I’m a rad packer. Just putting it out there.
On my CV under “Skills” it should say: 69wpm, advanced Office Suite, totally rad at packing.
However, despite my rad-ness, this advice comes to you with the caveat that I can only speak from experience. I can’t tell you how to pack for Thailand cause I’ve never been and it’s unlikely I ever will. Fiji, yes; Bali, no.
Today we’ll be packing for: Europe, 2 weeks, 5 locations, end of summer (August/September).
I’m not going to lie, it was a wonderful moment when the woman checking us in to our flight to Europe said:
“One bag for the both of you?!?!?!”
Yes. Like a boss.
First rule of packing: no, you don’t need that.
If you have to ask yourself for even a second if you really need something- you don’t.
Second rule: if you don’t wear it at home, you won’t wear it travelling.
Overseas is not a magical alternate universe where suddenly all the stuff you never wear because it doesn’t look that good, it’s not really you, and it’s uncomfortable will become the best garment ever. Don’t pack it. In fact, donate it to charity- why do you even have that? You never wear it!!
This also applies for products. If, like me, you’re kind of useless and forget to put your night cream on almost every night- don’t think you’ll magically remember to do it in a foreign country. You won’t.
Third rule: only pack items that you’d be happy to wear on a good day as well as a bad.
There are certain items of clothing I can only wear when I’m feeling particularly sassy. On a non-sassy day- if I attempt that item- I actually feel like crying. Don’t take clothes that make you want to cry. You should be able to pull anything out of your bag and feel comfortable and confident no matter what kind of day you’re having.
Fourth rule: you need appropriate clothing for religious sites.
Many, many, many of the things worth seeing overseas are religious. Churches, Mosques, Temples etc. etc. etc. Ain’t none of them letting you in with bare shoulders, flip-flops and skirts/trousers shorter than your knees. That goes for men and woman.
It doesn’t matter how tourist-y or hot the place you’re visiting is, you can’t enter a sacred site in your swimmers. You think I’m kidding, but I saw a bunch of teenagers line up to go in to St. Peter’s Basilica… you know, the VATICAN in mid-drift tops and booty shorts (yes, I saw butt-cheek). Funnily enough, they weren’t allowed in.
Don’t be that person.
If you’re going somewhere hot and don’t want to wear jeans, you should get involved in linen. Linen is light, doesn’t need ironing, and is super breathable. You can get some quite smart linen items, too! Long linen trousers and a linen shirt are both respectful and cool. Alternatively, you can don a floaty Kaftan-y-top-thing, or a maxi dress with a shawl.
If you’re going walk-about and you’re not sure you’ll enter anywhere holy, take a large, light-weight scarf with you. You can throw if over your shoulders or head if you have to; or, if your shoulders are covered but your legs aren’t, wrap it around yourself like a sarong. Nobody cares if you look like you’re going to do the hula, as long as your legs are covered.
With any luck, you won’t be wearing flip-flops because they’re a misguided shoe choice. Sneakers, boat shoes, loafers or ballet flats will all get you in to a holy place. Explaining what Jandals are will not. (Kiwi joke.)
Ok, thems the ground rules. You’ve got just a couple more things to consider.
Firstly, your items will vary slightly depending on your activities and/or level of travel.
If my partner and I were planning on doing more fine dining, for example, I would have thrown a pair of heels and a nice dress in to the mix; he a collared shirt, slacks and leather shoes. We made the decision to keep it pretty casual- so the smartest items we both packed were our Ralph Lauren polos. However, the shirts we packed for day wear could also cross over to night.
Do think about your activities and what is appropriate. If you are planning on doing dinners etc. there is no reason why you can’t take just one pair of heels/ leather shoes. Personally, you can’t go wrong with black dress, black heels; and for that matter- black or white collared shirt, black trousers, black shoes. Guess what? Goes with everything. If you start trying to colour match different outfits your packing is going to spin out of control.
Gentlemen, you don’t have many options for the materials your smart clothes are made out of. Sorry about that. Just pick the lightest.
Ladies- I strongly urge you to pack jersey dresses for your dinners etc. They don’t crush, they weigh practically nothing, they fold to about 4cm square, you can get them in just about any cut and colour, and they’re more often flattering than not.
Your packing list for a summer holiday should also include at least one pair of jeans and a light jacket. There is no guarantee of perfect weather, particularly at the end of summer- and extra particularly if you’re going through the UK. Also, nights can turn quite cool. You don’t have to go nuts- just something that’s going to cover your arms and legs in the event of a less than 25 degree day.
The final thing you should consider before packing is weather or not you’ll be able to wash your clothes.
Normally I’d say you only have to take.. oh, 7 shirts, and 7 pairs of knickers, which you can wash out and hang up to dry every so often. However, this doesn’t apply if you’re moving on every couple of days. Your items may not dry in time and then you have to carry wet gear. Not ideal. If that is the case- pack as much as you need to get you to your next washing machine/longer stay- just make sure it’s light and compact so you’re not suffering too much bag-weight wise.
I used to turn my nose up at the idea of washing my own knickers… probably because I’ve never lived a day of my life without a washing machine. But let me ask you- would you rather pay $100 per extra kilo of luggage, or make friends with a bar of soap and warm water?
Below are the actual items my partner and I took with us for 15 days in Europe. That’s Rome, Paris, London, Venice and Florence. For the record- there was not one thing I didn’t wear, nor one thing I wish I had brought.
For the Australians in the audience, I’ve also put where you can buy these items.
The first and most important thing, naturally:
The Iconic (yup, 5 of the same/similar top in different colours! singlets for under, shorts and jeans)
Crocs (yeah, you heard me)