People are surprised when I tell them my wife and I went to Europe for a week and a half and never checked bags. I’m always a bit bemused by that reaction, as doing so wasn’t difficult at all. All it takes is a bit of foresight and some discipline.
As background information, a bit about us and the trip. We’re not kids any longer! In our 50’s, we tend toward dressy casual apparel; neither of us bothered bringing jeans, for instance. Our itinerary called for 4 nights in Rome, 4 nights in Sorrento, 1 night in London, and (unfortunately), one night at the O’Hare Hilton during our return. (The Marquis de Sade seemingly had a hand in developing our itinerary, and was ably assisted by British Airways and United Airlines, but that’s another post.) Temperatures in Rome and Sorrento were forecast to be in the mid 70’s to low 80’s, and that forecast was accurate.
Did we do a perfect job? Not quite. There were a few items I shouldn’t have bothered packing, a few things I wish I’d packed, and 3 or 4 items which were absolutely indispensable.
Here’s our luggage in one of our rooms, just after we checked in. I used the 20″ Andiamo wheeled duffel on the right (my “personal item” was a Pacsafe Metrosafe 350); my wife used a 21″ Landor & Hawa Sub-0-G wheelie, and of course her purse was her personal item.
I’m afraid I never weighed either of these bags when packed, but I’d guess that the Andiamo weighed about 15 or 16 pounds, and the Sub-0 perhaps 13 pounds, but these are just guesses. Loading them into the overhead on the Triple 7’s and 767’s we flew was easy.
My intent was to take a photo of everything I packed in the Andiamo wheeled duffel, and I almost succeeded; everything is pictured below, prior to some last minute adjustments. You can click on this image for a close-up; each item (or pile) is labeled (you may have to zoom in on the image to read the labels):
One thing that ought to be fairly obvious is I tended to pack articles of clothing that could be mixed and matched – shirts that were versatile (color-wise), and could be worn with any of the slacks, for instance.
Before going any farther, here are the items which did NOT make the cut:
- The BlackBerry charger. At one point I was thinking that if my iGo charger crapped out on me, I’d be without any means to charge my phone. In the final analysis, I decided to man up and trust the iGo, ditching the dedicated BB charger. (The iGo worked great, by the way; I’ll post about it soon, along with pictures of it in use in one of our hotels, and on a 777.)
- I had 4 pair of slacks I intended to bring: a pair of Orvis travel slacks, a pair of TravelSmith “8 Days a week” travel slacks, a pair of Ex-Officio nylon slacks, and one pair of Jos. A. Bank “Traveler” chinos. I dropped this last item as I packed, as I felt 3 pair were plenty. See below for some post-trip thoughts on this subject.
- The IAMAT kit. If one of us got sick, I could check the IAMAT website, or ask our hotel for help.
Items which were added after this photo was taken:
- A second Jos. A. Bank oxford shirt.
And, the worst list of all – things I brought along and never (or barely) used:
- The “under the clothing” money belt. I’ll write about what I did regarding security, money, and pickpockets in a future post. I just couldn’t see messing around with that belt. I did wear the Eagle Creek belt on our way to Italy because it has a plastic buckle and as such doesn’t need to be removed for security; I didn’t bother using its zippered money compartment, though.
- The med kit in the clear sided Tom Bihn cube: I packed way too many antacids, anti-diarrhea pills, and the like in this, and it was essentially unused – except for one morning when I was suffering a bit from an excessive meal the evening before. I think the kit’s a good idea; I just put too many pills in it.
- The Garmin GPS. I used it once in Rome, just to see if it’d be useful when walking to a destination (it was marginally useful). We’d intended to rent a car in Sorrento for a day, which is the real reason I’d brought it along, but we ended up passing on the car rental.
- The second oxford shirt; never wore it. ( ! )
Here’s a photo of the bag when fully packed; there isn’t a lot of room left over. The meds in the Bihn cube, my toiletry items, and 3-1-1 bag went in the outside zippered pocket. The sports jacket is on top, of course; I used the folding technique Till Richter posted about at OBOW.
What was in the Pacsafe backpack?
I used the Pacsafe to carry all my on-board items as well as key electronics:
- Canon S90
- Trip Planner booklet
- Excerpts of two Italy travel guides
- A copy of Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar
- iPod Touch, earbuds
- Frequent Flyer cards
- My iGo universal charger – for use with our netbook, the iPod, and my BlackBerry
- Sunglass case and sunglasses
- Reading glasses in a hard case
- Asus netbook in its neoprene cover
- “Regular wallet” with backup credit card, driver’s license, etc. (removed at security checkpoints, by the way)
- Little notebooks, pens, magnifier, etc.
What did I forget – or didn’t even consider – packing?
It’s funny how you get used to thinking about things a certain way, out of habit. Both of us planned to wash socks, underwear, and shirts. When I travel solo, I always have plenty of spots to hang quick-drying items overnight after washing them. Easy, right? Add another person who also wants to hang up items to dry, and you run out of real estate quickly! I never consider bringing a clothesline – or a sink stopper – when traveling, as I’ve never had any need for them. I could have used both on this trip, and in fact when we were in Sorrento we went to a Standa supermarket and purchased a length of vinyl-coated rope for use as a clothesline; here it is in use:
The “clothesline” was about €3, and the clothespins were about half that – not bad at all. They didn’t make the trip home, of course – I left them in our last hotel room.
There’s another item I wish I’d brought along, and it was a factor on our transatlantic flights. If you look at the photo of the items I packed, you may notice that there aren’t a lot of jackets or sweaters. I should have known better from past experience: the temp on our aircraft was occasionally on the cold side. I wish I’d packed a lightweight fleece pullover for those situations!
What else could I have done differently? The nylon slacks are fine for the beach or casual dining, but I think I’d leave them behind next time. The sports jacket went unused until our last night in Sorrento, when we went to a Michelin star-rated restaurant. It was by no means necessary even there; I’d have to think hard about bringing it along if we were going on a similar trip in the future.
Other than that, I don’t think I’d change things up much in the future. Perhaps another couple pair of travel socks, maybe one less long sleeve nylon shirt; nothing overly dramatic. Having said all this, Pat may have done a better job than I; she used everything in her bag, and I never heard her mention missing anything or regretting packing something. I’ll see if I can coerce her into writing a short post about how she approached packing.
How about you? Any thoughts about how to keep things light, while trying to pack smart looking, casual clothing? Please comment!
- A few images from our trip to Italy…
- 3 items which proved indispensable on our trip to Italy
- One bag adventure: 5 days/4 nights in Vegas – casual plus dressy – no checked luggage…
- Avoid overpacking with a simple trip plan
- Indispensable Travel Tool #2: Orvis microfiber travel pants with hidden pockets
- A minimalist approach to packing for a short business trip