Confession time: Hi, my name is Sarah Cate and I’m an overpacker.
There you have it - my dirty little secret. I’m a professional traveler who loooves to overpack.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been that traveler. You know, the one lugging around her giant, unwieldy suitcase, making a ruckus over the cobblestones, sweating profusely, cursing under her breath.
The last (and final) time that was me I was on my way to the train station in Como. It was July, right in the heat of the day and I had a bright red, 40+ lb. suitcase in tow. The plan was to walk 5 minutes from my Airbnb, catch the bus to the train station, and board my train to Viterbo, via Milano Centrale.
In reality the bus never came and I had to very quickly make my way to the station, while also focusing on trying not to burst into flames in the relentless northern Italy heat wave that year. Did I mention the station was 2 miles away? Finally arrived at the station, I dragged my suitcase down and then up the stairs to get to the next platform over (the elevators in Italian train stations NEVER work!). I heaved my suitcase up the steep steps of the train, stashed it the best I could (on regional trains there’s usually no place to stow luggage*), and plopped into my seat, a hot, sweaty, red-faced mess.
(*My suitcase stayed as out of the way as it could in the area right outside the car’s restroom, tipping over anytime the train took a curve. I also risked someone walking off with it at each stop, but 1) at that point I didn’t really care if someone took it, and 2) I knew that no one could possibly be as stupid as me to want to drag that behemoth suitcase around.)
That was when I knew I had to start traveling lighter.
After all, isn’t the whole idea behind a vacation to vacate your everyday life? Leaving all your stuff behind should be one of the most alluring things about traveling. So why have I been dragging mine around the world with me?
My new mission: travel with only a carry-on.
For a chronic over-packer, this is a daunting task. I get squeamish at the idea of not having all of my shoes with me. I get anxious at the thought of being too cold in the evenings because, … you know, Italy has no clothing stores… right?
The real key to traveling light is having a packing plan.
I have long been guilty of packing without a plan. Throwing in a little of this, a little of that is really more my style. But all that produces is a series of poorly-executed looks that don’t make me feel my best when I’m away. And then I really do miss my stuff back home.
Planning your looks and taking care to pack double-, triple-, even quadruple-duty pieces is essential. Also essential is thinking in layers and sticking to the same general color family. My style these days is mostly black and gray and, if I’m feeling frisky, a jolt of color, which makes it very easy to put together multiple looks with just a few items.
Here’s my packing list for my upcoming trip to Sicily:
2 pairs of jeans
1 pair of black pants
2 nicer shirts (one cold shoulder and one button-back)
1 denim jacket
1 pair of sneakers
1 pair of dressier flats (they’re fuchsia because “one does want a hint of color”)
1 pair of slippers (flip-flops)
Intimates (a lady reveals nothing)
Secret weapon (we’ll get to that later)
Precious dog not included.
Here goes nothing!
Part of the extra room in my carry-on pulls double duty as overflow for my airline-allowed personal item. Since I may have to get in and out of my carry-on in the airport or even on the plane, I’d rather not air my laundry, dirty or clean, to my fellow travelers. So I like to use packing cubes to keep everything contained, and nice and neat. They can even help you gain a little extra space depending on how much cramming you want to do. If you’re careful with your folding/rolling, your clothes really don’t wrinkle any more than they would if you had more space in a larger suitcase.
Here’s everything, with room to spare, plus my travel day clothes.
But what about the toiletries?
Oh! Have you not heard? Italy (and pretty much any other destination you travel to) has them! Actually, Italy has some really nice ones that you can get a lot more affordably than in the US! Since you can only fill a ziploc bag full of 3 oz. liquids in your carry-on, you won’t be able to bring your big shampoo or conditioner bottle. You can either buy approved travel bottles ahead of time or buy your essentials when you arrive. Problem solved.
My secret weapon for traveling light.
My handy foldable duffel bag. Of course it’s fuchsia - I’m just that kind of girl.
All packed up, it measures about 7” x 7” and fits easily in any suitcase, no matter how full it is. This duffel bag is a lifesaver for anyone trying to lighten their travel load.
Stuff it with your dirty clothes along the way and put any breakable purchases (gorgeous Sicilian ceramics, anyone?) in your carry-on for a little extra protection on your way from Rome to Naples. Before you fly, check your carry-on with your dirty clothes and anything else you could live without should your bag be delayed, and carry any essentials and breakables with you on the plane in your duffel. This bag’s opened-up dimensions are 20” x 13.6” x 8.7”, plenty big for most anything you’ve got.
Friends don’t let friends overpack.
We’ve all got a friend who could stand to lighten her travel load. If you think your friends could use a little nudge to leave the stuff at home (especially if you’ve got a trip planned soon), remember that sharing is caring and share this post! I would be so grateful if you did.
I’d also love to hear your questions or know what your traveling light tips are in the comments below.
I leave on May 6 for 10 days in Sicily. Not only will I be sharing with you how traveling light makes my trip so much easier, I’ll be Facebooking and Instagramming my way across the island, so be sure to follow along!