Week of requests: What to pack for two weeks away

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“I have a wedding in Italy this summer,” writes a reader named Stefani, “and my husband and I are flying on the cheap to a smaller town in Denmark. From there, we’ll make our way down to Italy. I’m OK for the actual wedding, but would love suggestions on what to pack for two weeks in Europe. Ideally, I’d like to keep everything in a smaller roller suitcase, and maybe one carry on.” As those of you who’ve been reading GOACA for a while know, I am a big proponent of cramming everything—even for longer journeys—into one carry-on, and since Stefani’s trip is scheduled for summer, when clothes are lighter, this is eminently achievable. My first and most important packing rule is to stick with a reasonably tight color palette, or, failing that, to choose only neutrals, so that everything goes with everything else. I’d start where I typically do: with a good basic black and white striped tee.

And I’d throw in this lightweight grey v-neck tee too.

A short-sleeved button-down shirt is both put-together-looking and comfortable.

I like that this silk boatneck top is a little more of a dressier option.

I’d wear it with these chinos for a very slouchy-cool effect. (Also check out this well-priced pull-up trouser.)

For the plane, and for cooler evenings, I’d bring along a pair of dark jeans.

A tee dress is eminently packable, and I like the asymmetrical hem on this one. It’s from Universal Standard, who are now turning out clothes in sizes 6 to 32.

For cool evenings and mornings, this utilitarian cropped jacket would prove deeply versatile.

Not everyone considers clog sandals to be the height of comfort and/or style, but I do, and would definitely bring a pair along.

Everyone can agree that slip-on sneakers are even more comfortable than clogs, however, and they’re more polished than their lace-up counterparts. If you’re in the mood for something less pricey, check out these cute Vans.

I’d throw a little color into the mix with my accessories, like this bright woven belt.  (Here’s a cute striped one that’s cheaper.)

A  bucket hat does the important work of keeping the sun off your face while also being distressingly cute.

I don’t typically travel with valuable jewelry because it’d be too much of a drag if something I loved got stolen or left behind in a hotel room, but I do like wearing a necklace or two every day, so I might go for this pretty coin pendant that depicts Queen Victoria, with whom I have been a little obsessed since finishing season three of  the excellent series Victoria, which I discovered after going through withdrawal from The Crown last year.

The clothes I chose for this packing post are all pretty classic—the better to mix and match with—so you need items like these poppy red sunglasses to give your outfits a point of view.

It wouldn’t be a packing post if I didn’t include a Chan Luu scarf—they’re super-lightweight, satisfyingly warm, and this one has a cute little star print.

And finally: you’ll be glad you made room in your suitcase for this diminutive and powerful steamer, which goes for just under $15 and works like a dream.

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36 Thoughts on Week of requests: What to pack for two weeks away
    Amy
    18 Mar 2019
    9:58am

    I speak from experience when I tell you that steamer won’t work in Europe. You can get an outlet adapter, but it you need a steamer that’s dual voltage. I travel almost every week and keep the steamer you list here in my carry on, but for Europe I have a separate steamer that I don’t love as much, but which actually works in Europe.

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    Karin
    7 Mar 2019
    10:50pm

    Thanks for this very useful post! I especially appreciate the budget friendly selections, it’s nice to have a mix of “aspirational” things and some stuff I could actually buy.

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    Heather
    5 Mar 2019
    9:34am

    Yes to all of this! I’m a huge proponent of the carry-on only, unless you’re going to hit multiple weathers or doing some kind of crazy outdoor activity that requires special gear. This selection is great for European summer which can vary greatly in temperature. I’d probably add a lightweight black trench and a dark denim jacket. You could wear one of these on the plane to save space.

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    Viajera
    5 Mar 2019
    11:06am

    I admire you-all’s commitment to not having wrinkled clothing. So energetic of you!

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    c.w.
    5 Mar 2019
    11:13am

    I have a couple of Everlane tees and they are PERFECT!!!! As I went through this list I realized I have pretty much everything here except the dress so if anyone is up for a European vacation I’m ready! The only thing I might add is a a thin cashmere sweater. To me a cashmere sweater is as necessary as the Chan Luu scarf––if it isn’t in my carry-on I don’t go. (ok, I might go, but a cashmere sweater would be the first thing I purchased when I arrived). And I might add a bathing suit and a pair of flip-flops.

