Packing for Spain: Don’t Overthink It

Even the most experienced traveler can get packing anxiety. You know: that moment the night before leaving, when everything is laid out on the bed next to your suitcase, and you realize it can’t possibly ALL fit. Or, even worse, you come this realization when only half of your clothes are laid out with the other half in the laundry.

Before Spain, my last big trip was to Peru and the Inca Trail. Packing for that trip was relatively easy because the trail strictly enforces the amount of weight porters can carry. Sure, it’s still possible to get carried away with gear (or “crap” depending on your point of view) you want to take, but it is kept in check by what you are willing to carry in the pack on your back. Thankfully this wasn’t an issue with our trip to Spain. But in a way, the “sky’s the limit” (along with airline weight limits) actually increased my anxiety.

When it comes to travel, my packing philosophy is simple: take what you truly think you will need, and always leave a little room for what you might pick up along the way. Now, there are a thousand and one blogs about the art, theories and strategies of packing. And it really is an art. Plus, it appeals to the OCD side of me. But I digress. What I’ll share are two over-arching, “umbrella” thoughts that are a good approach.

With that in mind, my first umbrella recommendation is straightforward. Pack minimally and wisely. Instead of packing to fill space, focus on the least possible number of things. If you ask “what can I take away,” then by default you are packing wisely.

In the checked bag: one sweater, one cozy, one cardigan, five t-shirts, two lightweight long-sleeve shirts, two fancy shirts, one pair of cords, one pair of khaki's, one pair of trouser jeans. Not pictured: three pairs of shoes: one pair of ballet flats, one pair of loafers and one pair of wedges.
In the checked bag: one sweater, one cozy, one cardigan, five t-shirts, two lightweight long-sleeve shirts, two fancy shirts, one pair of cords, one pair of khaki’s, one pair of trouser jeans. Not pictured: three pairs of shoes: one pair of ballet flats, one pair of loafers and one pair of wedges.

Wisely, for me, also means think “weather” first. I am always cold when I travel. So I bring scarves and usually a sweater even when the forecasts suggest high 80s, or above.

My second umbrella recommendation is to know what you want. By that, I mean identify those one or two critical, must have, go-to items that you need and use on travel. For me, it’s my bazillion year old Gap trench coat that almost always folds into my suitcase. The (mostly) wrinkle-free coat is a black, classic style that blocks the rain and wind in case temperatures plummet, voila, my dress up/dress down extra layer!

I have read other bloggers interpretations of “minimal” as packing five things, hoping on a plane, and buying whatever else they need in country. That is minimal but it doesn’t appeal to my environmental (why buy more clothes if you have what you need at home?) or financial (hello, it’s expensive to buy new clothes) sensibilities. If it works for you, go with it.

Spain was forecast to be in the high 70s with sun the entire duration of our trip. Unfortunately, that changed when we arrived. I made do with the above but would have preferred more sweaters than t-shirts. But yet again, that Gap trench was a lifesaver when it rained most of the time we were in Barcelona. Rule: Read more than the guidebook’s summation of weather over the past decade. Pull up weather reports online. For that matter, check out the local news. (ah, my travels to India. Sigh. A future blog.)

For overseas travel, I always use this massive L.L.Bean tote bag as my carry-on. It’s got a zipper so items won’t fall out in transit, and you’re not an easy mark for pickpockets. It’s large enough for souvenirs that I pick up along the way. Inside the tote there’s also my camera bag (doubles as a backpack, and my travel around town tourist “bag.” I rarely bother with a handbag when travelling for pleasure), my journal, guide-book, tissue, hand sanitizer and my sleep kit.

The trusty L.L.Bean "carry on" tote. Never leave home without mine!
The trusty L.L.Bean “carry on” tote. I never leave home without mine!
Wondering what a "sleep kit" is? Wonder no more! It's my own blanket, socks, eye mask and tooth brush.
Wondering what a “sleep kit” is? Wonder no more! It’s my own blanket, socks, eye mask and tooth brush.

Been to Spain? How did you pack?

(Editors note: any brand names in this post are my personal favorites—Especially L.L. Bean—and none represent paid endorsement).

 

My all purpose camera/travel bag.
My all purpose camera/travel bag.

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Packing for Iceland

Hopefully by now i’ve convinced you that Iceland should be on your “must visit” list. Even if that’s wishful thinking on my part, i’m still going to forge ahead and offer some suggested items to pack.

They say Iceland has the same climate as New York. I think they mean upstate New York (hello Buffalo) since i found it be cold and was really unprepared to deal with the elements. Thankfully i was unprepared, not inappropriate. There is a big difference.

So that you can learn from my mistakes here are some must-haves for your bag. Above all, layers are key. It’s chilly in the morning, evening and around the water. Other important items to have handy:

  • Fleece jacket. This comes in handy when you are chilly and unlike winter jackets it won’t take as much room in your bag.
  • Water proof/resistant gear. You don’t need full on Weather Channel hurricane reporting stuff. A basic Patagonia/LLBean/North Face (insert other brand x here) jacket will protect you at key destinations like the South Shore and Seljalandsfoss.
  • Sneakers, hiking shoes. Since i only wear sneakers at the gym, i prefer hiking boots for walking around on vacations. Obviously you know your feet best. Heels are are best left home unless you want to go crazy at the clubs.
  • Jean and Khaki Pants or Cords. Jeans are fine for excursions and day activities. But you should really consider something a tad nicer for hitting the restaurants and bars.
  • Fun clothes. But not full-on NYC clubbing clothes. You want to enjoy the bar scene but not in ridiculously short mini’s and sheer tops. (Think Jessica Alba, not Kim K)
  • Extra battery for your camera. Iceland is chilly and i found my camera used a lot of “juice.” i spent half of the time out praying it didn’t die.

Maybe others can confirm, but i was told booze and cigarettes can be offered as tips. These are luxury items in Iceland and if offered correctly and respectfully, very appreciated. Stock up at the airport in Reykjavik if you plan to go this route. Iceland has very strict rules about bringing booze and smokes in the country.

Good luck packing and safe travels!