He says it can’t be done.

3d6b143e9e3ff9f105aaa124de6bb276A couple months ago, I announced to James that I intended to spend my 5 weeks in Europe this summer living out of a carry-on sized suitcase.

And then he erupted in snort-laughter and declared this impossible.

His scoffing is justified, as I am not exactly known for packing light. I like options, I fear being unprepared, and I have great difficulty making simple decisions about what to wear weeks in advance. Yet my winter closet purge and subsequent freedom in fewer clothes has me feeling bold and inspired. I too can conquer Europe on six perfect shirts and a fine pair of trousers. I too can dash to catch trains in Italy because my diminutive suitcase will just pull behind me. I too can think ahead and plan.

[Cue more laughter from James.]

To achieve my goal (and prove that skeptical husband of mine wrong), I have a couple strategies:

  • Every top must match every bottom. Hello chambray and neutrals, let’s get comfy with each other. This will hopefully avoid packing lots of clothes that I don’t wear.
  • Packing cubes. I am pretty sure that these will change my life, and my savvy packing friends swear by them.
  • Only two pairs of shoes. Last summer I took five pairs… and wore one. This time around I am only taking two and I am fully devoted to both.
  • Ditch the books. I can’t believe I am admitting this…. but I sold my soul and got a Kindle. I feel paper-book loving self dying a little as I type that, but I can’t travel with books… and I can’t travel without them. FORGIVE ME.

But beyond that, I would love some tips as I pack this week for my flight to Paris on Friday. Any tips for actually managing to plan for five weeks, three countries, and multiple climates in one carry-on sized suitcase?ย  More importantly, any good ebook recommendations? Let’s put that Kindle to use!

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33 Responses to He says it can’t be done.

  1. Mariah Morozow says:

    What do you do in Paris? I’m leaving on Thursday to spend two weeks in France. It would be so random to actually meet you. I love your blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hannah says:

      Welcome to France!!! I am here for a week to welcome a group of students and show them around the city, then head south with them to chaperone a 3 week study abroad trip. I hope you enjoy Paris!

  2. Read “The Lantern” by Deborah Lawrenson. It also happens to be $1.99 on Kindle right now! http://www.amazon.com/Lantern-Deborah-Lawrenson-ebook/dp/B004QWZCBK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

  3. Kelsey Marie says:

    Excellent! I applaud you for your ability to prepare and be practical. It sounds like you will be able to enjoy yourself so much more when you are less worried about all of your stuff. As someone who has practiced traveling both light and heavy, I definitely have more memories with local people when I was looking out more than in. I hope you meet a few characters on your trip, and have a wonderful time!

    • Hannah says:

      That’s the plan! Packing was a little stressful, but it sure does make it easy to get ready every day when I have so few things to choose from!

  4. Raewyn says:

    Just remember, they have shops in France and there is always the credit card if you get completely desperate for extra clothes!! You can do it. It is stereotypically American to travel with huge amounts of luggage, so dump that mantle, be brave, be like the rest of the world and experience travel freedom ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Hannah says:

      AMEN FOR SHOPPING. Though a downside of my packing is that I packed in such a small suitcase, I don’t really have much room for additions. Of course, I could always just layer on the airplane…

  5. From one of the random guys who follows you.
    Pack you clothes in Zip Gallon zip lock bags… ha ha yes i know you not camping, But if you get caught in a rain storm, or for some reason you soap burst due to pressure of the plane, everything is safe, maybe a little wrinkled but dry. And they work great for the dirty unmentionables. Keeps the smell tucked away until you can wash them. Not that girls get dirty or anything like that.

    If you have to take medicine with you keep it in it’s original bottle, customs in other countries do not like you bring in random colored pills in a bottle.. ha ha,

    A small first aid kit. (even seeing the greats of the world wonders you could get a blister or splinter) i pair of tweezers, Neosporin, & a couple of bandaids go along way.

    Leave the Big digital camera at home. Most smart phones start at 8mp cameras. just clear out all but you favorite family pictures before you leave home so that you will have tons of room for video and photos. ( I have left my DLSR at home and just used my smart phone. The videos i have used from that as well as pictures have been edit and put on some wall screens in place and they are just as high def as people need to get the experience) it’s been a tough transition, but i felt it has made me less of a target overseas.

    Last but not least a portable charger. You might spend all day out roaming and hiking around. and instead of lugging that odd wall plug in charge with you that used at the hotel.. Carry a small Battery back up pack.. they sale all kinds on amazon for reasonable price. When the batter is low, just plug you phone in to the charge while it’s in the purse while you eating for charging through out the day and it will last you late until the night when you make it back home to the hotel (keeping you phone on airplane mode makes you battery last forever as well)

    Ha ha and these are such guy tips right! ha
    have a great trip.

  6. Natalie says:

    I had just seen this and bookmarked it for future trips. Maybe it’ll be helpful for you. Have a wonderful time!
    http://www.stylebookapp.com/stories/tropical_packing.html?pp=0

  7. laxgirl9110 says:

    Books!
    -The entire “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon (you’ll thank me later haha!) It’s full of Scots, history, an incredibly strong female lead, and the best love story EVER!
    – “The Shadow in the Wind” and “The Angel’s Game” by Carlos Ruiz Zafรณn. These take place in ’45 Barcelona; I discovered him after my trip to Barcelona.