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    Tamara
    5 Mar 2019
    12:12pm

    I always add my black leather motorcycle jacket and wear my denim one in the plane…and just the shout out to a post like this a couple years ago in which you feature the maria cornejo t-shirt cocoon dress (in huge sale at the time) that is literally the first thing in my suitcase, any season 🙂

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    Kathi
    5 Mar 2019
    12:53pm

    While I am wishing I could escape the relentless freezing temps & snow this Iowa winter, I am planning a tropical trip early next year & so this post is hitting all the right notes. I usually haul a big suitcase but I am determined this next time to go with just a carry-on (and the UPS man just delivered my new Everlane Weekender – thanks, Kim for featuring it!!). Yes to adding a swimsuit & my pareo can double as my scarf/airplane wrap.

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      Heather
      5 Mar 2019
      2:37pm

      I think once you pack light, you never go back. Everything is easier, from getting the suitcase out to the car to walking out of the airport without having to wait for baggage.

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    rachel in berkeley
    5 Mar 2019
    1:15pm

    Oh how I wish that Madewell button-down was a navy blue instead of black.

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    Emily
    5 Mar 2019
    1:27pm

    One thing I’ve found helpful to pack is a denim button-down. Tuck it into black pants for dinner, use it to cover up a bathing suit, a lightweight cover up in churches, etc…also: easy to clean if necessary.

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      Jenny
      5 Mar 2019
      3:41pm

      Such a great idea. Cardigans can look prissy, or schleppy if they’ve been in a bag all day.

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    MaryAlice
    5 Mar 2019
    1:29pm

    Love, love love packing lists! Having traveled through southeast Asia for 10 days with a carryon and a backpack, I can vouch for the fabulousness of travelling light. Makes you feel like a boss.

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    K2F
    6 Mar 2019
    2:29pm

    Italy is so hot in the summer. I’d pack stuff more like cool linens, floaty maxi dress/romper, statement skirt, a couple simple fitted Ts/tanks to mix and match, comfy bejeweled sandals/ballet flats/on trend sneakers (no Nike), a few statement accessories, sunglasses, swimsuit, scarf and straw hat. Your shoulders and knees need be covered when entering churches. In the city, Italians dress more formally, so step it up at higher end restaurants and hotels. Don’t wear wedges/heels unless you have a driver or you’ll break your neck trying to navigate through the streets on foot. No yoga pants and flip flops! If you don’t have them, packing cubes will change your life. Have so much fun!

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    Elle
    6 Mar 2019
    9:44am

    Great post! I’m not going anywhere, alas, but I’m loving these picks!

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    Candy
    5 Mar 2019
    9:26am

    Agree with everything, especially the Madewell drapey button-down (great for washing in hotel sink and hanging to dry), but not the clog sandals. On uneven European streets (cobblestone, e.g.) they seem like a twisted ankle waiting to happen. Love my Vans slip-ons or, for better support and thicker rubber sole, Munro slip-ons.

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    Eloise
    5 Mar 2019
    9:18am

    That belt……also, anyone here have the levi skinny jean? If so, how “skinny” is skinny?

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      Alicia
      9 Mar 2019
      8:51am

      I just ordered those so will be happy to report back after they arrive! I’ve read a lot of reviews about weird and inconsistent sizing on those, so am not holding my breath, but am hopeful.

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        Alicia Miller Corbett
        11 Mar 2019
        8:37pm

        They arrived, and don’t fit (not a surprise, though it’s the same size I wear in other slim Levi’s), but they are not super-skinny, Eloise. More like a straight leg, I’d say. They looked a tiny bit wider legged on me than on the model pic in the post.

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    themis
    5 Mar 2019
    9:08am

    I was distressed to see bucket hats go down several runways at PFW this year; and even with the evening gowns. They don’t read as cute on me, just hopelessly schlubby. Hated them the first go-round back in school.

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      Jax
      5 Mar 2019
      11:05am

      Greatest thing about bucket hats though is they are eminently (to use Kim’s word) packable. Most fold down into your carry-on or your carry-all/handbag very well! Great sun protection.
      I do agree that except for Audrey Hepburn types, thr bucket hat is not the most elegant.

