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What I pack for one week of travel

As Nina said a few days ago, we’re currently headed to Tuscany for a writer’s retreat. My agent-friend extraordinaire, Jenni Burke, has taken it upon herself to lead groups of writers and artists through one of my top three favorite places in the whole world.

Who am I to not partake in this awesome call on her life?

In all seriousness, though, Tuscany (and all of Italy, really) has played an important part of my life this past decade, and has been a place of healing for me. I write about its significance in my forthcoming book, which I’m so eager to share with you all.

These rolling hills, the scent of jasmine wafting through the air, the way the people cultivate the land and embrace slowness as an art form—it is a balm to me. If we could afford it, we would live here.

(Who knows, maybe we will one day.)

In the meantime, I’m enormously gratified to visit it. And after several forays to this magical place, I’ve learned how to pack for it. Nina’s priorities mimic mine to a T, and so, I thought I’d share the practicals of what I take with me when I travel to a place like Europe for a week.

I have a standard packing list and typically stick to this. The main difference with a place like Tuscany, however, is style. There’s a reason Italians are known for their ability to look put together at all times—because it’s true—and I like to blend in when I travel.

Packing items that all work together does the trick, plus a few must-have sundries (thanks for everyone’s help here) and some basic gadgets.

Here’s what I’m taking in my carry-on:

1. Clothes & Accessories

(I mentioned recently my realization that black is not my color. Navy is my best neutral, and while I’m no longer actively buying black clothes, I’m not just going to toss out what I already own. So, there’s black here. Most of it is on my bottom half, so, farther away from my face….)


1 – scarf (similar) | 2 – travel yoga skirt | 3 – ankle-cut jeans (similar) | 4 – travel cropped yoga pants | 5 – lightweight cotton sweater (J.Crew*) | 6 – striped tank (Gap*) | 7 – black tank | 8 – white eyelet tee (LOFT, currently unavailable) | 9 – turquoise tee | 10 – 3/4 sleeve striped shirt (Lands End*) | 11 – mustard yellow cardigan (ModCloth, currently unavailable) | 12 – aqua cocoon cardigan (Merona*) | 13 – dress (Madewell*) | 14 – hat (similar) | not pictured: underwear and pajamas (simple tank and shorts)

*Until these brands show an effort to move away from fast fashion, I like to buy these items second-hand as much as possible. My favorite online spot is ThredUp.



I like keeping it simple with jewelry—one Noonday necklace and another vintage one from my mom.  I’ve been living in Saltwater Sandals this summer, so I’m going to bring both my red pair and black (and forego my Tieks this time) and my Chucks.

2. Sundries

Carrying on means being careful with the size of my products (there are a few exceptions), but if I’m only gone for 1-2 weeks, I don’t really want full-size bottles anyway.


bobby pins and a barrette | 1 – eyedrops | 2 – lanonin (my favorite lipgloss/chapstick) | 3 – Moroccan Argan oil | 4 – deodorant | 5 – facial wipes | 6 – razor | 7 – melatonin (my choice for powering through jetlag) | 8 – Diva Cup | 9 – travel toothbrush | 10 – toothpaste | 11 – coconut oil in a GoToob (I love these) | 12 – Morrocco Method’s Earth Essence shampoo | 13 – Morrocco Method’s Volcanic Powder dry shampoo | 14 – castile soap | 15 – hair bands | 16 – elastic headband


I love using a Tom Bihn halcyon packing cube as my dopp kit. I also toss my bit of makeup in one of these. (I might write a post about my current favorite makeup, because at almost forty, I think I’ve finally found stuff I like.)

I grab travel-sized products and don’t sweat it. If I need something else, I can always buy it at my destination (there’s toothpaste in Italy).

Recently in a podcast I mentioned that I don’t do my usual baking soda hair routine when I travel. For whatever reason, it’s easier for me to just pack shampoo and not sweat the loose parts I typically use at home.

I packed Morrocco Method’s Earth Essence Shampoo that came in my trial travel set of their five shampoos. It works the best on my hair (mostly normal, a twinge on the oily side) from their collection.


All their shampoos are 100% natural, so the lack of colorants or foaming agents can throw off a new user, but that’s actually one of my favorite perks.

I also packed my favorite product of theirs—Volcanic Powder Dry Shampoo. Made of stuff like bentonite clay, aloe vera powder, prickly pear powder, arrowroot, charcoal, and cardamom, I’ve never used a dry shampoo that woks as well.

dry shampoo

These combined ingredients deliver essential vitamins and anti-oxidants to seal in my hair’s moisture and balance pH levels, which keeps it healthy.

