What to pack for a three-week summer trip, city and country

IMG_20150705_101438935By Caitlin Kelly

First admission — we brought with us an empty duffel bag to contain our purchases, which cost us an additional 70 euros overweight charges (about $85.)

But my suitcase came in five kilos below the weight limit on our way to Ireland for three weeks’ holiday while Jose’s came in .7 kilos over, thanks to a lot of heavy camera equipment. (He is a professional photographer, after all.)

When I travel, and knowing everyone has their own style, I prefer to dress well when in European cities, (and all cities, really.)

I hate “looking like a tourist”  — I saw many women my age wearing T-shirts, thick-soled running shoes and hiking clothing in a stylish urban place. Because I work alone at home in sloppy casual clothing anyway, travel offers me a nice chance to dress up. So, when in town in Dublin, I wore skirts or dresses and flat shoes. I didn’t pack a rain jacket (I find them clammy) and knew I could buy one there if I needed it — we enjoyed the driest Dublin June in 40 years!

I also would come back to our hotel sweaty and tired after a day’s exploring, so always wanted to change into fresh, clean clothing for dinner.

Jose typically wore dress shirts and khakis or nice jeans, with a great pair of Vans denim sneakers or, in the country, hiking boots. He also brought a lightweight navy blue blazer for dinners out and brought two ties.

In the country, I wore yoga pants and long-sleeved T-shirts and sneakers.

Before we left, I scored some great clothing at the Canadian store Aritizia, whose clothes are affordable, stylish, simple, comfortable and washable, perfect for travel.

I brought:

three dresses (here’s one of them, although mine is a deep burgundy, which I had shipped to NY from their Chicago store)

two skirts

five cotton long-sleeved T-shirts (could have done with three)

Fleece came in handy when playing golf in 19 mph winds (yes, I checked!)
Fleece came in handy when playing golf in 19 mph winds (yes, I checked!)

a warm fleece (Patagonia)

one short-sleeved cotton T (for working out or hiking)

one dressy black T shirt

one black duster (long jacket)

one pair of flat sandals, one pair of light mesh sneakers (Merrells), two pair of black leather flats

bathing suit (unused!)

cotton nightgown

a small portable umbrella

a pair of leggings (worn for hiking, relaxing, golf)

two pair of yoga pants (dark gray, dark brown), worn as trousers

three light sweaters, (one cardigan would have been enough)

two purses, one dressy, one casual

two necklaces and other jewelry

five scarves (very well used!)

Also useful?

Binoculars, a headlamp (for reading in bed) and a very tiny pocketknife (which cut a lemon into slices for our in-room end-of-day gin & tonics!) I also brought a small sketchbook, pocket-sized watercolor kit, colored pencils, several brushes and a pencil.

Depending on your budget and sense of style, I love almost everything from this American, woman-owned company, Title Nine (nope, I get nothing for saying so), from great sports bras to bathing suits to sneakers to casual/comfortable/stylish skirts and dresses perfect for summer travel.

(For non-Americans, the company name is familiar to and beloved by all athletic women, named for a piece of 1972 federal legislation that decreed equal opportunity and funding for female athletes in U.S. educational institutions receiving federal funds.)

If you’re planning a winter vacation of any length, here’s my post from Paris last winter, detailing what I took for a month in Paris and London, and which worked perfectly in frigid temperatures in two of the world’s most stylish cities.

A little retail therapy
A little retail therapy

So…what came back with us in that duffel bag?

Because I’m a voracious reader, some unread Irish and UK newspapers and magazines, (lots of story ideas in there!), guidebooks, maps.

In Dublin, on sale, Jose scored two gorgeous blazers and two shirts; in Ardara, a thick wool turtleneck sweater. We bought two copies of a book illustrated by artist Pete Hogan — whose watercolor work we admired hanging from the fence around Merrion Square one afternoon. We had a great conversation with him and he allowed me to photograph his paintbox.


I bought little in Ireland, which is unusual for me (and I did hit the sales!): a pair of olive suede sneakers, (84 euros, made in Portugal), several books, five antique forks and an antique Indian bag and a purple wool sweater for a fat five euros at the flea market.

