What's in your bag?

September 7, 2012

When it comes to packing, I prefer to travel light.

That doesn't mean I ever do.

I have that typical female "Need 2,000 Options" mentality when it comes to packing. Traveling to a place I've never been to before and having little idea what to expect makes this problem even worse. Not to mention on any vacation you're bound to take a thousand pictures, and so you want to look cute while meeting the temperature requirements and remaining comfortable on a potentially exhaustive trip. Plus, I hate sticking out as a tourist. You know, the kind that wear fanny packs and money belts? Ick. But this trip I am determined to not be weighed down by unnecessary clothing and acessories, while still maintaining a "look" that's not totally based on utility.

One of my favorite outfits from Sex & the City is worn when Carrie moves temporarily to Paris at the end of the the sixth and final season. Carrie says,"I can't be drunk on the plane. I want to arrive stunning and impossibly fresh looking." And here is how they depict her as she's arriving at her hotel and checking out her balcony.

Yeah, right.

While I would love to believe it's possible, without owning a private jet I challenge anyone to walk off a red eye looking "impossibly fresh looking." Instead I usually dawn my trusty yoga pants and running shoes for optimal comfort and still arrive bleary-eyed and bushy-haired. And that's without drinking on the plane. Clearly, comfort is a must for me - but I don't think style should be sacrificed.

Am I already planning my outfits 3 weeks before our departure? Um, yes. And since you're asking, my cosmetic bag is already full of little travel-sized everythings as well. I'm THAT prepared. As I'm always curious what other women pack and I'm especially inquisitive of those who know how to pack efficiently and - you guessed it - lightly, I decided to share what will be in my bag for our 10 day Greece Extravaganza. 

You can read a little bit more about our travel plans so far here and here, but we are moving around quite a bit and need to anticipate fairly drastic temperature variations. Our three nights on Santorini island could hit lows in the 50s, but our daily highs in Athens metropolis could be in the mid-90s. So we need to find a balance between practicality and style. I put together a little visual representation of some staple items that will fill my bag in my attempt to achieve these goals.

1. A good walking shoe. 
This one is a duh thing, but I do like to go with an athletic shoe that has some spunk to it. Also, a darker color (read: not white) blends better and doesn't make you seem so "American." Am I right, or am I right?

2. A great comfy bag.
This is a convertible crossbody to backpack bag I bought at Urban Outfitters several years ago. I like that you can wear it both ways, since you want to be able to swing your bag in front of you on crowded streets and subways (pickpockets!), but for short hikes or day trips the backpack straps really help save my back! 

3. A sweater or hoodie.
I can be cold-natured, so I pack one of these no matter where I'm going, if only for use on the plane. There's nothing worse than trying to sleep in an already uncomfortable situation and being cold on top of things. I like one that opens in the front, rather than pull-over, because it's easier to get on and off in confined spaces.

4. A reliable pair of denim.
By reliable I mean won't lose its shape. I prefer clean clothes, but let's face it: you can wear denim for days before it starts looking worn... unless it gets all stretched out. I usually pack a pair of stretch jeans that I'm confident will last 3-5 wears without getting all loosey-goosey. And no, this is not an acceptable situation to wear Pajama Jeans. Pajama Jeans are never, ever acceptable.

5. An ensemble of accessories.
a) I never go anywhere without a black pair of gigantic sunglasses. Yes, I want everyone to think I'm a movie star on vacation (staying in a budget hotel...).
b) The older I get, the more important a hat is for keeping off the sun. Especially when visiting an exotic island! I love this floppy straw hat I got from GAP - it's so excitingly glam. By exciting I mean it totally blows off my head with just the slightest bit of wind.
c) Scarves are the most useful and versatile accessory. They can dress up a t-shirt, and keep you warm from a cool island breeze. They can make an outfit you wore two days ago look like a new outfit. I love their utility almost as much as I worship their frivolity. 

6. Some plain Ts.
If I'm not in a collared button down, I'm totally a t-shirt gal. I feel at maximum comfort in my American Apparel Tri-Blend V-necks. Paired with a scarf, jeans and boots for a cooler day or shorts and sneakers for a rural hike, I'm set.

7. Comfortable, cotton shorts
Raise your hand: who likes to feel fat on vacation? Now: who likes to eat whatever they want on vacation? My solution: comfortable, drawstring, cotton shorts. It helps that they are super hip right now and there's a plethora to choose from. And for long days in the car, in the air, or walking the streets of Athens - these will be my pick.

8. Swimsuit.
I always pack a swimsuit, even in the dead of winter. It's small, compact, practically weightless and you never know when there's going to be a jacuzzi available. One too many occasions have been ruined by being "that girl" who forgot to pack a suit. Never again. I usually opt for classic black, with enough coverage that I would feel comfortable snorkeling or laying out on the beach.

9. A casual dress.
Fortunately, Greece is not known as a forward-fashion city. It's not Milan or Paris, so I don't have to worry about being dressed to the nines if we go out to dinner (which would mean packing 3,000 options instead of just 2,000). However, a casual dress is still a staple item in the event you want to feel a little fancier for a special night out. This one's from Target, and I'm all about the stripes!

10. Several pairs of alternative shoes that I will actually wear.
a) If we were going to truly get fall or winter weather while there, I would wear my boots every single day. They are that comfortable. I can and have walked many city miles in these buggers. So I'm packing them, because depending on the weather, we could end up with some cold and rainy days, and I wouldn't want to be without them! Plus, they fold up really nicely so they don't take up as much room as you might think.
b) These sandals are also from Target, but are surprisingly cushy. I probably wouldn't want to get stuck in them all day on a rocky hillside, but they would do for an afternoon of sightseeing to let my toes breathe from the sneakers!

As a side note, I tend to travel with little to no jewelry. I don't wear a lot to begin with, so I usually bring just one or two pairs of studs that look good with everything I'm packing, and an inexpensive watch. I'm even considering leaving my wedding rings at home this time. While I will miss it on my finger, I don't want to worry about it sliding down some ancient island drain or becoming the heart of the ocean. And let's not forget the potential for muggings and pickpocketings, etc! Nothing like that has ever happened to me on any travels, but there's always a first time. I think it may just be better off in the safe at home.

The other thing to note is I'm packing a lot of mix-and-match items. Boots and sandals can be worn with jeans, shorts, and dresses, so they play double triple-duty. T-shirts and button-downs can also be layered in case of cooler weather. I usually pack one (maybe two) scarves that color-wise are well-suited to all of the outfits I'm packing. You get my drift. Also, it might seem boring, but I'm opting for fairly non-descript items that won't show a lot of dirt, aren't anything I absolutely treasure (like a pair of $400 riding boots), and won't make me stick out like a sore thumb - or someone worth mugging.

Now my next goal is to fit it all in one medium-sized bag.

Here's to packing!

As always, you can find me the other days of the week at alittleWhitenoise.

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