We packed one backpack each when we visited Ireland and Italy in April for 16 days.
Because on our first trip to Italy we broke every travel packing rule known to man. Here were a few of our grossly overloaded stats:
- 2 large suitcases, 1 medium suitcase, 2 carry ons and 1 camera bag (7 bags?!?)
- 20 pairs of shoes (I won't tell who brought the majority...)
- 15 pairs of clothes each
- a blow dryer, hair straightener, beard trimmer, tablet and laptop (trimmer and blow dryer got fried on day 2 - thanks to poor 220V conversion)
In addition, we packed so inefficiently that while we were sitting in the Rome train station, we were able to re-arrange one of the large suitcases and fit the medium one inside of it. Mind blowing.
So like good humans, we learned. We vowed to never travel like that again. Especially given our travel style - going location to location - it made moving by train, plane and automobile formidable at best. In fact, we decided to swing the pendulum so far, we would only allow ourselves one travel style backpack per person.
Our packing philosophy: The question is not "how do we shove as much as possible into a smaller bag?". Instead, our goal is to make less go further by packing as efficiently as possible. We can wear shorts more than once. We can wear sneakers to dinner instead of dress shoes. We can even do our laundry. The idea is to think practically and not get caught going down the "what-if" scenario rat hole. There will always be a time where a raincoat is convenient, or a pair of pleated slacks would look nice at dinner. The truth is, street vendors everywhere will be begging to sell a $7 umbrella and the best restaurants don't require dress clothes. Moral of the story, we pack light and worry about the rest when we get there. It never fails that Kailah "conveniently" forgets items at home, which leaves room in her suitcase for the return journey...
Our gear: The travel bags that we use are Rick Steve's Europe brand, but there are many others on the market. We use these packs because they offer adequate space, useful pockets, compression straps and arm straps which allow us to wear them like a traditional backpack. They can also be compressed down to "carry-on" size for air travel, which means we never wait at the baggage claim and our bags never get lost on a layover. This can be a pretty big win when we don't feel like hunting down a shopping mall on our first day of travel. At the same time (and as you can imagine), some of our most memorable experiences seem to happen when we unexpectedly need something in a foreign culture - so we don't stress! Last but not least, backpacks are just plain convenient - they are easier to maneuver on and off trains, they fit into the trunks of those tiny European rental cars and they make walking from transport to transport a breeze.
Kyle's list: As an example, here is what I would pack nowadays for a week in Italy in June. Notice how simple it is. The most important items are probably my trip documents, as I generally can't reproduce those.
- Toiletries (toothbrush, tooth paste, floss, razor, deodorant and Q-tips). We either use the soap/shampoo from our accommodations, or buy these things when we get there.
- 7 days worth of socks and underwear. If we are going for longer than 7 days, laundry is in our future (or shopping - This past April I got a few pair of local wool socks from a shop in Dingle, Ireland)
- 3 pairs of khaki shorts and 1 pair of dark jeans. Don't forget a belt!
- 7 t-shirts and 2 light golf shirts.
- 1 sweatshirt/sweater
- 1 pair of sport shorts for sleeping or relaxing.
- 1 pair of sandals and 1 pair of comfortable sneakers (I always wear the sneakers on the plane to save room in my bag). Sandals aren't necessary, but they take up minimal room and are easy to slip on and off around the accommodations.
- Power adapters specific to convert Italian outlets to 120V (to charge cell phones, tablets etc)
- Lastly, I bring my camera bag as my carry-on and include any books or electronics I want for the plane ride, plus all documents that need to be brought along (train tickets, copies of passports, itinerary etc)
In our minds, our "learned" packing strategy is an integral part of enjoying our trip. The key is to not stress and as I alluded to earlier, it is the unexpected adventures that tend to leave us with the longest lasting impressions.