If you’re planning to travel to Italy from anywhere in the U.S. that is not New York City or other major hubs that fly directly into Milano or Roma, you’re taking connecting flights. Any trip of two weeks or less says you’re taking only a carry on and a personal bag.
Easy to say and do in the summer – as long as you have your bikini, a couple of t-shirts and light pants or skirts, sandals, a nice dress and you’re on your way. But what about those long trips at Christmas time?
You can do it easily. I’ve been taking a carry-on and a personal bad on trips to Italy anywhere from 15-17 days for Christmas in the last four years. I like to dress up for the holidays, go out to nice restaurants, and feel stylish.
Think with me – who likes to carry big bags up and down trains, buses, stairways, and steep roads? You’d be surprised how much your experience changes when you feel light and mobile. This is what smart travel is all about.
Preparation is key: here’s what I do
Ten days to a week before my trip I create a list, pick a color scheme, and start a “closet” for it. This is what the spare bedroom closet is for. Put everything in one place, out of the way, but within easy sight. Go by often and edit up or down based on your evolving plans.
For a 15- to 17-day trip, I plan to wear the heaviest items – coat, boots, sweater, pants, and scarf. Then pack 2 pairs of pants, 1 dress, thick stockings, 4 thinner sweaters or cardigans and as many blouses, thin shirts, or undershirts, socks and comfortable shoes within the color scheme.
Italian women are not afraid to repeat outfits. Accessories like scarves, jewelry, lace undergarments, and belts are a great way to modify a look and take less space. Be realistic and you’ll win on two fronts – no unused clothes to drag around, a little room in your bag for a special purchase (especially those lace undergarments.)
I prepare the compact travel kits for makeup and TSA-approved beauty product quantities after I return from each trip – so they have the essentials ready to go for next time.
I’ve been taking my iPad with me, but I plan to leave it at home next time. More WI-fi spots that are more reliable in hotels, libraries, and cafés have made it unnecessary. Plus, it’s one less item to have to put on a separate tray at security.
- Make a list, pick a color scheme
- Think layers and comfort when selecting items
- Account for special occasion
- Set aside clothes and accessories 10-days to one week ahead
- Add and eliminate until you’re ready to pack
- Pick a compact makeup case
- TSA-approved beauty products pouch
- Ziploc bags are your friend – separating small items, packing a snack from breakfast, etc.
- Set aside travel documents, tickets, membership cards you’ll need
- Make copies and keep them in your cloud / new email account for reference
- Set aside adapters and a small power strip for the technology you plan to use (check if you need a converter)
Planning logistics to travel smart
The flight reservation comes first – I try to make that months ahead of time to get the best seats and prices. I give myself some wiggle room on both ends of the trip for dates to get a better deal. Once I have arrival and departure dates locked in, I fill in the rest.
Every year I pick 2 or 3 major cities to visit before Christmas in Modena. Once I know the cities, I start looking at the fast trains schedules. That might determine the order in which I see them and the length of stay.
Day-trips to towns near a major city are possible with a 3-day stay. Regional trains may run frequent schedules. Check when you arrive in the city (I take a pic with my phone.)
My light carry-on wheelie fits easily in overhead compartments of smaller airplanes and is easy to lift up and down trains and stairways. The cemetery of unused and almost new carry-on bags in my possession says I learned this the hard way. But I now feel I got the very best, durable, light bag. It has a surprisingly large capacity, hidden pockets and lock, and easy-to-reach outside compartments.
I also bring a larger personal item on the plane. Inside it I pack valuables, snacks for the trip, currency (I always keep a small amount from one trip to the next), and a small crossbody bag to use during my stay.
Once the cities and dates are a match, I plan the trains. The ideal is to book as soon as available for best prices and seats. Then make hotel reservations with breakfast included. Restaurants research comes next. Based on itinerary, I recommend making decisions ahead of time.
My logistics checklist:
- Book air travel
- With arrival and departure dates fixed plan itinerary
- How many cities, days each
- Look at fast train schedules
- Pick dates for each city
- Make hotel reservations, breakfast included
- Book train tickets, reserve seats
- Research and make restaurants dinner reservations
Once you have your itinerary set, then you can start looking for things to see and things to do. When I plan the cities, I look for store closing and restaurant closing dates, special festivals, and activities. The idea is to be smart about options of things to do and see, without being too prescriptive.
The final itinerary, train tickets, hotel reservation confirmations go on my personal cloud with links for reference.