How to pack a Carry-on bag for 16 days

Traveling kind of sucks.  I'm talking about the getting-to-your-destination part, not the wow-look-at-that-old/cool/weird-thing part.  Especially air travel, with liquid limits, getting to the airport super early, being squished in a seat for hours and always ending up with a cold.  Seriously, I always end up with a cold.
To make air travel easier, I like to travel without checking bags.  It's easier to check in, you don't have to pay extra, and you don't have to wait by a carousel at the end when you just want to be done.  Also, it prevents me from over-packing. 
A lot of people were shocked when I announced I would be taking a 16 day trip to Europe with just a carry on.  I'll admit, I was a little worried as well.  I've used carry-ons for week long trips, but never for that long.  But we did it (Matt only took a carry on as well). 
Clothes-wise, I tried to keep everything to a common color scheme, and to bring a lot of dark neutrals (less likely to show dirt than lighter colors).  I also tried to limit patterns, so the clothes would match easier.  I also made sure that I had clothes that wore well.  I have some shirts that stretch out after wearing them for a day, so I left those at home.  I wore everything about 2x, but nothing really seemed dirty to me.  I took 7 pairs of underwear and washed them a couple of times throughout the trip.
Here's my packing list:
3 Tank Tops (dark gray, teal, pink) 
3 T-shirts (light gray, navy blue, gray/teal stripes)
2 Shorts (black, pink)
2 Skirts (blue pattern, gray)
1 Jeans
3 Dresses
2 Sweaters (gray, mint)
2 Scarves (pink, navy blue)
4 Shoes (flip flops, sandals, heels and chucks)
Face Wash/Lotion
Clarisonic (face scrubber)
Power Converters
Jewelry (4 necklaces)
Hair Straightener
Honestly, if I were packing again I would take generally the same things, but leave out 1 scarf (it was warm and I only used one as a beach/church coverup), and the sneakers (I was told to bring them for sites like Pompeii and Ephasus, but I ended up just wearing my flip flops).  I would also take more tank tops and less t-shirts because I'm more comfortable in tanks.  I was worried about getting into churches, but there were only 2 days where I needed church-dress, so it wasn't really a problem.
We did have to buy some things when we were over there (mainly sunscreen, since we couldn't fit that many travel sized ones, and I am really pale).  We were also able to supplement the shampoo and conditioner with what we got in the hotels, and we used hotel soap the whole time.  Not my favorite, but it was only for a couple of weeks. 
Overall it worked out really well!  We even had room to take souvenirs home, once we emptied out our toiletries.  I will definitely not be taking a checked bag anywhere in the foreseeable future!


Italy and Greece - Part 3

Day 11 – This morning we headed out early to try and get to the Acropolis before it got very crowded.  We were lucky because we actually did get there before a lot of other tour groups, it was very crowded at the entrance when we were leaving.  We had a guide who took us up the hill through the main gates, where we got a great chance to see the Parthenon up close and personal.  We walked around the Parthenon, and also got to see the Propylaia, Erechtheion, and Temple of Nike.

After we were finished at the Acropolis, we had a bus tour of other major sites in Athens.  We drove past the National Gardens of Athens, and we got to stop at the modern Olympic Stadium.  When the driving tour was over we headed over to the New Acropolis museum with a few other couples from the tour.  The museum was really interesting, and had a ton of artifacts from the Acropolis, and also had drawings and models of what everything used to look like.  The museum was also built on top of ruins, and the floors were made of glass, so you could see what was still buried beneath you. 

After we were finished in the museum we grabbed a quick lunch on our way to Ancient Agora.  We walked around the ruins and stopped by the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the only ancient ruins with the roof still in good shape.  At 2:45pm the workers started blowing whistles at everyone, so we left.  Most of the ruins and sites close at 3pm, and we were lucky we got to see so much before then.  We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Athens, shopping and petting the many dogs that were wandering the street. 


That night after dinner everyone from our tour group headed out to the Gazi area, where a lot of the Greek nightlife is, and went to a club.  Even though we got there at 11pm, we were still early, so we took over the dance floor early.  Apparently Greeks don’t dance, so even when the club was full we were still pretty much the only people on the dance floor.  It was fun, and we had our latest night there.  We didn’t get back to the hotel until around 3am, and that’s still early for Greeks!  The clubs don’t close until 7am!

