How do you pack for three months travel to London, Paris, Dijon, Basel, Venice, Florence, Nice and Barcelona?

The short answer never changes when packing for a trip does it? Let’s say it all together…


But what does as little as possible look like?

Here are three clues:

1. If you need to sit on a suitcase that is as up to your waist and wider than the bathroom door in order to close it, you are not there yet.

2. If you don’t think you can carry your luggage and pull out your passport from your safety wallet at the same time, you still have some work to do.

3. If you are wondering if you are going to be able to hire someone to carry your belongings or you can’t imagine carrying it up four flights of stairs all by yourself, it is time to reassess.

When David and I traveled in Peru for a month we only had one small backpack of carry-on luggage each. When we came home we had one extra small bag to check that contained a few gifts. At the time I wasn’t painting and only had my much smaller film 35 mm film camera. There were no iPads and we didn’t even consider taking a laptop because Peru had lots of internet cafe locations. This time we have much more gear to pack and we are going for a longer stretch of time. Because of this and because we will be in such diverse climates we decided that one piece of carry-on each wasn’t going to work. We purchased one narrow medium-sized, hard-shell bottomed suitcase that expands into two separate pieces if we need it. We will have one carry-on each containing mostly camera equipment, laptop, ipads and toothbrushes… and this one suitcase will be checked.

For clothes think comfortable, versatile, happy being crumpled, easy to wash and layers. Bring only the clothes for what you are going to be doing and half as many as you think you need.

Take as little as possible by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 070

We are not night club people. We have no wedding to attend. So dress clothes and dress shoes are just not needed. If we change our mind later, then it looks like I get to buy a new pair of shoes 😉 But I won’t pack these things with me. I do have a simple skirt and top that can go anywhere for a nice dinner. That is it. But the skirt and top is also equally suitable for a day traveling on the train or a morning walking along the beach or strolling an art gallery. I don’t wear make up, use face or hand cream and I don’t take any medications or supplements so this helps keep things simple.

However, there are a few don’t-leave-home-without items that I do include in my packing:

Travel things by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 074

1. a small bottle of liquid hand cleanser. This was so handy on our trip to Peru that I seldom have been without it since.

2. safety money belt with RFID blocker which means only a small amount of cash for daily purchases is ever readily accessible. Extra tip – when choosing your clothes make sure you do not have to strip or risk getting charged with indecent exposure to get at your passport, train pass and credit card and bank cards in the money belt. Hence, I packed a skirt and top not a dress.

3. since we will be checking one suitcase I have included a sewing kit with scissor and fingernail clippers. If you are traveling with only carry-on leave these restricted items at home and purchase them when you get where you are going. Note: dental floss is crazy useful as a thread if you remember to bring a needle big enough to use it this way.

4. electrical adapters if they are needed. This didn’t used to be such a big deal but we have too many electronic toys to leave home without them anymore.

5. your sense of humour! Never, ever go on a trip without it. Ever. There will be times when you will be so tired you want to cry. There will be times that everything will seemingly go wrong no matter what you do. This is when you pull out your rather squished, rumpled sense of humour – give it a good shake, dust it off and put it work – and always remember where you packed it where it is easily accessible.

Now for my nice-to-have items:

Travel essentials by Terrill Welch 2014_03_23 068

1. one quick-dry compact towel shown on the right in the photograph above. This item went with us to Peru and was mostly used to dry my long mop of hair but also can be used to lay food out on and as a blanket when cold or to cover your head when you don’t want to see anyone… particularly the person you are traveling with – I am teasing but you get the idea.

2. a pocket raincoat that is tough and durable. I like my hands free and holding an umbrella is just a pain. Besides I am short so an umbrella is actually a dangerous weapon to be welding on a busy street.

3. a pocket day-pack for maps, hairbrush and food – NOT for money, credit cards, bank cards, passport, camera or iPad or anything else valuable. If the pack is lifted you want to be able to shout after the person…. have a nice lunch!… then be on able to move on with the rest of your day.

4. an inflatable head and chin support. This is something new we are trying but we have one overnight flight and some long day trips on the train. I will report back after the trip to let you know how well it works.

5. maps… if you like maps that is. I will spend a good amount of time looking at maps before and during a trip to familiarize myself with the lay of the land so to speak. I like to be able to imagine how various places relate to other places even before I arrive. This keeps the anxiety down once I am on the ground. It is not a necessity because tourist centers have maps and if you are taking a smart phone then paper maps might even be easy to skip. But physically looking at maps is just something I deeply enjoy and it will keep me occupied for hours of traveling time.

6. one hard copy book for when the iPad or kindle is packed away or the battery has run down.

