Pack Light – Travel Easy

Yes, you could probably cram everything you need for two weeks in Europe into a carry-on and save the fee many airlines now charge for checked luggage. That’s if you wear the same jeans and t-shirt you wore on the plane. Most of us need quite a bit more. However, it’s easy to get by with only one medium-sized checked bag, and in fact you’ll be a happier traveler than those who saddle themselves with their entire wardrobe. You just have to pack wisely.

Here are a few suggestions from a traveler who has packed foolishly (what was I thinking, jamming in that velvet jacket and high heels I never wore?) and has learned to do it right.

– First, if you are buying new luggage, don’t get black, the most common color on the airport carousel. If you already have black, tie a bright bow or colorful strap on the handle. It makes for easier identification.

– Pack a photocopy of your passport and itinerary. If the originals are lost it will be much easier to deal with the situation.

– Jeans take too much space. True, a huge percentage of travelers, especially the young, wear them, but they’re bulky and take a long time to dry. Pants in a lightweight, wrinkle-free fabric are better.

– Choosing mix-and-match clothing makes it easy to have different outfits. I have finally got the knack of doing this, mostly, and it does work

– Take slacks, skirts and shorts in dark colors — black, navy, gray — and simple styles. Use scarves and accessories, which need less space, as your brighter accents.

– If you pack 3 shirts or blouses, 1 nice jacket or sweater, 2 pairs of slacks, and 3 changes of underwear and socks, your basics are covered, clothing-wise. For shoes, women need 3 pairs: sandals, walking shoes, and nice flats or low heels. If you’ll be hiking rough terrain and need boots, wear them on the flight.

– Wherever you are going, even the tropics, take a sweater. Airplane cabins are often cold — and some are now charging for blankets. Also, you’re likely to face chilly air conditioning wherever you go.

– Carry prescription drugs in their original containers. I’d prefer putting them in plastic bags, but there’s always the chance they will be confiscated if they’re not labeled. A note from your doctor is extra insurance.

– Keep other pills, such as vitamins, in zip-top, snack-size bags instead of bulky bottles; or, for the amount you need for a day or two, in film containers (remember those handy, pre-digital camera items? I kept the empty ones for this purpose).

– Carry valuables such as good jewelry and money, with you; don’t pack them in checked luggage. It’s better not to take valuable jewelry at all.

– If you pack liquids in your carry-on bag, be aware of current requirements. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) applies the 3-1-1 rule:

3 — ounces, the maximum size for any liquid or gel. This includes toothpaste.

1 — quart-sized clear plastic zip-top bag to hold all containers of liquids.

1 — plastic bag per passenger.

– Take a small bottle of eyedrops. The airplane cabin atmosphere is incredibly drying. For the same reason, drink lots of water. I drink at least a cup an hour in flight. Yes, it means trips to the lavatory, and that’s a good thing — the body needs to walk and stretch often.

For more packing advice, go to  10 Rules for Packing for Europe
Stress-free Packing Tips

Happy packing, happy travels.

Written by Marilyn McFarlane for

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  1. says

    I am currently in Europe on a three and a half week trip with my family. You can find the full list of what I brought here (, but I’ll tell you that I packed light. We flew on Icelandair and we we told we could only bring 13 lbs for a single carry-on. We were intending to only pack what we could carry, but that was a tight limit. I squeezed in at about 12.5 lbs, so I fit the requirement. After carrying it around, I can say, I would have probably pack lighter. Maybe one less shirt, pair of pants, and only one pair of shoes. My main suggestion for someone who wants to pack light (that should be everybody) is to look into wool. Wool shirts don’t smell and they wash easy in the sink. They are also a easy thing to layer with. So stay light and pack wool!

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