When we first started planning for Europe a year ago, the thought of truly backpacking never crossed my mind. I’m not ashamed to say I love my clothes and toiletries. Eric would tell you I could help stock Sephora if they ever ran out of beauty products! Alas, sense washed over me and I started having flashbacks to the first time I went to Europe. Just imagine this little 16 year old with a suitcase the size of her own body trudging through the streets of Rome. It’s a hilarious picture, but one I don’t wish to relive.
Now with 2 weeks before our trip, we are mentally and physically prepared for this light journey ahead of us. I’m a bit nervous only bringing a few outfits to hold me over for 3 weeks, but I know once we’re there I will be so thankful to only have the bare necessities.
So, what have I learned through my planning? What am I bringing? Here we go!
Process of elimination. First, I packed how I normally would for a vacation. I
piled neatly laid out all of my outfits on the floor. Then I went all type A and wrote out on a large notepad each day of our trip complete with what city we would be in, what activities we would be doing, and if we would be traveling to another location. I looked at all of my outfits and picked what I probably would wear for each day/activity. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but this truly helped me to realize what I actually needed versus what I just wanted to bring.
…What about toiletries?
I already decided a while ago that I was going to make a beeline to une pharmacie as soon as we got to Paris. I knew it would be impossible to bring enough toiletries in our carry on’s to sustain me for 3 weeks. So this part was much simpler. I packed my toiletries like I was going away for a long weekend. I saved up a bunch of samples and sample containers. I put everything I needed from bigger containers in the sample pots and only packed the absolute necessities (for me). My face masks and exfoliation will have to wait until I return *sigh*. Here’s what’s in my toiletry bag:
- Face wash* (This is my favorite. It gets ALL the makeup off)
- Moisturizer* (If you have combination skin, this is the best moisturizer)
- Body lotion*
- Travel eyelash curler
- Travel makeup brushes: I have this one & and this one
- Travel hair brush
- Travel blow drier (make sure to get one with dual voltage like this one!)
Sounds like a lot, right? Well, not really. Everything is super small. I can fit all the liquid items (*) in a quart sized ziplock and the rest fit in 2 small makeup pouches. My hair drier fit inside one of my tennis shoes at the bottom of my bag.
How did you pack for the weather?
This was tough because September is such an iffy month. I checked to see what the average temperatures were like in each city we were going to. The highs range from low 60’s to mid 90’s and the lows range from 30’s – 70’s. I know, how do you pack for that?! Layers, my friend. I have this awesome packable jacket from LL Bean that folds down to nothing, but when expanded is so warm and has a hood! Luckily, most of the places we’re going to will be warm except for the occasional cool evening. Brussels and Switzerland will be the 2 wild cards. However, I’m prepared. Jeans or leggings, tennis shoes, long sleeve shirt, jacket. BOOM!
So how much are you really bringing?
- 6 dresses
- 4 pairs of shoes (flip flops, nice sandals, tennis shoes, Sketcher go-walks)
- 3 short sleeve shirts (wearing one on the plane)
- 2 long sleeve shirts
- 1 sleep outfit
- 4 pairs of socks ( 3 no-show, 1 wool)
- 3 bras (1 strapless, 2 regular)
- 7 pairs of underwear (so easy to wash in the sink)
- 1 Jean Jacket
- 1 Pair of black skinny jeans (wearing on plane)
- 1 Pair of shorts
- 1 Packable jacket
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 small fleece for chilly but not cold weather (wearing on plane)
- 2 Scarves
- 1 bathing suit + 1 cover-up
- 1 long necklace
- 1 bracelet
I know you’re doing the math in your head, this is not enough clothing for 24 days. You’re correct, it’s not. We are planning on washing clothes while we are there, don’t worry! We bought these nifty carry-on friendly laundry detergent sheets that we can use in the sink or washing machine. A couple of our Air BnB’s have washing machines so we will utilize those.
What else are you bringing?
Chromebook, Cannon Rebel T6i DSLR (plus some accessories), Kindle, 2 collapsible water bottles, travel wallet, plastic bags (you just never know), passports (duh), travel blanket, disinfectant wipes (I’m not a germaphobe, but I will NOT get sick while I’m on vacation), and a small crossbody bag.
Any other tips?
- Packing cubes are SO helpful. You really have no idea how awesome they are until you pack with them. They help keep you so organized and neat. If you don’t have any, these are the ones we have from Amazon.
- Try not to stress about forgetting something. Unless it’s medication you absolutely must get from home, there’s really nothing you can’t buy during your travels. There are some exceptions to this of course, but most destinations will have what you need.
- Start packing early! Don’t wait until the last minute. This is crucial if you hate packing like I do. Half my battle is time. I always wish I had more time! This also gives you a window to remember things you forgot.
I will say this was not easy by any means. But, we’ve been planning for a LONG time. When trying to pack light, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this something I want or need?
- If I want it, put it to the side and pack everything I need first. If there’s spare room, bring it!
- Is this something I can easily buy when I reach my destination?
I hope this was helpful! If you have any additional tips for packing light, I’d love to hear your favorite tips and tricks in the comments!!