Morrocco Method products contain only beneficial ingredients—no fillers. I didn’t even know this was possible, but their entire collection is gluten-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, cruelty-free and paleo-friendly. Total win.

3. Gadgets

I don’t plan to work much on this trip, but the right surroundings inspire me—and Tuscany is the right place. I prefer the journaling type of writing on a trip like this, but I also hate it when I want my laptop and don’t have it.


So, I’m bringing my laptop. I’m also bringing my Kindle Paperwhite (of course), my non-fancy iPhone 5 (it works perfectly overseas with T-Mobile; Verizon – not so much), simple earbuds, corralling my cords with Tom Bihn’s travel tray, and I’m bringing my Sony a6000, a compact DSLR.


It’s a great mid-size camera—a grade up from a point-and-shoot, but not a full-scale DSLR with all the bells and whistles. We had this camera on our round-the-world trip.

4. Everything Else

My journal, a pen…. and that’s about it. I’m putting this book on my Kindle. It’s been on my to-read list forever, and I love reading books set wherever I am.

What else would you recommend I read in Tuscany? And what are your go-to must haves when you travel for a week?

p.s. Follow the Instagram feed of Tuscany Writer’s Retreat—I’ll save you a cup of grapefruit gelato (my personal favorite).

This essay is written by me in partnership with Morrocco Method, makers of handcrafted hair care products specially formulated to detoxify and nourish the hair and scalp. The opinions and text are all mine.

A few affiliate links are used here, which means at no extra cost to you, making a purchase by clicking these links helps support this site. Thanks!


Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Elizabeth

    Perfect timing, Tsh. I have a laundry question for you seasoned travelers.

    We have a large family and to keep things simple while traveling we limit each person to one backpack. I generally only bring one extra pair of jeans and two extra shirts. We tend to stay at Marriott hotels, or similar, and do laundry every other day while we eat breakfast.

    My husband and I have a vacation planned in a few months with our two oldest boys. We’re taking our first European trip together! We still definitely want to travel light, maybe even lighter than usual so we’re super mobile.

    So here’s my question: do hotels in Europe generally have a laundry room for hotel guests like we have stateside? If not, does anyone have any suggestions for how we can launder our clothing without breaking the bank or inconveniencing ourselves considerably? I’d really hate to have to pack a week’s worth of clothes that we’d have to lug around from place to place.


  2. Smithereens

    I was curious to pore over Tsh’s list because I had a one week girls’ trip lately and I wanted to fit everything in a carry-all too. I’d say 2 pairs of sandals seem a bit too much, and if it’s a writers’ retreat with indoor sessions, one might want to pack indoor slippers or comfy ballerina shoes. Also, if you can wash some stuff there you don’t need as much.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I went on this trip two years ago, and despite its name, we do a looooot of outside stuff. There aren’t indoor “sessions,” really, other than chatting with each other. 😉

  3. Betsy

    Tsh, I have a question. I recently returned from my first trip to Italy. I read your blog all the time and was aware of packing with mix and match so fewer items were needed. I also read several travel articles that mentioned how to not dress like a tourist. I have to say that I noticed a major difference in the way people dressed in Milan ( fashion capital of the world ). The woman looked simple in dress but gorgeous as did the men. It was obvious that their clothing was high end. However when we went to Venice, Sienna and Florence I didn’t much in the way of big fashion. People seemed to be dressed as we do here in the states. It seems to contradict all the articles I’ve read.

  4. Denita

    Can you remind us what you use for laundry detergent in your scrubba? I am going on a two- week cruise where there are no do-it-yourself laundry facilities and they charge by the ITEM. Just bought a scrubba and have been meaning to figure out the best detergent. Hoping to pack light and do a little laundry every night or two. Thanks!

  5. Lori

    This was interesting! Hope you have an amazing trip Tsh ❤️

  6. Kathleen

    Great post! I rarely get to travel but it is still fun to think about packing for a trip like this someday. 🙂 I’m excited to try the dry shampoo. I tried some a while back but it was the aerosol kind which I didn’t feel good about. This stuff sounds great and much better for the environment. Have a wonderful trip!

  7. monique zing

    Awesome post!i am heading to St Martin this Monday with my husband and 3 kids.This post reminds me of how light i need to pack in order to make my trip fun a little easy.I love you TSH and thanks for all that you do!


  8. Courtney

    The kindle book link is someone’s flickr page? I’m confused.
    Sounds like an amazing trip though! I’d love to see Tuscany someday.

