What I Learned From My First Experience Traveling Abroad

Well, friends! My much anticipated Italy family vacation has come and gone, and I’ve so appreciated all the feedback and advice I received from you all, so I want to write one final post about what I learned from my first experience traveling abroad. I’m also sharing my travel must-haves, as well as what I purchased that I didn’t need.

I made notes along the way of things I want to remember to do again, and things I want to do differently, so I’ll include those tidbits in here, as well. Hopefully this post will be a useful resource to those of you planning similar trips.

5 Lessons I Learned While Traveling Abroad

#1. Know your travel style when accepting advice, wardrobe planning, etc.

Becca’s tee // shorts // crossbody // my top (M) // shorts (6) // sunnies // crossbody // Paul’s shirt // his shorts & Caroline’s dress were purchased in Perugia

I’ve always been an unapologetic over-packer, but going carry-on only (a.k.a. COO) is often touted as the only way to travel in Europe, and I was determined to make that a reality.

I also got tons of advice about traveling internationally, traveling in excessive heat, and packing efficiently. I tried to take what I needed and leave the rest, but it’s so easy to get caught up in thinking you need to do all the things without taking your specific situation into account.

By the time I went to pack for our trip, I had more gadgets and gizmos and travel sized paraphernalia than you can shake a stick at, and I cannot begin to count the hours I spent trying to figure out how I was going to go COO to Italy for 10 days.

It seemed doable, at first. Dresses are lightweight, my toiletries were all decanted into small containers, and I narrowed down my shoe choices to three pairs (one of which I would wear on the plane.) I even did a test run packing my carry-on suitcase and personal bag the week before, and it looked like I was going to be able to do it!

But when I went to finalize my packing on the morning of our trip, it was clear there was no way everything I wanted to pack was going to fit into the two allotted bags. I was getting hot and sweaty trying to finagle it all inside my teeny tiny suitcase in various configurations like a game of Tetris. (An engineer, I am not.)

The medium-sized suitcase from our beach trip a few weeks before was sitting against the wall of my bedroom, so finally, in a fit of frustration, I grabbed it and unzipped it and I started throwing stuff in willy-nilly. Without the slightest bit of effort, everything fit with room to spare (no Tetris involved.)

Paul walked into the room just as this scene was unfolding, took one look at me, and then put his fingers in the shape an L on his forehead and smirked.

I gave him an icy glare and then stomped over to the bathroom and grabbed my new dual voltage travel hair dryer (which had been a casualty of my carry-on only endeavor) and threw that into the suitcase, as well. I triumphantly zipped it up and drug it over to the door and informed him that it was ready to go in the car, and THAT was the end of any debate over going COO to Italy!

What I realized later is that the reasons for traveling carry-on only don’t necessarily apply to me – at least, not on this trip. I’ve done it for shorter trips, and it can certainly be quite liberating. But for my first time overseas (which felt like the great unknown) when we had business class seats on a direct flight from Philly to Rome, and private transport to and from the airport, there was no need to exhaust myself with the mental gymnastics that went into that endeavor.

Every time we moved hotels and I had to repack my bags, I was so happy I had the larger suitcase because it was so much easier to pack quickly with some extra wiggle room inside. And for our return flight home to the States, we barely fit everything inside the bags we brought without purchasing an additional suitcase, so I was glad we had that added flexibility.

My point in telling you this long tale is this: Know your travel style and what works best for you, and consider your itinerary and accommodations when determining how much or how little you need to pack. In this case, packing a larger suitcase was far less stressful than trying to make the carry-on work.

(Also, just to be clear, Paul wasn’t upset with me for checking a bag. He was more amused than anything, and Caroline was thrilled because she had some full-sized toiletries she desperately wanted to bring. I let her add those to my suitcase, as well.)

#2. I can take time off from the blog. It will not spontaneously combust, the world will not cease to rotate on its axis, and my audience will be here when I get back.

It’s not that I think this blog is so important that I can’t go a few days without posting. I know I’m not curing cancer over here, but social media never sleeps, and my travels usually involve blog content of one sort or another, so I never take concentrated time off like I did while I was in Italy.

