With some slight modifications, these tips can apply to going anywhere, anytime. One exception: winter. Freezing temperatures require some different rules!
This is the third year in a row that David and I will travel to Europe around April. Twice a year, we take a trip that lasts 10 days or more. And whenever we go, wherever we go, we each only take a carry-on bag and a regular backpack. There are a couple reasons for this.
First, we never check bags if we can help it. This is partly because of the special circumstances in which we travel as airline employees, and partly because, well, we’ve seen what happens to checked bags. Think about it: the plane’s ramp crew has maybe half an hour to get 100+ bags off the plane. You can’t really expect them to be gentle. Also, not having to wait for bags can make a big difference in travel time. And who wants to pay checked bag fees?
Second, lugging a giant bag or two (possibly with a broken handle or wheel) through the streets of Europe = not fun. Also, these cities are old and they don’t have a lot of space, so people build up. It’s likely that you won’t have an elevator in your charming B&B. Can you get your suitcase up to the fourth floor?
The trick is getting everything you need to fit in your carry-on and backpack. Here are some dos and don’ts! You’ll find that preparing for travel may also influence your shopping decisions, which is a cool side effect.
- Do roll, don’t fold. If you haven’t heard of this by now, you definitely need to give it a try. Huge space saver!
- Don’t bring clothes made of heavy material. Do bring layers. It may seem counter-intuitive to bring more stuff. But weather is a fickle thing, and Europe is on the northern hemisphere, where April or May don’t necessarily mean warm. Sometimes it’s nice out, but then gets cool at night. Spring often brings a light rain here and there. I usually take a light cardigan for warmer weather, a blazer or similar for nice dinners, and a water-resistant coat for cold and rain. If you get really cold, wear them all! I also love leggings — they’re lightweight, comfy, and you can wear them under dresses for warmth.
- Do bring clothing that doesn’t wrinkle easily. Your stuff is sitting in your suitcase for a long time. Wrinkles are not sexy.
- Don’t bring one outfit for each day. Do bring pieces that you can mix and match. Everyone over packs, especially women. Even with experience, I end up with one or two pieces that I don’t wear. Still, having a coordinated outfit for each day of your vacation (when you might not even know what you’re doing everyday) will only lead to excess luggage and wasting time getting dressed in the morning. Pick a few pieces that can go together with minimal effort, so that if you don’t feel like wearing one thing today, you’ve got an option and yet can still utilize most if not all of your pieces.
- Don’t skimp on underwear and socks. You’re likely not sweating in Europe in the spring, unless you’re hiking. If necessary, you can wear an outfit twice. Can’t do that with underwear or socks, and if you do, I’m sorry, I’m judging you for being a little gross…
- Do try to get laundry done once during the trip. Hotels tend to charge an arm and a leg for this, but sometimes you can find places that are reasonable priced. You don’t need to wash everything; just a few pieces can make a difference. And if you’re mixing it up, this can help ensure you’re still wearing a different outfit everyday.
- Do bring only what you really need. Do you really need to switch up your purses to match your outfits? Do you really need five pairs of shoes? Be creative, fashionistas! Also, those hair implements need to stay home. Most hotels have hair dryers, and the 30 minutes you spend doing your hair and makeup is time that you’re not seeing the awesome place you traveled to. Learn some quick styling techniques or go au naturelle, you’re already beautiful!
All the space you save by following these rules can help you save on money and effort, plus it leaves you some room for souvenirs! Next on the series, take a peek at what’s in my bag for our upcoming trip!