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        Tara
        6 Mar 2019
        11:45am

        I just got a packable straw hat (sort of like if a fedora and a sun hat had a baby–bigger brim than a fedora and smaller than a sun hat) on sale at J. Crew and it was a lot better than I thought it would be! https://www.jcrew.com/p/womens_category/all_accessories/hats/packable-straw-hat/F1722?color_name=straw One review said they ran small but I didn’t find that to be the case, but I have a smaller head.

        One other tip for packing light, use a contact lens container for your face lotion/night cream. I learned that one on HithaOnTheGo.com and it’s a good way to pare down your TSA friendly liquids. Liberating!

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    Maryn
    7 Mar 2019
    8:49am

    Like everyone commenting I would make some different choices (no clogs, a maxi skirt, linen for the hot places), but I absolutely love how relaxed your attitude to packing is. All over the internet I see laborious “here is your capsule wardrobe for two weeks do this EXACTLY” posts and they make me so tired. Thanks for the sprezzatura!

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    Sabina
    5 Mar 2019
    2:25pm

    Italy (also central europe, in general) in the summer is hot. The presence of air conditioning is hit-and-miss. Be prepared for uneven walking surfaces – not the greatest for rolling luggage and non-flat shoes.

    I prefer travelling through Europe with a carry-on compliant backpack.

    For two weeks, you could bring fewer clothes and do laundry once or twice. The laundromats I have used in many countries Europe have all been great and stocked with very efficient machines.

    I also bring a 10 liter collapsible camping sink/bucket (folds down to a 3″ x 3″ x 1.5″ pouch). This makes hotel room hand laundry a lot easier (purchase detergent there).

    Have fun!

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      Heather
      5 Mar 2019
      3:00pm

      A note, though, that the original poster is starting in Denmark. Northern Europe in the summer can have days in the 50s, rainy, and quite damp and chilly. I think it’s better to assume cooler weather, as you can always buy an extra tshirt or something if you need it. It can be much harder to find things like a scarf or trench for sale in the summer. Plus the plane, train, etc., will be chilly.

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      Ellie
      5 Mar 2019
      7:27pm

      This was my first reaction to this packing list. Love the look, but looks way too heavy for Italy in summer. Probably good for Denmark, no good for Italy in June-August where it will probably be a thousand degrees unless you’re up in the mountains. Loose linen dresses, tank tops and a pair of loose linen pants all rolled up super small in a carry on is what I took for two weeks in Italy last June and they were perfect. (And that was Tuscany, which isn’t even as hot as further south.)

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    Emily TL
    5 Mar 2019
    2:57pm

    Such a great post. Thank you for your guidance! As a perennial over-packer, I aspire greatly to be a carry-on convert.

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    Christine
    5 Mar 2019
    3:14pm

    I like being carry-on only especially if there are airport transfers involved in getting to my destination, but if any of the places I’m visiting has good shopping possibilities, then an extra fold-able large tote bag or duffle bag stuffed into your luggage is a must.

    Also, if traveling to the UK or Europe, be extra Draconian and careful about liquids and skincare as the carry-on security people at the airport are much stricter than the TSA about that. They are serious about it all fitting in a clear quart size baggie. If you have a nice clear cosmetic bag that may be bigger than that, they may ask you to unpack it and see if it all fits in a quart size ziploc bag that they’ll give you.

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    ab
    5 Mar 2019
    3:58pm

    The steamer is not good for international travel due to voltage issues. You can’t just stick an adapter plug on it; you’d need a voltage converter. Not worth the trouble, IMO, but: https://www.travelandleisure.com/style/travel-accessories/best-travel-adapter-converter

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    Aural Design
    5 Mar 2019
    5:12pm

    I say skip the steamer and pack a little empty spray bottle. At destination, fill with water, spritz wrinkles, give a tug, put on article of clothing and go.

    Save room for souvenirs and memories!

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    Alexa
    5 Mar 2019
    8:32pm

    Packing posts are the best posts. Yay!

