Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Packing Tutorial - Europe for 3 1/2 weeks with only a Carry-on

This was my first experience backpacking. The first time I went to Europe (in 2008) we just stayed in one place so I took a normal suitcase. This time it was important to travel light, so I searched online (thanks, Pinterest) for some packing tutorials. I didn't really follow just one, but found a combination of them helpful, so I thought I'd throw mine into the mix and make a blog post sharing how I packed for this trip, in the hopes of helping somebody else out.

Luggage: We took backpacks that convert into rolly-suitcases. So, while in airports I rolled it because everyone has rolly suitcases in airports so I wasn't in anybody's way but pretty much everywhere else (train stations, walking from train stations to hostels etc.) I wore it. It was about 20 lbs.

We got these suitcases from Stephen's parents who had them from when they went to Europe in 2006.
This was my first experience backpacking and I found having this little backpack much more convenient than a rolly-suitcase, and much nicer than I imagine one of those huge backpacks are..we could stow ours in carryon on planes and trains, which was awesome.

I also took this bag for a day bag for all our touring around. Both of these bags are Samsonite brand and they hold A LOT. The pictures don't really do them justice.

I took:

- 6 pairs of underwear
- 2 bras and 2 bralets
- 3 little spandex tank tops that rolled down really small and were pretty versatile
- 3 baggier tank tops 
- 3 t-shirts (I didn't take the burgundy one)
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 skirts
- 2 cardigans - a thicker, warm one, and a lighter one for a cover-up
- 1 swimsuit for our beach days
- one pair of jeans (which I really only wore on airplane days because it was super hot all month)
- my Columbia rain jacket
- a comfy t-shirt and pair of shorts for pajamas (I wore the shorts on a couple of travel days)
- 2 pairs of shoes: one pair for walking, which I bought specifically for the trip. They are Merrell brand and designed to be worn barefoot or with very light socks. They were really comfy and I didn't have any blisters or sore feet all month. The $2 flip flops were just shower shoes/beach shoes
- 2 hats that I honestly didn't wear very often and 1 pair of sunglasses that broke and needed to be replaced. I didn't take the 2 scarves pictured. I took them out at the last minute to leave extra room which was a good call because I bought 2 scarves in Paris.

I fit all these clothes into my backpack. I didn't get too bored of my clothes as I was able to vary the combos for outfits. In hindsight, I probably would have ditched one of the bigger tank tops and maybe swapped one of the skirts for a dress. I had a dress packed but took it out before leaving because I figured I'd rather use the space on another shirt and skirt so I could have more combos.

Because we only took carry-on everything had to be under 100 mL and go into ziploc baggies.
I took: shampoo 2 in 1, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodoraant, razor and shave gel, airplane friendly nail clippers, q tips, tweezers, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, persagel, and a comb.

we took microfiber towels because they get really small and are super absorbent.

I also had chapstick, 2 inhalers, allergy medicine, tylenol...maybe some other stuff I'm forgetting. and I fit it all into this toiletry bag.

You can see how big it was but it wasn't entirely full and squished down a bit in my bag.
I didn't take any make-up because I don't wear any most days and I would have sweated it off if I'd tried.
I bought some mousse for my frizzy hair while I was overseas (because I couldn't find a travel-size one in Canada)
We ended up buying shampoo and conditioner, too, but pretty much all the other travel-sized toiletries lasted us the whole trip, surprisingly.

I really only have 3 things in this category but they were all pretty important.

1. My camera. My camera is a Canon Powershot SX120IS. I love it because it is light and compact, it doesn't look fancy so it wasn't a target for thieves, but it has 10x optical zoom and lots of different settings and I think it takes really good pictures. It runs on 2 AA batteries and I have always used rechargeable ones. The ones I had were a bit old and didn't hold their charge well so before we left I bought a new Energizer charger (charges 4 AAs in 5 hrs). It came with 4 batteries and I bought an extra 4. Total for charger and extra batteries was like $25 and I always had at least 4 extra batteries ready to go so I never had to worry about running out of batteries and not being able to take pictures. I also bought a 32 GB SD card before we went. I took about 1200 photos while away and it didn't fill up. I'm not sure how many more I could take.

2. My travel journals. We didn't have a lot of money or extra space for souvenirs so these were really important to me. I always keep a journal any time I travel. I bought these two little notebooks at Chapters for $3 each. They were perfect because they were small, but sturdy enough that they wouldn't bend and I could use the book itself as a surface to write on if I didn't have a table. I filled the first one and had about 20 pages left in the second.

3. My kobo. I loaded it up with ebooks before leaving and it was great because Stephen and I both used it on the trip and I read multiple books but it took up so little space.

We had two chargers for our phones/the kobo, one iPod charger, a charger for Stephen's gameboy, my battery charger, and 2 outlet adapters.

I fit all the chargers into a pencil case so we'd have them all in one place. The adapters had their own little bag. The pen is just there so you can see the size. The pencil case travelled in my day bag along with my kobo and journals and all the postcards and souvenirs we picked up along the way. 

Final Advice:
I did take a photo of my suitcase packed but it was before it was the final packing, so it's not accurate. My advice is roll all your clothes, and have designated spots for things so everything is easy to find. Figure out a system before you go so you don't have to figure it out while you're gone. And pack clothes that you won't mind leaving behind because depending on how long you are gone, anything could happen. You could lose or gain weight, your clothes could get so sweaty or dirty you don't want to bother anymore, they could get wrecked by an unfamiliar laundry machine, or (and this is the most probable reason you'd leave stuff behind) you might want to ditch the old for the new - be it replacement clothes, or souvenirs or something else you want to take back with you. 

I hope this was helpful. Sorry it was so long.

Check out my Europe Trip Travel blogs:


  1. Fantastic post, I am leaving on a month long trip to Canada from Eu and this was very helpful thanks!