This past May I went on an extended holiday to Reykjavik and Barcelona with my girlfriend, spending four days and six days in each city respectively. I put off packing for the trip until about a few days out (procrastination is one of my more crippling vices), and I couldn’t help but find myself at odds on how to pack.
Iceland at the time had temperatures that fluctuated between the high 30’s to high 40’s, and Spain stayed in the high 60’s to low 80’s. I had to pack for visits to glaciers, and for sunbathing on the Mediterranean Sea. On top of these rather stark weather conditions to prepare for, our airline (while cheap to fly) had extremely restrictive weight allowances - I had to keep the entire bag under 11 lbs.
With all of that said, I somehow packed the exact amount of clothes with enough variety where I was able to enjoy walks and hikes in Iceland’s national parks, tan on the coast of Spain, and attend my friend’s wedding in Platja d’Oro in a suit.
Here’s (kind of) how I did it, and what I learned from the experience.
1. Don’t Pack An Outfit For Every Day
It’s safe to assume whatever country you go to, people there have been able to figure out how to appropriately wash and dry clothes. If you’re traveling for more than three or four days, it’s a good idea to cut down your packing to a few pieces that all go together so you can wash them as needed while you’re abroad. Taking care of your laundry while you’re traveling cuts down on the bulk of packing.
2. Pack Clothes That Are Versatile, for Weather and Outfit Combinations
For my trip to Iceland I got a Field Jacket from JackThreads which was a multi-layered shell that was able to shed down to a light jacket - perfect for the chilly/rainy weather of Iceland, and the slightly cooler nights of Spain. The idea here is to find things that can layer, shed, and be combined with multiple outfits. Don’t bother bringing that one shirt that goes with that one pair of pants - it’s a better idea to pack neutral, more basic colors when traveling abroad so you can mix and match outfits.
3. You May Think You Brought Enough of It, But Bring More Underwear
You may chortle or laugh at this, but the struggle is real when you’re abroad - the one piece of clothing you absolutely cannot reuse multiple times is underwear (unless you’re a total filth monster). It makes sense to overpack on this, and it never hurts to have extra. Trust me, you’d rather be in a situation where you have too much underwear rather than not enough. My personal go-to is MeUndies - they're incredibly comfy, and great for traveling.
4. Comfy Shoes Are a Must
Don’t use your international trip as an opportunity to break in your new pair of leather shoes - I advise bringing a pair of neutral colored sneakers, or a pair of leather shoes you’ve worn before with comfy soles (i.e. a pair of Cole Haan’s Zerogrand Wingtip Oxfords). Your feet will thank you later, especially after the 4th or 5th museum you’ve visited for the day.
5. If You’re Traveling for More Than 7 Days, Opt for Checked Luggage
My girlfriend and I combined the bulk of our clothing into one bag that came in under 40lbs - which is great considering we had a great deal of formal wear to pack for a wedding. It was only $50 for each leg of the trip, and we were able to easily track our luggage. If you're going to be traveling for a long period of time, it makes sense to opt for this option - particularly so you don't have to schlepp luggage while you're trying to enjoy the sights and sounds of your vacation.