“I get ideas about what’s essential when packing my suitcase.”
--Diane von Furstenberg
Alright – I have been writing most of the blogs on this website. A while back, Greg said he had an idea for a blog and I thought – that is awesome! He said he wanted to write about what he packed for our 9 month trip and I thought – “OK, that sounds really boring to me, but if you want to write about it, go for it!” Anyway – people loved that blog post. I mean – he got more comments than I have received for over 50 posts…so I guess I have to admit that I was wrong and he was right….lots of people are really interested in what to pack!
Several people said they wanted to know what I packed -- how to pack like a pro from a woman's perspective. This probably goes against all advice for blogging but I’m going to be completely honest and tell you that I really hate packing. I absolutely love traveling, but I hate to pack. But I do it time and time again, so maybe that does make me a bit of an expert. I’m not sure. One thing I try really hard to remember is that if I have my passport, my bank cards and a credit card, I can keep traveling…. everything else is reasonably easy to replace. Also important is a piece of advice I read while preparing for this trip that I really took to heart. The article suggested that we should pack as if we were going on a 2 week trip – not 9 months. Well, I’ve gone on lots of 2 week trips, so that made the process less daunting. In any case, let me tell you about what I packed for 9 months.
First, I’ll tell you what I brought in the way of clothing. If you have been following the blog or our Facebook page, you will notice me wearing the same clothes a lot, just like Greg! Fortunately, Greg doesn’t seem to mind and we keep seeing different people wherever we go, so I just keep wearing the same things and changing my scarf. Some of my clothes are starting to wear out! My advice is to choose clothes that are comfortable, work together in several outfits, are easily washable and don’t wrinkle. I really like to wear all black and then dress it up with a colorful scarf or a necklace to change it up a bit. Since I knew we were going to be going through all sorts of weather, I had to be pretty selective. Here is a list of what I packed. I’ve included manufacturers where I thought you might be interested. I’m not endorsed by any of them but if they worked well for me I pointed them out. Oh – and I packed too many clothes. I have things I haven’t used very much. I will leave those at home next year.
Here's my list:
2 short sleeve loose tops that cover my rear end – one plain and one colorful
1 large black t-shirt that I stole from Sam when we visited Chelsea and Sam in Copenhagen at the beginning of our trip – I needed something I could work and paint in, etc.
2 loose, sleeveless polyester tops from Loft that I can pair with a sweater. These also are long enough to cover my rear end – this seems to be a theme.
2 black short sleeve black t-shirts – I think I got these at TJ Maxx (that's TK Maxx in the UK!)
2 long sleeve Columbia t-shirts – one dark purple and one bright mauve
1 loose and long dark green long sleeve top that yes, covers my rear, and looks nice with leggings
1 pair Columbia hiking pants
1 pair khaki cropped ankle pants (that I have been told I should not wear with hiking shoes, for fashion’s sake)
1 pair LuLaRoe leggings, 1 pair thick black leggings, 1 pair thin black leggings
3 pairs of shorts (these have not been used much – I’ll only bring one pair next time)
3 dresses – 1 black short sleeved dress and 2 sleeveless dresses – all of these can be paired with a sweater and a scarf - or not
1 grey cardigan sweater from Ann Taylor
1 black loose sweater from TJ Maxx
1 grey sweatshirt – it’s nice…can be dressed up or down – I wear it a lot
1 pair skinny jeans from J. Crew
10 pair underwear and 3 bras from Victoria’s Secret (this really is too much information, isn’t it?)
2 pair pajama pants (Victoria’s Secret and Fat Face (a Christmas gift)
1 pajama top
1 night gown (Victoria’s Secret of course)
1 pair Tieks black flat ballet shoes – these are not as comfortable on cobblestones as I want them to be but they are very versatile and cute) Next time I will opt for more comfortable – hopefully whatever I find will still be cute as well.
1 pair Sanuk flip flops – great as shower shoes when needed
1 pair slippers purchased for £ 2 at Ikea (thank you, Sam!) – my best purchase while traveling
1 pair waterproof Merrell hiking shoes
1 pair Birkenstock sandals
1 black Patagonia winter jacket – I’m very happy with this. It is light, takes up very little space and keeps me warm.
1 dark teal Columbia raincoat – keeps rain AND wind out….very helpful
1 winter hat
1 pair gloves
1 hiking hat
1 bathing suit
2 pairs hiking socks – these are wearing out now. I will need new ones very soon.
1 pair black tights
8 pair black socks - I have too many socks. I need more hiking socks and fewer other socks
1 Micheal Kors small purse big enough for my phone and passport
3 scarves – 2 colorful ones and 1 black one that goes with everything
My computer and phone are very important as they make it possible for me to teach and for us to operate our business from the road. I greatly appreciate being able to stay connected. Greg is in charge of the chargers and plugs. Adapters are all we need. No heavy converters needed for these devises. (Note: UK and European plugs differ from ours and from each other.) I brought my external hard drive too.
