Sunday, July 26, 2015

Packin' a Suitcase

What to pack in a suitcase for Europe? 

Pack two tops for every bottom, bring a mix of bottoms some of which are quick to dry, easy to spot clean, things that are casual yet dressy- something that works for dinner and that can vary with the weather- leggings for colder nights under long skirts are an easy add, a pair of pants, a shorter skirt. Always pack a swimsuit (you never know when an onsen spa, pool, or water park will be on your agenda), jeans, a scarf, and a jacket or blazer (to dress up pants and add a layer of warmth).

Roll together the top, bottom, and any undergarments needed to keep it organized. Pack the rolls tightly into a bag or suitcase. Use a stuff sack or plastic bag that seals to keep either the dirty laundry or the clean clothes separated in your suitcase. Some hotels do have laundry facilities but on vacation it's best to minimize chores. Roll up pajamas with fresh underwear for those who bathe in the evening. If you have nylon stuff sacks, fill them with additional undergarments such as socks, tank tops, and panties, otherwise just roll and stuff them into one side. Vary the extra tops to flex your choices for hotter or cooler weather by packing thinner or thicker fabrics and longer or shorter sleeves.

For kids or those who struggle with staying organized, use a rubber band around each outfit which helps with counting outfits packed, plus later when the suitcase explodes, and for some reason this always happens to my children's bags, anyone can discern what's clean (still has a rubber band around it), what goes with what (still has a rubber band around it), and when they're out of clean clothes (it's all chaos). 

For accessories, I tend to go with low value and non sentimental jewelry such as beaded necklaces, a packable hat, a pair of sandals (plain black Chacos), and usually a pair of closed toe shoes (varies by trip). If the clothes' colors match or compliment each other, it simplifies everything. 

When packing a suitcase for vacation or a flight, it's great to pack light, but my main goal is one suitcase and one carryon. Minimizing toiletries helps, but, I prefer to bring my own razor, hair conditioner, hair goop, skin lotion, sunscreen, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Hotels in Europe rarely supply hair conditioner. I manage without conditioner by traveling with a small bottle of Aveda hair serum. The desire to feel comfortable both while traveling and after arriving means if I have to check my bag so be it, but really my one suitcase is of the size that I can carry it on the flight. Be sure that whatever carryon you take that you can actually lift it to place it in the overhead bins.

For carry on items that both dull the senses and entertain, pack an eye mask, earplugs, a scarf (for blocking light and warmth), a real book, a notepad, pen and mechanical pencil, an empty water bottle, a zip bag with a widget full of audiobooks, headphones, and the necessary cords and plugs for a mobile as well. Travel paperwork for where I'm going, necessary identification, any medications, Motrin and Tylenol, hand wipes, sunglasses, eyeglasses, a contact lens holder loaded with saline, toothbrushing items, nail clipper, tweezers, and extra layers for cold flights like leggings, socks, and a sweater are worth carrying on the plane. Though I wear little makeup, I do keep an item or two in my bag along with lip moisturizer. My husband drags along the camera and memory card which he managed to recharge through a hotel shaver, no new Euro plug needed, but that was luck.

When my kids were little I always brought a thermometer and decongestants. Now I limit it to band aids of various shapes for the cuts and blister crowd. In light of summer travel trials, some kind of anti-itching (kaiume) cream might be a good idea.


Sometimes trips have a unique purpose such as a bike or ski trip requiring special clothes, add those items. For example, on a beach trip add a coverup and flipflops. For a big city trip, add a dressy pantsuit- warm and appropriate for nearly any occasion. 

The purchase of Verizon International call plan for Germany proved worthless. Wifi spots, usually at hotels, airports, and some cafes, were mainly free. We had no internet service when on the road which made the GPS navigation in our rental car invaluable but not infallible.

Safe travels!