But this was a whole new experience for me, so I didn’t want to feel pressured by work commitments while I was gone. Plus, I wanted to be fully present with my family, so I made sure not to have any due dates or deadlines while I was away.

I wanted to schedule a couple of fashion/beauty-related posts to keep things active, but I never had the time to prepare them, so I left with the intention of only posting trip recaps if I had the time, and that’s what I did. And you know what!?! We all survived!

It did take a good bit of work up front and a lot of planning and communication with my team members and brand partners, but it can be done, and I really should make a point to take time off more often. It was so nice to not have any deadlines or tasks to tend to while we were away.

I wrote only when I wanted to, and engaged on social media as I wanted to, but it was all trip-related, so I wasn’t dividing my focus.

#3. Traveling as a family is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids.

David’s tee // UA pants // my dress (M) // my sandals (8.5) // sunnies // similar crossbody // Paul’s hat // / Maui Jim sunnies // Unbound Merino tee (option/option) // AG shorts // ALTRA trail runners (more options) // Becca’s tank // shorts // sneakers

In a day and age when we spend so much time holed up in our separate spaces, glued to our various electronic devices, it was really cool to see the kids interacting with us and each other. I’m also glad there were no friends or significant others along to distract.

Sure, there was a fair amount of bickering and snarking on one another, but there were some beautiful unexpected conversations and exchanges, and the bonding that comes from spending so much time together in close quarters that you simply cannot duplicate when you’re at home. Plus, of course, the shared memories that we’ll have for a lifetime.

Traveling with your kids also expands their horizons and gives them the tools and confidence to pursue travel on their own when they’re adults. I wish we had done this sooner, but at least we did it now.

#4. Travel agents are worth their weight in gold.

Fjällräven dress (M) // Taos sneakers (8.5) // DIFF sunnies // similar HOBO crossbody (exact)

I had no idea how to plan a trip of this magnitude, so I’m incredibly grateful for the travel agencies and trip planners you all recommended. I reached out to a few and ended up working with to Stacey Blum at WhirlAway Travel, and I couldn’t be happier. She met with us over Zoom back in March, where we discussed our travel styles, what we wanted to see and do, our budget, time table, and all of that.

Within a few days, she got back to us with an itinerary, and it was pretty much exactly what we were looking for. She booked all the hotels and excursions, as well as plane flights for all 5 of us. As the trip got closer, and I was too busy and overwhelmed with work to figure out dinner reservations, Stacey set those up as well. She worked with the concierges at our hotels, so we were able to cancel or reschedule with them if we changed our minds once we arrived at our destinations.

We were all provided with the Pocket Travel App that we downloaded to our phones so we had an easy way to access our itinerary, travel documents, plane tickets, etc. It also included guidelines for tipping and dining in Italy, which was super helpful, as well as a message center where we could contact Stacey (and the Italian travel company she partnered with) at any time if we needed something.

It was all completely and utterly seamless, and I don’t want to travel any other way ever again!

#5. Touring foreign cities with a private guide is the way to go!

with our lovely expert guide in Rome, Francesca

We met up with an English-speaking expert guide in each city (arranged through our travel agency) who took us on a personalized tour of the city and certain predetermined museums and churches. They had tickets for the most popular sites so we could bypass the long lines, and we could tailor the itinerary to suite our needs and desires.

Our guides answered all of our questions, took family pictures, and basically served as a resource for anything we wanted to know about the city. Since we had the same guide both days in each city, we got to know them a little bit, which further enriched the experience.

Some days we were with our guide for a half day, and a couple were full days, so you can tailor the experiences to your needs and desires. It was nice to have a mix of guided tours and free time to explore on our own, but I aways enjoyed exploring so much more after we had gotten to know the new city with our guide.

I’ve heard about people working with private guides like this, but I’d never experienced it before, and I’m a convert! (You can arrange them on your own, too, without a travel agent. There are tons of websites for finding private guides; Google is your friend!)

And with that, I do believe I have completely exhausted this topic, but if you have any questions that I didn’t address, I’m happy to answer in the comments!

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81 Responses

  1. I’m curious if you were happy with the tennis shoes and the Naot sandals you took? Also regarding those same pairs of shoes are those something that you think you will reach for to wear when you aren’t traveling?