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    Lori
    5 Mar 2019
    9:20pm

    Great list! As other readers have commented, it will likely be cooler in Denmark, and *hot* in Italy, depending on where you are. I’d suggest:
    — Add a swimsuit, a white tee, and some form of loose cashmere sweater;
    — Linen! Tee, dress, skirt, pant, blouse, whatever — it’s packable, washable, temperature-accommodating, and everyone in Italy will be wearing it. Uniqlo should have tons of affordable options about now — and a favorite travel dress for two years has been this one (although mine is pink); it can be worn on or off the shoulder, to the beach or to a party, belted or straight, with sneakers or heels, pressed or rumpled, and it washes beautifully:
    https://the-sleeper.com/en/product/baked-milk-loungewear-dress/?gclid=CjwKCAiA2fjjBRAjEiwAuewS_Q2Y31kb_XBNOLo40WvTDot0KUsZ7fcpq3_0RBZcQj7mzEhOqigcuBoCojwQAvD_BwE
    — Shoes: one favorite sneaker/trainer; one flat sandal in a dressy finish, like patent or metallic (my favorites are Rondini, which can be ordered online to measure); and one cheap, comfy, lightweight flip-flop, as from Old Navy;
    — Swap the stiff cotton jacket for a lightweight, water-resistant jacket/anorak/trench;
    — Switch the silk blouse, which is dry-clean only, for a washable silk top, or a linen blouse.

    Have a wonderful time! (-:

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      Lori
      5 Mar 2019
      9:32pm

      Oops, sorry – – formatting disappeared when the comment posted! And wanted to add: If you’re looking for a roll-aboard suitcase, the Aways are great! Also, I love the clogs Kim posted, but if your feet are larger than a size six, clogs might occupy too much suitcase space. I’ve found flat metallic sandals to be very versatile for summer travel — they’re walkable, and go easily to a good restaurant with a dress/skirt or cropped pants, whereas clogs might feel a bit casual.

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        Mimi
        6 Mar 2019
        10:43am

        I’ve found classic wedge espadrilles that tie around the ankle are great for summer travel, as long as the wedge isn’t too high. They look good with pants, jeans, skirts and dresses and work on cobblestones because the sole is flat. When made of soft canvas, suede or linen they mold to your feet and don’t chafe, even if your feet swell in the heat (a benefit leather sandals can’t reliably claim). For a dressier look it’s fun to go to a ribbon or trim store and replace the ordinary shoelace-like laces on your espadrilles with gold, silver or sheer, gauzy ribbons in pretty colors. Bon voyage!

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          Tara
          6 Mar 2019
          11:54am

          I am double commenting after my hat note above–apologies! We were lucky enough to do a five week trip the summer of 2017, all with Eagle Creek carry-ons. We were in France/Switzerland/Italy/England/Iceland so had to bring packable down jackets along with our lighter layers. It was awesome and I wore my Birkenstocks everywhere. I wasn’t super fashionable but totally agree that packing light with a color scheme and adding pizzazz through accessories is the way to go. You need less than you think! Huge fan of the running water fountains all over Rome though I heard they were considering turning those off. Rome/Florence/Cinque Terra were HOT but I wish I was back there right now! Have a wonderful trip!

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    RebeccaNYC
    7 Mar 2019
    6:04am

    I spend a month either in the S of France or Italy most summers (I know how pretentious that sounds…I promise it’s not fancy or expensive…it’s just where I go because people I love are there) and normally only pack a carry on. I agree with everything you’re suggesting…even the clogs, but they are tricky walking on cobblestones. Packing for summer is EASY, you really don’t need much, most places you stay will have laundry and if not, hand washing dries in an hour or two, due to how hot and dry it tends to be in the summer. And speaking of hot and dry…. I am laughing at the suggestions to bring leather jackets, jean jackets and trench coats. I can’t even imagine. There WAS one summer in the past 18 years where it got chilly in July for a few days and I actually wore jeans and a sweater. ONCE. I do pack a light sweater just in case. My normal list includes one pair of shorts, one skirt, 4-5 tops and two dresses. A pair of sandals, a pair of slip on sneaks, and some flip flops to wear around the house in the mornings. The usual undergarments (about 4 sets) a pashmina and some yoga pants. I will tell you that after one summer when I was there for 2 months wearing the same clothes, I almost threw them out at the end of the trip I was so bored with them, but the simplicity of having very little wardrobe choice is freeing in a way I would not have expected.

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      RebeccaNYC
      7 Mar 2019
      6:06am

      I should clarify that my list is only for hot climates. If you are heading north at all…those trenches, leather jackets and jeans will come in very handy.

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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