The Fine Art of Packing Light
A traveler's guide to learning how to pack light and love it—or, how to fit everything you need for a six month trip into a single, carry-on sized bag
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Even Roman gladiators know the importance of packing into a single, carry on–sized bag (and are fashion-conscious enough to make sure their rolling suitcase matches their togas.) Aside from a gung-ho, healthy attitude, the most important factor that will make or break your trip is your luggage and how you pack it. The biggest hurdle to packing for an Italian vacation really is the mental one: getting used to the idea that everything you truly need will fit into a single small suitcase.
Packing is really easy, and should only take you about an hour. Here's how:
1) Lay out everything you think you’ll need to take and consider the pile.
2) Put away any item that’s not really necessary.
3) Take what remains, pack half of it, and leave the rest at home—you won’t need it.
Pack for ultimate mobility, versatility, and necessity. When in doubt, leave it at home.
How to tell if you've overpacked
- If it doesn’t all fit in one carry-on sized bag plus a daypack, you've overpacked.
- If you can't lift your bag over your head and hold it there for 10 seconds, you've overpacked.
- If you can't shoulder your load and walk five times around the block without breaking a sweat, you've overpacked (and should probably also hit the gym—all the walking you'll do makes travel in Italy an aerobic workout and you need to be ready).
Just bring trial sizes or travel sizes of toiletries—shampoo, toothpaste, tiny bar of soap, etc. You can restock some of it from hotel freebies as you go, and if you run out, European grocery stores and convenience shops carry most major US brands, plus their own product lines that are just as good if not better. In fact, a tube of Plident toothpaste from Croatia makes a pretty nifty and offbeat souvenir.
Trust me, you'll be thankful later when you easily shoulder you bag and zip off to your hotel while the guy who sat next to you on the plane gets a hernia just trying to get his luggage out of the airport.
Only your immediate traveling companions will know you've been wearing the same outfit for the past three countries. Socks, T-shirts, and underwear—the clothes that ripen quickly—are the easiest items to wash out and dry overnight.
In truth, you can wear the same pair of pants for quite a while before they begin walking around on their own in search of the laundromat.
But is a carry-on really large enough for all of my stuff?
If you find yourself running out of room, stop at any post office to ship home the personal items you've found you didn't need, or just before flying home, mail your dirty laundry to yourself. This way, you can carry your new purchases instead of entrusting them to the Italian postal system.
The ultimate packing list
On the next page you'll find the actual packing list I myself use, containing absolutely everything I bring with me (plus a laptop for work, minus the items for women) on any trip to Europe, whether it be for six days or six months.
If an item you thought was necessary doesn't appear on that packing list, ask yourself seriously whether it's truly indispensable. Most likely, you'll get by fine without it, or you can buy it over there if you find you really, really need it. That's one less item for you to lug around and waste your precious travel time dealing with.
Make travel an exercise in simplifying your life.
OK, on to the actual ultimate packing list.
- Split up your stuff. Have your traveling companion pack some of your clothes and you pack some of his. That way, if the airline loses just one bag, both of you will have something to wear until it turns up.
This material was last updated February 2011. All information was accurate at the time.
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