Real life one bag travel – my packing list for spring in Europe

Hi Frugalistas!

I’m always working on ways to refine my packing and work out how to take even less on my travels.  So I’m approaching things a bit differently on my upcoming trip.  It’s early spring and things are still pretty cold so I need to pack warm.  I’ve bought a new bag (a rolling backpack).  It’s much lighter than my old international carry on, but on the downside it’s quite a bit smaller.  So, I need a tight list of multitasking clothing that will take me from a week in London for a work conference, to a weekend in the South of France and four days of walking in the Cinque Terre with perhaps a day trip to posh Portofino.  All that will need to fit into my new, tiny bag.

I don't backpack but this bag is much lighter than my old carry on.  The straps can be tucked away when the bag is rolled

I don’t backpack but this bag is much lighter than my old carry on. The straps can be tucked away when the bag is rolled

The Basics

My wardrobe is built around two fantastic skirts.  A silver metallic that can be worn with a simple cardigan during the day, and dressed up with a sexy jacket and a great necklace for the evening.  Then a magenta skirt that will go with all my cardigans and the sheer blouse I am taking.

Who says packing means all black?

Who says packing light means all black?

Then I’ve got two pairs of black pants – one pair of classic trousers, and a pair of black jeans.  Regular readers will notice I’m taking jeans, when I never do, and usually advise against it.  But these are different – stretch fabric and incredibly light, they really are more like an extra pair of pants, but with the added casualness that comes from jeans.

Three cardigans (sweaters) in colours that tone with, but don’t match the skirts.  They will go with both my skirts and pairs of pants. I go for cashmere because I like it and can afford it.  It’s also very warm without being bulky .  If you can’t afford cashmere (and I appreciate not everyone can) go for the best quality wool you can afford to give you warm variation in your wardrobe without the bulk, or something in a high tech fabric.

If you pack more tops than bottoms it will seem like you have more choices

If you pack more tops than bottoms it will seem like you have more choices

Three singlet tops to go under my cardigans and under the blouse.

One thermal top for extra warmth.  This can be worn under my blouse to provide coverage, and warmth without bulk.

One black jacket.  I can wear it open with a singlet top in the day time, or done up with nothing underneath for a classic evening look.

Three sets of underwear – old ones that I’ll throw out before I depart.  Tights to coordinate with my skirts (just two pairs) and two pairs of socks (one thick for when I need warmth, one pair of stocking socks for when I want style).

A pair of light of pyjamas that do double duty as sleeping and lounging attire.

A trench coat, hat and gloves.

Two pairs of flat, black shoes – some light ballet flats and a sturdier pair for long walks.

IMG_1293

I’ll wear the sturdier pair, and pack the ballet flats to save space

Accessories

A couple of scarves to change up my outfits and add warmth round my neck with my coat.

A great chunky necklace that I’ll wear at night.

A single pair of earrings.

So, what will I wear on the plane?  It’s a 24hr trip to London for me, so comfort is key.  I’d also like to wear some of my bulkier garments to make sure I’ve got plenty of room in my bag.  I’ll therefore be wearing the pants (not my jeans), the blouse with a singlet underneath, my black jacket and the sturdier shoes.  Because I don’t need to check the bag in I can get a cardigan out if I get chilly on the plane.  I’ll also carry my trench coat.

Toiletries

To go with my new, smaller bag, I’ve also bought a new smaller toilet bag.  With the current requirements for liquids I’ve found I just don’t need a full size toilet bag for my solids and other gear anymore.  So liquids go into the zip lock bag, and my hairbrush and comb, hair elastics and dry make up all go into the small toilet bag, along with some basic medical essentials like headache tablets and band aids.

Electronics

iPad, camera and two phones (one for my travel sim, one for my usual number) are it for me.  All my cords have ports so I can just take one plug.  I have two adaptors – one for the UK and one for Europe.

Bits & Pieces

A microfibre towel. Handy for using as a blanket, for sitting on damp grass and a myriad of other uses.  A small travel size lint brush.  A collapsable water bottle that takes no space at all and will save me buying water on the Cinque Terre and the train.

What hasn’t made the cut this trip

Apart from an Italian phrase book and my (small) London guidebook, no hard copy books are coming this time round.  Instead all my reading material is loaded onto my iPad.  If I’m desperate to feel paper pages in my hand, I’ll buy something in London.

A dress.  I know.  I say on all my packing lists to pack something along the lines of a little black dress.  But this time I’m not.  Instead I’m going for clever separates only.  And taking an extra pair of pants because of the more casual nature of the second part of my trip.

Packing Plan

My London guidebook goes into my handbag with my documents, reading glasses, tissues, wallet etc.  My iPad and ziplock bag of liquids go in the front pockets of the backpack, so I can get them out quickly and easily for airport security.

Well, I’m packed and ready to go.  Can’t wait to test my new bag and my wardrobe!

