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Dare You To: Pack for 18 Days in a Carry-On Bag

by Brenda Frandina
 ∙ Jul 5 ∙ 5 Min Read

Foreword: Brenda Frandina is a Campowerment camper who’s attended two women’s camps and is on her second lap around the sun with our Inner Circle.* She’s a mom, a community leader, an ultra-creative professional and a tip-top vacation packer (apparently). She originally shared this packing list with her Inner Circle camp friends, before the CP Crew stepped in to go public with it. 

I was always a “just-in-case” packer, one who packed much more than was needed or warranted. A weekend getaway? I could stay a month. A two-week vacation? I was moving in. I wanted variety and choices. I wanted options. I wanted to be prepared for whatever might come my way. My suitcase was an unwieldy behemoth. It was always checked. And it always came home with the majority of items unworn.

Over ten years ago, we became a beach family, renting the smallest of bungalows for a summer. With three kids and a dog, in the tiniest of houses, there was simply no room to over pack. Challenge accepted!

Our pack list whittled down to what I could fit, for the five of us, in one pillow case. Clothes were worn and re-worn and worn again. They were brought home dirty, washed, and placed back in the pillow case ready for our return. We laugh now at our pictures from that summer; we’re all sporting one of the same three shirts in every photo. But the memories we made? Priceless.

What I learned is that less choice can be freeing.

Flash forward. My dad is in his seventies. He wants to visit Italy, his homeland, for what he thinks will be the last time, and he wants his family to join him. There are twelve of us ranging in age from 6 to 75.We may never get this opportunity again, so we need to make the most of it. Our itinerary is robust; we stay no more than two nights in any one hotel.

We decide we could each only bring one bag and no checked luggage. And we did it. Over 18 days we traveled by foot, by taxi, by car, by train, by bus, by boat, and by plane. Nothing lost and clothes to spare.

We’ve since gone on extended trips to Hawaii and Costa Rica following the same plan…one carry-on bag. Coming up? Iceland and England. But I know I can do it because I did it already…successfully and with a method I shared with my Campowerment girls in my Inner Circle* in prep for her own whirlwind European adventure earlier this summer.

To help you on your own upcoming travel, here are some tips and our Italy One Bag Pack List:

  • Pick a color scheme and stick with it.

    • I did Navy and White with Light Blue as an accent. My sister-in-law did Khaki, White, and Black. No matter how much you love it, if it is not in your color scheme leave it home!
    • In your color scheme, bring…
      • 2 pairs capris or light weight pants
      • 3 skirts
      • 3 dresses
      • 7 tops

      • That’s it! If you stick to your color scheme with just one accent color you can make a variety of outfits.
  • Pack nothing that does not fit well or make you feel awesome.

    • If you are wearing these clothes multiple times, they should be things that make you feel great.
  • Remember this: Gauze looks good wrinkly…linen: not so much.

  • Pack nothing that is dry-clean only.

  • Bring enough undies, no one wants to do laundry on vacay.

  • Pack nothing that requires special underwear, like Spanx, a slip, or a specialty bra.

  • Shoes:

    • One pair of pretty walking sandals.
      One pair of walking sneakers that look more like loafers.
      Break all shoes in BEFORE your trip!
  • One light weight cardigan in your color scheme for breezy nights.

  • One or two scarfs in an accent color to change out your outfits.

  • Only one set of jewelry – nothing expensive.

  • Unless you plan to swim every day, only one swimsuit. Pick one dress that can also function as a cover-up.

  • For Europe specifically, we adhered to the following: No athleisure clothes. No shirts with sayings. No shirts with large logos. No short-shorts. No tops with spaghetti straps or bare shoulders. No sneakers. No baseball caps. .
  • Use the Marie Kondo method to fold your clothes.

    • Keep clothes in your suitcase in a file cabinet format so it is easy to find everything. Fold all items neatly when returning to your suitcase to save room, but also since you will be wearing them again.
  • Buy the strongest deodorant possible – for you and your family. We used ‘clinical strength.’

  • Buy a TIDE or SHOUT laundry stick or laundry wipes.

  • Pack a medical kit.

    • You hopefully will not need medical services or a drugstore but if you do, you want supplies on hand while you search for an open pharmacy: Tums, Pepto, Immodium, Ducolax, Cold/Flu tablets, Benadryl, Cough Drops, Neosporin, Band-aids, Blister band-aids, Tylenol, Advil, Ace bandage. No liquids!
  • If you are moving around a lot like we did, do not bring anything that you would be heartbroken if it got left behind.
  • Do not overpack! You need room for souvenirs. 🙂

Okay, now pack on, and know that you look great and that later, you will be focused on the people and the experiences, and not what shirt you were wearing! And when your family goofs on you for wearing your Day 2 shirt again, think of me.

  • Day 1 white shirt; and Day 2 white shirt

Happy travels!

*Campowerment’s Inner Circle is a members-only digital extension to the Campowerment experience that empowers campers to keep their spark alive all year long. The input: In cohorts of 10 women, you get served up monthly prompts for live, 1:15 video Circles + continued real talk. The output: long-term perspective, accountability and sisterhood. Big time.

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