It's peak travel season and I've packed and unpacked my bags so many times I've got it down to a science, so I thought I'd share a few of my "must haves" as well as some from my Wild Sage colleague Manu.
Three of my must-have items are in nearly every photo of me on tour: crushable sun-hat, stretchy "skort," and sturdy Chaco hiking sandals. All three are great for hiking as well as city exploration as they're lightweight and easy to wash.
I've been wearing hiking sandals -- both on and off the trail -- for two decades and love the freedom and lightness of being "shoeless," especially in the summer. No sweaty feet! No socks to wash! And they're fabulous when you have to ford a stream or just want to wade in and cool off. Obviously it's not for everybody, and many people want more support, so it's no surprise that Manu prefers well-fitting hiking shoes.
She also prefers lightweight zip-off pants to my Columbia "skorts," but we both love brightly colored tops to complete the look! 😎
A new addition to my travel wardrobe are SPF "sleeves" and jackets. You can see above, the barely-there wisp of fabric covers my arms for sun protection so I don't have to constantly slather myself with sunblock. There are all types, from tops to bottoms, and you can find plenty (one medically-approved example here). I got mine on Amazon for cheap, so am skeptical about the SPF, so consider the source if you have serious skin concerns.
For crushable hats, I've had the one above (by Wallaroo) for about ten years (thanks Denise!) and it's still going strong after hours in the sun and countless washes. You can stuff it into your bag and it still retains its shape, and I even wear it into the sea when the sun is especially bright. The wide brim protects my face and the back of my neck, and the drawstring keeps it on in high winds.
** This is obviously the summer edition. For cold weather just replace the skorts with black stretch pants, and replace the sunhat with a colorful shawl.
One of my top general packing tips is: always carry a small crushable backpack within your larger day-pack. Use the main pack to store your bigger items (travel laptop, toiletries, etc.) so you can pull out the smaller pack for daily use. It's more comfortable than a purse since it spreads the weight over both shoulders, and there's room for extras like snacks, a lightweight jacket, a bottle of water, and the aforementioned sun-hat. ☺️ I also use it for day-hikes or trips to the beach, supermarket, etc. Get one with an outer pocket for a water bottle so you don't have to take it off to grab a drink. I got this one a few years ago and love it, but there are lots of brands out there.
Speaking of water bottles: always bring your own so you can fill up at your hotel (the tap water is very drinkable here in Europe, except for certain places like some of the islands) and in the public taps that you find in cities and towns. If it doesn't say "acqua non potabile" (non-potable water) feel free to fill up. It saves you money and it saves on plastic!
And when you get the kind of water you don't want, Manu always travels with a poncho:
You can get super-light ones for cheap (basically a plastic bag with a head hole 😁) or a more heavy-duty one, like the one above that kept us dry during a very wet hike in Morocco. They're great in cities as they cover more than an umbrella would -- and they leave your hands free -- and they're great in the outdoors as they cover your backpack.
Other (less photogenic) items on Manu's list include:
* ear-plugs and an eye-shade for sound sleep wherever you are
* hiking poles for more challenging terrain
* an external battery charger for your phone
* a real paper map for city centers, road trips, hikes, etc.
* and for motion sickness, this was a game changer! Travelgum is available here in Italy but not in the U.S., so look for it as you travel!
Other items on Claire's list:
* a multi-USB plug for charging several devices at once (many hotels have few sockets)
* some melatonin to help you get over jet-lag or sleepless nights
* a small travel pillow, like these amazingly soft and packable ones from All About Down:
It's barely bigger than your stack of t-shirts but fluffs up to soften any leaden pillow slab.
The most important rule of all: PACK LIGHT!
* you lose precious time checking in bags and then waiting for them at the other end (let alone the risk of lost luggage!), so carry-on is the way to go!
* you don't need to bring most toiletries (you can get them here, and it gives you a chance to try locally-made items, like my favorite body lotion that's made right here in Florence!) or a hair dryer (most hotels have them) or extra snacks (there's no shortage of good food over here 😋) or bulky jewelry or fancy footwear or non-prescription meds (European pharmacies are well stocked)
* you could literally wear the same clothes every day and nobody would notice (nobody is really paying that much attention to you 😁)
* bring clothes you can wash out in the sink (or in a pinch, kick around in the bottom of the shower!), then roll them up in a towel and kneel on it to squeeze out as much water as possible before hanging to dry
* consider bringing things that you hardly wear and then leaving them behind as the trip progresses and you accumulate stuff
p.s. I have not been paid to plug any of these products, but I should be! 🤪
** the body lotion I mentioned above is from a whole line of body/hair products made with a base of Tuscan olive oil. It smells amazing and supports the local economy. You can find it in local pharmacies and soap shops:
I've had the most amazing season so far -- my first for my new company Wild Sage! (read more here if you don't know our story or see our website here) -- and was on-the-road almost continuously from early June until now, so I haven't had time to keep up with my blog, so here are a few of my favorite shots from the Spring/Summer season:
Above: perfect swimming water in Corsica, eye-popping tile work in Athens, the freshest of mozzarella and tomatoes for our wine tasting in Sicily, the glorious mosaic work in the Duomo di Monreale (Sicily), river kayaking in Sardinia, and full moon rising over the Spanish castle on Ischia island (near Naples)
I have a big Fall season coming up so am enjoying a quiet August at home in Tuscany.
And we're already getting requests for 2024, including:
* Cuba! March 2024 * Tuscany in May (possibly, private)
* Sicily in May (private)
* Piedmont (open!)
* Dolomites hiking (open!)
* Greece (maybe!) * Turkey (open!)
* Morocco (October, open!)
We welcome any and all requests, so let us know if you've got a dream trip on your Wish List or if you'd like to join one of our scheduled tours. And as always, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram -- or follow me personally using the links on this page.
Hard to believe 3 years ago we were all stuck at home and I saw my world fall apart... and look at us now. 😍 #wearewildsage !!!
Ciao and thanks for joining me!