Hi friends! I recently returned from a two week trip to Paris, London and Dublin and the whole time I was thinking about things I could share with all of you. I did a lot of advance planning and I’ve traveled a fair amount before but there are things you just don’t realize until you’ve been on the road for a while. Today I'll be sharing my favorite packing tips. I like to pack as little as possible and prefer to carry on. I want to able to use everything I packed, ideally multiple times.
Let's start with luggage. To carry-on you'll need to limit yourself to two bags, a suitcase and a day pack. I prefer a small suitcase with wheels that I can quickly convert to hand carrying when I encounter stairs or curbs. A few years ago, I found a tiny roller bag that easily fits into any overhead. I did a lot of searching for the perfect rolling carry-on and found one T.J.Maxx. It’s really great for a one week vacation but in truth was too small for this two week journey. I bought so many souvenirs that they wouldn’t all fit so I had to buy an extra bag and check the suitcase for my return flight.
For my day pack, I brought this backpack from Modcloth. Not only does it look really nice but it also converts to a shoulder bag. Many museums don't allow backpacks so I specifically looked for a bag that converts. In general, I prefer the backpack to the shoulder bag because it balances the weight and keeps the hands free. But it was nice on occasion to adapt it. This backpack is made of leather and held up surprisingly well in a couple of rainstorms. It's slightly smaller than I would like but it did help me to not overpack.
I also brought a really small crossbody purse that fit just my wallet, phone, passport, a pen and lipstick. I usually wore it underneath my coat for extra security. And if anyone got picky about my number of bags, it would easily fit inside the backpack.
Now that you've got your bags, it's time to fill them up. In general, it's wise to bring clothes that you already enjoy wearing and know are going to be comfortable. And of course, things that you can mix and match. I kind of went for a 5/5/2/2 method, bringing 5 tops, 5 bottoms, 2 sweaters and 2 dresses or jumpsuits.
PACKING LIST FOR TWO WEEKS IN EUROPE
1 tank top
1 button down
1 pullover sweater
2 pants (1 jeans)
1 sleep pants
7 pairs undies
7 pairs socks (including 1 pair compression socks for the plane)
3 pairs shoes (1 each sneakers, booties and sandals)
Castile soap (for body and clothes)
Glasses/Contact lenses (case and solution)
Makeup Removing Wipes (cut them in half before you go to make them last longer)
noise-canceling headphones (one of the few items that I only use on the plane)
tablet (for reading/watching videos)
chargers, electrical converter
snacks (more on this here)
Phew! That's a lot of stuff once it's all written down. But there was really only one thing I didn't use more than once and that was the skirt, mostly because it was colder on the trip than I expected it to be. It would have been better to bring a skirt that was less bulky and looked good when layered with leggings.
TIP #1: Plan to do laundry
I wore everything at least once and I was able to do some laundry while on the road. Sometimes an Airbnb will have access to laundry facilities where you can wash a bigger load. But washing a few things in the bathroom sink will also help lighten the load. I brought a small bottle of castile soap that I used as body wash and for laundry. Make sure to plan ahead a bit and don’t do the washing the night before a travel day. Give your clothes plenty of time to dry before packing them up again.
TIP #2: Opt for non-bulky items
The one thing I really regret bringing was the skirt I chose (this one). I love the skirt but it was very bulky and took up a lot of space. The weather was also cooler than I expected so I only wore it once on a travel to reduce bulk in my suitcase. Not the best reason for wearing it. Next time, I’ll pack a skirt that will take up less room in my suitcase and save the big gathered ones for home wear.
Living in California, I’m used to very warm days and very cool nights but an all day chill with rain was hard for me. I know it’s silly but I’m just used to warmer temps so anything below 60 feels really, really cold. My first few days in Paris were really cold but layering as much as I could kept me fairly warm. I wore my leggings under my jeans plus a t-shirt, button-down and pullover. I wore my coat and scarf everyday of my trip, which kept me warm and mostly dry but I’m really happy to not wear them for a while. ;)
TIP #3: Treat your feet well
I always get sore feet after a day of walking so I really tried to bring the most comfortable, yet still stylish shoes I could find. I brought booties, sneakers and sandals. They are all shoes that I would wear for a full day at home with no problems. But when traveling, I was walking 20,000 steps a day sometimes and my feet were killing me. About 10 days into my trip, I headed to the drugstore and bought some Dr. Scholls inserts and my feet felt 1000% better. I just slipped them into whatever shoes I was wearing that day and I almost forgot how much my feet had been hurting before.
For the plane, I bought some compression socks to help reduce any possible swelling. Not sure if it worked or not but it’s not a bad idea if you want to prevent problems.
My booties are very comfortable and supportive but next time, I’d look for a heel that is not tapered at all. Walking on cobblestone streets was a little difficult and I’m so grateful that I didn’t twist my ankle.
TIP #4: Reduce those toiletries
I was surprised by how few toiletries I really needed over two weeks. The tough thing about going to a new place is never knowing how your hair or skin will react to a new climate. I always bring lots of moisturizers because my skin tends to get really dry. I definitely brought a few more than I needed. I had a lot more sunscreen than I ended up using.
Bring toiletries that have multiple purposes. Castile soap that can be used for the body or your clothes. Pure aloe vera gel (the clear kind) can be used as hair gel, shave gel and will soothe sunburn.
Bring tiny sample sizes. I have a Birchbox subscription so I have lots of sample sizes. But if you only have a large size you can decant a little bit into a smaller container. I had great success using a contact lens case to hold daytime moisturizer and serum. I used both at least once a day and still had leftovers in the case when I got home. You could probably last two and half weeks on one contact lens size. How awesome is that! The case is very compact and very tight so there was no leakage to worry about.
Speaking of toiletries, opt for screw on tops rather than flip lids. On my return, my flip lid soap opened and spilled. Fortunately it was inside a ziplock bag and inside my toiletry case so it didn’t get on a lot of stuff. Also make sure to double check that those lids are tight before you leave.
I’ve used the same Eagle Creek toiletry case for at least ten years and it is amazing (similar here). It has held up really well and is prevented a lot of spills from leaking onto the rest of my stuff. It’s not super fashionable looking but it freakin’ works.
While I was preparing this post, I stumbled upon this packing list from Joan Didion. It's definitely worth a read of this rather genius and an awesome glimpse into the 1970s. Do you have any packing tips?