When you travel overseas the last thing you want is a lot of luggage. Drag a big suitcase on wheels over a cobblestone street in Italy and you will get stares and snickers. Take that same large suitcase on any train in Europe and pray for a spare seat next to you. Luggage compartments on the railways are typically not big enough to hold more than a large backpack unless you’re lucky.
I travel 10-12 days with a Rick Steves convertible bag. It’s dimensions are listed as 14 x 9 x 21. It allows me to put my Think Tank Speed Demon camera bag around my waist in the front, carry my clothes on my back, while keeping me completely hands free to fiddle with train tickets, maps, etc.
Think it’s impossible to put everything on your back? Think again. Here is my packing list that I follow every time I leave home for a few weeks, plus my personal pre-travel to-do checklist with handy hints.
- Alarm clock, jewelry, sunglasses, European adapter, sporks for picnics
- Make-up bag and toiletry bag
- Hair dryer (if needed)
- Under garments (total days travel plus one for insurance in case of travel delays)
- Socks (total days travel)
- Sleeping t-shirt and shorts
- Shirts (total days travel)
- Jeans and slacks (one of each)
- Extra travel books and necessary confirmations, plus maps
Where are the shoes? Don’t need them. Wear the same pair on your feet everyday. It will save a lot of space. Dress-up clothes for fine dining? Not my style, plus it adds several additional layers to the suitcase for a one-time event. Packing light means prioritizing.
I’ve also gotten into the habit of slinging a carry-on sack for the plane that can be easily packed away once I arrive at my destination, and then brought out again for farmer’s market shopping or a place to put books for a long train ride.
- Money belt (which you need to put on once you arrive at your destination!)
- Passport and wallet with essentials needed
- Airline tickets/EuroRail tickets
- Travel books you want to read
- Neck pillow (Like the American Express card, don’t leave home without it)
- Sweater for chilly plane ride and chilly European nights
I carry more camera equipment than many, but here are the items that I find necessary for my camera bag:
- Digital SLR with lens attached
- Point-and-shoot camera
- Polarizing filter
- Extra memory cards
- Battery chargers
- Lens cleaning cloth
Finally, I keep a pre-travel list handy that makes a great reminder checklist to click-through before I holiday for a few weeks.
- Arrange care and feeding instructions for any pets at home
- Water plants
- Stop mail
- Call credit card companies and alert them of travel plans in specific countries (Note: In Europe most establishments accept MasterCard Euro, which is not the same as MasterCard as we know it in the U.S. Make sure you have a Visa card packed. Medium to larger establishments also accept American Express.)
- Compose “out of office” e-mail alert
- Pack plan baggie for the best hygiene feeling (travel toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, face wipes)
- Pack liquid security quart sized baggie to appease TSA, if necessary
- Photocopy your credit cards, passport and list out credit card emergency numbers. Hide away in your suitcase, far from your wallet
- Compose travel card with flight information for wallet
As much as I resemble a pack mule in this photo, this is a side view of me with all of my travel luggage exposed, just prior to jumping on a train for my next destination. It ain’t pretty, but it works. In the end, less is more.