Here are some packing tips that we used for our family of four while traveling in Italy on working farms during all seasons. This list does not outline every thing we took, but just the important things that made our life easier. Hopefully it will help you on your next adventure, especially if you are traveling with little ones!
Travel light. I read countless blogs and stories beforehand about packing light, but realized even more that you don’t need as much as you think. Moving from place to place takes a lot of work, especially with kids in tow that are young and that can’t carry their own packs. We traveled before in the EU without kids and thought we knew what we could handle. Having two heavy packs, a rolley suitcase and our kids was a lot when we got on and off the trains. If you are traveling any type of distance in Italy, it will take at least 2 or 3 trains and possibly a bus. Sometimes the trains run late (see Where in the World is Bin 20) and you have to run from one train to the next. I would gladly throw out half my stuff for easy travel days. We got rid of the rolley suit case and mailed one HUGE box home filled with clothes, books, random things and some souvenirs. In case your wondering, mailing anything from Europe to the United States is very expensive, so pack light when you go. If you need something while you are there, I guarantee you you can buy it there.
Food. If you are traveling for a month or more you will most likely take some food with you from place to place (See Post about Grocery Shopping in Italy). Most apartments and houses to rent have kitchens stocked with cooking bowls, utensils, and pans. We would carry on us olive oil, dried beans, corn for popping, herbs, sugar, salt, coffee and other dry items. We also bought a scale. My wife is a baker and learned how to cook by grams, and having a scale is key to measuring. Every place will have knives BUT a good knife is important – well to us! I bought one in Sepino Italy from a knife maker. A good sharp knife is key to cooking and makes things SO MUCH EASIER. Make sure to save room in your pack for some dry food items so that you don’t have to buy them new at every location.
We scanned onto our iPad conversions for temperature and weight, cake recipes (once again my wife is a baker :)), and notes for cooking and soaking times for all beans. I would also recommend buying Ratio by Ruhlman (link to Mobile App or book). It gives key ratios for cooking almost anything, no recipes needed. The app has the customizable ratios and you create the flavors and additions. This was really nice when the labels were in another language! (If you get a chance, check out his blog or any of his books… a must read for all.)
Kids Water Bottles. bubba HERO sport bottle was durable and strong. In Italy there are fountains everywhere in the cities where you can fill your bottles with fresh, cold, clean water.
Shoes. All four of us had waterproof shoes. I took Patagonia Hiking Boots and Jill, Stella, and Rum all had Keen Waterproof Shoes. A great place to find great deals on foot ware is the Clymb.com. By far the best place we have found for great savings on high quality gear. We also took a pair of shower shoes (flip flops) and one nice pair of shoes for getting dressed up. TOMS made for a nicer shoe to get dressed up and was also great for packing. I also took a pair of running shoes. I really liked the Vivobarefoot shoes, which I found on the Clymb. They were lightweight, easy to pack and folded up really small. We got each of the kids mud shoes (galoshes) that we actually picked up in Italy, and they were indispensable on the farms and in inclement weather. For the kids, we also took Acorn Kids Footies with traction on the bottom. It allowed them to have something warm on their feet in homes that have mostly tile floors. It sounds like we took a lot of shoes, which is probably pretty accurate, but it worked for us and gave us options. You could honestly scale back this a little, but know that each item we took, we were incredibly happy with.
Clothes. We brought mostly dark clothes of similar color so that we could wash them all at the same time and since we had limited items, the dark clothes wore better and didn’t show as many stains. Each of us had a waterproof rain jacket or shell (used a ton) and a thermal under layer like a fleece. It was nice to have them separate so that as the temperature changed, we could layer. It also made packing easier than having just one bulky jacket. We only took one nice outfit to wear on special occasions and that was more than sufficient. Make sure to not pack bulky clothes like cargo shorts, cargo pants, or sweatshirts. Light and flat clothes are best. Many people say not to bring jeans, but we all did. The plus is that they wear well, are durable and can be part of your “nice” outfit, but the down side is that they take forever to dry when you have to hang dry them. In the end, I’d probably still take them again. The other really nice item we took with us were water resistant hiking pants like our Prana and Craghoppers. They are durable, lightweight, and dry quickly. They were great to work in or wear out around town. We found that it was worth paying for technical gear because it was lightweight but remained highly durable, and on the occasion that an item wore out, their guarantee helped us get a new one at no charge. We got a ton of great deals on the Clymb and at REI. Make sure to check out REI’s Outlet Online.
Exxofficio Underwear. The ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Brief are AMAZING! I want to replace all of my underwear with them. They are lightweight, breathable, and the best part is you can wash them in the shower at night and they dry over night. They have women’s as well, and Jill was equally as happy.
Baggage/Luggage. We have REI backpacks (I have the REI Grand Tour 85 Travel Pack for Men and Jill has the REI Grand Tour 80 Travel Pack for Women). We really like our bags, because they are front loading, instead of top, which is key. They are comfortable when you carry them and easy to hold from the side. Also the packs come with a rain cover, that doubles as a duffle bag, great for when you have to have all your straps stowed away for the airplane. As you travel you end up picking up special things along the way, so try to pack light to fit the extra stuff.
REI Sleeping Pads. We brought two REI sleeping pads and used them when we needed to sleep in the airports or in places where there weren’t enough beds. They are very comfortable and roll up small. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!!!
