Pack Lightly for Carry-On Only

The plight of a large suitcase in Italy

The Sweet Life* Pack-Light List for Women: 
Lenora Boyle’s 27 Essentials Pack Lightly for Carry-On Only Travel

I’m giving you a peek into the list I send to my Italy Retreat for Women travelers. Maybe it will be helpful to you, too. Or check out my video on how to pack lightly.

The 27 Essential Items will be split between 2 bags:
Carry-on luggage measuring 22 x 14 x 9 inches (55 x 40 x 20 cm), which will fit in the overhead, and
one personal bag 9 x 10 x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm),
such as a large purse, briefcase, or backpack that you’ll place under your seat.

Most airlines have a carry-on weight limit of 40 pounds. But, check with your specific carrier for size limits. (23 inch carry-on works in the US, but not for European travel). Remember, sometimes a decision can be made by the whim of the agent, and they force you to check your bag.

Extras you can carry on-board:  United Airline’s Contract of Carriage is filled with exceptions to the carry-on plus personal item rule. These include an overcoat or wrap, an umbrella, a reasonable amount of reading material, a camera, and a diaper bag. As long as they are enforcing their rules (and then some), passengers should be aware of all the permissible exceptions. I also stuff the pockets of my coat with items like socks and scarves.

Why carry-on-only travel? Freedom and simplicity! You won’t lose your luggage, it’s easy to hop on and off trains and buses, wheel your bag along cobblestone paths and up a flight of steps when needed. (See photo above of the red suitcase that is too large).

I never dreamed I could travel with less than a very large 60-pound suitcase and now it’s easy for me. You’ll get the hang of it, with practice.

So welcome to easier travel!

1. Shoes, 3-4 pairs: I use back strap shoes (Merrell’s, Keen, or Ecco) for walking up hills and stairs, closed toe shoes on the flight with light socks for warmth, a “dressy” pair of flip-flops for dinner around town, and rubber flip-flops for walking on the cold hotel floors and maybe in the showers. TIP: Pack pajamas, hairbrush, etc. inside your closed-toed shoes, so no space is wasted.

2. Scarves, 2 or 3: This is my #1 must-have. I use them for multiple purposes – dress up any outfit, use as a shawl or as a head cover for warmth on the plane or on a rainy/breezy day. A shawl can be added to wear on cool evenings.

3. Skirts or dress, 1–2: I usually bring a skirt and a dress, or skip the dress and bring 2 skirts instead. I keep a scarf and a long-sleeve layer in my daypack for dinner if I’ve been out hiking the trails.

4. Tops: I suggest 2-3 short sleeve tops and 2-3 sleeveless tops, one sweater, lightweight hoodie, and 1 long-sleeve lightweight top. Make sure to mix and match so everything goes together. Sleeveless tops aren’t permitted in some churches – another reason for that scarf in your backpack. You can possibly wear two tops on the plane to save space.

5. Pants: 1-2 capris, 1 long, 1 pair of shorts or a skort, and maybe a pair of leggings (to sleep in or wear under your skirts). Italians do not wear shorts; however, in the Cinque Terre many of the hikers do.

6. Jacket: Lightweight waterproof jacket/windbreaker/raincoat. I wear this on the plane so I can save room in my carry-on.

7. Sun hat, sunglasses: Make sure your hat can be scrunched in your suitcase without ruining it. I love Wallaroo hats.

8. Computers/Tablets: This is optional. I bring mine to blog and upload photos. Internet is spotty, though, so just plan on having limited internet time. Also, if you have a book on your tablet, you won’t need to pack one.

9. Camera: Bring an extra battery and extra memory card. Also, a charger with adapter for European voltage.

10. SmartPhone: For iPhones, you can turn cellular data off, and still do Facetime and texting as long as you are in a Wi-Fi area. Consult your carrier for your options. Facetime is free, but there is a charge for outgoing texts.

11. Notebook and pens for journaling. A small Italian phrase book.

12. Tissues and antibacterial wipes: Small packets. Many public bathrooms do not have toilet paper.

13. Small purse & Light-weight tote or bag that is stored in its own tiny bag: For glasses, lipstick, credit cards and cash when we go out to dinner. The tote can be used for the beach or grocery shopping.

14. Liquids: You can pack as many 3 oz. containers (100 ml) as will fit into a quart-sized zip-lock baggie. Contact lens solution can be in a separate baggie and not counted with your liquids.  You can buy a strong zippered quart sized zippered plastic bag from Eagle Creek that I’ve used for years and love it.

15. Toiletries: If you want to travel with your make-up, transfer your liquid foundation, and skin creams into small containers. A little goes a long way. Use zip-lock plastic baggies instead of make-up bags to save room.

16. Daypack: This can be a lightweight Baggallini over-shoulder purse, a light backpack, or cross body messenger bag for daytrips and hiking while in Italy. Here’s a link for several suitcase companies that sell regulation sized bags for European standards.

17. Flashlight or book light to double as flashlight. 

18. Eye shades and ear plugs: Bucky eye shades are my favs. They are soft and super comfortable, with a small pocket for ear plugs. I prefer the foam ones that just muffle sounds. It can be noisy outside your hotel windows and on the plane.

19. Alarm Clock: Italy hotels usually do not have clocks with an alarm.

20. Swimsuit and sarong or cover-up. Since we travel to the Italian Riviera, we swim. A sarong is optional but can be used as towel if we put it in our daypacks/messenger bags during our hike, and then stop to swim.  Our hotel in Monterosso will provide beach towels.

21. Reading glasses: Pack two pairs in case you lose one. You’ll want to be able to read the menus!

22. Passport: Get a passport holder that you can wear around your neck. Baggallini carries one that I like. It looks a little dorky, but it’s worth it to know where your passport and boarding passes are. You can safely tuck some cash or a credit card in the extra zippered pocket. Make a copy and keep it separate from the original one.

23. Extras on board: In addition to one carry-on and one personal item, passengers may bring on board a coat, reading material, small bag of food and devices such as wheelchairs and walkers.

24. Under Garments: 4-5 pairs of underwear that you will wash out with the hotel shampoo, then hang to dry. (Cotton takes longer to dry). 1-2 bras.

25. Pajamas: Lightweight or else you could sleep in one of your tops and leggings.

26. Water and protein snacks: Buy water after you go through security, as it is important to stay hydrated during your long flight. No fruit can be taken to foreign countries, but nuts and seeds can be eaten on board.

27. A small Italian phrase book from Barrons or Rick Steves (if you have room).

Rolling clothes tightly takes up less space, and prevents creases, even though there will still be wrinkles which are hard to avoid. This all works most efficiently when each wardrobe piece can be interchanged.

*I am now using zip-lock vacuum space saver bags to assist in squeezing your rolled clothes in to save space!!

Buon Viaggio! Happy Travels!

* I’m all about living the ‘sweet life’, or as the Italians call it, la dolce vita.  It’s about finding pleasure in even the simplest experience–the fragrance of a new morning or the taste of a ripe peach on your tongue.  Surround yourself with beauty and create the life that you want.

If you liked my tips to Pack Lightly for Carry-On Only, learn more about traveling to Italy on Lenora’s Italy Retreats For Women
Find out more about Lenora’s Sweet Life Workshops and Sweet Life Happiness Coaching.

You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article, provided author credit is included.