    1. I was very happy with them for this trip, but I don’t see myself wearing them here at home unless I’m going to an amusement park or something where I’m doing a lot of walking. To be honest, I kind of want to burn them, lol!

      1. Which ones? The sneakers or the Naot sandals? I just commented below that I was thinking of trying your trip sandals because my physical therapist said I”ve got to have a sandal with some support for my spine and back and most of my current sandals have no support. So sad!

        1. I just don’t feel like myself when I’m wearing them, but I had to wear a lot of comfort sandals years ago when I was recovering from several foot/ankle injuries, and I found some that weren’t terrible. Do you have The Walking Co. where you live? If you go in, they are super helpful and have lots of brands and styles, so you can figure out which ones align best with your style.

        2. I have a great pair of OluKai sandals after being told the same thing by my podiatrist. I live in California where flip flops are a must! These are the best! I recently wore them on vacation to Seattle and spent entire days running around downtown in them with no foot pain! Of course it’s $100 leather flip flops but they look great with all your summer outfits and I even wear them in the house for support.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I’m saving it to my Travel tips Pinterest board.
    I’m not a COO person. I wish I was!
    Compression bags are a must have for us whenever we are flying.

    1. I did look at it. I was afraid it was too small. The others have 4 sections, but I should try it. Maybe with all the decanted liquids it would work. Or maybe that in addition to my makeup bag? But that might take a lot of room… I guess I should try and compare.

  3. Glad you had a great trip….I remember my first trip to Europe and I think everyone pretty much makes the same mistakes (me included). You get pretty good at it as time goes on….I just love those little towns as well as all of the touristy things to see, so rich in history. I agree that a tour guide for the entire trip is the way to go. I’m curious though with the fan….did you have AC in the places you stayed? I know it’s easy now for places to have wall mounted if it’s not retrofitted but still not every place will have AC or an elevator depending on size of place you’re staying. I kept my eye mask from the flight over last time and it was life saver for me…..didn’t used to phase me.

  4. Thank you for sharing! I loved living vicariously through you and your trip to Italy! Read every.single.post!! Glad y’all had such an awesome trip!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. My son and I are talking about a trip to London. This will help tremendously in deciding what to take. And we will definetly use a travel agent. Glad you had a great time!!

  6. Do you have the regular carry-on or the larger carry-on? I love the salt color — does it stay fairly clean (or is it easy to remove scuff marks from the finish)? Loved reading about your trip!!

  7. Great recap! Thank you. So true, since you weren’t hopping on and off trains and had private drivers, COO was not as critical.
    Re the travel agent: My husband used Google to plan our 2 week trip to Ireland. And he did a great job! BUT . . We packed too much in. Hardly had any down time. Drove ourselves (i was DD and my neck was so tight from the stress so driving on right side of car, left on road, on narrow streets. I have a feeling a travel agent would have coached us to consider those types of needs.
    Glad you had a wonderful trip! And I agree Re the kids and international travel. We just have 1 son but have done a lot of travel (thats what we splurge on). It’s good bonding and opens their eyes. For example, he has seen first hand the implications of certain countries govt structure. I’ll just leave it at that !

    1. I didn’t bring much. I wore the same small hoops, layered necklace, and 2 bracelets most of the time. I did bring a bigger bangle bracelet and a pair of larger hoops to swap out when I wanted more bling. That’s it!

  8. Lol I agree with so much of what you said. I did do carry on, sort of…we were going to family and had to check a bag of gifts so put in my full size mousse. But I was so discombobulated with my toiletries in bags. I too like a hanging bag with everything in view but mine seems too big. Keep us posted on what you settle on.

  9. The most important thing you say in this blog is dress for yourself! If you don’t feel like yourself then you are going to not feel good! I always travel COO but it’s beyond the ability of my husband. We were packing for two weeks away last night, our personality was visible. So everyone “ you do you, everyday, vacation or not.

