Packing tips from someone who just traveled internationally

I have more to say about our trip to Italy! If you missed my other posts on the subjects, you can find them here and here.

This week, I’m thinking about packing. When we planned our trip, I couldn’t quite imagine how we would pack. The plan: three cities an international flight away, taking the train (and our luggage) in between cities. The players: six people — mom, dad one teenage son and three teenage daughters. We had to pack light, pack smart and pack up already because of course I puzzled about this until three days before we left.

Then I bit the bullet and bought packing cubes.

Packing cubes changed my life.

They are the GOAT !!!!!!!!


With packing cubes we were able to bring one large piece of luggage and two small ones and pack everything we needed for 10 days in three Italian cities. The best part about them was that they served as mini suitcases for each person, so we were able to easily distribute the right clothes to the right people in each location. But the part where my luggage was filled with little, labeled cubes and zippered closed easily was what made me laugh maniacally, throw my hands in the air and yell “PAAACKING CUUUUUUBES!!!” until my son wondered out loud if I was okay.

So what is all the fuss? Packing cubes allow the user to both categorize and make their belongings compact.

We have three kinds because I’m kind of a maximalist and possibly a shopaholic. The first are from Lands End, which are great because they come with a mesh front so you can see what’s inside. They also have a handle on top for easy transporting from one room to another.

The second were for my home away from home, The Container Store. They are Pack-It brand. They have a zipper that has two pull tabs for more flexibility when zipping. Just thinking about flexibility when zipping makes my skull tingle. But I digress. They also have the mesh front and came in a package of three with an envelope like container for folded clothes. More on that later

The third kind, and the ones that make me think there is a visual form of ASMR (please comment if you know this is a thing!) are these:

Anyone else spot a typo?

Anyone else spot a typo?

Reader, they are color coded and say what they are on the outside. I can’t explain how happy this makes me. Mine also had a QR code which I never fully understood but made me feel like I. was. WINNING!!!!

I also got a set of mesh bags that we were able to use for toiletries because not everyone has their own toiletry bag in my house, apparently. Some had to be reminded about toiletries while others brought toiletries in addition to a bag of makeup that took up half of one suitcase. Good thing we had packing cubes!

So the labeled ones were my favorite. They didn’t have handles or two-pull zippers, but they just seemed really full of personality, and that personality was efficient! They should make a Pixar movie about these packing cubes!

But what DID we pack, you ask. Someone had the idea that we would only need three outfits and we could just wear each outfit once in each city and Bob’s your Uncle we are done. Actually Bob is my brother-in-law, which makes him my kids uncle. Cool, right?


So I packed basically three outfits plus enough underwear for one new one a day. At the last minute I threw in two jersey knit maxidresses I have thinking I might want to change for dinner. The daytime clothes were also mostly skirts, because I had heard that Italians don’t wear shorts in the city and also that the women mostly wear skirts or dresses. Plus we were going to be visiting a lot of churches, and some of those have dress codes that include covering shoulders and knees, so the dresses and skirts were all below the knee. I did pack a few sleeveless shirts but I had two scarves on hand to cover my shoulders if need be.

This was kind of a tough sell for all of my kids. Everyone thought the idea that no one in Italy wore shorts was preposterous so I gave up on getting them to wear shorts. I made sure they all had one church friendly outfit and hoped for the best. My husband and son both packed button down dress shirts for whatever occasion might call for such a thing. And my son brought some khaki shorts and polo shirts as well. I carefully put the things that seemed prone to wrinkling (a cotton skirt of mine, the button downs and a few blouses) in the envelope-type container.

They have this photo on  amazon  where you can buy this thing, and it’s a surprisingly accurate recreation of me packing, minus the maniacal laughter.

They have this photo on amazon where you can buy this thing, and it’s a surprisingly accurate recreation of me packing, minus the maniacal laughter.

It was really fun and satisfying packing this thing, and it held like 10 items of clothing. The sad part is that things were really still wrinkled when we got there. Maybe I didn’t follow the directions well enough, but I really tried. And they weren’t totally wrinkled, but they needed some help when we got there.
The thing about our trip was, none of the hotels had irons. You could have items pressed by the hotel, but it took hours and I was never organized enough to make it happen on the right day, what with moving along to the next hotel and packing back up every few days. A lot of the advice you can find about packing online is that you shouldn’t pack wrinkle prone items, and that was totally correct.

As far as rewearing clothes, it was not ideal. We traveled at one of the hottest times of the year, and some items were just too sweaty to rewear. Again, we could have had the hotel launder them (pricey and hard to fit into our quick trip) or gone found a local laundromat for some added culture but we just didn’t wind up having time. We bought a few new things (someone gave me three pairs of “dirty” underwear on day two, so we had to find more of those, plus some fun finds) and actually we aired out and re-wore a few things. Our clothes were a little smelly and a lot wrinkled by the end of our trip, but I don’t think anyone really cared.

The women on the trip also brought Birkenstock sandals, which were pretty good for walking on the cobblestone lanes of Italy. I only got one blister, and it is still a blister, slowly deflating like my feeling that I am actually, truly an Italian Woman. So it gave me no trouble. The Birkenstocks also meant I did not have to pack enough socks for every day.

In the end, the packing cube I brought to Italy marked “Laundry” was very full, as were all of the other cubes. But everything had been worn and we had what we needed. Maybe we left Italians (or other tourists) in our wake thinking “Who are these rumpled smelly people with hippie shoes?” but I think we did okay.