Recently, over lunch with a friend, I bemoaned the fact that I need to pack for a month-long trip (I know: the horror!). My friend side-eyed me, smirking knowingly. She said, ‘When we travel with our kids, we each only take ONE backpack.’
I was incredulous. ‘ONE backpack each?’
She smiled proudly.
The Type A over-packer be-prepared-for-everything person that I am was astonished, but also intrigued and impressed—besides, what better way to travel in an eco-friendly manner than to only pack what you need? And what better lesson for children?
That friend is Amy Forrest. She is a writer, a world traveler, a mother, and, above all, a consummate luggage packer. This is her story.
(Guest Post by Amy Forrest)
We travel light. Here’s what we stuff into a single, school-sized backpack each:
- One dress (though my husband brings an extra pair of pants or shorts)
- Two pants (or a pair each of pants and shorts)
- Three tops
- Socks and undergarments for five days (we launder along the way)
- One swimsuit (depending on destination)
- Bare-minimum toiletries (no hairdryer or irons; only travel-size necessities)
- Water bottle
- A baggie of detergent/large ziplock bags
We’ll carry/wear a sweater, and a jacket if it’s cooler. I always bring a pashmina. There is always room for a few accessories—scarves, an extra belt or two, fun costume jewelry.
The best thing about traveling light: being able to run for trains and feeling as though we can leap over a cat or small child or a flowerbed or an open sewer and not miss a beat (or the train) because we are liberated from all our darn stuff.
The worst thing about traveling light: not having our stuff.
What happens when you travel with one pair of shoes?
We were on our way to Italy (in the picture at right) and it was October, which means it rained like crazy much of the time. The rest of us had shoes that held up pretty well in the wet, but my daughter D’s did not. By the time we got to Venice, the shoes refused to dry out in the evenings and smelled permanently of subway (read: pee and mildew—whether this was a function of the shoes or some Venetian street-funk transmitted to the shoes by the wetness, I don’t know).
We tried to find her new shoes, or little boots, or anything dry that didn’t smell the way her sneakers smelled, but after two hours of asking people and following leads that led nowhere, we realized there were many shoe stores for very small children and for teenagers, but nothing at all for a seven-year old girl.
Being seven, she wasn’t particularly upset about having wet feet, but I felt like a bad mother, so I tried putting shower caps inside her shoes to act as a barrier against the wet—shower caps with cheerful red stripes! D laughed at the idea of having shower caps on her feet, so we went to the Peggy Guggenheim and got caught in a rainstorm. Not only were the shower caps permeable but the red stripes weren’t permanent, so when we returned to the hotel, D’s socks were both wet and pink.
I often pack several large, gallon-size freezer bags (for barf bags, wet clothes, dirty laundry, etc.) so I cut them down a bit and she wore them like clear plastic socks over her little white lacy socks and inside her shoes. I tried folding the lacy tops of her socks over the bags so the bags weren’t as obvious, but that freezer-bag plastic has a mind of its own. “Look!” It seemed to say as it blossomed out of D’s shoes, “this crazy American child wears plastic bags on her feet!” We noticed several people looking quizzically at D’s ankles, all wreathed with plastic bag, but none of it bothered her at all. The sun came out later that day as we visited Murano, Burano and Torcello, the lovely islands out in the Venetian lagoon, and D’s shoes dried out completely. “Come here, honey,” I said. “I’ll help you take off the plastic bags.” “No,” she said, shaking her little head. “I like how my feet feel slippery.”
At twelve she’s significantly more fashion-conscious than she was when she was seven, so I imagine she might be less flexible about wearing plastic bags in her shoes because of my draconian packing policies, but you know…there are a lot of shoe stores in Venice that would be able to accommodate her, now that she’s older.
Amy’s Venice (and anywhere!) travel tip: GET LOST.
- Peggy Guggenheim Collection
- Take a vaparetto to Torcello and check out the view from the campanile of Santa Maria Assunta, the island’s 7th century basilica.
Amy Forrest has a BA in Art History from Dartmouth College and an MFA in writing from the University of California-San Diego. She likes to write fiction and is fascinated by the muddled ideals and desires that lie behind all of our choices (like whether or not to bring two pairs of socks on a trip to the rainforest). She lives in San Diego with her family.