While I’ve always been a bit of a frequent flyer, this semester I have definitely accumulated a lot more miles under my belt. I’ve learned how to be way more of a savvy packer thanks to smaller European airlines and their sometimes ridiculous regulations over what size bags I can bring on-board. Although I’ve lost a face cream or two to security and even had my soft carry-on luggage tossed into checked baggage (ouch), these weekend flights have helped me narrow down my packing to the essentials.
While I’ve been in Europe, I’ve carried the same two bags on all of my trips. I use the Longchamp Le Pliage Travel Bag and Longchamp Le Pliage backpack , both in khaki, and I love both of these pieces for their durability and simplicity. The backpack is a great size for both a carry-on and a weekend backpack, and has both a zipper and a snap-flap for added security. The duffel travel bag is also great for its versatility because it can be unzipped into a bigger size for extra room.
This is the first post of many I’m working on to help my readers pack lighter and smarter for their getaways! Here’s a look at what I consider essential in my small “under-the-seat” bag:
A Reusable Water Bottle
While this one may seem odd to start with, this has to be the most important item (besides my passport) that I carry with me in my small bag. Since moving to Italy, I’ve found that most restaurants do not offer water with your meal and most water bottles are overpriced, not to mention the nonexistent beverage service on many European flights. I pack a small refillable water bottle with me that has been my lifesaver on weekend trips. I fill the bottle up after I go through airport security to avoid paying for overpriced waters at the terminal or on-board. Since I do a lot of walking on my weekend trips (roughly 15-20 miles a weekend) I always have my full water bottle with me to ensure I stay hydrated and avoid paying for water and throwing away plastic.
Small Rechargeable Headphones
For me, music is the most important part of my travel time. A good playlist can get me through long flights, plane delays and traffic-delayed taxi rides. One of the worst feelings for me is when my headphones die, so I recently purchased Apple AirPods because of their charging carrying case. I recommend finding compact headphones with long battery life and good sound quality to ensure your headphones last as long as you need them to, without them being too clunky to pack in a small bag.
Another important part of my flight is a book to keep me occupied. If you’re going on a longer trip (or you’re a fast reader), packing multiple books takes up a ton of space in an already small bag. I love my e-reader because its small, I can use it even if it’s dark and you can download books as you go!
Side benefit: use your sturdy e-reader as a place to hold delicate souvenirs like postcards or Polaroids that could bend or get damaged in your bag!
Coin Purse and Money Belt
One of my biggest worries while traveling from city to city is keeping track of my valuables. I’ve found that the best way for me to keep my money organized and safe is to use both a coin purse and a money belt. I keep all of my coins, keys and train tickets in a small coin purse in my bag. For my bills, phone and passport, I use a money belt to make sure all of my important items are on me and secure when I set my bag down. That way, if someone does get into my bag, the most they can grab are a couple of euro coins and a few metro tickets. I keep my money belt in my bag on the plane so that when I get to my destination I don’t have to ruffle through my larger bag when it comes time to secure my valuables in the city center.
Mini Polaroid Camera
This item in my bag was a special gift to me from my moms friend before I left on my great Italian adventure. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve taken a mini Polaroid photo of a landmark or fun memory from the trip. When I get home from the weekend, I tape each photo into my travel journal where I write down everything I did on my trips. This retro trend of Polaroid cameras is so fun for me to look back on what I was doing. The camera I have is small and compact but still has a lot of helpful settings and even a tiny selfie mirror.
While I’ve been lucky enough to get some pretty good weather everywhere I’ve been so far, you never know when an afternoon rain shower can catch you at a bad time! I’ve kept a travel-sized compact umbrella in my backpack to ensure that I can spend the most time possible outside – no matter the weather. I recommend a small umbrella like mine because it’s still practical and protective, but it isn’t big enough to take up too much room in my bag.
I always have these 6 times in my travel bag, and I’ve found each of them to be helpful in their own way. I hope that this little packing guide was not only interesting, but will be helpful for you in packing for your next great travel adventure!