Solo Travel Packing List: 7 Days, 1 Away Suitcase

And one Dagne Dover tote.

Image for post
Image for post

There is a chance I enjoy packing as much as I enjoy traveling. Winemakers handle grapes with less affection than I insert items into bags. After many unsuccessful suitcases weighing too much and containing too many items I don’t actually use, I feel I’ve achieved a formula that will both maximize vacation comfort and minimize my need to ask a stranger to put my suitcase in an overhead bin.

This packing list pertains to a week-long jaunt to Paris and London, in early March. The weather promises to be absolute garbage. Laugh all you like, I’ll be waiting in zero lines, my hotels are cheap, and I got reservations literally everywhere I wanted. I’ll take the cold rain if it means I get to deal with fewer humans.

The biggest struggle I have when traveling is anticipating the room I’ll need for purchases acquired on a trip. I’ve somewhat solved this with an expandable tote that tucks into my suitcase and expands later for a third packing vessel, with my suitcase getting checked for the flight home. This time, I have a train ride in the middle of the trip and can’t do this, so there’s a strong possibility I’m leaving items behind in Paris so that I can bring home candles and shit from Sezane. If you know of a Salvation Army-esque situation over there, please let me know. Last year I left an umbrella, a pair of pants, and my shitty old carry-on tote in a Parisian hotel room and I hope the items were of some use to someone.

And sure, solo travel does present the downside of not having another two packing vessels belonging to someone else who requires little more than bar soap to travel in which to stick purchases and souvenirs, so yes–my bags are really full and a little heavy but I’m not going to have to ask anyone if they want to go back to that museum to see that one life-changing piece of art again and that my friends is worth full luggage to me.

Image for post
Image for post
This photo has no purpose in the story I just really want you to see how cute my travel razor is!
  1. The Away Suitcase. I’ve consumed the Away Kool-Aid, and it is sweet. I’ve been using nothing but this carry-on sized Away bag since the fall of 2016, and apart from the wheels veering to one side, it’s been amazing. (They’ve offered to fix the wheels if I send the bag back, but who the fuck has a suitcase-sized box lying around, I ask you?) I have my eye on the white version of this bag and someday it will be mine.
  2. The Dagne Dover Tote. Just get this thing. It’s cute, it’s well-pocketed, and it’s squishy. Will fit more than you think it will. They also just came out with a bright color called “poppy” that I really want but 100% do not need.
  3. The Lo & Sons purse that goes in the Dagne Dover tote. Lo & Sons specialize in really genius bags that fit a lot more than anticipated. I’ve been carrying this crossbody for years, on many trips, and it’s always been perfect. This goes inside my tote and before landing I fill it with the normal purse-like fare, so that if I get to my hotel before my room is ready, I can leave the tote and the suitcase and just scoot off with this purse and waste no time rifling through my personal belongings on the floor of a lobby.
Image for post
Image for post
Shirt: Missguided Leggings: Girlfriend Shoes: Nike

Find a uniform. Live the uniform. There is no piece of information more important. You know how you typically end up wearing the same things over and over on a trip? Moving forward, just bring those things. This is the first trip of my life I’m taking without a pair of jeans. I SAID IT. There are literally no “maybe”or “just in case” items coming with me. I will only bring it if I will certainly wear it.

My preferred uniform consists of a long sleeve v-neck black top, sporty black leggings, and sneakers. Variances consist of layering tanks, jewelry, and one gray cardigan to be worn over the uniform on the coldest days. I’m essentially living my life in athleisure and I’m pretty stoked about it.

Simple? Yes. Comfortable? Yes. A little dull? Probably. Fucks given? Zero. I average 15K steps per day when I travel. I want the vast majority of them to be taken in comfort and also it’d be great to spend absolutely no time wasted wondering what to wear. I do have sincere qualms with smelling like food from a restaurant, thusly the uniform is repeated in my suitcase multiple times. Laundry is not possible on this trip and I don’t want to have to avoid the seat at the chef’s counter simply due to grill fume proximity. There is also a strong possibility I’ll be wearing items acquired on the trip, and thus I don’t feel the need to bring anything “nice.” Claudie Pierlot, I’m coming for you.