Day 12 – This morning we said goodbye to our first tour manager, Laura, and most of our group, and joined our second group, and new tour manager Tony.  There were about 15 people from the first tour going on the 3 day cruise with us, and when we got on the coach we learned there were 2 other groups joining us.  I had been a little hesitant to do the cruise part, because I get seasick, but I figured it would just be for a few days. 

When we got on the cruise we had to wait a little while before our rooms were ready, so we hung out with the rest of the group in the lounge.  After lunch we were able to get into our rooms, and Matt and I meant to get changed and then head onto the deck to sit by the pool, but we both ended up falling asleep (because we were exhausted from the night before) and sleeping most of the way to Mykonos. 

We got to Mykonos around 5pm, and took a small boat to the island.  Our guide, Tony, gave us a quick tour of the island, including the famous windmills, and then we broke off from the group and went to get dinner.  Matt wasn’t hungry, so we just ordered some fries and a Greek salad for me.  I ate Greek salads pretty much every day we were in Greece, and they were all amazing.  After that we walked around and got a chance to shop and get lost in the cute winding streets.  I thought it was so adorable, with the white buildings and blue shutters.  I would love to go back and spend more time there.  We had to be back on the boat at 10:15pm, and the boat disembarked at 10:30.

Day 13 – We had a very early morning when we arrived in Kusadasi.  We had to be with our group by 7am, so that we could leave and take the tour of Ephasus.  Luckily there were enough people from the Contiki group doing our tour that we were able to have our own tour guide and coach.  We were one of the first coaches to get to Ephasus, which was lucky because it got crowded quickly.  The ruins were really amazing, and we were also able to see the terrace houses.  It was really cool to see how people used to live back then.

After Ephasus we went to a local Turkish carpet maker, where we got to see how carpets are made.  It was very interesting. 

After our tour it was time to get back on the boat.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to do any shopping at the bazaar, so Matt and I agreed that we would just have to go back to Turkey some day.  That afternoon we arrived in Patmos.  We got off the boat there and walked around, but there wasn’t much to see there so we just hung out on the beach with some other members of our tour.  It was a little chilly to swim, and I’m glad I didn’t because someone stepped on a sea urchin and that ended our swim time fairly quickly. 

That night we had a toga party with our group!

Day 14 – This morning we slept in a little bit, and barely made it to breakfast before it closed.  We were docked at Heraklion in Crete, and since we weren’t doing a tour we could walk off the boat whenever we wanted.  It was also Sunday morning, and there really wasn’t much going on in town.  We did a little bit of souvenir shopping in town, and we were able to stop at a Starbucks for a drink and free wifi access.  Around noon we were back on the cruise and heading towards Santorini. 

The approach to Santorini was very scenic.  It’s true name is Thira, and Santorini is actually the Christian name (for Saint Irene).   It’s a series of small islands which forms the caldera around 2 active volcanoes.  We got on a coach and they took us up a very steep road with a bunch of switchbacks, to the ridge that runs the length of the main island.  We first went to the town of Oia, which is where all the photos of Santorini are taken.

We had a few hours to look around the town and walk the windy narrow paths that lead through the town.  We also had a chance to shop, and stop to get some gelato.  The views were amazing, and it was incredible to be in such a beautiful place. 

After we were finished in Oia, the coach took us to Fira, where we were able to get some amazing sunset photos before boarding the funiculare back to the docks. 

Once we were back on the boat, we met up with the rest of our tour for dinner at the Cruise’s a la carte restaurant.  It was nice to be able to have one more night with everyone before we all split up the next day. 

Day 15 – This morning we departed the boat pretty early.  I wasn’t sad leaving our tiny cabin, but it was sad leaving the people we’d met on the trip.  We disembarked the cruise for the last time at 7am, and we took the coach back to Athens and were dropped off at 8am.  We headed to our hotel, and were pleasantly surprised to find they had a room available for us right away.  We got settled, and then headed out for our final day in Athens. 