I brought our checkbook and a list of all my computer passwords so that I can access what I need as we travel. I have a good book to read. When I finish one, I leave it and buy another. I like a real book. I might have to go with a Kindle someday but for now, I still really like flipping real pages of a good book.
Toiletries and other items:
You know those pretty little bags you get when you buy make up and they give you a free gift or those flannel bags you sometimes get when you buy winter pajamas? I use these to hold my toiletries. Here’s a list of what I take with me to feel comfortable on the road:
Make up, nail polish (although I haven’t used the nail polish even once)
Face wash, Q-tips, cotton balls, dental floss, lotion – when I run out, I buy more
Perscription medications – I brought enough for 9 months…stupid high blood pressure and arthritis in the neck – that’s why we are traveling now….who knows what health issues we may encounter later?
Jewelry -- just a few earrings and necklaces. They don't take up much space and make me feel dressed up.
Vitamins and calcium – when I run out, I buy more. The calcium in Poland is very different – it’s like alka selzer – you drop it in water and it fizzes…..I didn’t know that and the first time I ate one it was like old fashioned pop rocks (but the taste was not as good)
Shampoo, Conditioner – small containers – when I run out, I buy more
Razors – I replace these as I go, too
A comb and hair gel – I don’t travel with a hair dryer or curling iron (can you tell?)
Eye glasses, contacts, saline, sun glasses, reading glasses
A candle and a lighter in case a room needs freshening up (thank you, Chelsea)
Dryer sheets in case pillow cases need freshening up – not needed often but it sure is nice to have it when they ARE needed!
Pencils and pens and a pencil sharpener (the sharpener was a Christmas gift!)
A laundry rope for when we wash underwear and socks in the sink
Nice, good smelling hand cream – it makes me feel nice even when I’m wearing the same thing I’ve worn for the last 7 months!
Ear plugs and eye cover in case things get loud and/or bright. These are also handy when flying
Zip lock bags to hold different currencies.
Really nice headphones -- I love these but they are too big - I need ear buds next year
My luggage is a Samsonite Silouette roller bag and I have an Osprey Tempest 30 backpack. The roller bag is too big to take on a Ryan Air or an Easy Jet plane so I have to check it – but we check 1 bag between the two of us, so that’s not too bad. Greg’s backpack is small enough to double as a daypack when we hike and he has a Camelback 2.5 liter bladder that fits into the backpack as well. We use that when we go hiking for any distance.
That’s it!! I still get up early to pack when I need to but when you pack less to begin with, the process is much easier. I’m always very careful to do a good sweep of the rooms where we’ve been staying to make sure I haven’t left anything. I like to be careful about doing this. So far the only thing I’ve really lost was my hat and gloves on a train. I somehow left them on the seat. I tried to get back on the train to retrieve them but everyone else was trying to find their seats. Greg was already on the platform and I was afraid the train would take off with me on it – so I got off and left my hat and gloves. Greg had an extra pair of each so I haven’t even had to buy new ones. He’s nice like that.
Like Greg, there is still room in my bag to fit a bottle of wine or two in if need be. I am very happy not to have any more every time we move from place to place and I really do have too much even though it’s just one small suitcase and a backpack. I will leave some of the clothes and unused toiletries (nail polish?) behind next year. Every time we walk from a train or a plane or a subway station to our destination with our bags, I’m very glad I’m not lugging around more stuff. I sometimes see people hauling giant suitcases around and I’m thankful not to be one of them.
I think the best idea is to begin with a small suitcase (and in our case, a backpack as well) and only pack what fits inside. It’s amazing what you can do without and if you really need something, you can probably buy it as you travel. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s worth considering how Europeans are able to survive without it. That gives a whole new meaning to the level of importance we place on our “things.”
One last note on feeling pretty while on the road. I probably have an unpopular attitude toward this as my first thought on the subject is to simply lower your standards. I have gotten a haircut several times while traveling but you never quite know how things will turn out when you walk into a salon – especially when you can’t speak the language (as happened in Italy). I’ve had great luck with haircuts, actually – but I’m waiting until I get back to Ohio to get new color/highlights – or maybe I’ll just try to embrace the grey…I haven’t decided. We’re on a budget so I haven’t wanted to spend money on my hair or my nails or add anything pretty to my suitcase. That said, hopefully my new experiences, fresh perspectives and increased knowledge and understandings add to my appearance in a way that I can’t get from hair color. Or maybe I should just keep wearing a hat – you tell me!
Are you planning a trip somewhere in Europe? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, England and all of Europe. We also still have spots available on our small group trip to Tuscany and our small group trip to Piedmont! We'd love for you to join us! You can always reach Betsy at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you make your travel dreams to Europe come true!