Do you ever start a trip with only carry-on luggage but accumulate so much stuff en route that you must check a bag on the return? For instance, there was the six-country, 22-day trip that started with a conference in Morocco and ended with Christmas markets in Germany. By Day 10, I’d accumulated so much stuff that my luggage had to expand and carry-on-only was no longer possible, especially not on intra-European flights.
I still managed to travel lean and mean, considering I had to pack for climates ranging from a sunny 80 degrees in Marrakech to a snowy 30 degrees in Munich, and for everything from business meetings to evening parties to hiking, biking, and camping. Here are the five items that proved most critical—and that have proved essential on countless other trips too. Consider them the next time you need to pack for a range of climates and circumstances, as well as for accumulating souvenirs and gifts along the way:
* A thin, lightweight duffel.
I always pack one of these in my carry-on wheelie. That way, if I collect too much stuff during the trip, I can check the wheelie on the return flight and use the duffel as my carry-on. Many duffels will do, but I happen to have a Le Sportsac Large Weekender I’ve used for at least a decade for this purpose.
* An expandable carry-on wheelie.
If you unzip a special zipper that wraps around my TravelPro 22-inch expandable spinner, it magically yields an extra 44 square inches of width.
* A backpack-style handbag with built-in laptop sleeve.
As female business travelers know, the easiest way to limit your luggage to one carry-on and one personal item is if the personal item is a combination handbag-plus-laptop-case. My Tumi Voyageur Backpack is stylish enough for business meetings yet rugged enough for hikes in the rain, keeps my hands free, and keeps all my electronic accessories safe, sound, and organized.
* An ultralight, compressible parka.
Mine happens to be a North Face Thermoball Jacket. It keeps me toasty warm in wind, rain, and snow, yet does not overheat (I can wear it comfortably in 70-degree desert), and it compresses to a tiny fraction of its bulk, folding into its own pocket.
* A warm yet lightweight pashmina shawl.
I bought the one you see in the photo on sale at the Frette shop in Florence, Italy, years ago. It doubles as an airplane blanket and a headscarf in the rain (or if I want to pop into a mosque).
For more essentials, here’s the complete Wendy’s Magic Packing List. What items are key to your packing strategy? Share your answers in the comments below.