Living in a city that’s rated the number one travel destination on the planet, I often see tourists dragging around enormous suitcases — the kind that, in a certain sort of movie, would likely contain a dead body and/or ancient artifacts stolen from the museum. Incredibly, however, most travelers aren’t forced to buy these behemoths to accommodate criminal activity but freely select them in order to haul around extra clothes that are never worn, shoes to go with every outfit, hardbound books, full-sized bottles of shampoo, and other weighty objects they'll soon wish they'd left at home.
When it comes to luggage, less is more. A couple of years back, Rich and I went all the way with a luggage-free, six-day trip to France. I’ve never spent so much time doing laundry or fielding emails about our undergarments’ hygiene regimen. (They were washed daily, if you must know; occasionally they didn’t dry overnight so we'd finish them off in the morning with the hotel’s hair drier.)
I wasn’t keen to do quite that much daily laundry on our upcoming most unplanned, disorganized trip ever. But how exactly do you pack when you have no idea where you’ll be, what weather conditions will prevail, or how many weeks you’ll be on the road?
After some discussion, Rich and I agreed we’d pack the bare minimum of practical travel wear, including wrinkle-resistant, fast-drying garments that could be layered to adapt to spring’s changeable temperatures. If we find ourselves in sudden need of special attire — swim suits, red sequined tuxedos, or something suitable for a private audience with the Pope — we’ll buy it on the spot.
So here’s my packing list:
17-pocket travel vest
Cashmere cardigan and pullover
One pair of shoes (comfy, supportive sneakers)
Two pairs of trousers (black crepe slacks, fast-drying jeans)
Three shirts (two travel knits, one cotton)
Two long-sleeved T-shirts
One tank top
Yoga pants and short-sleeved T-shirt for lounging, yoga, sleeping
Socks and undergarments
Toiletries and medications
MacBook Air, Kindle, iPhone
Rich’s list is nearly identical, except that he will be wearing one of his trademark hats, in this case his rain-resistant Navy-blue felt fedora. And while I prefer extra layers to allow a nuanced response to changing temperatures, he wears a more robust jacket with hidden compartments, so he doesn’t need a 17-pocket vest or a cardigan to layer over his sweater. For specifics on brands and styles— our favorites, and those we avoid at all costs —see my post How to Choose Great Travel Clothes.
As for luggage, we’ll each have a small, roll-aboard suitcase, and I’ll carry a purse for incidentals like maps and water bottles. Rich is still debating whether he’ll bring a day pack or stuff his incidentals in the roomy pockets of his jacket. Our valuables will be safely zipped into the hidden inner compartments of our clothes.
Will we end up making purchases along the way? Undoubtedly, if only to replace tiny tubes of toiletries as they run out. I'm not worried about finding shopping opportunities. In my experience, just about the time you think, “Damn, I really should have brought a sun hat,” some enterprising local will be standing there offering an assortment for you to choose from. And if we do wind up needing those red sequined tuxedos or a suitcase large enough to hold ancient artifacts, I’m sure Rich has an app that will help us find what we need.
Stay tuned for updates on our trip. I’ll be posting at unplanned, disorganized intervals, so if you’re not already on my mailing list, sign up now to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I never obtain any free or discounted gear, clothing, or supplies in return for promoting anything on this blog. I'm just letting you know about products Rich and I find particularly useful for our kind of travel.
If you have questions or packing tips to share, I'd love to hear from you; please leave a comment below.
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
This blog contains the best pandemic survival tips I've found, along with ideas, recipes, and a few lighthearted observations to help us all get through these dark days.
I think of my blog as an ongoing conversation, so please join in and leave comments at the end of my posts.
Sign up below to get updates when I publish anything new.