Packing Light

It is possible to pack for a two-week trip in one carry-on bag. I learned how from two sources: my mother and the Universal Packing List website.

My mother taught me the adage, "Pack half the clothes and twice the money that you think you’ll need." The website taught me about such wonders as travel-sized rolls of duct tape.

Honestly, I don’t always travel so light. Sometimes I check a bag. Sometimes I check a pretty big bag, like when I’m going on a cruise or I’m going to need a tent, snorkeling equipment or other bulky stuff.

But if I’m going on a trip that involves a lot of schlepping – on trains, buses, subways – I try to cut it down to one smallish bag. I can move faster and more cheaply if I don’t need taxis and porters wherever I go. And it’s a lot easier on my back.

It takes more time to pack light than to just throw everything into a suitcase. You really have to think about what to leave out, so I usually try to start several days ahead of time. (It reminds me of  Mark Twain’s remark: " I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.")

The only way my stuff fits into one bag is if  I can do without formal clothes and if I’ll do laundry on the fly. The laptop computer and the portable DVD player have to stay home.  I bring only a few basic medical supplies, which is OK as long as I’ll be close enough to places where I can buy more in a pinch.

Packing in progress:


Here’s the packing list the husband and I used for a two-week trip to Europe, divided into two main sections. The first section lists things that each of us should bring. The second list is shared – things that one of us should bring for the two of us.

For each person

clothes (including what we are wearing when we leave)
3 pairs of casual pants or lightweight jeans
3 casual shirts
3 pairs of underwear
3 pairs of socks
2 pairs of walking shoes
1 sweatshirt (or other warm shirt)
1 light or medium jacket

passport, license, credit cards etc.
undercover travel wallet
disposable razor
medications, vitamins
lip balm
spare glasses (or contacts)
shower slip-ons

light pajamas / sleep shirt
liner gloves
bathing suit

Shared stuff

travel documents
plane tickets or printed reservation
hotel reservation printouts
photocopies of passports / visas
blank check(s)

shaving cream
Tylenol / Tylenol PM
Pepto Bismal pills
hand sanitizer
laundry kit
fold-up tote bag
cell phone & charger
wall socket electrical adapter
travel alarm clock
travel duct tape
nail clippers
miniature flashlight

digital camera
iPod / headphones / charger
lithium AA batteries

The optional stuff goes in only if there’s room when everything else is packed. If there’s still more room I usually throw in books, snacks, a shawl or a little jewelry to liven up my outfits.


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