  10. Thanks for sharing all of your vacation information and details. I have only been to Venice while studying abroad many years ago. Each time I go on a vacation it is fun to look back. I went to London two times this year and on my first cruise to Alaska. I learned a lot each time. I love my carry on away bag and I want to order the medium suitcase and the everywhere bag. My toiletry bag I love is one from Amazon. It has worked really well and it has gone a lot of places with me. It came in hand it had a hook to hang on the cruise. My college aged daughter liked it so much I ordered her one too. We normally like private tours but if you ever head to the UK I highly suggest Evan Evans tours. We wanted to go to three sites and no private guide would do that. I found a group bus tour and we decided to go for it. It still remains one if not our most favorite day of sightseeing/vacation ever.

    Do you have a post about how you style your hair? I know you said you can use a flat iron or curling iron. I struggle to get any curl or too much curl and would love to see you demo how you do yours. I looked around but could not find anything on your site/page. Thanks!

  11. Love this! As a European living in the US I’ve learned now over the years to keep it simple. I plan each days outfit, planning to re-wear a couple of things over the trip, and whenever I start to double guess myself I think ‘I can buy anything I need when I’m there!’. I can do COO if it’s 3 nights, but anymore, forget it! We’ve found the AirTags to be quite useful when we’re worried about losing luggage. Glad you had such a great time & I agree that travel time with grown kids is the best family time 💕💕

  12. Thank you! This was fascinating! Thanks for being so “real.” I appreciate it! Glad you had an amazing trip!!

  13. Wow…so much good information! I’ve pretty much decided that my husband and I will take a medium size checked bag (Travelpro) and a carryon. I’m actually not concerned as much about fitting things in as the weight. Lufthansa is strict about the weight. Also really tempted with the Away toiletry bag. I like the size. The one we have is a hanging one, but very bulky. I know I’ve bought way more “gadgets/gizmos” than we’re going to need, and that I probably won’t take everything, but this whole thing is such a learning experience for me. We are using a travel agent mostly for the flights, hotels in Florence/Rome, and some of the train travel. I booked Airbnbs for Venice & Manarola, a couple of restaurants, food tours, and additional train travel.

    I was going to ask…did you get Euros ahead of time, or did you wait til you got to Italy? I’ve read conflicting information, although Rick Steves recommends just getting Euros at the Airport rather than ahead of time.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience and tips! It has been so fantastic to be able to follow along, and it’s wonderful that you and your family had that time together.

    1. It sounds like you’re pretty well set! If it was just Paul and me, I think the one carry-on plus one checked bag (sharing both so we have the essentials should the checked bag get lost) is the way to go.

      We got the Euros at the airport. Paul is a big Rick Steves fan, and he said that’s what Rick said to do. 🙂

    2. My son lives in Spain and I realize that is *not* Italy 🙂 but he told me not to worry about bringing Euros. If possible, get a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. I have the AAdvantage Mastercard from Citibank and it worked everywhere. It does the conversion automatically on the day of your purchase and no foreign transaction fees .For me it was always a guessing game of how much euros to get and $ to use an ATM there to get more money. I also like earning miles so I use that card. Discover Card is not widely accepted in Spain so check before you go.

    3. I never get currency ahead of time, but be sure to let your bank know where you will be. At the end of the trip, i usually figure out how much local currency I will need to get to the airport and use the rest toward settling the hotel bill. Exchanging at the airport is a lousy deal. Good suggestion to be sure that your card does not have fees.

      1. Thanks everyone! Our cc is Chase United so we accumulate miles and there are no foreign transaction fees. Our debit card is supposed to credit us for atm fees, even internationally so I hope that’s the case. I’ve already set a travel alert for our debit card. Chase’s app says it’s not necessary but I may call to make sure.

        1. It’s usually not necessary, mine were working fine UNTIL I tried to make a purchase at one of the more remote locations. Then I got the fraud alert and had to call in and clear it. I had multiple cards so it wasn’t a big deal to use another until that was cleared up, but if I had only had one, it would have been an issue. So better to call!

      2. We exchanged at the airport on the way home, to save time, but it was a terrible exchange rate. We could have come home and done it here, but only one bank does it, and it’s not convenient, so we just did it there to be done with it.

