journal. This will be your most treasured souvenir. Use a hardbound type designed to last a lifetime. Attach a copy of your itinerary.
- A good paperback. There’s plenty of empty time on a trip to either be bored or enjoy some good reading.
- Radio, Walkman, MP3 player, or recorder. Partners can bring a Y-jack for two sets of earphones.
- Collapsible umbrella.
- Tiny lock. Use it to lock your backpack zippers shut. There are pickpockets. Some of them are children.
- Spot remover. Bring Shout wipes or a dab of Goop (grease cleaner) or Tide to Go pen for food and drink stains.
- Bug repellant. Especially for France and Italy.
- Gifts. Local kids love T-shirts and hologram cards, and gardeners appreciate flower seeds.
Do you have any tips to help us travel lightly and happily in Italy?
PHOTO: My husband and 2 kids, Grace and David traveling lightly at the Roma airport.
You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article, provided author credit is included.