Packing “light”

I’m the first to admit, we travel quite a bit.  So we’re practiced at preparing for trips: we can usually pack efficiently the night before departure.  We’re very good at packing light enough to just use carry-on luggage, so we waltz through security and customs at airports.  “Baggage claim” are bad words in my world!

For Chris’ 40th birthday, we’re celebrating with our longest vacation ever — one month — and we’re staying in one location where his favorite wines are produced (Burgundy, France).  The goal is to just relax, live in the region for the month, absorb a different culture, and buy lots and lots of wine.

It’s gonna be a lot of fun.

BUT– packing for this particular vacation isn’t as easy as usual.  First, we want to take advantage of visiting a fantastic wine region, so we’re bringing 4 Wine Checks: baggage that can be checked in on our flights home and still safely transport several cases of wine to save on shipping costs.  Second, since we’re gone for so long and we’re staying in one location for most of this trip, we decided to bring the kittens.

The kittens.  I haven’t blogged about them yet, have I?  After losing our beloved cat last fall, we decided to hold off on getting another cat (or two or three) until after we returned from this long vacation.  But we missed having a cat around, so earlier this spring, I contacted a cat shelter to volunteer to temporarily foster cats.  I specifically asked for cats that were unlike our beloved little girl: she was affectionate but pretty sedate, greedy for lap time, and generally a very chill cat.

The first two cats they asked us to foster were two brothers.  They were quite shy and needed socialization before they could be placed on the adoption floor.

OF COURSE we fell in love with them.  They are a rambunctious pair, constantly getting into trouble (they recently discovered the joy of tearing up toilet paper), wrestling and playing with each other and asking us to play with them too.  Obviously, we couldn’t leave them behind for a whole month, could we?

Bringing the kittens also means packing for the kittens.  We’re bringing carriers, medical records, food, litter, toys…

On the way to Europe, we’ll pack one Wine Check into another as well as the kitten supplies.  So on the way to Europe, I only need to juggle 1 packed Wine Check and a kitten in a carrier.  But on the way home, while the kitten supplies will be used up, all those Wine Checks will be full of wine!  So then I’ll need to juggle 2 Wine Checks and a kitten.  The wine alone will take up both of my hands!

In order for me to handle all this stuff (and my kitten!), I need to fit everything else in my 26L backpack.  But did I mention that I’m vain and I want to look good in France?  My first draft packing list included 5 pairs of shoes and 7 dresses!  So I needed to ruthlessly pare down my “wishful” packing list.  All those shoes?  I’m wearing a pair and packing 2 more.  All those dresses?  I’ve picked 3.  In fact, I’ve pretty much halved the amount of clothes.  No books, just e-books.  No cross stitching (I haven’t stitched since adopting the kittens anyway).

So, with all this ado, my 26L packing list for one summer month in Europe (keeping in mind that on the flight over, I’ll wear a belt, jeans, a tank top, a cashmere hoodie, tennis shoes, a lightweight scarf, and a necklace):


  • Tan flip flops
  • Black sandals
  • 3 dresses (with built in bras)
  • 1 convertible dress/skirt
  • 1 pair of capri pants
  • 3 tank tops (with built in bras)
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 bra
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 6 reusable panty liners
  • 1 silk scarf
  • 2 necklaces
  • black purse
  • 1 pair of sunglasses and case


  • medication (Advil, allergies, Neosporin, GasX)
  • hairbrush/comb
  • toothbrush
  • travel toothpaste
  • floss
  • washcloth
  • razor
  • menstrual cup
  • lipstick
  • BB cream


  • 13″ MacBook Air + charger
  • iPad Air 2 + charger
  • iPhone + charger
  • European power adapter


  • pens
  • mini notebook
  • travel documents (including passport and international driver’s license)
  • Burgundy guide book (there are surprisingly few for the region!)
  • France road atlas
  • RFID passport cover
  • RFID wallet
  • large nylon laundry bag

All my clothes fit into two packing cubes, one small and one medium sized.  The toiletries fit into an amenity bag I got from a flight on Copa Airlines.  The electronics (except my laptop) and “misc.” stuff fit into the Lo & Sons Pearl purse (hands down, the best travel purse I’ve ever found).  My laptop (and the road atlas) fits nicely in the backpack’s water bladder compartment.

To figure out what to pack, I looked at A LOT of “ultimate” packing lists online.  Most were from backpackers and minimalists; however, I am neither.  And I like to look pretty.  And we are going to a few fancy restaurants.  Not to mention that so many were written by men!  So I really built this list from my own experience in packing light for other trips, our needs for this trip (from visiting vineyards and parks to high-end restaurants), my own preferences, and the fact that we’re staying in the same place for 4 weeks (most toiletries will be purchased upon arrival).

I’m satisfied with this list.  There are some clothes (and shoes) I’m going to miss this month, but I’m bringing my favorites and some versatile accessories.  Thanks goodness for packing cubes: there’s no way I could organize my bag without them!  As packed, I can easily access the laptop, the tablet, and my (few) liquid toiletries for airport security.

But, to be fair, Chris is taking two “personal” bags (his usual: duffle + backpack).  So he’s taking all the “us” stuff: bluetooth speakers, games (Cards Against Humanity, a deck of cards, Cutthroat Caverns, Kill Dr. Lucky)… and one more pair of shoes for me (dress flats).  Still, if I was on my own, it’s nice to know I could fit the necessities of my life into a small, 26 liter backpack!  (Except the kittens: I need my kittens!)

4 thoughts on “Packing “light”

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