First Things First: Packing List

3744 3744_ () 3744 3744 As crazy as it may sound, Paul and I weren’t initially convinced we wanted to go to Italy. Maybe it was just me, I can’t remember. But I know that our earliest discussions about some kind of trip involved EITHER Italy or Mexico. The thought of some remote beach in Mexico where we just sat and stared out at the ocean for a week or so, well that sounded perfect. Life has been so fast lately and whatever it was we decided to do, I wanted it to energize me. I didn’t want to come home from vacation exhausted.

Arriving at the decision to do Italy involved mentioning to a few key people that we were trying to decide and them saying, “WHAT?! Rome! ROME!” I suppose once you talk to people who have been there, who have fallen in love with the city, you realize it’s worth the risk of feeling a bit tired afterward. That and getting to hang with Fr. Tim were two crucial factors. His stay there is not open-ended, so there was no time like the present (and as it turned out, we now know that God had his hand in our decision, imagine that!).

So the minute we decided we were going to Italy (weee!), I did what any level-headed gal would do. I googled “what should I wear in Rome?”

First things first indeed.

In the end, I left most of the major trip decisions up to Paul. I knew I wanted to go to Rome, that we would spend most of our time there, and I wanted to visit Assisi. Other then that, it was all good. But in a later post I will share my thoughts on our various excursions and the cities we saw.

In terms of practical details (which is exactly what I needed when we started our trip planning), here is what I want to share:

1. We packed light. As in: one carry-on suitcase each. And a shoulder bag for me. That was it. If we couldn’t fit it in one of our two suitcases, it wasn’t coming.

2. We did not regret this decision. Especially because we used the train system a good bit, it was nice to have just the one suitcase. Here is my thinking about travel wear: we all have our favorite pants, our favorite shorts, our favorite skirt. Right? So I just packed that ONE favorite of each. You should only bring along clothes that you love, that make you feel great, that mix and match well with the other pieces you bring along.

3. On that note, my Packing List for ten days in Italy:
~nice pair of jeans (I bought a pair of Lucky, super-comfy and flattering)
~nice pair of black cropped pants — this was a last-minute (I mean two hours before the airport!) purchase and I wore them throughout the entire trip. After dropping off the littles before we left, I was passing the mall and decided to go grab a t-shirt for the trip. I had a pair of pants that I didn’t love but they would do. While I was at the store I found some pants that worked great because I was able to dress them up or dress them down and they made me feel really good. Perfect!
~two skirts: black jersey skirt — to the knee, super comfy but looks much dressier than it feels. With a black t-shirt looked like a LBD. And lightweight chambray skirt, perfect when we were at the beach
~pair of shorts that I wore once. Glad I packed just one pair
~black cotton tank
~black dressier t-shirt
~black boatneck elbow-length sleeves
~striped boatneck tee with elbow-length sleeves (but lightweight, good for warmer or colder weather)
~lightweight scarf — MUST HAVE. This was perfect to have for draping shoulders in churches. So one day, for instance, I wore the black capris and the black tank and then used the scarf as a cloak in the churches.

~heavier scarf I used at night and on the plane
~plenty of unmentionables (do not skimp here! But don’t forget you can handwash!)
~one lightweight pajama
~tiny umbrella (didn’t need, thank you Lord!)
~shoulder bag — great for plane ride
~sling bag — a Baggalini found at TJMaxx (thank you Leigh for the tip!) that was awesome, perfect for water bottle, phone, journal, hand sanitizer (I’m wearing it in photo above, not bulky at all!)
~two pairs of shoes

Now, the shoes need their own paragraph because I think you should put as much thought and energy into finding the right shoes as finding the right itinerary. This will make or break your trip. I did a ton of research on this (thank you Rick Steves’ message boards) and settled on a pair of super-comfy sandals with a nice lift but no heel.

I also brought along a pair of flats that I wore one day to Mass and then we had to walk back to our apartment because after wearing my sandals, the flats made me feel barefoot. Not in a good way. I could feel every cobblestone through the shoe. So in the end, I really just needed one pair of shoes, but I was too afraid to only have the one pair. A backup is nice, but in my case, unnecessary.

Things I packed I wish I hadn’t:
~hairdryer — it took up a ton of space and even if you had the converter (which I did) it blew the fuse (which it did). All the hotels and even our apartment in Rome offered a hairdryer. I was too worried about not having one and it ended up being a waste of my precious space. But live and learn.
~big camera — I know, I know. Maybe not. But after the first day of lugging my awesome camera around, I felt like I was getting so worn out. I just wanted to be free to enjoy what I was seeing instead of worrying about documenting everything. So the next day, I brought my phone. And I used the camera on it and that’s what all the pictures are from. Maybe not as good? But I am actually pretty pleased with what we got and the best part is how unencumbered I felt walking through all the cities.
~sweater — worth having, but I didn’t end up using. I just loved having the versatile scarf option I guess!
~lightweight dress — I support I could have worn it, but I felt like the black cropped pants gave me the option of feeling dressy without (possibly) being overdressed.

Any other world travelers or travel experts want to chime in? 3744″>



  1. Curmudgeon says

    I always take a pair of flats that have pretty thick soles. They look dressy enough – and I can walk in European cities in them.

    I also swear by a black cotton sweater. And I take various silk scarves. They dress things up and don’t take any space.

    I used to take skirts. Now I don’t even bother. I might if I went in July or August, but I just refuse to. And shorts are not necessary unless you go to the beach. No European woman would wear the on the street.

