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Stephanie's International Pack List

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

If you are setting off for a trip you know that packing the right things can make your trip more enjoyable, but with so many things out there it is hard to make sense of it all.

Before my 9-day trip to Switzerland (and accidentally Italy), I spent hours researching to find the right clothes, bags, and gear to bring along. It has been almost 15 years since I have been out of the country on an adventure like this, and so I was rusty to say the least.

I was so annoyed when people would say, “Just pack layers,” and then list out, “I packed two dresses, one bathing suit, three shirts, two pairs of pants, etc." I wanted to know what two dresses and what three pants. I mean, this stuff matters when you have limited space. And to be candid, I was hoping to look somewhat stylish, too, so this advice drove me nuts. And what backpacks and suitcases were they carrying all their things in too? I wanted precise info, ASAP.

I hope I’ll save someone some time and effort and I also hope you’ll share your favorites with me that are tried and true AND things that are still available.

Now the great challenge of my trip with Haley is when we went to Switzerland, we chose to do some moderate skill level hiking and went to some high-end resorts in warmer areas of Switzerland so we needed city chic attire and warm hiking gear for the Swiss alps. One day we walked 9.5 miles and 60 “flights” of steps. One day we sat by the pool at a 5-star hotel on the Swiss Rivera. Temperatures went from the high 80s to the low 30s (!). We experienced wind-driven rain and blazing sun, so packing was challenging. Despite all this, we were determined to make it work with a carry-on suitcase, a backpack and a small purse each. Packing light helped us move quickly from airports to trains to cable cars and when we had 4 minutes to sprint like a tiger was chasing us through the Milan train station we were grateful we didn't have even one more ounce of luggage to haul around.

OK let’s get into the gear!

In addition to our big backpacks, we packed a smaller backpack for our day hikes that had room for two water bottles (which is critical for me when picking a backpack) that also would work for going into shops, etc, that wasn’t nearly as big as the ones we took on planes. We put this Athleta one to the test and it did great. We wish we had packed two of them. This backpack was small, but it held quite a bit and was strong when we stuffed it with the three layers we needed each day to go from 39 degrees to 85 and back again when we were in Mürren in the Swiss Alps for three days. This is a 9.5/10 the only reason it isn’t a 10/10 is the cost seems quite high to me for what it is, and after this trip, I don’t have much day-to-day use for it personally.

Regarding our carry-on backpacks, I used the 20 L Backpack from Nomatic, which Andrew also took to Japan on his trip. I like it, even though it is pretty heavy, because it fits so much and has many purposeful pockets. The laptop sleeve is genius, and I took my laptop on the trip with me, so came in handy. It also has two water bottle holders, which, as I have stated before, is really important to me. Nomatic is a brand developed by photographers traveling the world, and you can tell so much thought when into every pocket (watch their videos like I did to see precisely where they put each thing.) The bag exterior is water-resistant and super durable, and although it isn’t nearly as colorful as I’d like, it does what it was designed to do. This bag on my back is far too big for wearing around town, but for Andrew, it is great because he is 6’4”, and we bought it so we could both use it. If you are a light packer, you could get by with this bag for an overnight trip. I took a change of clothes, my laptop, tech stuff, snacks, and all my toiletries in there and had no trouble fitting them all. I also LOVE that it fits onto your luggage handle horizontally to keep it from being top-heavy when sitting stationary when it is on top. You also can tuck in the backpack straps and carry it more like a briefcase if you prefer a more professional look.

Haley and I took the kids-sized water bottles with us because the larger ones tip over in bookbags, they are heavier, and also because free, clean water is super plentiful in Switzerland, so it was a no-brainer to take them. I LOVE Owala water bottles; they are legitimately the best water bottles ever, so I was happy to pick up this new little size for our trip.

Regarding luggage, I have an away carry-on, and Haley has an older cloth carry-on. We both felt like Haley had a better situation because my hard shell limited me with how much I could stuff in my bag since she had extra exterior pockets. I will say the away bag did great on the cobblestone streets on steep inclines in Zurich’s old town. Andrew has taken the bag to Japan, and I have taken it on domestic trips. It isn’t huge, and the space seems to be taken up super fast, but we also have the medium bag that matches it. I love the seafoam color they have right now, and they have had a lavender color in the past, but since Andrew and I share luggage, I am not sure that he is down with carrying a purple suitcase.

Speaking of staying dry, we packed the smallest-sized travel umbrellas they make that fit into our purses (see more on the purses below) that we got from Target. This was smart because we always had umbrellas with us, which is wise. It rains frequently and hard without warning in Switzerland, and then the sun comes out. These umbrellas are small, but they fit one person underneath, and the whole point is they are very small and lightweight, so there was no reason to go anywhere without them.

For shoes, I am obsessed with the Morrison 2.0 from Natrulizers and will be getting a second backup pair; they are cute, comfortable and didn’t require any time to “break in” I give these a 10/10. Get them before they sell out again!

7. Women's Cardigan- Target $30 (10/10) I found this cardigan last minute and got one for Haley and I, and we wore them on the plane and quite a bit on our trip. They held up really well, and they come in quite a few colors. They are super soft and are quite large, so they are almost like a blanket. They aren’t super thick, so they will pack down pretty small. I think this is an excellent travel cardigan for all seasons. Grab one before they are gone for $30; this is a bargain.

