Travel Light: 18 Days Abroad with A purse and 1 Carry-on

Summer is HERE!  And for many of us, that means packing a bag to get the heck out of Dodge.  Since I recently did just that, I thought I'd share some things I learned along the way.

With my dear friends' wedding to be held on the southern coast of Spain this June, I decided to take advantage of the monstrously-long flight and prolong my European escapade into an 18-day, 3-country adventure.  I quickly determined I would spend 10 days prior to the wedding visiting two close friends who now live in Frankfurt and Paris. 

My goal was to pack super light, knowing that mobility between destinations was key. My color scheme was black, white and navy, and brown, all of which are interchangeable in my book. I only brought two everyday bottoms - navy silk trousers, and white culottes, as well as just two pairs of shoes (sandals and high quality leather loafers, yes even though I was going to a wedding).  I felt emboldened to bring less items knowing that I had the security blanket of staying with friends, and could rely on them to borrow something if necessary.

 All packed up and ready to go!

All packed up and ready to go!

In Frankfurt, my first stop, I had to take advantage of this safety net and borrow my friend's jean jacket once some abnormally chilly weather hit.  It was so cold, in fact, that I even layered my yoga crops under my silk trousers, which worked like a charm. This double-layering allowed my ankles to still be bare, so it looked like a "summer" outfit, accept that hiding underneath my loose silk trousers was another warm layer.

In Paris it was hot, and I pretty much lived in my thrifted, white, flowy culottes. All the tops I brought could be worn with the white culottes.  I walked around a lot, and I was worried at first that I didn't bring the right footwear, but it turned out that interchanging each day between the sandals and loafers (with socks) ensured I was blister-free. I also ended up purchasing a third pair of slip-on's in Paris (more on that, below).

Once I got to the wedding in Spain, it was beach vibes all day. I was either in my bathing suit, or dressed up for wedding events.  Here, I converged with several more friends and had virtually no need for accessories or lipstick - they kept me flush with options!

My Detailed Packing List

I've included retrospective notes in parenthesis in order to understand what I really ended up using and what ended up being extra (hey, it's important to look back and evaluate from time to time, right?).

Essentials

  • underwear x 6 (I use Lululemon quick-dry underwear that will air-dry overnight after washing)
  • no-show socks x 3 (I could have used 4 pairs, since I wore the pink loafers as often as I did.  I just washed the socks several times, and they typically dried overnight)
  • regular socks x 3 (thin wool, ankle length socks.  I only needed 1 pair; I used them as "slippers" around the house)
  • compression socks x 1 (for the flight, and they worked wonders!  Thanks, Lee From America for the tip)
  • pajamas x 1 (cotton shirt + cotton shorts)
  • bras x 4 (2 regular, and 2 athletic bras ... I could have gotten away with only 1 athletic bra)
  • shoes x 2 (open-toe sandals and pink loafers.  This number eventually turned into a 3, since I ended up purchasing slip-on loafers in Paris, the silver ones pictured below. I wanted something closed-toed, that was still breathable for the hot, Spanish weather and appeared more formal than the open-toed sandals)

Bottoms

  • long pair navy, loose silk pants x 1
  • cropped white culottes x 1
  • jumper x 1 (This I purchased at a vintage shop in Paris.  It is a teal jumper, pictured below, that could technically count as another pair of pants.  This was super comfortable to travel in, once in hotter weather.  When originally packing my bags, it felt risky not packing a pair of jeans, but I never missed them, not once!)

Tops

  • black/white tank tops x 2
  • black bodysuit x 1
  • short sleeved t shirts x 2 (1 navy/white striped and 1 gray.  I traveled in this, and could have gotten away with only one, and just washed it right away after getting settled in Frankfurt)
  • thin brown cashmere crew neck sweater x 1
  • super thin black windbreaker x 1 (this was an important layer that wasn't the hippest look, but it kept me warm late in the night and easily stuffed into my purse)

