May 8, 2012

Italy: 2 People, 10 Days, Carry-On Luggage Only

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When I was in the final stage of planning the trip to Italy for me and BabyGirl, one of my big concerns was luggage. Traveling with a 9 year old girl presents a variety of luggage issues. It’s one thing to be dropped off at the airport and picked up on the other end. It’s something altogether different when you’ll potentially be dragging said luggage through an airport or two in Italy, on and off a motor coach and up and down narrow stairs in hotels that do not have an elevator. And let’s not mention the possibility of all the steps over bridges in Venice.

Of course, add to that having to convince a tired little girl that mommy can’t manage two giant pieces of luggage, her day bag, a Hello Kitty Bag and whatever has managed to escape said Hello Kitty bag. I really wasn’t looking forward to that part. Oh, and did I mention that many of the areas in Rome, Florence and Venice aren’t paved smooth but instead have cobblestones?

But I wasn’t ready to just yet commit to carry-on only. For months I’d been trying to convince myself that it really wouldn’t be as bad as I was imagining it would be with our luggage. I kept trying to convince myself that I could do a 10-day trip to Italy with a tween with carry on only. All the while trying to glean tips from travel bloggers I follow on twitter.

For well over a year I’ve been following Robin, who blogs at My Melange. She’s a travel blogger who specializes in travel consulting and itinerary planning for Italy and France. And while I did not use her services since my trip was arranged with a group, I did spend quite a bit of time on her blog learning about Italy and how to manage my way around.

Robin has 3 terrific articles about traveling with carry-on luggage only which I bookmarked and probably read about 20 times each. See, it’s pretty easy to do carry-on when you’re on a few day business trip. But 10 days in a foreign country with your 9-year old daughter is a bit different. While I could think of 20 reasons why I shouldn’t just do carry-on, these 7 reasons why you should go carry on kept drawing me in. I agreed with every one of them!

I knew if I was going to do carry on only, I’d have to cut out a lot of ‘must haves’. But how? Again, Robin to the rescue! She offers do-able tips for getting over the stumbling blocks of carry on only travel as well as what beauty products you can do without when traveling to Italy. She speaks from experience, which I needed.

But still, I wasn’t ready to commit. It was going to a wedding a few weeks before our departure to Italy that convinced me. I packed up the new luggage I purchased and quickly realized how inefficient it was. The rounded corners, the molded inside to account for the sleek retractable handle. All wasting precious space.

After some research I bought the Rick Steves Convertible Carry On in red. Compared to my full-size spinner suitcase it had more square inches of packing space but is a fraction of the size. It is both a suitcase style with a handle and also has straps to make it into a backpack.

It took a lot of planning about what exactly to pack, but Robin’s tips were so helpful. Also, I tweeted with her and she was constantly encouraging and shared with me how she’s traveled to Europe numerous time with just carry-on luggage.

In the end it was so nice not to worry about whether my luggage will arrive when I do. I avoided schlepping multiple pieces of heavy luggage up and down stairs or maneuvering into small elevators. And despite having ‘deluxe’ rooms, they were very small and unlike others on the trip we never had a problem finding a place for our luggage in the hotel room.

Traveling with carry-on only isn’t for everyone. You have to be willing to sacrifice taking different shoes and multiple changes of clothing for each day, as well as your entire bath and cosmetics collection. I did have to do some hand washing. And I did have to work with BabyGirl to create easy mix and match outfits. But in my fun red carry on I had everything I needed for 10 day, and it only weighed 22 pounds!

If it weren’t for Robin’s constant cheerleading I may not have taken the plunge to go carry-on only. But I’m glad I did. It was one less thing to worry about. And because I used packing cubes, everything was organized and contained for easy unpacking and dressing. Having carry-on only was great on the return flight. After being up for over 24-hours it was nice not to wait at baggage claim before heading home.

If you’re planning a trip to Italy or France, check out My Melange. Robin is also on Twitter and Facebook and I know you’ll appreciate all the travel tips and information she shares. Feel free to tell her I said hello!

Sara

{ 4 comments }

Bill Dorman May 8, 2012 at 11:55 am

Sounds like saving for someday paid off, huh my newest follower……….:).

Glad you had a great trip. I don’t even bring carry on luggage; I just wear like 4 sets of clothes…………just sayin’…………….

Sara May 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Bill, you need to start saving and stop flying those airlines that charge you for carry-on. With 4 sets of clothes people might think you’re a spy or something. Besides, with that much padding you don’t get the full effect of your TSA pat-down. You’re really missing out!

Robin | My Melange May 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Sara,

I can’t thank you enough for the lovely mentions in your post! I am so glad you were able to pull it off!

I’ve always said it’s a mindset and a lifestyle change and it’s not for everyone. Not only do most folks have a hard time doing it – but those who have kids in tow usually won’t even attempt it.

But I could tell from the times we chatted on Twitter, you were very determined to make it happen. And you did.

I’m so proud of you…you are an inspiration! I hope you never go back to checking bags. 🙂

Sara May 8, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Robin, I really appreciate your help and encouragement. It wasn’t easy figuring out what was going and what would be left behind, but it made me assess why I was taking something. Packing things for my daughter was a little harder but once she bought in to how much easier it would be she was willing to leave things at home.

I think the key was having a bag that was flexible and allowed me to use all the space.

I look forward to sharing more of my trip with you!

Sara

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