Monday, August 2, 2021

Packing light for plein air travel

We still have plenty of time to get ready for our next trip pleinair painting trip, which is next June to Brittany with Mathieu of Provence ArtExperience and Yves-Marie of Sennelier (and we still have 2 spaces left, if anyone else wants to join us!). But it’s never too early to start planning! I’m writing a series of posts about preparing and packing for our trip, and I’m starting off with this article about what to pack in your main suitcase.

Depending on which airline you use, you might be limited in the size, weight, and number of suitcases you can bring. Usually, you are allowed at least one medium size (25”) suitcase up to 50 pounds, and one carry on bag. More expensive flights might allow you more than that, but I have found that the medium suitcase plus a carry on is always enough for everything I need, including my art supplies. I use half of my suitcase for art equipment and supplies, and the other half for clothes and personal items. It still leaves me plenty of room to pack souvenirs later for the return trip. I always pack my portable luggage scale so I can make sure I don’t exceed the weight limit when I pack for my return flight home. Check with your airline (including the code-share flights!) to see which baggage limits will apply to you and your flights.


It helps to limit your wardrobe to separates that can be mixed and matched. Personally, I limit mine to just black and white items and I add color with a few scarves. Our lodgings always have a washing machine so there’s no need to pack a different outfit for each day of the trip. We always have plenty of shopping opportunities and you’ll want to save room for clothing and other items purchased while touring the village market stalls and charming boutiques. Pack comfortable shoes, but don’t worry – we won’t be hiking up mountains or running any marathons. Your normal, comfortable, everyday footwear will do just fine. However, stay away from anything with leather soles. The surfaces of the cobblestones of European streets are worn down as smooth as glass, making them slick as snot! Leather-soled shoes or sandals will send you flying (I learned this the hard way, and still have the scars to prove it).


In addition to your usual travel toiletries, pack a small bar of soap. Guest houses often do not supply them. For your toiletries (such as toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, moisturizer, etc.) bring small sample-sized products, or items that are almost empty. Plan on using them up and throwing them away before you come home. This allows you to have even more space in your suitcase to pack souvenirs on your return trip.

Electricity: adapters versus converters:

An adapter is something that goes on the end of a plug so it will fit in an outlet. A foreign voltage converter does that as well, but it also converts the current down from 220 to 110 volts. Your phone, laptop, tablet, and other rechargeable battery powered devices already have a type of voltage converter built into their charging cords – that’s the big boxy-looking thing on the cord or on the plug. In those cases, just adding an adapter will work just fine. However, other appliances without a built-in converter will overheat and quickly burn up if plugged in with just an adapter. I mean that literally – they will start a fire. In particular, hair dryers, curling irons, flat irons, etc. These need to use a converter. Converters cost quite a bit more than adapters, but may be necessary for some electrical devices you pack. Make sure you have what you need. If in doubt, err on the safe side and use a converter.


It rains. Bring an OLD umbrella; one that you can use while there but then leave it behind if you need to free up space in your suitcase for your return flight. It’s also sunny. Bring a hat or a plein air umbrella for shade when painting or sketching outside. If your plein air umbrella can double as your rain umbrella; all the better! There is always a beach or pool nearby, so pack a bathing suit if you want to go swimming.

Our tour guides always provide folding lawn chairs, so you don’t need to worry about having to pack folding stools in your suitcases. Although you will be expected to be able to carry your own gear, our daily excursions will never be too strenuous. I suggest packing a small backpack or tote bag for carrying your plein air gear to the daily painting locations. I use the same tote bag for my air travel carry-on as I do for my daily excursions.

Anyone have any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them, post them in the comments!

We’ll talk about art supplies next time!

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All images and content copyright Annie Strack 2021 Although I occasionally receive compensation for some posts, I always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own.