The thought of packing for a four month trip to Europe including a transatlantic crossing on a ship with three formal nights is a daunting thing! To make it a little more challenging, we had decided we needed to fly with only a 20 inch roll-a-board and a tote that would fit under the airline seat for each of us. We made this decision because we were staying in a wide variety of accommodations (some of which might not have elevators) and we knew that not all train stations in Europe have elevators or escalators so we both needed to be able to carry our own luggage on the stairs (Try as we would, we could not come up with a way for me to carry the heavy luggage individually without leaving some of the luggage unattended. I want to use the hand rail with one hand when I am hauling heavy luggage on stairs.)
I have a spinner roll-a-board with four wheels which you can roll on two wheels or four wheels. It rolls very easily on four wheels on a smooth, hard surface. You have to roll it on two wheels on carpet. I wanted to be able to carry my tote on the handle of the roll-a-board. To attach it securely to the handle and to put more weight on the wheels and less on the handle, I got one with a strap on the back that slips over the handle. That worked well for me most of the time. On a really long roll to a bus or train station on cobblestones, I would sometimes pull both behind me as my arm would get tired from the extra weight on the roll-a-board.
For me there were two major decisions that enabled me to pack in these two small suitcases. First, except for one pair of jeans, my socks, the handkerchiefs, and a light cotton sweater, all the clothes I packed were synthetic. This made them lighter and more wrinkle resistant. Second, instead of folding, I rolled most of the items. This is supposed to reduce wrinkles and take less space. I also used two Eagle Creek packing cubes for the shirts, tee shirts, and underwear. This simplified things during the hotel stays when I did not unpack my bags.
So what could I pack in these bags? Quite a lot!
- 1 pair each: dress slacks, khakis, convertible pants, and jeans
- 1 pair each: cargo shorts, dress shorts, water shorts, gym shorts
- 1 swim suit
- 5 short sleeve shirts, 5 tee shirts, and 1 short sleeve dress shirt
- 6 pair underwear, 7 pair white socks, 2 pair brown socks
- 2 long sleeve knit shirts and 1 long sleeve convertible shirt
- 1 sport coat for formal nights
- 1 light weight fleece for day
- 1 light weight sweater for night
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 outdoor vest
- 1 pair dress shoes, 1 pair sandals, one pair sneakers
- 1 dress belt, 1 jeans belt
- 1 cap (I was easy to find as they don’t wear caps in Europe)
- 1 tie for formal night
- wash cloth (very rare to find them in Europe)
- Laundry soap powder
- camera, iPhone, and two iPads
- Sunglasses and spare glasses
- Chargers for all electronics
- LL Bean Toiletry Bag
- Quart Bag of Liquids and Gels
- Passport Case
I only wore the sport jacket on the ship and for Susan’s birthday dinner. It was not worth all the room it took. Next year I will try for a tie and sweater on formal night. If that doesn’t work, I will eat somewhere other than the dining room. I also wore the dress shorts very little. The thing I missed most was a windbreaker. For me, the raincoat was too hot much of the time. The LL Bean toiletry bag works well for me. It is easy to find things in it and I can always find a place to hang it when I don’t want to unpack. I rolled everything except the sport coat, slacks, outdoor vest and tie. I made a base of the packing cubes and shoes. I put the folded slacks on top of the base. The sport coat was in its own rarely opened section of the roll-a-board with the tie, and the jacket and fleece were in the outside pocket where I could get at them if I needed them. I always had at least one complete change of clothes in my tote in case I was separated from the roll-a-board.
Since we were staying in apartments with washing machines most of the time, we could easily launder clothes every five days or so. Since most of the clothes were quick dry synthetics, they can be washed in the hotel sink, wrung dry in a bath towel, and artfully hung around the room to dry overnight. Another critical factor is layering for warmth and having all the clothes go together. I could easily wear four layers and could go to five if I was desperate. I never got desperate.
Keep in mind that I am more likely to be too hot than too cold, that it doesn’t bother me to wear the same few clothes for four months, that I would be happy to wear my sneakers all day (see ad below from Paris subway), and that clothes are more about comfort and functionality for me and not so much about style. Yes, this does indeed drive Susan crazy so I have to make some compromises. Your personal tastes will certainly impact what you pack.
The following pictures show us and the suitcases we used for the four month period. We also both started the trip without the suitcases being expanded so we could fly carry on to Ft. Lauderdale.
Susan’s roll-a-board has two issues: it has only two wheels and it tends to fall over when it is expanded and fully loaded. Her tote does not have the band in the back so she has to hold the handles of both suitcases together when she is rolling them. This puts a lot more strain on her arms. As a result, she almost always pulls them side by side. This is fine in wide open spaces, but does not work well on escalators or confined quarters.
For a woman’s perspective on the packing problems, this link will take you to Pam’s blog on the topic. Don’t wait until the night before you leave to pack. To travel light takes some planning. Good luck.