Friday, July 20, 2012

Packing for Italy 101

Before I begin, many people have asked how we were able to pack for Italy using just two carry-on's. To see the bags we used look at this previous post and scroll down for a pic. The bags were convertibles- they were about the maximum length and width of an airplane carry-on, but they had straps that can be pulled out that transform it into a backpack.  These were incredibly handy!  We didn't have to worry about paying for baggage or lost luggage. In addition, it made it much easier to travel from city to city by train.  I was so glad I did this when I saw tourists struggling with large baggage on wheels, trying (unsuccessfully) to pull bags over cobblestones and between the masses of people.  In fact, I actually found this pretty annoying to even navigate around.  

Here is a link to the bags we bought on Amazon: Click here for the best travel bag ever

Here is a list of what I packed that came in handy: 

  • 4 skirts
  • 2 pairs capris 
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 pair hiking sandals by Merrell 
  • 1 pair flip flops
  • 1 pair of athletic shoes (I wore these onto the plane.) 
  • 1 lightweight scarf  (I rolled it up and kept in my purse at all times.  Most churches require your shoulders to be covered and this will work.) 
  • 14 pairs undergarments
  • 2 pairs socks
  • 5 tank tops
  • 2 short-sleeve shirts
  • 1 long-sleeve lightweight cover-up (I never once wore this in July- even at night) 
  • We each carried 1 quart-sized bag with travel-sized toiletries such as 
    • shampoo
    • conditioner
    • soap
    • sunscreen (We ended up buying  larger bottle when we got there, because we used mass amounts everyday.) 
    • toothpaste
    • mascara
    • travel-size Tide stick
    • anti-bacterial gel
  • 1 quart-sized bag of dry toiletries
    • toothbrush (We bought cheap ones and threw them away when done.)
    • Pain reliever
    • Immodium, etc.
    • Allergy medication
    • Bandaids (I used 5-6 per day for the blisters on my feet from my already-broken-in sandals.)
    • Tweezers
    • Small nail clippers
    • Cotton balls and Q-tips
    • Dry makeup
    • Hair clips and bands
    • Cheap disposable razor that can be thrown away
    • Deodorant
  • We each carried 1outlet adaptor
  • 2 travel packs of baby wipes (Used them all- to clean hands after touching monuments or before eating, to clean gum off my backpack at the airport.) 
  • 2 travel packs of tissues (Used them all.) 
  • Money belt or secure day bag (A money belt is recommended over a traditional wallet or purse, but we never ended up using it.  Just too hot!  But this cross-body bag from Amazon came in incredibly helpful with carrying items around, it was safe and secure.) 
  • Updated Passports
  • Licenses
  • 2 credit cards and 1 bank card
  • €1,000 in cash (This worked out well- used all but 20 and used our credit card to supplement whenever possible.) 
  • International Driver's Permit if you plan to drive.  These are now required by law in Italy and be purchases at any AAA, even if you are not a member. 
  • Copies of licenses, passports, credit cards  (We left our passports and ID's in the hotel safes at all times and simply carried around copies in case we were pick-pocketed or something was lost.  This worked out well.) We also left copies with loved ones at home, just in case. 
  • Swiss army knife (Definitely bring one with a corkscrew if you can.  If carrying on, buy one when you get there.  It will come in handy.) 
  • Tiny flashlight or put a flashlight app on your phone as we did.  This came in very handy to read maps at night! 
  • We each carried 1 iphone/phone charger (For international travel, make sure to turn OFF your cellular data and put it in airplane mode to avoid crazy expensive roaming charges.  Use wifi when possible to get online.)  I also downloaded the Dropbox app and made all our important travel documents available offline in the app. 
  • 4 paperback travel books including Rick Steve's "Italy" 
  • 1 collapsible acorrdian file with a tab for each location with all of our important papers such as hotel reservations, car rental info, flight information, important numbers, travel insurance info, or anything else on paper that we needed. 
What we brought and didn't end up needing: 
  • Umbrella 
  • Travel-sized curling iron.  (Yeah right- see below.) 
  • Travel-sized hair-dryer  (Seriously- it was way too HOT to even think about drying my hair,  Plus I would just walk outside and sweat anyway.  Honestly, my hair went up everyday no matter what.  It wasn't fashionable, but necessary. Most of our hotels had hairdryers on the wall anyway.) 
We ended up buying these things: 
  • Immodium
  • Medicated powder
  • More sunscreen
  • Multi-tool with knife and corckscrew (We had to get rid of it before boarding, however.) 


  1. Be sure to call your credit card company and banks and alert them to your travel time frame!

  2. Hi There,
    First off I have to say I am absolutely LOVING reading your blog (found it through your post on Tripadvisor). My husband and I will be taking our first trip to Italy on September 10, and we're going to a few of the same places. Everything you have written has been SO informative!!
    The backpack and purse that you recommend look to be just what I've been searching for! I was wondering if there are many security features on either? Can the zipper clasps be hooked together or is there slash proof straps, that kind of thing. Would you be able to let me know? I can't find anything in any of the Amazon reviews. I'm getting so paranoid about pickpockets, although I know I will calm myself down and take it easy. Have you had any problems with pickpockets?
    I'm off to read more!

  3. Thanks for reading, Chelsey! I am glad people are finding this useful! It really only took me 10 minutes per day to take notes and journal, and I am glad it is paying off. I don't think either the backpack or the purse are "slash-proof", but they are both very sturdy and both worked well. I was more worried about people with sticky fingers in crowded places rather than slashing. We were both worried about pickpockets, and I think I saw one or two, but we were ok because we were extremely aware. I plan to go into pickpockets and and preventing catastrophe in one of mu upcoming posts on Rome so check back throughout the following week!

  4. Thank you for your reply! I'm surprised that's all it takes to remember everything. I plan on blogging our trip as well, so the journal tip is a good one :)
    I look forward to that post!

  5. Great tips especially the Dropbox app idea. I'll use that next time we travel. Thanks!

  6. Glad you found it helpful, Gorwell!

  7. Hi! I just found your blog and am loving the review on Italy (my husband and I did almost the same itinerary in 2006). I have to know how you and your husband fit all those things into that small bag?!? It seems so small for such a long trip. I need your packing advice for sure!