The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light

August 31, 2015  •  Travel

clothes-1In just four short weeks from today, I’ll be heading to Italy for a month long adventure. I’ll be taking clients first to Rome, then to a cooking school in Puglia. And when they depart, my husband and friends will meet me in Lecce for a driving trip through southern Italy and Sicily. I’m flying Lufthansa this year, who has perhaps the strictest carryon luggage policy, as your bag can only weigh 17 pounds. Well guess what? I figured out how to pack 28 items into my regulation sized international carryon bag – and I am guessing there are a whole lot of you out there who would like to do the same. So let me break it down for you!clothes-2I’m sure you all get the idea of mix and match, but what many people don’t get is the idea of featherweight clothes. I begin with 4 polyester (washable, not silk) blouses that weigh next to nothing. With black pants and sparkly earrings they are perfect for evening, but they also work with jeans for day time.clothes-9I have 4 solid tank tops – 1 each of black and white that are fitted to wear under these blouses if it is chilly, and 1 each of black and white that are loose to wear alone or with a cardigan. I also have a patterned tank to wear solo with casual pants if it’s hot, or with the matching scarf and a sweater if it’s cool.clothes-4I am packing 2 pairs of jeans, 1 in a dark wash, and 1 in a lighter wash…clothes-3…and 2 pairs of very lightweight daytime pants (1 black, 1 khaki) that can be washed in the sink.clothes-5I also have 2 pairs of black knit pants – 1 in a straightleg ankle style, 1 in a wide leg style – that work well for going out at night, but also can be worn during the day and are comfortable on a long train ride.clothes-6I have 3 cardigans – 1 black, 1 patterned, and 1 in a peach color – and if you look at the other items in the bag so far you will quickly see lots of opportunity for layering and mixing and matching these items.clothes-8I am packing 5 three-quarter or long sleeve knit tops – 2 solid colors, 3 patterns…clothes-7…and 2 other tops just because they fit – a short sleeve white t-shirt, and a long sleeve patterned top. If on my actual packing day I find my bag is too heavy, these will be the first to go as they are kind of an afterthought and I can get by without them.clothes-10Finally, I have a pair of dressier, but still comfortable for walking, sandals for evening wear. Again, a last minute decision will be whether these actually go into the bag, or based on weight I end up carrying in my tote bag.clothes-11You’ll see that all of this stacks up very small to fit into my carryon. So let’s talk about what you don’t see in my bag. First, what I’ll be wearing on the flight: black leggings, with a long black knit tank and a knit cardigan. In other words, chic enough for arrival in Rome, but almost like PJs for sleeping on the plane. I’ll also be wearing my black comfortable walking shoes and will have a black pashmina or other wrap. You also don’t see any skirts or dresses – I just don’t wear them. But you could swap out some of the pants for skirts if you prefer. My tote bag will hold my travel purse (flat and easy to stick in there), toiletries, electronics, and gifts for my friends in Italy, and in a pinch, if my bag is a few ounces over at the airport, I’ll pull something out to stick in my tote instead. I didn’t show my underwear in the packed bag, but that is negligible space and weight. And you don’t see PJs in that bag – I simply sleep in a shirt that I’ve already worn instead of wasting space on PJs, and I live without a robe when traveling.IMG_0901This packing strategy may seem extreme to you – and I know not everyone cares about taking a carryon bag. But if you’ve ever lost your luggage when arriving at an international destination, or if you’ve ever struggled with finding a place on the train where your bag is safely stowed, or you’re just petite like me and don’t want the hassle of lugging around a large suitcase for a month, then I hope this post has helped you plan for your next adventure abroad. Be sure to check back on Thursday when I’ll cover all my other travel secrets: favorite luggage, tote bag, clothing brands, shoes, and purses!

Click here to download a copy of my packing checklist!


2 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Cindy says:

    Michelle, I take far fewer clothes than you, and I can’t imagine being under 17 pounds. What about a raincoat, a sun hat? How does all the stuff you mention fit in your tote bag? You even mention putting gifts in there. Does your tote end up weighing 17 pounds? I’m curious, as I make a huge effort to pack light and carry on, but 17 pounds is ultra-light.

    • Michele says:

      I KNOW Cindy! Actually I was shocked myself, and here’s my theory: I have a lightweight suitcase – mere 7 pounds tops; I am short so all of my clothes are probably 10-20% shorter and therefore lighter than a tall person; I don’t take a bunch of shoes – wear 1, pack 1; I have several tops that frankly weigh an ounce – flimsy little blouses that I can wear a tank under for warmth; I carry my raincoat onto the plane and use it as a footrest, blanket, or back pillow; I’m not a hat person :-). I honestly was all ready to check my bag this year when I read Lufthansa’s carry on policy of 17 pounds (first time flying to Rome on Lufthansa as I usually fly United), but then I decided to see what it actually looked like and weighed, and was surprised myself that it fits into that weight. My tote is roomy – and because it counts as my “personal item” (defined as laptop bag, purse, etc.) it’s not weighed by the airline. So yes, it very well may weigh close to the suitcase or more, but I am pretty sure they won’t weigh it as I’ll call it “my purse”! I’ll let everyone know how it goes when I get through the trip!!!

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