When I started taking trips, I packed until I had outfits, shoes, and scarves coming out of my ears. At 20, I lugged along 7 suitcases to spend an autumn in Toledo, Spain! I thought that the quantity I took with me would ensure success in any situation. I was very wrong. Too many bags was heavy, expensive and inconvenient. I took taxis to avoid dragging them up cobblestone streets. With less luggage, I could have walked and saved $$$.

I didn’t bring my Levi’s that fall and I could have lived in them, three good shirts, and my favorite denim shirt dress. I decided to pack clothes I love after that. In my 40s, I took one suitcase to Granada, Spain for a two week trip; five outfits plus a dress for a special occasion. Hurrah, that’s 85% less luggage than my first time! I easily pulled my bag up a pedestrian walkway to our cozy lodging in the Albaicín. In our Carmen de las Cuevas apartment there we had a convenient washer and dryer, which made it like home. Here’s what I’ve discovered from my travels in Spain and Latin America:

  1. People outside the US often have fewer outfits that they wear more frequently; more quality, less volume. Fashion is important in Latin countries and not just for teenagers. Take your favorite outfits that make you feel great and one especially elegant one. Wash your first two outfits in the sink the second night and hang them dry. (Soap nuts from the Sapindus mukorossi tree are easy to pack and use.) Repeating your outfits at the end of the week is fine. 
  2. Most international cities are made to walk in, just like New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. Very good, broken-in walking shoes are the most important item you can bring, other than your passport. Eccos are my favorite. Pack two pairs for excursions over five days. I don’t mean chunky heels, although if you have room, throw ‘em in for evening. Know you’ll walk two kilometers in them! (a mile) 
  3. It may rain at your destination, but don’t pack an umbrella. That you can buy anywhere in the world, should you desire to. What’s better is a hooded rain parka. Perfect, because it has more than one function; warm layer, windbreaker, and rain protection. Find a colorful rain parka with pockets that fits you well. 
  4. Find yourself a good-looking hat. A hat will keep you happy in sun, rain and cold. You will look chic and self-confident. Have you noticed how few people from the US are willing to wear hats? Live bravely and reap the rewards of feeling cooler,  warmer and having enviable style. 
  5. Take along your bathing suit; especially those of us of the female persuasion. Finding a well-fitting bathing suit can take time. Finish your homework before your trip. : ) In your destination a hot tub, a hot springs, or a surprise pool awaits. Thanks, Dad for this cardinal rule of Cuningham-family packing. 
  6. Pack a sweater or wrap, even for the tropics. Evenings by the ocean can feel cool. That goes double for San Francisco. A warm layer is worth the space in your bag; it’s no fun to be cold! Take it along with you when you go out at night. 
  7. Dressing well can be a way to show respect for another culture. That said, avoid sweatpants unless you’re in the Olympics. <wink> I’ve seen track suits in Latin America; mostly on people about to play soccer/football. Also, skip the shorts unless you’re going to the tropics or hiking a mountain. Outside the US, very few adults wear them.

Any points with which you agree or disagree? Intrepid globe-trotters please comment and share your wisdom. If you’d like to carry less, you might pare down the contents of your suitcase for a weekend trip. Stretching my comfort level has become a bit of a game; I see how close I can get to the wire when I pack for weekends to Minneapolis. Two weeks ago, we went for three days. I packed one small suitcase and wore all but one pair of socks and underwear. I felt satisfaction for traveling light, for me. Yes, I brought my bathing suit and yes there was a pool!

What are your secrets for packing less?

Roughing it abroad? Read this excellent Peru packing list for outdoor adventure by Kristin, a savvy woman travel blogger.

Para leer este blog en español, haz un clic aquí.

One thought on “7 Tips for a Good Vacation

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