I also bought, (yes, weirdly), a pile of great/affordable lingerie at Brown Thomas, Dublin’s poshest department store and at Marks & Spencer. Much nicer quality and lower prices than here in New York!

Soooo comfortable! They're called Softinos
Soooo comfortable! They’re called Softinos

This was a journey documented with many photos, some of which you’ve seen here, and memories and new and renewed friendships. Ireland has many very beautiful objects for sale — from wool scarves, hats, sweaters and throws to ceramics, glass and porcelain.

Maybe next time.

Do you travel in style?

Any tips?

16 thoughts on “What to pack for a three-week summer trip, city and country

    1. While in Ireland we read the Guardian and Irish Times every day; I love the weekend FT which we read at home in NY as well. I treated myself to a copy of British Vogue and read the in-flight Aer Lingus mag carefully as I’d like to pitch them some stories.

      I didn’t buy many magazines — as our house is (literally) full of foot-high piles of unread magazines at home — vacation means NOT reading! 🙂 I did also bring home 3 new books.

      1. Ah, new books are always a treat. 🙂 I’ve just started reading the new novel, The Dust that Falls from Dreams, by Louis de Bernières.

        I enjoy Vanity Fair and I usually buy the British version, although the US edition is available here too. I’ve cut back on magazines though — I used to subscribe to VF but I’m trying to save money wherever I can.

      2. I sometimes make an afternoon in the library catching up on magazines….but my favorites, always, are French and British interior design magazines. Love their style.

  1. yes, it depends where i’m going and what i anticipate may happen. looks like you planned it out very well and took what you felt comfortable in and what made you feel good. when i travel back and forth to australia, i bring a bag filled with things to bring the family and refilled with things to bring home. works well on both sides. my favorite thing that you brought were the scarves. they can make all the difference in the world –

    1. Scarves are my style signifier — I always travel with four or five them; two of them are crinkled silk (hot pink, deep brown) from Banana Republic more than a decade ago. They’re dressy enough for evening, big enough to work as a shawl. Being able to wash two of my dresses (and other garments) really helped.

      What do you bring back from Oz????

      1. Yes, they are so versatile and change change the whole look and feel of most any outfit. When coming back from oz, I usually bring pieces of local or aboriginal art, candy not available in the states, books, wine and shells. A bit of everything )

      2. That is a bit of everything!

        I was tempted to buy ALL the chocolate — but know I can stock up on proper British chocolate/candy when up in Canada several times a year.

  2. Love Title Nine! Just returned from a jaunt to Charleston, S.C. where I was glad to have brought mainly skirts and dresses. The issue is comfortable but stylish walking shoes. Will admit to tennis shoes a couple of days. Only way to save my feet!

  3. Slippers. For me, the most important items to pack are slippers, comfy pyjamas (or a light nylon nightgown in summer), my own facecloth and towel, my own soap, moisturizing lotion and my headband so I can put up my hair when I get back to my lodgings and wash my face. Then I put on my pyjamas. I walk 6 to 7 hours a day and usually get back to my lodgings exhausted. Other small important items on my travel list are a corkscrew and bottle opener, small pair of scissors, nail clippers, anti-bacterial wipes, earplugs and a sleep mask. Oh, and soothing foot cream for tired feet. And of course at least one good book. I’m currently reading Station Eleven by Canadian author, Emily St. John Mandel.

    1. Interesting! I do bring a nightie and lots of lotion; we sometimes bring a bottle-opener/corkscrew.

      I’ve heard v good things about that book! I’m reading a new Tana French thriller…:-)

  4. Totally agree with wanting to blend in while travelling and not walking around with my appearance screaming ‘tourist – please come over and try to scam me’. I’ve never understood why a day walking around a foreign city warrants the equivalent of professional grade hiking attire, when at home you’d just wear everyday clothes. Scarves, as you’ve already mentioned, are my go to – easiest way to dress up jeans and a plain top for going out at night.

    1. Thanks for weighing in…I don’t worry so much about getting scammed but I just hate the way people treat a major, stylish city as if it were a long sweaty hike. (which it can be…)

      Scarves are the best! For my husband, a simple, classic navy blazer and a stylish pair of shoes.

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