  14. So glad you and the family had a wonderful time. My daughters are adults and live in different cities so we decided that Xmas would now be a family trip, rather than material objects. We’ve taken incredibly memorable trips to amazing places, yet to me the most special part is spending extended time with my family and having dinners together for over a week!
    In my mind I’m a COO person but in reality it just doesn’t happen. I have switched from bulky toiletry bags to various ziplocks which can be put into shoes, handbags, etc. and as the travel size items get used & disposed of there’s more space for returning home with new goodies.

    1. I’d love to travel over Christmas. I’ve offered several times, and the kids always say no. They want to be here for Christmas, and they still enjoy opening presents. I guess we could try to go in January, before they have to go back to college, once Becca is out of high school, but I think then especially she will want to be here as much as she can to see her friends and the dog, etc. Maybe some day when they’re all done with college…

  15. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m a world traveler my whole adult life and after 40 + years of traveling internationally, packing is still a challenge for me, specially my shoes, toiletries, makeup. Sometimes I ask myself how I did it when I still had babies/little kids and had to pack everything for them as well. Whenever you think you have it all figured out the rules with airlines change again and you constantly see new travel bags and gadgets on the market which can be very overwhelming. I just had to accept that I’ll never have a perfectly packed suitcase and there’ll always be something missing or to much. But I’m just so grateful that I have the opportunity to see the world, even if I’m not perfectly dressed for every occasion

    1. I hear ya. While international travel is new to me, I travel a lot domestically, and I’m still figuring it out! Also, I agree, so grateful for the ability and opportunity to travel. It’s a privilege to have to figure this stuff out. 🙂

  16. So much wonderful information Jolynne and love the story about trying to use a carry on because I saw myself! I want to be that person but can never quite pull it off. And I’m not a huge make- up person just like to choices in clothes and shoes.

    My son went to Italy and the Dolomites last summer. And all he took was a back pack for 10 days including hiking trips, REI sells a backpack with instructions on how to pack lite. He said by the end of his trip, things were getting pretty lean and he did wash out some socks, but he did it! I was very impressed. He’s 25 and certainly does not take offer me when it comes to packing. But men are totally different.

    Thanks again. Your trip looks fabulous!

    1. Good for him! Paul could totally do that. He wore a lot of outfits multiple times, and I don’t even have issue with doing that, myself. I could have scrapped several of my dresses and been fine. My issue is always the toiletries and sundries. They really bulk up a suitcase!

  17. What a fun post! I have the Tumi fold up toiletry bag. I often think it’s too bulky and try something else but I always go back to it. There is a zip compartment you can remove if you want. So, I guess I recommend it because I’ve never found anything better!

  18. Great trip report! At one point in an earlier post you mentioned the VAT in respect to your beautiful new bag and said you would go into details later. We have never been successful trying to apply for that – did it work for you?

    1. I got the appropriate paperwork when I purchased each eligible piece, but when we got to the Rome airport, we didn’t have time to stand in the line and get the final stamp of approval. That said, I did manage to get to a kiosk in the mall where I bought the bag, and I submitted the info there, and it looks like I DID get that refund. I saw that and one other come down on my credit card. I’m not sure how they went thru without getting the passport stamped, but apparently they did!

      1. Thanks! I have always found the lines at the airport too long and too confusing. Good to know there is another option.

  19. We took our two year late 50th Anniversary trip last year with our 2 daughters, one son in law and 1 granddaughter. Our trip was a combination of land and cruise. We had private transfers everywhere and a mix of private and cruise line tours. I did all of the planning and booking myself but we’ve traveled extensively. I never had to touch my bags. I can’t ever imagine doing a carry on only. We also flew Business Class direct to Rome and I think my checked bag was 60 lbs! We had one stop home from Venice but no problem with bags. I loved reliving our trip through your posts.

  20. I have the same issue with toiletries and actually have that exact same hanging bag. Sometime I throw it in my suitcase without zipping it so it lays more flat. I’ve also found that it’s sometime hard to find a place to hang it. I like having all my things in one place also but struggle with size.

