Here are the contents of my suitcase for our upcoming 16-day trip. Use this as a guide, if you like. (I totally cheated and used this to get my stuff ready, so thanks!)
One very important tip: even if you check your bag, always carry a change of clothes on your person. If you carry a backpack or a big purse, keep it in there (along with a toothbrush!). Luggage gets lost or delayed during your journey, and it sucks to arrive somewhere at 10 PM with nothing to wear tomorrow and nowhere to buy stuff. Just think of the words “period” and “Las Vegas.” No one should ever have to suffer that.
- A good pair of boots. I think I have a boot fetish. I have a high arch and can’t wear flats all day, so a low or mid-heel comfy boot that can be paired with both jeans and dresses is my favorite. Pro tip: choose a boot that’s easy to take on and off, and wear it when you fly. Saves room in your luggage.
- A light pair of sandals. For the occasional warmer days. Choose a neutral color so it goes with everything you brought. Or, make sure everything you brought matches your shoes. Hey, sometimes the shoes are the most important thing!
- Sneakers or flats. Should be comfortable for walking all day, or for hiking, running, or working out.
- A light cardigan or sweater. I’ve got a cute cropped grey sweater for this trip.
- A waterproof coat.
- A blazer or similar for dressing up. I actually am taking a lacy cardigan that I can dress up or down.
- One pair of jeans. I will likely not actually wear these a lot, but you can never go wrong with a pair of jeans and they go with everything.
- 4 skirts. For this trip, I’ve got a red, a teal, a striped black and white, and a grey. Just because I want to mix and match doesn’t mean I can’t have color!
- 5 tops in varying colors and prints.
- 4 dresses. I designate one of these as my flying dress. I don’t recommend flying in jeans–it’s not very comfortable for longer journeys. So I usually fly in a dress or tunic and leggings. I wear my cardigans on the plane and keep my coat handy. Planes are usually cold and a good blanket is not guaranteed.
- 2 pairs of leggings. One capri, and one full length. These things are so versatile! They’re very comfortable on longer flights, and can be worn under dresses if it’s cold out.
- Socks and underwear. As I said in another post, you can wear a dress or pants again if you have to, but underwear and socks are single-use only, please.
- A nightie. I tend to forget this a lot, but you do need something to sleep in!
- 2 scarves. I love scarves. They add pop to an outfit, plus they keep you warm. I’ve also worn them as head wraps and belts on occasion.
- A swimsuit. Yep, I always bring one! Even if you’re not planning on going to a beach, you never know where it could come in handy. I was in a hot spring in Alaska in winter, for instance. Your hotel might have a pool or a hot tub.
- 2 pairs of footed tights. Leggings + socks in one! Only thinner.
- 2 beanies. The slouchy kind that looks more like a beret, not the kind that makes a weird shape on the top of your head. No judgment, though. These and newsboys are the only hats I can pull off, and newsboys don’t pack easily.
- A belt.
- Electronics. Kindle, phone, camera, power bank, as well as one micro USB charger and a camera charger. No need for a tablet or laptop. Trivia: do you know that your phone has more computing power than the machines that sent man to the moon? Yep, totally true. Technology is amazing. In fact, the only reason I still bring my camera is because of the 24x wide-angle lens, perfect for some really good closeup shots (I’ve got an Olympus SZ-14). David’s Galaxy S5 takes better photos than any compact camera.
- Toiletries. I only carry whatever fits in the quart bag, and buy the rest as we go. The only things I can’t buy elsewhere are face wash and moisturizer (my skin is super sensitive).
- Plastic bags. For keeping dirty clothes and shoes in.
- Some power bars and snacks. I can get nasty when I’m hungry.
- Medicines. I’m lactose intolerant, so I have to have lactase with me. I also carry painkillers, Tums and Dramamine.
- A copy of important documents. Passport, driver’s license, insurance card, credit card. I keep one in my backpack for safety, and one in my purse in lieu of carrying my real documents around.
And that’s all! I’ve got so much room in my bag.
A last note on luggage. In my previous post, I talked about how I try to never check my bag. This is also the reason I cannot stomach buying expensive, branded luggage. You don’t need it! An ex of mine drove two hours to get an expensive Tumi bag at an outlet store, only to lose it on his first international trip.
And again, luggage get punished during your travel. They get tossed in and out of plane compartments, dragged all over streets, rained on, and occasionally overstuffed. If you carry on as much as possible and take a little care with your own handling, your suitcase should survive for a while. I used a $15 bag from Marshall’s for three years and six international trips (as well as dozens of domestic ones) before I spilled teriyaki sauce all over the front. Yeah, it wasn’t even broken.
Don’t spend too much money, stay away from the uniform black carry-on, and pack carefully.