    The basic black with dressy colorful scarf ensemble really makes it very easy.

  2. You offered a lot of great packing advice, but I just can’t remember anything except the picture of you in the tank top showing off your fabulously “cut” arms! Do you do arm exercises or were you just born that way…flabby arms need to know.

  3. Very impressive packing skills. I went to Australia for 2 weeks, had a few too many things but still just one suitcase.

  4. scarves are definitely my secret weapon when traveling in europe … and you were so spot on to pack lightly.

    and i have traveled w/ one pair of shoes … dansko clogs.

  5. Im with Nikki!! You look great Rachel!

  6. Ditto on the toned arms, mama! Holy “how does that lady have 6 kids!” can’t reiterate the only carry-on bags advice enough. From Rome to Africa, this policy has saved me more than a few times. Now back to gawking over how amazing you look! Xo

  7. Jennifer says

    My husband and I just went to Rome in March and I ditto much of what you wrote. Rick Steves message boards are the best! However, Italy is a tad on the cool side in March and the cathedrals seem even colder as no sun ever warms the interior…. brrrr. So we did lots of layers which takes up more room in the suitcase. The single best item I took were my Clarks leather loafers. Couldn’t have done all the walking and touring without them. My second and third most important items were my scarf and sunglasses. I looked totally Italian… kind of.

    • Yes! Sunglasses for sure. I almost left mine and thought I would buy a pair when we got there. I’m glad I just brought mine along.

      And my sister and her husband went to Rome for their honeymoon in January and had to bring a whole lot more than we did. Cooler weather adds many extras.

  8. My packing rule is always three pairs of bottoms – wear until you are onto the third one, then wash the first two – and enough tops to change twice day especially if it is warm until you get to the time when you have to wash the bottoms.. Light cardigan, and warmer jacket especially if you are in cooler European climes. Packing for winter in Eupope completely different story, but I still go by the three bottoms rule. Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane as well as your jacket.

    My other rule is to oack enough for a week or maybe eight days, then wash, even for long trips. We’ve been on a few six week trips and still only took enough for a week. You do get sick of your clothes but it saves space and luggage weight.

    I like to think I’m a pretty good packer – have travelled all over!

  9. Looks like you did a great job! Not packing right can really ruin a trip (or at least put a damper on it).

    Often I see couples on the train from Heathrow dressed for a safari — ripstop cargo vest + ripstop cargo pants + floppy khaki sunhat. Oh dear. When you come to cities in Europe you have to remember that you are coming to civilization!

    • It’s so true! Conversely, I noticed some people with tennis shoes and fanny packs. I know it doesn’t matter, but I was wishing they had tried to blend a bit.

  10. Could you list the brand and style of sandals you wore? Thanks!

  11. I’ll definitely second the leave-the-hairdryer advice. They’re heavy and bulky and no matter how many adapters and transformers you’ve got (and those weigh a ton) it WILL burn out. Better to just buy a really cheap one where you’re going if you find they don’t have one available for some reason.

    If you are past college age and traveling in European cities and NOT doing actual sports, leave your sportswear at home unless you don’t mind standing out or looking like a tourist – weird technical sandals (or God forbid, those weird toe shoes), anything ripstop or that you can zip the legs off, yoga pants (aka relaxapants), yoga tops, anything really gear-y. The exception to that rule would be a lightweight rain shell in the summer, especially if you are going somewhere the wind just laughs at umbrellas or are planning on riding a bicycle.

    Yeah, and if you wear flats you will need a really solid sole unless you are used to walking on cobblestones.

  12. Potamiaena says

    From personal experience, DO NOT buy new shoes for the trip. I had a blister by the time we got to the airport.

    I loved Rome, every Catholic should have a visit to Rome on their bucket list. Assissi is very pretty and quaint, but very commercialized, with all the tourist shops around. St. Francis would be sad. . .

    • I bought my shoes about three weeks before we left, so I had plenty of time to break them in.

      I see what you mean about Assisi, but there was still something so peaceful and fun about the place. My only complaint was the crowds in the churches. But I suppose I should be glad so many people want to visit?

  13. No one asked this, but what about toiletries? You can only carry on a qt. zip bag of 3 oz. bottles so that isn’t much. What did you do, or do with out? 😉

    • Just a thought- I went to Italy in April with a carry on and managed to squeeze in a duffle bag so that I could buy all the goodies I wanted and then check the duffle on the return flight. It worked great! ** Toiletries- I used 3 oz bottles for shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and hair product. I packed facial moisturizer but skipped eye cream and even fit in primer and tinted moisturizer and travel size toothpaste. Goodness! Sounds like a lot typing it out, but I managed to fit it all in that quart size bag. You can do it!

  14. I agree about the one bag + carry-on and comfortable shoes. I usually pack neutrals, like black, tan (or white) and olive which all can be mixed and layered. Like you, I pack clothes that make me feel great, so I can focus completely on the people and places around me. In summer, I pack a collapsible straw hat that is sweet and practical; for cooler weather, a wool cloche. Two shawls/wraps that double as scarves, skirts, and carry-alls. Sunglasses. Always. Final thing, from my mom: just before you close your suitcase, toss in something fun, like red socks, a lace mantilla, sequin tank, BigBird change purse, rubber spider, etc. I’ve worn, traded, and made friends with them all.
    Belated happy birthday … and welcome home!