We took the metro to the Archeological museum, but were disappointed to find it wasn’t open until 1pm.  We started walking back towards the Acropolis and the hotel area, doing some shopping along the way.  There are areas all over Athens where they just have roped off areas of ruins, and it was interesting to see these ancient ruins around a modern city. 

The rest of the day we spent relaxing, walking around the city and shopping for last minute souvenirs.  For dinner we ended up at the same place we ate on the first night in the city, because I was obsessed with their smoky eggplant salad, and Matt was obsessed with their fried cheese balls.  I had a delicious Greek salad, and it was the perfect last meal in Greece.  We got to sleep early that night because we had to be up at 3am for our flight the next morning.  We did get to spend one last night on the roof deck with a view of the acropolis at night.
Day 16 – This morning we woke up bright and early at 3am to make sure we caught our flight on time.  We headed to the airport at 4am, and luckily everything went smoothly and we were taking off from Athens at 6:30am. 

We had a layover in Switzerland, and we planned it so that we would have enough time to leave the airport and walk around Zurich in between flights.  Although it was a little confusing at first.  Our flight landed in Zurich around 9am local time, and at first we had a really hard time finding the lockers where we would leave our luggage.  Since we didn’t check any baggage, we had everything with us, and didn’t want to drag it around the city.  We finally found someone who told us where the lockers were, and with just a little bit more trouble trying to find the correct change, we were able to lock up our carry on bags, and got on a train heading to the city center of Zurich.

Matt and I spent a little while walking around the city and getting our bearings.  It’s not a very big city, and we walked to the lake that borders the south end of the city.  I love Switzerland because everything is really clean, and Zurich is no different.  Switzerland is the only European city I’ve been in where you can see the bottom of the river through the water.  Every other city has murky water.  Even though it was a little chilly and wet (it was misting most of the time we were there) it was still a nice place to stop.  We also went to the Swiss Museum, which had some interesting history about Switzerland.  And of course we ate Swiss chocolate!

Our next flight was at 5:30pm, so we made sure to get to the airport early.  We had to go through security again since we had taken our bags through customs.  After another long flight, train ride, and car ride, we were back at home, with our dogs waiting for us. 


Italy and Greece - Part 2

Day 6 – Today we left Rome and headed to Sorrento.  We stopped along the way at an outlet mall for lunch, and then found out that our hotel in Sorrento wouldn’t be ready when we got there, since another large group had just left.  Our bus driver, Alessandro, came to the rescue, and took us on an impromptu trip to Naples.  He lives in and grew up in Naples, so he was the perfect guide.  Laura translated for him while he drove us to the main piazza in town.  We grabbed a quick pizza lunch before he continued the bus tour around the bay, stopping at some gorgeous spots for photos. 


After Naples, we headed to Sorrento where our room was finally ready.  Matt and I were lucky, because we got a room facing the ocean, with a big balcony.  The hotel had it’s own beach, and everyone headed out to the warm Mediterranean sea for a swim before dinner.  For dinner we had pizza again!  It was so good.  Unfortunately the salads in Italy were not to my taste.  They were all slathered with salt and olive oil, where I prefer just a drop of olive oil and a lot of vinegar.  So I ate mainly carbs while in Italy. 

After dinner we walked around downtown Sorrento.  We had a limoncello tasting, which I enjoyed and Matt did not.  After that we got some gelato and did some shopping.  Matt bought me a pretty red coral necklace.  We also went to a Dali museum, and saw some of the interesting paintings he did.  That night we relaxed on the beach for a while with the rest of the group.

Day 7 – This was our day to go to Capri.  We were up nice and early to catch the 9am ferry to Capri.  When we got there, we had a boat ride around the island.  Unfortunately the waves were too high to go around the island completely, but we went about halfway around.  We stopped by the white grotto and took a swim break.  The water was so nice and crystal clear.  We stopped again after that to swim, but it had gotten cloudy and was a little chilly. 

Back in the city of Capri we got lunch and then headed up the funiculare (cable car) to the upper part of Capri.  We walked around where the shops were for a little while, but it was so crowded that we turned off the main path and started walking around the residential paths (can’t really call the streets, they were so narrow!) .  We got some incredible views that way, and were able to enjoy the scenery without hundreds of other people. 