Packing Cubes. We got the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Sets. These are zip up compartments that compress your clothes and come in all sizes. These are super helpful to keep you organized and are like drawers for your backpack. In my pack I used orange for Rum’s clothes and white for mine. It made it easy to navigate and find just what you needed. (link to REI or Amazon) HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!
Compressions Sacks. This is a bag that you can pack lots of clothing in and cinch down into a much smaller compact size. This is handy for clothing that you might not need all the time. We traveled over many seasons, so in turn, packed clothes that we didn’t wear all the time. In winter we had all of our summer clothes packed down tight. When the seasons changed, we switched them out and packed it down. It was amazing how well this worked. (You can find them discounted on the Clymb or for a good price on Amazon)
Carabiners are AWESOME! They clasp onto everything and everywhere! You can’t have enough. Even just as simple as clasping my work gloves on my belt loop at certain times of the day.
Wellness Kit (first aide kit). Young Living Essential oils are wonderful. They made the base of our Wellness Kit and are of the highest quality and can be used topically and internally. I buy ours from Shannon Lynne Laage. Her sponsor and enroller number is 1212410.
We took: Lavender oil, Lemon oil, Orange oil, Thieves oil, Purification oil, Melrose oil, Maleluca oil
Our Kit also consisted of Homeopathic Earache Relief, Thermometer, Nasal Saline Rinse, Children’s pain reliever/ BC powders, Propolis, Bee Pollen, band aides, Antibiotic ointment, Prescription medicines (if any)
Moon Cup. My wife highly recommends the Moon Cup for travel. It is a convenient, money saving, eco-friendly alternative to feminine products. Jill couldn’t be happier with how it worked for her. The Moon Cup is mentioned in this book, How to Shit Around the World: The Art of Staying Clean and Healthy While Traveling (Travelers’ Tales Guides) and gives great advice on hygiene while traveling. Put the book in your bathroom a few months before you leave for some good reading.
Ergo baby carrier. The ERGObaby Performance Baby Carrier has been a lifesaver with traveling with a 2 year old. This carrier can hold up to 45 pounds comfortably. This can be used front, back or side, but most of the time we used the back mode so we could have free hands. This has been helpful in airports, train stations, on farms while working, as well as walking all throughout the cities. We’ve done 8 mile hikes using the Ergo Carrier. We highly recommend it over any other carrier!
Maclaren umbrella stroller. The Maclaren Volo Stroller is lightweight and small, but very durable. We used this in every city, and put many miles on it!
Travel Potty Seat. This Travel Potty Seat was invaluable!!!!! In every Italian city we visited, all of the public bathrooms (WC) do not have toilet seats! This makes traveling difficult with young children, but with our small travel potty seat we were able to keep it in Jill’s purse wherever we went, with a cover on it of course, and use it whenever they needed to go!
iPad/Macbook Air. We used this as entertainment for our family. We packed it full of educational games, movies and fun programs for the kids. Both are slender and light wieght. This was really handy when we had to sit for hours at airports of trains stations. As mentioned in our prior blog about Communication Tips, we used these devices to keep call the USA for free. Also, we used these handy tools to create this blog on the go =).
Deck of cards! Many places we were at there was no tv or internet, so once the kids went to bed we would play cards!
LL Bean Headlamps. These were really helpful for the nights you need light on the farms getting back to our house Or when sharing one room and the kids would go to bed early!
Grocery Store Bag. When you got to the supermarket in Italy the bags cost money. Everyone pretty much brings there own bag. These come in handy in other ways too!
Things we didn’t need:
Travel clothes line We got one with suction cups and hooks on the ends, that way we could hang it anywhere. There are no clothes dryers in Italy, so hanging laundry is the norm. Most places you stay have drying racks to use. I wouldn’t bring this.
Toy bags. Our kids each had a small backpack with the toys they picked out. These are their personal item. They can add to it only if they take something out. Our five year old is responsible for carrying her small bag, but most of the time we had to carry it. Looking back I would not do this.
Clothes, clothes and more clothes! Italians rewear their clothes until they are dirty. It makes for a whole lot less laundry. I love it and we are bringing it back to the US.
Laundry bag. You have multiple bags with you. It’s easy to get creative to transport laundry. You don’t need a special bag for it.
Grooming kit/ flat iron. Stupid, just stupid.
Books. These were too heavy. We bought ibooks on the iPad.
Plug adapter set. This was for all nations. Not sure why I brought them all, but we just needed the EU one. Maybe I was feeling a little too adventurous before we left. Practicalities told us otherwise.
Where to find the things you need:
We are bargain shoppers and there are many deals to be found out there for great gear without sacrificing quality. We used these sites for most of our gear. Start planning ahead and wait for some good deals.
the Clymb | one of the best sites I’ve found for great gear at up to 70% off
REI | Check out REI for sales and REI Outlet for bigger bargains
Amazon | Comparison shopping at its best. Most of the time you can get free shipping too.
Patagonia | Although the price is high, so is the quality. I bought some gear right from them and I found some on the Clymb. My first pair of shoes had a defect and they overnighted me a new pair at no cost, even though I bought them on the Clymb at a discounted price. Amazing gear and a great company!