  9. Niha

    I love bringing my comfiest flipflops. Anytime I travel I tend to walk a lot, and at the end of the day when my feet need a break from shoes, my flipflops have healing powers. Lightweight and slim for easy packing 😉

  10. Hazel

    I’d have to re-read ‘A Room with a View ‘ if I was going to Tuscany again. And maybe watch the film again before I go…

  11. kjo


  12. Henry Wiygul

    So awesome to see that you have the a6000, too! I absolutely love mine, and it takes some incredible pictures. My go to camera at any time.

  13. Carrie

    Under the Tuscan Sun. Maybe a bit on the nose, but makes you want to be IN Tuscany. Very different than the movie based on the memoir. Describes food, land, weather, driving, and lives the fantasy of buying and restoring a countryside villa.

  14. Devi

    Another vote for Under the Tuscan Sun, such a beautiful read and it helped me settle right into Tuscan life when I was there.

  15. Carol White

    Tsh, I hope you have a wonderful trip! One question; what is ‘fashion’? Thanks!

  16. emanuela

    Welcome to Italy!
    I have a reading suggestion for you, which does not refer to Tuscany but more to southern Italy.
    ‘My brilliant friend’ by Elena Ferrante. It’s the first book of a series of four.

    It’s really nice to read you are so enthusiastic about Italy and italians.. while we (italians) are somehow always venting about lots of things that do not work in our beautiful country. 🙂

    I wish you a great time in Italy!!

    Emanuela from Modena (Italy)

  17. Anna

    I would LOVE to go to Italy sometime. We do a fair amount of traveling, and we’ve managed to work in some really long layovers. I’m hoping we can do that with Italy, probably Rome is what the kids would enjoy the most.
    For using the packing space best, I try to wear my heaviest clothes on the plane, but they have to be comfortable (and if they aren’t- why take them at all!) I go back and forth between wearing my heaviest shoes or something like ballet flats that are easy to slip on and off going through security or getting comfy on the plane.
    My must haves for on the plane: light layers of clothing (because the temperature can be REALLY cold or hot), eye drops, lotions and moisturizer, face wipes, and snacks and drinks. I will give up space for other things, because I’ve learned that these make me more comfortable when flying. I get really dehydrated, and something about washing my face, even with a wipe makes me feel better- more rested, more put together. I also feel better if I drink as much as possible and snack along the way to keep a little something in my stomach. I tend to have severe motion sickness, but I don’t let it keep me from traveling.
    When I travel with my family, most of our “personal item” for carrying on the plane goes to electronics. All the digital things make it so much easier to travel. I load up my Kindle with books, and my iPod with podcasts, audiobooks and music. Our other carry-on item has mostly clothes and *sundries*, toys in the kids and make-up and accessories in mine. Anything you really don’t want to lose is in your carry-on. If it’s a shorter trip, everything but sunscreen and razors tend to go in the carry-ons.
    One thing that I’ve noticed is that outside the US, many people dress up more, but repeat clothes more. If I have a couple of good bottom pieces, I can vary my tops some. I find that even if I have quite a few choices, I tend to gravitate to one pair of jeans, pants or skirt. I like to have some different accessories- scarves & jewelry to keep me from getting bored. That’s also the kind of things I buy for souvenirs, because then I can remember the trip each time I wear the accessory.

  18. Tara

    I really appreciated Verdi’s quote. Thanks! We are from Austria and it’s an easy to get to Italy just next door. Some of the closest parts however, are Lignano, Caorle and even the Lido off of Venice we find just tacky and plain terrible…. So thank you for reminding me of Italy’s gems! Actually, I would say we live in a Tuscany-style part of Austria, though we have more orchards and veg than lavender. 🙂

    I love your style…. Sigh, too bad I can’t do thredup here.

  19. Tara

    Another thought: feminine tops are almost almost tight fit around my armpits… Um, where I tend to sweat easily and pretty soon they can begin to get smelly… WThis is NOT what I want when I would like to buy fair wear, even marked down. It has its price. On Pinterest I saw the hint to soak the clothing in vinegar water before washing. Any other advice?

  20. Tammie

    I thought I was weird for carrying around a tube or a small bottle of virgin coconut oil, especially on my travels. I am very glad to know some people love it, too. Ever since I read an article from about coconut oil for skin care, I got hooked. I started bringing a small bottle in my bag. And the best thing about it is that, it works! Coconut oil absorbs easily and leaves the skin feeling renewed, rejuvenated and soft. I am using it regularly and my skin is glowing. Use it on dry, cracked heels, dark elbows and even on wrinkles.

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