Not only did we have to be able to haul our gear with us most of the trip, but we had to get it on the plane and overseas first! This meant that we needed to reduce the amount of weight and the size of our bags. I have laid out the following questions and steps below to help you narrow down your search and to stop you from stressing over your vacation!
When Are You Going?
We planned our trip to Italy after finals week at the end of May and beginning of June. I was going to college in Wyoming where the spring doesn't start until the end of May! But what was the average temperature or rainfall in this country going to be like?
We knew it would be hot this time of year, but we checked the forecast anyway as we counted down the days to board our flight. It was going to be dreary some days so we brought rain jackets. Little bits of information like this make all the difference - double check the weather to make last minute changes to your packing list!
Where Are You Going?
Find out what cities and locations you are going to. Since I was also going overseas for school and was going to be backpacking across the country I had to alter my clothing choices. These were also some of the reasons why I only brought a few outfits with me. In the 2 weeks planned, I was going to Milan, Florence, the Tuscany Valley, Rome, and Venice and I also knew the hotels and air-bnbs that were booked would have washing machines (appliances can be slightly different from what you are used to so be prepared for this too!).
Figuring out where you will be traveling is very important for various reasons, here's a couple examples of rules I learned in Italy to motivate you to research your travel destination:
1. Certain countries have dress codes. For example, you cannot wear shorts in churches in Italy. This could ruin your tour plans if you were going to see the Sistine Chapel or St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Museum in Rome. Even the little towns of Siena or San Gimignano have similar rules and will turn people away.
2. Surroundings make a huge difference. Although Laramie, Wyoming and Rome, Italy have almost the same latitude, Rome is located next to the Tyrrhenian Sea (a part of the Mediterranean) which makes it much warmer and more humid than land-locked Wyoming. Do the research before you leave!
3. Locals may take advantage of tourists. When preparing ourselves for the trip, our advisor who had been to Italy previously had warned us that the tourist trap destinations are prime spots for locals to steal your gear. There had been reports of backpacks being cut open while small children distracted the travelers. Because of our group size we kept an eye on each others stuff, probably a little too intensely. We never did see anything like this, but on the subway in Rome someone took my Ibuprofen right out of my bag side pocket! Just pay attention, y'all.
What Is On Your Itinerary?
It is crucial to read through your itinerary and plan out each day and plan your attire. I'm not saying if you don't pick an outfit for each day you'll have a bad time, but you should plan out where you are going to be able to wash your clothes or when you'll be close to a beach so you can bring a swimsuit. Our itinerary was planned by our teacher who had been to Italy before so we had a leg up on you guys. If you do know anyone with travel experience to the location you are going, get their advice.
Other Efficient Ways To Pack?
1. Pack necessities first. If you have medicine or additional toiletries with you, and you can't live without it, think about what you can buy overseas and what you can't. Your medicine should go in your bag first! Some toiletries and other items you can get at the grocery store.
In my case, I have allergic reactions to certain chemicals so I need to bring my own shampoo and conditioner. Airlines also have strict rules about how much liquid you can take so I had to figure out a solution to both problems. I went to Walmart before leaving to grab small bottles - you can find them easily and they meet the required liquid limit.
2. Pair up your outfits. Now, you can start putting your essential items like toothbrushes, contact lenses, etc. in your bag, but leave your clothes out. In fact, lay them out on your bed or a table and start eliminating unnecessary items.
Think about what shirts you could pair with one pair of pants and vice versa. Can you use these shirts with another pair of pants? What about a skirt? Will this match other shirt choices? Think sustainably about what is a waste of space and what you absolutely can't go 2 weeks without.
3. Use plastic bags. This is a real lifesaver, y'all. You can vacuum seal your clothes to keep them dry and reduce the amount of space the articles take up. When it rained on my travel group in Italy my clothes stayed dry while the others had to hang their clothes out to dry when we returned to the hotel.
My toiletries I always store in a plastic bag just in case my shampoo bottle explodes (yes, I have had this happen in an entire suitcase!). You can even put your shoes in plastic bags so they don't dirty up your clothes.
Now, we hope this packing guide has assisted you in minimizing the amount of gear you haul along on your journeys. Every trip is different, remember, so do your research - at least a little y'all - so you can feel put-together when you travel!
Just a couple of travel bums living life to the fullest. Join us on our adventures from coast to coast, from country to country, and everything in between!