Then, there are just a few things that MUST be left behind:

1. your travel plan and essential information with your emergency contact person.

2. any sense of entitlement or ethnocentric righteousness. Different doesn’t mean wrong. It only means different.

Now we are all packed and ready to have fun! Yippee! Eight more sleeps 🙂 Oh! Did we forget anything?


What is one little-thought-about item on your essential packing list for three months or more travel?


© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to

14 thoughts on “How do you pack for three months travel to London, Paris, Dijon, Basel, Venice, Florence, Nice and Barcelona?

  1. Yes Terrill, the old adage is to under pack to avoid the relative disaster of overpacking. Mind you, I should practice what I preach, since I have never followed the prevailing opinion. You and David must be getting more and more excited by the day, and there will be a lifetime of dialogue with your family, friends and readers on this fabulous time in your lives. And yes, absolutely bring that sense of humor, though I know with you it is natural. Many great points in this terrific prep guide!

    Unrelated to this post, but wanted to mention I will be seeing a critically-praised exhibition later this week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

    • A mention to a “critically-praised exhibition” Sam is never off topic here 😉 We are getting excited and starting to count the sleeps. Most big tasks have been accomplished and we are now reviewing and tidying up loose ends. Last evening we watched an amazing film “Reaching for the Moon” (2013) directed by Bruno Barreto. I am going to try and stop by Wonders in the Dark later today to post a review.

  2. Terrill – HOLY TOLEDO, you’ve got it covered! I’m beyond impressed with your forethought! My one little-thought-about item is a wide-brimmed hat that basically folds flat — practically disappears — for transport. I take it with me wherever we go!

  3. I’ve backpacked Europe a few times by train. If you have long journeys have you considered night trains and getting a couchette. It is so much more convenient to go to bed in one country and wake up in another.

    I think backpacking solves the want vs. need issue as you simply have to be able to carry what you take for quite a long time.

    • I agree Deb about the backpacking. We will be more or less using the same principle. We have thought about night trains but so far we find that we would rather stay at an Airbnb and travel during the day. This is partly because I like to see where I am going and not miss the transitions. The exception to this is the night flight to London England from Vancouver B.C.

  4. Well Nomad, I too think you have all of it covered! One item that goes everywhere with me, even on a local hike is a bandana. Now don’t get grossed out, what I actually mean is a pee bandana. Comes in real handy when you are in a public toilet – with no toilet paper. Great to use when you have to duck behind a bush – AND it’s environmentally friendly as you are not leaving ‘Kleenex flowers’ behind which takes 2 – 3 years to decompose. Just wash it out daily and leave it on your pack to dry during the day. Have an amazing time and giggle lots (not a problem for you!). Virtual hugs to you both!

  5. I don’t want to ‘clog’ your blog (!) as you’re almost out the door on your Grand Adventure Artiste Journey..but I can’t help but say “Buon’ Viaggio.” And the little thing you might want to have easily accessible? I’ll bet you can’t hide it: a big grin plastered all over you face!

  6. I have one nine month trip under my belt–but that is a distant and very fond memory. I think that’s why it’s been so cool to watch your travel plans unfold. It looks to me like you’ve spent a lot of time and careful thought deciding what to pack–and what to leave at home. I hope you and David have a ball.

    • Thank Leanne! It is always the case that I settle into my seat either car or plane or train and many mile from how I am say – how could I have possibly forgot that!? Still, these kinds of problems are solved and the trip goes on.

  7. I used everything I took in my one backpack for 15 days in the UK, only an over night bag for my 8 days in Korea (working clothes) I used my kids to help me pack and they really knew the ropes. I was so glad my Kindle worked on the trip, I read 3 books on the bus – actually that was the biggest problem, we planned 3 years for our trip for a walking tour of Scotland ( that tour was canceled just a couple of days before we left and we were put on a bus tour of UK for the 3 weeks. So I truly did not have the correct clothing for most of the tour and never the correct shoes. At least the hiker shoes were extremely comfortable.

    Looks like you have a wonderful plan and experience works wonders toward know how. Yes! it is Europe you can purchase items, and I sent a box home with treasures, gifts and some clothing. It appeared expensive but then I still only went with one back pack.

    Oh I know this is a treasure you will cherish for much of your life. I wonder how your painting will change? This is so exciting.

    • It is exciting Patricia and I too wonder how my painting will change. Wow! You are an impressively frugal packer! It is funny. I start with the guidelines I shared here and then I start cutting back even more. Some camera lenses will stay behind. The white linen outfit I love but know is impractical went back in the closet. I got kindle for my iPad and look forward to choosing a book or three when and if they are needed. But for now, a few more tasks to get accomplished before we do the final check.

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