Outdoor

  • cotton baseball hat x 1 (shade is a priority for this fair-skinned lass)
  • small paper parasol x 1 (sounds like a luxury, but again, shade is a priority.  I called this my "personal shade device", which proved to be v. important. I packed this instead of a broad-brimmed hat, which I also discovered packs much more easily than a hat)
  • patterned cotton beach blanket x 1 (thin enough to fold small, and thick enough to be used as a blanket on the plane, or as a shawl for cold nights)
  • small silk scarf x 1 (could be used as a head wrap or around my neck; it added lots of warmth when needed at night)
  • bathing suit x 1
  • cheetah print bathing suit cover up x 1
  • sunglasses

OTHER

  • casual green cotton dress, with short sleeves x 1 (this ended up being super convenient. It was great to throw on after a shower and wear around the house almost as a robe.  That, paired with the wooly socks and I could fall asleep standing up -- so cozy!)
  • yoga outfit (black, cropped leggings and cotton sleeveless shirt. Glad I had a dedicated yoga outfit because I went to 3 different yoga classes! Inside Yoga in Frankfurt is amazing, btw!)
  • dark green dress for wedding x 1 (I thought I might wear this once before the wedding but I refrained in order to keep it extra fresssh)
  • long black skirt & black crop top for rehearsal dinner x 1 (I wore these as separates after the rehearsal dinner when I wasn't as concerned about wrinkling, etc.)

Travel Tips

Invest in an amazing suitcase or bag! 

I used the Allpa 35L by Cotopaxi.  I was searching for something that was a backpack and a suitcase in one, and I found it here.  All the internal zippered compartments meant I didn't have to go overboard on  packing cubes.  I just used one cube for small loose items, and another cube for dirty laundry.  The backpack function made it  easy to go up and down stairs in the airport and subway stations (and the 6 flights up to the apartment I was staying in in Paris [enter sweat emoji] here). This bag is also super durable, even when I put extra stress on the zippers in order to bring home some edible souvenirs from Paris.  My one feedback is I wish it had little wheels and a small handle, because in the airport I didn't need to always carry the bag, and it would have been nice to roll it at times. Because it is a suitcase-shaped, I didn't feel super chic carrying a big, square backpack through the city streets, but I did zip past all my fellow travelers who were struggling with heavy suitcases up and down stairs.

seek out COSMETICS THAT serve double-duty

In the mornings, at home and while traveling, I use a high quality, non-toxic, all-in-one facial moisturizer, sunscreen and tinted makeup (Suntegrity).  Before bed (since I don't need sunscreen or makeup, obvs) I just used my body lotion on my face. I used my shampoo as my body wash and at times, also for laundry detergent (when I hand-washed items in the shower -- which actually works, btw!).

Mind the Little Luxuries 

On the flight I used my beach blanket as my sleeping blanket, I wore long compression socks for comfort and warmth and an eye mask to get proper sleep on the plane.  I also brought Yogi Berry Detox tea and my insulated Hydroflask thermos to have an unlimited supply of tea on the flight.  This way I stayed hydrated without having to buy water in plastic bottles.  I fasted on the plane to avoid the salty, processed foods and felt way better upon integrating into a different time zone.

Don't Forget Your reusable, Zero-Waste Arsenal

I packed a real metal fork from my kitchen and used it in the airport or whenever eating in transit.  I was constantly using the small canvas tote I tucked into my leather purse to carry additional groceries and such. I also brought a netted vegetable sack for produce, since I often buy produce when I'm traveling.  These little things all came in super handy and allowed me to say "no thank you" to plastics bags and single-use disposable items.  I even kindly asked the attendant at a small super market in Spain look in the back for an extra cardboard box when we made an impromptu stop at the grocery store.  The more I refuse plastic bags, the more easily it is becoming a non-negotiable for me, even in places where it might be considered "weird" to do so.

Off-set your carbon footprint

Cruising around on a jet plane really takes a toll on one's environmental goals.  While I eat a mostly vegan diet, which offsets my environmental impact in a big way, I wanted to do something about this extravagant flight to Europe, so I decided to donate to The Story of Stuff, an organization dedicated to "people-powered campaigns that reduce waste and spur innovation, like [their] efforts to defend public water and prevent plastic pollution." Their very first movie titled, The Story of Stuff, was a major inspiration for creating New Minimalism back in 2013.

I hope that these detailed notes help you when you sit down to pack for your next trip. Traveling is a great way to try out a capsule wardrobe and realize that you don't need all that much to be comfortable!

Happy traveling this summer!