How to Pack for 3 Weeks in Italy and France

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**This is a post I previously wrote and wanted to share here.

Packing for 3 weeks in Italy and France can feel a bit daunting. Fitting everything in a carry-on is even worse! Haha, well thankfully, it is possible, and you will be surprised at how many outfits you will be able to create with a little planning and creativity.

Now, to be completely honest, I am not known for my ability to pack light. If we’re driving somewhere, you better believe I’m going over pack. But to save money and time, we prefer to always fly with a carry-on instead checking any luggage. And let’s be honest – no one wants to lug around super heavy bags all over Europe. So here’s my packing tips and list for a trip overseas. 

my Best Packing Advice for International Travel

I’ve learned a thing or two about packing in the last 7 years of traveling, but I’ve also received some very helpful tips. If you read nothing else in this blog post, read this.

  1. Pack light (seriously): You’d much rather have one less outfit and an extra pair of shoes than have sore shoulders/back the entire trip because your bag is over-stuffed.
  2. Stick to one color palate: This is not the time to pack clothes in a rainbow of colors. Stick to a standard color palate – black and white, navy and brown, etc., and then throw in a pop of color that coordinates well. This will ensure you can mix and match most pieces easily. I am sticking with black, white, and red for my colors. I have a floral skirt and a patterned scarf for a little extra interest, but most of my shirts, skirts, and pants can be mixed and matched easily. This also makes it easier to only pack a couple pairs of shoes.
  3. Bring layers: A couple tanks, a few t-shirts, a long-sleeve, a sweater/cardigan, and a rain coat. You don’t want to be cold and weather in Europe unpredictable in the spring. Make sure your layers aren’t too bulky. Wear your heaviest items on the plane to leave extra room in your carry-on.
  4. Choose comfort over style (but don’t let it all go): The last time I was in Europe I was a poor college student. Looking back, I feel like I wasn’t super stylish. (Not that I am on a daily basis! ;) ) But the worst thing I remember? How bad my feet hurt after hours walking on thin-soled boots. While I don’t want to look like a total American while touring Paris and the hills of Tuscany, I want to be comfortable. So when it comes to the shoes you pack and the clothes you choose – make sure you will be comfortable and still feel confident in how you look! Find a shoe store that will let you test out your shoes (outside) and still return them if they don’t work.  I bought a pair of sneakers (not huge stereotypical American tennis shoes) and after walking in them a few days they felt too small! (Apparently my arches were falling due to a lack of support and I needed to go up a size!) Anyhow, I’m holding my breath the correct size arrives in the next few days.

Luggage of Choice for 3 Weeks in Europe

After much deliberation, we finally decided to go with backpacks instead of wheeled carry-ons. While we are not doing the traditional backpacking trip throughout Europe, we will be going to two countries and staying at 6 different locations. We figured that since we don’t know how many cobblestone roads and how many flights of stairs we will have to use, backpacks are the easiest and safest option. Now, I like living out of a backpack just as much as the next person, but thankfully these are travel backpacks that function more as a suitcase than a traditional backpack.

For our trip we decided to go with the Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack. At $130, it is a bit of an investment but these bags should last us a lifetime. They have a 100% guarantee – if anything goes wrong with it, they will fix it for you. The pack’s material is super sturdy and the bag has some very useful compartments. I love that it opens like a suitcase and has padded shoulder and hip straps. I have been pleasantly surprised at how much stuff I can cram in there! — Mind you, when I test-packed the other day my bag was 17lbs, so it’s not going to topple me over. :)

Packing List for a Spring Trip to Italy and France

We are visiting Paris, Lake Como, Pisa, Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and the island of Ischia. With this itinerary we could have a wide variety of weather scenarios and activities. Thus, I tried to bring a few layers and bottoms and tops that can be mixed and matched.

