Before our cruise on the MSC Lirica from Venice to Dubai, we decided to fly into Switzerland and make our way to Venice by train with several stops along the way. Not wanting to drag a large suitcase around on the trains, I decided to bring only what I could fit into a carry-on size bag, backpack, and travel purse. Further complicating the issue of bringing a limited amount of stuff for a month-long trip, we needed cold weather clothes for traveling through the Alps in November, hot weather clothes for the middle east, and things to wear on the ship.
Of course the easiest way to lighten the load is to wear the things that take up the most room like boots, jacket, and the thickest pair of warm socks. Layering a sweatshirt under the jacket helps too. Whatever is worn is not packed so that frees up the amount of space those items would have taken. Bringing along laundry supplies like handwash soap and a clothesline is essential as there is no possible way to pack that light and have enough clean clothes to last the entire journey. We did make sure to book a BnB in Venice with a washer/dryer so we could have everything clean before boarding the ship, but for the rest of the stops along the way and once on board it was handwash and hang to dry. (Cruise ships do offer laundry service, but it costs a fortune and this particular ship has no self serve guest laundries.)
The key here is to pack clothes that can be used for multiple purposes rather than used only for a one-time event. Running clothes and formal wear are prime examples of things with a single purpose. For those things I normally have entire outfits just for that, including shoes. Those clothes and shoes are not something that would be used for anything else, so for this trip they’d be excess baggage. My solution for that was to get an ankle-high pair of black sketchers boots that are warm and comfortable enough to wear around Europe in the cold, but look nice enough to use as my formal night shoes. Black dress yoga pants and a not-bulky sweater type shirt don’t take up a lot of space, look decent enough to wear to dinner on formal night without being too fancy to wear other times, and each can be dressed down further when combined with other things.
I cut down on the long-sleeved shirts needed by packing a couple lightweight long-johns shirts of the nice-looking silky variety that don’t take up much space and can be worn under a t-shirt in cold places. Then the t-shirt can of course be worn on its own in warmer areas so it does double duty. For running clothes I brought pants that aren’t specifically for running, but will work for that and can also be worn other times. One long-sleeved and one short sleeved running shirt that can also do double duty completed the ensemble. The long-sleeved one looks nice enough to wear to dinner, and the short-sleeved one works as a t-shirt or even as a swim-suit cover up. Speaking of swim suits, the bottoms to the one I brought are actually athletic shorts so can be used in or out of the water, and the shoes are sketchers go trail ultra which can be worn for running or just for walking around places.
Even though we didn’t go to the most pick-pocket prone parts of Europe, we did get some theft proof backpacks for traveling around by train. We also had waist wallets which you can wear underneath your pants to protect the really important stuff like passports and credit cards while traveling. Our suitcases were hard-sided iFly bags, which have no outer pockets, just a central zipper with 2 ends that can be locked together. So nobody could take anything from our backpacks or luggage when we weren’t looking. They’d have to steal the entire thing which would have been hard not to notice – except on the one train where the only luggage rack was by the carriage door rather than above the seats. Those precautions may not have been necessary this trip, but there are places in Europe where they absolutely would be so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Of course when your important items are accessible to pickpockets if they are any good at what they do you may not even notice at what point your possessions disappear. If your things are not where a pickpocket could get them you might be among them and never know it.
The backpack is mainly for electronics. I downsized from a laptop to a tablet, plus phone and small camera. On the plane it also held some cold weather things like a hat, gloves, and scarf for arrival in Switzerland and one change of clothes on the off chance that my luggage got lost. My suitcase is carry-on size, but not a carry-on for the plane because a month’s worth of toiletries is more liquids than a carry-on allows. The sunscreen alone is in too large of a bottle for carry-on, but since we were planning on going snorkeling during the cruise coral safe sunscreen was an absolute necessity.
Different people have different needs in what they bring, but the important thing is to bring luggage that is appropriate to your travels, and pack things with more than one use when you need to save space. While you might get tired of wearing the same things so often by the end of the trip, it definitely beats dragging around a bigger bag on the trains.