We met back up with the group to get back on the ferry to Sorrento later in the afternoon, and once again had a couple hours to swim and relax at our hotel beach before getting ready for the night.  That night we went to dinner a beautiful restaurant at the top of a hill, overlooking the bay of Naples.  We got there right before sunset and had a great view.  Again, the food was great and I left stuffed!

That night we went to a karaoke bar with the rest of the group.  It was fun to get to go out and dance and get to know the people in the group better.

Day 8 – This was another early morning.  We got on the coach at 8am to head off to Positano and Amalfi.  The bus ride was kind of terrifying.  The roads are pretty narrow and winding and on the edge of a cliff.  We got dropped off at the top of Positano, and we walked down literally hundreds of stairs to get to the bottom.  I consider myself to be in fairly good shape, and my legs were shaking a little when we got to the bottom.  We did get a break when we took the ferry.  It was amazing to be able to see the coast from the boat.

After the half hour ferry ride, we got to Amalfi and we had the rest of the afternoon to look around.  First we decided to check out Amalfi Cathedral, located in the central square.  The inside was very interesting, because it had been added to several times throughout the centuries, and every time was in a different style, so it was kind of like walking through 4 churches at once. 

After the cathedral, we stopped for lunch, where I had a salad and Matt got some pizza.  After lunch we walked around the town and even saw a miniature version of Amalfi.  We stopped by the beach, and sat on some rocks near the water for a while, soaking in the sun.  After our time in Amalfi, we headed back to Sorrento, stopping at a cheese making shop along the way.  We got to see a demonstration of mozzarella cheese being made, and then got to sample some. 

Mini-Amalfi model.

When we got back to the hotel we had one last chance to swim on the beautiful beach by our hotel.  A bunch of people from our tour went swimming, and we made up a type of dodgeball game, and played that for a while.  That night we ate at our hotel, which had delicious food.  The hotel had actually been a restaurant first, and then they built the hotel around it. 

Sunset as seen from our hotel balcony over Capri.

Day 9 – This morning we checked out of our hotel in Sorrento.  On our way out, we stopped at Pompeii, which was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Our tour guide took us through the city, and I thought it was fascinating how well engineered everything was.  Since the ground was rock, they couldn’t dig sewers like they did in most Roman cities, so they threw their waste in the street.  Instead of having everyone walk through it, the streets were set about a foot lower than the sidewalks.  Also, they had pedestrian crossings which were raised rocks so people never had to walk in the street.  The pedestrian crossings were also spaced based on the width of a chariot, and you could still see some of the chariot marks in the stone. 

Pink Floyd played here!

There were also public water fountains on some of the corners, which provided water constantly, and the water that wasn’t used would spill into the streets and clear away the waste.   We also got to see ancient artifacts, stores where people sold food, a bath house and the amphitheater.  To me, the Pompeii tour was the perfect way to spend my last morning in Italy. 

The rest of the day was a travel day.  We drove across the country from the west side to Bari on the east side.  Then we caught a ferry to Greece.  Our tour manager warned us that she wasn’t sure if we would have a Italian or Greek ferry, but we were lucky because we got the Greek ferry (it supposedly has better food and facilities).  She also wasn’t sure if we would be able to get cabins, or if we would have to sleep in the airplane style seats they offered, but we were lucky again and were able to stay in cabins.  Matt and I stayed with another couple, but we were just happy to have a cabin.  

Day 10 – This morning we woke up and could see the coast of Greece!  We ate breakfast on the boat, and then hung out with the rest of our tour group until we arrived in Greece around 1pm.  We boarded another coach, and headed to Athens, stopping on the way at the Corinth canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Aegean Sea. 

We arrived at our hotel in Athens around 5pm, and had a couple of hours to settle in and get ready before our first dinner in Greece.  We walked to dinner, through the shopping area of Plaka, and had a delicious Greek dinner.  We had Greek salad, fried cheese, smoky eggplant salad, grape leaves, and yummy grilled vegetables.  After dinner we bought some drinks with some other people from our tour, and drank them on the roof of our hotel, which had a great view overlooking the Acropolis.