I have gone hiking in these several times, and they are great. They are lightweight, look good enough to wear out, and roll up to capri pants. The pockets (front and the one on the side) fit your phone. I found that they run small, so you might want to order a few sized or try them on in the store, but I think these are great for hiking pants. In my opinion, if you hike in Switzerland, especially in the Alps, you need pants because of the rapidly changing weather and the fact that all the trails aren’t perfectly groomed. I think that anywhere you have things that can touch your legs when you hike, you need pants because that is how you end up with allergic reactions to itchy stuff, but that’s just me.

I bought this new for this trip, which worked like a charm. I liked the color, and it is light and packs down small. It kept me dry, and I’d say it is waterproof, not just water-resistant. I don’t think it is the world’s best rain jacket, but it worked well for the price and what I needed it for. Haley had a rain jacket that didn’t pack down as small, and with our little backpack from Athleta we carried every day, that was space we could have used.

For jackets, I wish I had brought a puffer jacket that had a hood. Haley’s had one, and mine didn’t, which meant I had to take my rain jacket and puffer everywhere. When there was a light drizzle, which was essentially every single day we were in the Alps, I had two jackets to deal with, so if you can get a jacket that does both, it helps. You still need a full-on rain jacket that covers your rear because when it really starts to rain. You need coverage, but you’ll thank me for having a jacket with a hood that is warm and water-resistant.

The first time I bought an Oliphant dress was on sale at a boutique, and it was this dress. I don’t routinely spend hundreds of dollars on dresses…but this started my obsession with this brand, especially this silhouette, which has pockets (because all the best dresses do). It is made of cotton and has a very light lining, so it works in every season. I now have this ruffle collar dress in three colors (pink and green); I wear them all the time, along with this exact blue one. I wear this with blue blazers, cardigans, and white blazers. I took my trusty blue dress to Switzerland, and it didn’t let me down there either; there is quite a bit of fabric to pack down, but it's worth it.

Haley and I carried matching purses from Lo and Sons because I had read these were the perfect travel purses. I’m obsessed with this brand right now. They are super lightweight and looked sleek enough we felt we could take them to nice dinners. They have these nifty pockets on the interior that worked perfectly for our passports so that we could get to them quickly, but also, when the bag was turned towards us, we could keep them safe. Lo & Sons is a brand created for travelers, so this bag has been sold out off and on, and for a good reason, it is lightweight too. It has many pockets, and the front pocket fits our phones, which is convenient. Other than the price, which is steep, I think this bag is pretty perfect, so I’d give it a 9 out of 10.

I also ordered their small wallet that fit well into this purse and had a coin pocket, which was ideal for Switzerland, which uses coin currency quite frequently. This wallet is 40% off on the summer sale that Lo&Sons is having right now.

Haley and I used compression cubes, not just for packing cubes to stay organized, but compression cubes to squish the clothes and get more into our suitcases. We like this brand because they are mesh, and you can see what is inside. Instead of rolling up things, like pictured and like I have previously done, we copied what does when she packs and laid our clothes flat before we put them in our cubes, which reduced wrinkles and also helped us stay somewhat organized because we didn’t stay in any one place too long.

While I am on the topic of compression cubes, I want to mention shoe bags. I’d take at least one or two of them. Your hiking shoes or tennis shoes will get muddy and messy. Shoe bags are wise to use and take up no space. After taking them all over the country, it will make you feel better to have your shoes covered and not mixed in with your clothes. I found some cheap shoe bags at TJ Maxx, but there are plenty on Amazon.

I love this noisemaker; it is the perfect white noise machine that goes all night, providing great continuity across different hotel rooms, etc. It doesn’t take up too much space, and if you sleep with a white noise maker at home, this will comfort you as you travel around. This little thing works like a dream, and because sleep is so important to me, I give it a 10/10.

These are technically larger than a plastic bag that fits the TSA requirements, so know that you are living on the edge if you jam this full of liquids, but I never got stopped using mine because everything in my one bag with liquids was under the limit. I really liked seeing everything; I’ve had these for a long time, and they have held up really well. For the price and the quality, this is easily a 10/10.

These keep things organized and are super lightweight; you can never have too many, and they work much better than plastic bags that rip and tear. I like things you can see through when you’re traveling because it doesn't matter how well you have organized things; you still are always wondering where you put this or that thing, and clear and mesh bags/containers help you figure that out faster. The zipper isn't perfect, so 9/10.

I like all the products from this company, especially their deodorant, but their body wipes are the best when you’re traveling and get sweaty. Between running to catch a train or a bus, these are invaluable to have in your bag. They work great, and I wouldn’t travel without them. And if you need a new deodorant, I love their Lavender Sage Cream Stick.

This is the one that works in Switzerland, not the ones that say they work everywhere in Europe. Like most things in Switzerland, they have their own electrical plugs. Your Italian power adapter won't work in Switzerland, so plan accordingly. Just a little tip for your Swiss vacationers :-)

Haley and I both had these, but I lost mine right away because I got a black one that blended in with everything, so I’d recommend getting a white or pink one. You can quickly get 20% off for being a new customer. These take a while to get your phone recharged, but the main reason we liked them is that they are SUPER slim and take up virtually no space in your purse or bag. If you already have a small backup charger you want, I wouldn’t get a new one, but if you have an old-school brick, which I had, it might be time to upgrade.

What are the products, gear, clothes, etc, you can't travel without? I'd love to hear!

Happy Packing,


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