Image for post
Image for post

The non-clothes side: I am a big proponent of the non-clothes side of the suitcase. I find that I can better tetris items together without also trying to constantly stuff clothing between them. This is where the shoes go. And where the socks go inside them. This is where the umbrella goes, if you’re traveling someplace where it’s going to rain literally the entire goddamn time you’re there like I am. This is also where I place the dry ingredients (toiletries) bag that I will not need in-flight. My toothbrush and such that I will need in-flight will be in another bag most likely inside of yet another bag still.

I do have some concerns that my travel kettle will be sacrificed on the altar of Parisienne drugstore purchases, and I’m a bit frightened. There is however, a significant space gap on top of all this, it’s hard to tell but the space between the travel kettle and the netting that zips over it is quite large. Also those adidas are looking very worn these days so if they don’t make it back stateside, don’t be shocked. Byredo is $20 less in France FFS.

Image for post
Image for post

Tuck n Roll. You should really be aware of the rolling method at this point, but I’ll talk about it anyway. Roll your clothes. You can even bundle and roll your clothes, as I do with my pajamas. If you insist on bringing “outfits” in your suitcase like an actual fool, lay each piece on top of each other and roll the outfit together to avoid having to look for all its components later.

Rolling your clothes saves space, but it also minimizes wrinkle potential, something you’ll be very grateful if you’re the sort that would rather pack a travel kettle than a travel steamer, which I am.

Everything here is one color for two reasons. First, black is easy. It matches with everything, it’s a no-brainer clothing color. See uniform section above. And second, it is very forgiving of schmutz. There’s a strong chance I come back from an epic walk with mud splotches across my calves.These can be buffed out of black leggings with a hand towel. Try doing that with the Outdoor Voices trendy pair you’re just dying to take on vacation, hmmm?

Image for post
Image for post

The tote. I won’t call it the carry-on, because my suitcase is going to be carried on as well unless I’m at the business end of that god-awful gate checking procedure. It seems like a lot of shit, but in truth everything that goes in this bag has a very important purpose, including all five yes five of the books.

The weird travel pillow is essentially a mobius band made of down comforter that takes up half the tote and I’m interested to see if it makes any difference at all. If not, guess who meets the trash bin at Charle de Gaulle?

There is also one key item you don’t see here that I’ve never left home without: My laptop. I’ve realized that on trips where I truly unplug and plan to do zero work, my laptop is no more than a movie-viewing device. I will watch whatever is playing in the back of the headrest of the person in front of me, and I’ve downloaded a few episodes of Peaky Blinders onto my phone just in case. I’m endlessly excited about my laptop not weighing me down, and equally frightened about how shitty mobile browse experiences still are.

Image for post
Image for post

The midsection. Away bags have this lovely little panel above the right side of the bag that they like to call a compression system but which I like to refer to as the place to put flat things. This section is very handy and helps you avoid having to search for items that really have no distinct place in either suitcase or tote.

This section is also ideal for stuffing museum pamphlets, restaurant menus, etc that you collect on your journey. Mine is often stuffed full of various paper goods but this time I am determined to confine them all into a travel journal so I start having some record of these adventures other than Medium.

The only items here that could perhaps be characterized as non-essential are the face masks, but anything I can actually use up and therefore not have to find a place for on the journey home is likely to not get cut. The travel bungees, while potentially useless, are a little experiment I’m trying.

It’s a lot, but someone has to obsess over it. And since I’m the one solo traveling, that’d be me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go unpack all of this and evaluate each piece for any potential frivolity. Which sounds like a perfect Sunday afternoon to me.

Written by

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store