Photo credits:

All author’s own

Related posts:

My packing list

Winter packing list

Five packing mistakes and how to avoid them

Why I love packing light

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24 Comments on “Real life one bag travel – my packing list for spring in Europe”

  1. Sue and Reg 13/04/2013 at 11:26 pm #

    Love the new bag! Let us know how you like it.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 14/04/2013 at 6:55 am #

      Will do. I got everything into it with room to spare (including a gift I need to give to someone when I get to london), so off to a good start. I’m thinking the back pack part will come in handy in the a cinque Terre too.

  2. Pretraveller 14/04/2013 at 2:25 pm #

    Jo, it looks like you are all set for your trip! I am always impressed by the effort you go to with your travel wardrobe. I am more basic with my travel clothes, but still definitely agree with the philosophy of packing as light as possible.

    I hope you enjoy your trip. I definitely envy you going to Cinque Terra, I have been there twice now, once in winter and once in summer. Spring will be a hybrid where I expect it will be too cold to go swimming but you may be lucky and not have too many other tourists around. The walking is great, and the limoncello is even better!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 16/04/2013 at 12:03 am #

      Thanks Anne. Apart from a couple of pairs of shoes I don’t wear much at home, I basically only have one wardrobe that goes everywhere!

  3. Cal 14/04/2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Hi, I’m in Australia too, and am wondering if your carry on will weigh less than 7 kg total (including a personal item), which seems to be the rule for most flights out of Oz to Europe. I can easily pack into a small carry-on, but it is hard to get the weight down to less than 7 kg, and so I usually have to check the bag, Have a great trip!
    Cal

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 15/04/2013 at 11:25 pm #

      I’m fortunate enough to be able to go bus class most of the time, where the allowance is a bit more generous. Having said that, what I saw people take into economy on this trip beggared belief……

  4. Luggage Tags and Ticket Stubs 20/04/2013 at 4:25 pm #

    That new bag looks really smart and useful! As you mentioned layering is the key to minimalising the amount of clothes you need to take and flat shoes are great to shove in.

  5. CarolynB 23/04/2013 at 7:33 am #

    Great post – love your little bag! Am wondering if you chose it based on weight and how much it weighs?

    I’ve been looking around Australia past couple weeks for a replacement for my wonderful Paklite carry-on bought many years ago – soft-sided and also has backpack straps (though I never use them) — still doing OK but the wheels are a bit worn and noisy now! Saw a little RipCurl pack/wheelie I liked in the window but haven’t tried it yet – maybe next trip as we return to UK soon so little Paklite will have to do for a bit longer 🙂

    Just curious as to the make and weight of yours – also love the purple! Cheers and safe travels. Have a great trip.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 23/04/2013 at 11:25 pm #

      Thanks Carolyn. It’s a Rick Steves rolling backpack. I haven’t backpacked with it but it handles the tough stones etc well. You can’t buy them in shops in Australia as far as I know, but you can get from Amazon (my little shop on here will have it if they are in stock) or from Rick’s website. They will ship to Australia. I was looking for a combo of size and weight, and this one was the lightest one I could find that still looked sturdy without spending hundreds of dollars. I’ll be doing a formal review of it when I get back, but in short I’ve been happy with it.

  6. Anita Mac 24/04/2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Great list…although your limited shoes would have me running for the hills!!! I have a confessed shoe problem….what can I say! I totally agree with the cardigans and shells – so much mix and match makes for more options and less luggage weight! Before my recent trip to Germany, I updated my spring wardrobe with 3 shells – exactly the same except for colour, and 2 complementary cardigans in a wrinkle free fabric. Lived in them the entire time and can’t get enough now that I am home! Considering running to the shops for one more – they are so light and versatile, they will be worth more than their weight in gold!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 25/04/2013 at 1:59 am #

      I’m almost at the end of this trip (I fly home in about 30hrs) and would only change one thing – I would have packed a single short sleeved T shirt – it has been a bit warmer in the Cinque Terre and it would have been handy. Part of the vagaries of spring time travel, and if it had been warmer than I expected earlier I could easily have bought one.

  7. leamuse 27/05/2013 at 8:13 pm #

    I shall share your tips with a friend. As for myself, I travel light and very basic. A backpack and a rail-pass.

  8. Flashpacker Family 15/03/2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Looks like a really well thought out travel wardrobe. I’m a pretty light packer, clothes-wise I usually just have one packing cell, but my toiletries need some work! My toilet bag is always stuffed and heavy. I love the idea of just a few key pieces of wardrobe – the sweaters look great! I usually have a merino jersey in my bag because it’s warm but very light.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 15/03/2014 at 6:55 pm #

      Thanks Bethanney. Yes, warm and light is definitely the way to go, and merino or some other fine wool knit is a great choice!

  9. Chris 06/06/2014 at 6:06 am #

    What brand is the bottom pair of black shoes? They’re exactly what I’m looking for!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 06/06/2014 at 6:39 am #

      Hi Chris, they are Ecco, but are quite old.

      • Chris 06/06/2014 at 10:43 pm #

        Thanks! That’s what I thought.

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