Travel Journal

HOW TO PACK FOR A LONG TRIP (TO EUROPE)

how-to-pack-for-a-long-trip-to-europe

I am about to embark on a five week trip to my home city of London. In the course of this trip, I'll be attending one wedding, one 30th birthday birthday, one 80th birthday, one pool party, one street carnival, and one music festival. I'll be having meetings and dinners and nights out in London. I'll be spending a few days in rural Wales. I've booked a weekend in Berlin. And I'm planning to do it all dressed in the contents of one (not very large) suitcase.

I could take two suitcases, but I really don't want to. The more I travel, the more I become averse to lugging around huge amounts of stuff. It's a hassle, it's physically strenuous, and it doesn't actually make getting dressed any easier. Instead, I've developed a few strategies for making it through a month long-ish trip without feeling like a complete slob. 

Wear black.

It doesn't matter how many showers you take or hotel spas you're lucky enough to use; after a month or more away from your own bed and bathroom, you're going to be feeling pretty grubby. I find that wearing a lot of black helps to minimise this feeling of grossness, and also has the added benefit of a) going with everything and b) disguising any 'travel pounds' you might gain by eating out and drink more than usual.

Take one less pair of shoes

A lot of travel blogs will tell you to only bring one pair of walking shoes and one pair of dressy shoes. Erm, no. I usually travel with the following selection, AT LEAST:

- Ankle boots with a comfortable everyday heel

- Fancy heels

- Sandals or slides, if you're going somewhere warm

- Converse or other presentable sneakers if you're not

- Gym shoes for work outs and super long walking days 

What you don't need is that extra pair of heels 'just in case', or three pairs of flat leather sandals. So leave them out.

Don't take books

I love the feel of a real book as much as anyone, but if you have the luxury of extended travel than you can handle a sacrifice here and there. This is one of them. Real books are space-zapping and cumbersome; Invest in a Kindle, put it to good use.

Remember that you can always wash your clothes. Or buy more.

News alert! People wear clean clothes all over the world. Whether you're planning a month working in New York or a backpacking trawl through South East Asia, you will be able to wash your clothes, or have them washed for you. Ergo, you do not need 18 white t-shirts. (Maybe take three, though - those things come in handy.)

Keep toiletries to a minimum.

If you're going to be in one place for several weeks or more, just buy full size bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion when you get there. If you're planning to keep it moving, take travel-sized products and top up with hotel amenities and local pharmacy finds as you go... (Picking up new beauty products is one of the best bits of travelling, anyway).

Streamline your Tools

Even if you've been diligent about keeping your clothing to a minimum, your day to day 'tools' can really add weight to your case and take up precious space. If you travel regularly and usually work en route, consider investing in a MacBook Air (this has changed my life). Leave the digital camera behind unless you're a pro photographer - the camera on an iPhone 5 will do the job 95% of the time. Bring just one notebook and one pen. Figure out a way to style your hair without a hairdryer. And so on and so forth...

Carry on a suitcase

Ok, so this is cheating a bit - but all in the name of practicality. I usually check a medium sized bag and carry on a small suitcase containing my laptop, travel toiletries, a change of clothing, and any valuables. This means that I'm safe if the airline loses my bag, and I also have a case ready to go if I want to take a trip-within-my-trip (i.e. my weekend in Berlin).

Pack things in things

I don't really like stuffing things in shoes because, ew, your foot has been in that. But I usually have one small evening bag filled with my jewellery and small accessories, plus a laundry bag for storing my gym kit (to be emptied and used for dirty clothes once I reach my destination). 

One Pieces are Your Friends

Maxi dresses and jumpsuits have become part of my daily uniform, largely because they're simple to wear (who can be bothered to think about putting together 2-3 garments when you could just wear one?). Invest in a few versatile one pieces. Your life will be easier for it.

Keep to a Theme

This is kinda obvious, but bears reiteration: Make sure everything in your suitcase works together. Not in a matchy matchy, complimentary colours way, but more in terms of your overall look. There's no point packing straw bags and white peasant dresses for a month in Europe, or skinny jeans and sharp shirts for a long beach stay. If you dress very simply, as I do, this is worth finessing down to the smallest details - will the leather jacket you wear all the time in London feel overdone on the streets of LA? A braless look really going to work on the streets of Stockholm? Do your everyday boots match your everyday bag? Etc. Etc. (N.B. Flip flops are not acceptable anywhere but the beach)

Travel in a hat

For so many reasons. To hide your scary plane face when you disembark that 11 hour flight. To keep you looking pulled together, even when you're wearing leggings and long tee. Because they're a no-brainer accessory for people who can't be bothered to think about accessories (me). Because the right one can be seriously flattering. Because they are a nightmare to pack in your case.