  21. I’m so glad you came home with so many wonderful memories spent in Italy with your family. I enjoyed folloing along with you on Instagram. 😉 As far as your take-aways and “dos and don’ts” I completely agree with #1. I remember joining the TFG site before my France trip last year and realized then that we all have such different travel ideas when it comes to fashion, comfort, personal style, to what degree we like to “fancy ourselves up” and more. The one main challenge I tried and will hang onto is the carry-on only for international trips. Traveling from the west coast almost always requires a stop and a plane change and COO takes the worry and hassle out of it. And then we traveled to different cities via train, so there’s that too. #4 is one that I know you and I chatted about via Instagram and I don’t think I will ever want to give over control of planning a trip to a travel agent. I absolutely love the planning part and researching the different places and sites to see. I get so excited about a trip while planning. I was really successful with arranging private tour guides and drivers through the company Viator. (IF you ever want to try it on your own.) Anyway, the gist is, like you said, travel is as individual as fashion. It’s not one size fits all for sure. On another note, I’ve been going to physical therapy for a back issue all summer and this morning the therapist told me to get a good pair of “comfort sandals” and to stop wearing flip flops. I think I’m going to have to check out your Naot brand. So sad though as I love my flip flops!

      1. Thanks for the recommendation and the link! I found out a few months ago I have mild scoliosis which is getting worse with age and started physical therapy in June (which is helping a lot and teaching me how to properly stretch and exercise). But I have to start wearing more supportive shoes. I didn’t realize the importance of the feet to our overall body strength.

  22. Really, really enjoyed the recap, even though I’ve no plans for international travel. I just love your writing style and snippets of humor! Definitely a lot of good info on what worked and what didn’t, as it applies to any kind of travel. I’ve used a travel agent before for a few of our Disney trips. Even though the 4 of us had been there many times, when we went with an extended family of 10, it was more of a challenge, that I did not want to tackle! They are definitely worth it! It’s great that you were all able to make at least one family trip like this, as it just gets harder as they get older and have jobs and start their careers. Enjoy the weekend!

  23. Curious…(you may have shared before but couldn’t find info)…
    what do you wear under your dresses? (I’m a little jiggly & need something LOL!)

  24. Thanks for this post! Interesting. And I wonder…what about your multiple black dresses? I don’t see any here.

  25. I agree 100% that family travel is the best gift you can give to your kids. We’ve traveled with our kids, now 22 and 17, since they were infants (minus a couple covid years). While We’ve not yet visited Europe, we’ve taken them on so many adventures and the memories are priceless! The time spent together is like no other and has bonded us a family. I’m glad you had a wonderful trip!

  26. I love your Diff Sunnies but wanted to ask you if you have invested in prescription sunglasses yet? If so, what brand? I always bought beautiful sunnies I.e., Tom Ford, Chanel but can’t wear them anymore because I can’t read my phone. I’ve worn the same prescription Maui Jim for the past 3 years due to lack of options!

    1. I invested in a pair years ago, and I didn’t like how they looked. The lenses no longer had the pretty gradient, they were very dark. I wear contacts pretty much everywhere, but I do have the same issue reading my phone. I have wondered if I should look into Lasik.

  27. Glad that you had such a good time. I was chuckling about your packing dilemma. I have learned that there are usually stores to buy something that you forgot, and cleaning services in the hotel. I always note anything that comes home unused for future reference. The compression socks are really important. DVT can happen at any age. The fit 20 year old daughter of a friend wound up in critical condition in South Africa from DVT on the flight

    1. Thanks for this reminder! I’m a former ER nurse and we used to see this a good bit. I always tell ppl make sure to drink lots of water on flight (get over plane bathroom jitters!) because staying hydrated is one of the best preventative measures! And silly as it sounds, I flex my feet and move my legs around every hour or more, even while sitting.

      1. Yes, I was careful to stay hydrated and not drink too much on the flight. I had to visit the bathroom a few times, but it stayed pretty clean. I also had disinfectant wipes in my “cabin bag” just in case.

    2. Yes, I heard people say that it is easy to buy stuff there, but I didn’t realize how accessible the farmacie would be. If/when I go back, I won’t be so hung up on forgetting something.

  28. I’ve enjoyed your trip reports so much! It’s great to hear what products worked for you and what didn’t. So glad y’all had a good time.

  29. Jolynne thank you so much for this post! Such helpful tips! I travel a good bit domestically for work but have not yet done any international travel. I’ll definitely refer to this when I do. Also I fully agree with all your travel realizations. So glad you had such a great time with your family!