  8. mrsroe says:

    If you like twisty-turney novels of the mythology/historical fiction ilk, I highly recommend Megan Whalen Turners “The Thief”, ” The Queen of Attolia”, “The King of Attolia”, and ” Conspiracy of Kings”. They are young adult fiction, so you might run through them, but they are some of my favorites. Safe travels!!!

    • Janet says:

      Seconded! The Thief and sequels (affectionately and unofficially named the Queen’s Thief series by fans) are among my favourite books. Every reread reveals new depths to the characters and new nuance to the plotting.

    • Hannah says:

      Love me some YA fiction! And I’m not even ashamed.

  9. Katie says:

    Download books from the public library! Lexington and Louisville let you check out three at a time if you have a library card, and you can check out anywhere you have wifi. I’m not sure what kind of Kindle you have, but some of them *do* require you to plug into a computer and copy the files. And, of course, there are a billion classics available on Project Gutenberg.

  10. abilk says:

    I would not be surprised at all if you’ve already read this gem: A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Beautifully written autobiography of his hyper-idyllic marriage, their intellectual and spiritual journey (which includes a close friendship with C.S. Lewis!), and how that journey changes them as individuals and as a couple. It’s a favorite to which I keep returning and loaning out.
    Enjoy your trip!

  11. Michelle Dickson says:

    Did you seriously just ask for book recommendations? Ah, my favourite!
    “Wild; From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. It’s the memoir of a women processing her mother’s death by hiking 1,100 miles. Beautiful prose, authentic and life giving storytelling.

    “The Spiral Staircase; my climb out of darkness” by Karen Armstrong. Another memoir written by a former nun who leaves the convent for academia, and her shift in and struggle with faith. Powerful and deep writing.

    “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s a novel about a Nigerian woman who studies in the USA. The author is the same person who presented that brilliant TED talk on the “danger of a single story”.

    Kindle/iPads are brilliant for travelling and commuting. I love bookstores and paper books as much as the next person. But. For being mobile and packing light there is nothing better!

  12. Katy says:

    I backpacked Europe so I did slightly larger than a carryon – a travel backpack but I was able to do it.

    You have hit the nail on the head: 2 pairs of shoes, lots of neutrals, etc

    my tips:
    – pack lots of layers since Europe summer starts out cooler than our DC summers, make sure you have cardigans/longer tees/etc
    – this is gross but aim for DARKER bottoms – jeans, brown pants, etc — because you can wear them for a few days (spot wash). I love a good pair of white pants but they get dirty quickly
    – bring socks and underwear that you are willing to just throw away before heading home (to make room for any purchases) I bought cheap walmart socks and underwear and just dumped them at the end of the trip
    – pack one nice outfit (for a dinner out, play, etc) – and a scarf or two (or neclace or two) to vary it up. Accessories and cardigans can make the outfits look different so you don’t appear to be wearing the same black dress every weekend.
    -pack nothing that requires special undergarments (strapless bras, slips, etc)
    – buy your toiletries there. I just bought shampoo, toothbrush, etc when I arrived in Europe
    -pack a fold up tote bag or duffle bag — so if you do buy a few new fun items, you can manage to get them home!

    Have so much fun! I am a fellow DC girl and my husband and I are making a france trip in September so I look forward to reading your tips!

    • Hannah says:

      I basically feel like white jeans are NEVER an option for me – traveling or not! I just fall/ slip/ drop things/ want to sit on the grass too much for them to be practical.

      Thanks for the tips! (DC Solidarity!)

  13. Erika says:

    One book that I read at least once a year is The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery – in my opinion, her best work, even above the Anne of Green Gables Series ๐Ÿ™‚ I also love The Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, mentioned above!

  14. heatherdmann says:

    Packing tips:

    Pack only enough clothes for 7-10 days and find somewhere to wash in between.

    You only need 1 pair of bottoms for 3-4 shirts: so bring basic bottoms and several versatile shirts for each. Even better if all your tops match all your bottoms!

    Exofficio underwear is quick dry and easy to wash in the sink or shower. I brought only 3 pairs with me on a 2-month trip to India and it worked great! They have some cute styles too.

    On my trip to India I managed to pack only 17.5 pounds of stuff- I blogged about it here: https://heatherdmann.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/what-to-pack/

    – Heather

    P.S. This is probably the first time you’ve seen my name but I am a closet super fan of your blog–I read it religiously. Also I’m pretty sure we could be bosom friends of the Anne of green gables variety. Just saying.

    • Hannah says:

      It was so much fun to read your post! I also love packing posts. I just get really fascinated by seeing everyone’s stuff spread out.

      I’m so glad you commented! I get excited when people pop our of obscurity with an AofGG reference!

  15. alockard says:

    For the packing I suggest folding everything up nicely and putting each outfit in zip lock bags. By squeezing the air out of them you will have more room to work with, as well as keeping clothes dry should you and your bag get caught in the rain. For books, I suggest anything by Erin Hart. I recently found her work and have read through 3 of her books in just over a week.

  16. Pingback: 4 countries. 5 1/2 weeks. 1 carry-on. | The Art in Life

  17. Pingback: 4 countries. 5 1/2 weeks. 1 carry-on. | The Art in Life

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