As I pointed out the other day, some airlines are offering really good deals on nonstop fares to exotic, balmy and romantic destinations. I did just go to Europe last summer, but one country I've yet to cross off the list is Italy. Italia seems like the ultimate in dichotomies: tons of history and tons of fashion; diverse cities and regions and a unifying culture; priceless art and fabulous nightlife; sharp-dressed in the streets but casual in attitude; sexy yet Catholic.
Since the vast majority of my friends are somewhere in the engagement process, they certainly aren't spending money right now, especially in this... do I have to say it? Anyway, the lack of friends or someone special to travel with isn't going to stop me. I've been looking into Contiki tours, which my sister used to go to Greece and adored. Singles 18-35 in fabulous European cities? Count me in!
One of the most daunting tasks for a traveler that I find positively riveting is the packing of the suitcase. I used to be a high-maintenance packer, frenzied that I'd desperately want the one top-bottom-shoe combination I didn't pack, and the entire trip would be ruined. But since then, I've learned both what my wardrobe multitaskers are and how to better combine items, and that combined with lots of travel has made me quite the light packer.
Always remember: If you pack light, you manage to live light.
But the key to packing light and still looking and feeling fabulous is bringing the right items. And a bottle of Febreeze, if you can manage it. So here is my exercise in and preview of packing light for the trip of a lifetime to a country many people on dream of seeing.
But before we begin, there are three grains of wisdom I gained from experience:
1) You can, and should, wear items more than once. A little soap in the sink or bathtub, hang it to dry overnight, and you'll get another wear out of the item. By the third wear it might get a bit skanky, but better than hauling a 40lb suitcase up four flights of stairs (bonjour, Hotel St. Honore!).
2) You must roll clothes when packing. Saves so much room! Fold the item lengthwise and roll it tightly, and you'll double the amount you can fit in your suitcase. Often helps avoid wrinkling too.
3) You must pick a general range of formality for your clothes. Depending on your destination, your clothes will need to be of a certain caliber of dressiness. You can dress 'em up or down with accessories, but a trip to London would call for a different range of formality than, say, Punta Cana. Also, a neutral color palette will offer you many more options.
For the trip I'm planning, the vast majority of activities I'll dress for will be sight-seeing in casual and semi-formal places (streets of Capri, the Vatican), going out at night and riding an air-conditioned motorcoach. I'm not expecting air-conditioning anywhere, so it'll be a bonus if we come across it. Finally, I expect to do a ton of walking and as much as I fancy the idea of a tryst with a sexy Florentine gentleman in capri pants and a linen shirt, sex appeal won't be my top priority. But I'll need to make sure I'm appropriate and chic enough to avoid the Ugly American thing. Kinda tough not to look like a tourist when you're on a tour, but at least I can be a smartly-dressed East Coast girl with travel savvy!
In the large carry-on (small rolling suitcase):
- 1 pair jeans
- 1 pair white/beige linen pants
- 2 lightweight skirts
- 3-5 camis/sleeveless tops
- 3-5 tops with sleeves (blouses, Oxfords)
- 2-3 sundresses, at least 1 evening-appropriate
- 1 lightweight blazer
- 1 cardigan
- 1 pair flip-flops
- 1 pair heels/tall sandals
- 1 pair wedges/comfortable tall shoes
- Underthings, as many as necessary. No recycling here!
- 2 sets PJs
- 1 great all-around purse
- 1 wristlet/small clutch
And now for the small carry-on, in my case a large Vera Bradley tote:
- Toothbrush, paste, floss
- Contact lens case and solution
- Curling hairspray
- Bobby pins, clips and elastics
- Small make-up bag (more on this later)
- Chi (and voltage adapter!)
- Cosmetic bag, filled with jewelry (more on this later)
- Cell phone and camera, and chargers
- Essentials (wallet, passport, etc.)
- Journal and 2 pens
- Hair dryer. Shower at night and Chi in the morning, or go wavy. Low-maintenance, girls!
- 5 pairs of shoes. Choose 3 versatile ones and you'll find it's plenty. Same goes for purses.
- Every piece of costume jewelry you own.
- Full-size make-up and hair products. This is what samples are for!
- More than one book. Wouldn't you rather write down your thoughts, or reminisce?
Finally, while you want to live light, be prepared with one nice outfit. Most of the fun in traveling is in the unexpected, so if you happen to get asked to dinner at a chic restaurant in Venice by a cute local boy, you want to seize your dressier sundress, tall sandals and clutch so you can take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with class.
Next post: the perfect make-up and jewelry collections for traveling light!
Cheers to travel,