  30. I laughed at your story about the coo. I used to do that flying internationally when I was in my thirties but no longer! Too many toiletries, too many shoes, and in my attempts to pack fewer items, I didn’t feel like myself. I recently traveled for 3 weeks in Europe with temperatures ranging from the 40’s to 90F. I took a medium suitcase and my Calpak Luka Duffel and had room to bring things home. So glad you had such a wonderful trip, Jo-Lynne.

  31. So good to read your comments about traveling with a carry on only…….nope, can’t do it, no matter what the chatter says! And traveling in Europe with private guides and drivers makes it so much easier and enjoyable! Great post! Tanja

  32. Jolynne, this is incredibly helpful!!! I’m like you an overpacked. However, my recent trip was a nightmare due to my checked bag getting stuck on a plane for 8 hours. Had I done carry on only I could have left the airport. So I’m torn. I like having everything and room for purchase but with air travel so wonky right now I do see the need to going COO.

    I’m thrilled you discovered Jen Lefforge! She is a packing guru! Such a wealth of knowledge.

    Can you do a full review on the Away everywhere bag? I’m a tote gal. I’d love to know how you feel about using the Away bag vs a tote for your personal bag.

    Have you checked out Hi Sugarplum? She’s a 50+ fashion blogger in Texas. She does COO and recently broke down how she organizes her toiletries with these Amazon pouches. I’m intrigued. Like you I can’t figure out a method for my toiletries.

    For medicines, have you seen the multi compartment pill boxes?




    1. Yes, I know Cassie. 🙂 Funny, I just ordered this pill organizer, which looks similar. I brought more meds than that, but it’s a start. And I have the “bougie” version of those bags, but that’s what is getting to me. They seem clunky and they don’t pack down well, plus they sort of stick together, as I’m trying to finagle them all in there. I watch so many packing videos, and they always make it seem so easy, but when I go to pack my own, it doesn’t seem to work as neatly. I think I’m trying too hard to make it perfect, and real life isn’t perfect, lol!

      1. Great post! Have you looked at the Kusshi bags? https://www.kusshi.com/
        I travel a lot and I have found these work best for me. I use the signature size for cosmetics and the vacationer for toiletries. I also purchased the brush organizer that snaps into the makeup bag. They open almost flat so you can see everything inside.

  33. Thank you so much for all your advice on what you took on your trip, what worked well, what not so well, etc! I’m going to Germany/Switzerland soon and this information will come in handy, even though I have traveled internationally before. I think I saw a comment that you sized up in the thigh society shorts. Did you say you have a m/l? Thank you for all you do!

  34. Thank you for this detailed information. We are getting ready to go on a cruise out of Rome so it is very helpful. I have a question about excursions especially in Rome. Were there any that were an absolute must or any that you could pass on. We will only be there a couple of days. Thank you!

  35. Interesting recap. We are Brits living in the US so international travel is a yearly event for us. COO has been our default since COVID but as my kids get older and their clothes get bigger that will get harder! At the moment I can pack some of my stuff in their suitcases!

    I completely agree about using a travel agent. We had never used one before but did so for a trip to France this summer. In addition to the benefits of having the planning all taken care of we had an issue with one hotel and having someone to sort that out was invaluable. We also took private tours and if that’s within budget I highly recommend it. We had amazing tour guides, and having everything personalized and tailored to our family was great.

    Hopefully this will be the first of many international trips for you!

  36. Funny, we were in Italy a week before you and I got SO much use out of a cooling towel (we all shared it on our day long tour of all things Rome) and the foldable water bottles! I just like that they collapsed flat in my bag when we were done using them.

  37. I just discovered your blog. Not sure if you solved your toiletry bag situation, but I had the same issue. I have finally settled on this style. I like that I can take the small pods out, and bring them around the hotel room if I need to. I have them sorted by makeup, essentials (i.e. toothbrush, deodorant, razor etc), Creams, finally Q-tips, cotton “balls” and dental picks. Now I just to figure out the “hair products”https://www.amazon.com/Toiletry-Hanging-Roll-Up-Organizer-Travel/dp/B072RCGR51/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=joy+mangano+better+beauty+case&qid=1697811115&sr=8-2

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