Oh, and a disclaimer – I wear skirts far more often than I wear pants, so my list represents that. Feel free to swap the skirts for pants. I also think I could pair down my list more since so many pieces coordinate. I am just having a hard time cutting anything else out since it all fits in my carry-on! 

What I'm Packing for 3 Weeks in Europe

  • Light rain jacket: This has been a major debate for me since I don’t wear one at home. But with a few thunderstorms in the forecast, I think this is a safe bet. It’s super thin and should pack easily.
  • 1 thin zip-up hoodie: For extra layers and to feel somewhat cozy. Thinner than a fleece and easier to pack.
  • 1 black cardigan: Mix and match with everything and serves as an extra layer.
  • 1 long sleeve thin athletic shirt for an extra layer/hiking.
  • 1 pair yoga pants for hiking days.
  • 1 pair leggings for extra warmth and to go under skirts if needed.
  • 1 pair chambray girlfriend chino shorts for coastal/beach days!
  • 3 basic tank tops to wear under shirts/dresses.
  • 2 colored tanks that can be worn with skirts/pants and a cardigan.
  • 5 t-shirts/blouses: I wasn’t planning on bringing this many, but I wanted to have a white, black, and striped t-shirt. I then found the coral and the olive-green t-shirts and wanted those to add some color. Olive is not in my original color palate, but I think I will like to have one option of variety. ;) (Breaking my own rules!)
  • 1 red halter maxi dress: I remember reading something about how a red dress makes you look good in any picture – even if you’re lost on some European street! ;)This can be dressed up or dressed down by putting a t-shirt over the top and tying it on the side. *I can create 5 different outfits with this dress (outfit combinations).
  • 1 black dress: This dress is flattering, comfy, doesn’t wrinkle, and will be perfect for museum days or a fancy date night (fitted bodice, scoop neck, mid-length sleeve, full circle skirt – knee length). *2-3 outfit combinations
  • 1 black pencil skirt: Goes with everything, stretchy fabric, comfy! *7 outfit combinations
  • 1 striped pencil skirt: Again, comfy fabric and goes with most everything. *5 outfit combinations
  • 1 flared floral skirt: Super fun and comfy – adds a bit of spring to my outfits. Also: pockets! *4 outfit combinations
  • 1 pair of pajamas
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 patterned scarf: Adds something fun to my all-black outfits and can double as a blanket/pillow if need be!
  • 1 belt
  • 1 watch
  • 3 pairs of sock: 1 pair smart wool (Can be worn multiple days in a row) and 2 standard ankle socks.
  • 7 pairs of underwear: We will have laundry every 6 days, so we should be good to go!
  • 3 bras: 1 black, 1 white, 1 sports
  • 1 pair of sandals: I tried on so many shoes to prep for this trip! I fell in love with Chaco’s leather Dorra sandal. So comfortable!
  • 1 pair sneakers: I am fully embracing the sneaker and skirt trend… At least in Europe! My New Balance sneakers are pretty minimalist and go with most of my outfits. I don’t want my feet complaining after 10+ hours of walking!

9 Little Things I'm Squeezing into My Carry-on:

  1. Standard toiletries – including shampoo and conditioner bars from LUSH.
  2. Chargers. Duh.
  3. Camera, extra SD cards, extra batteries, and Lighting SD card reader (back up your photos!)
  4. i-Pad instead of a laptop. (Download tours/books/shows ahead of time. Bring headphones.)
  5. Small Italian language book and the Paris Walking Tour book.
  6. Sleep mask and ear plugs (for the overnight flight and potentially noisy apartments).
  7. Allergy meds, Ibuprofen, Tylenol PM, vitamins, sunscreen, band aids.
  8. Sunglasses! I keep forgetting to put these on my list.
  9. IDs, cash, itineraries, tickets, etc.

Well, that’s all I can think of at the moment. This post has helped me feel somewhat on track to leave in a few days! I’d love to hear what you can’t live without on a big trip. Let me know if you think I forgot something or if I am bringing something I don’t need!