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I’m a reformed overpacker.
There was a day when I believed a weekend getaway required a mid-sized rolling suitcase with half a dozen pairs of shoes and everything from a parka to a swimsuit to a pair of ski goggles “just in case.”
For weeklong trips I practically needed U-haul and a forklift.
But with airlines’ crackdown on luggage allotments and my desire to avoid looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame by the time I’m 40, I’ve since reworked my packing strategy.
I managed to pack everything I needed into my Osprey Porter 46 backpack, which weighed just 13lbs and fit within the free carry-on allotment on Europe’s strictest budget airlines: Ryanair, Vueling, and easyJet.
Further Reading: 7 Things You Need to Know Before Flying Europe’s Budget Airlines
- Pack versatile basics. Ideally, all your tops should go with all your bottoms. At a minimum you should be able to wear each item you pack with two or more outfits. One key to choosing versatile outfits is to stick primarily with neutrals. I packed mostly black, navy, and grey.
- Layer. Europe in September is generally comfortably warm. But temperatures can become cool in the mornings and evenings. I packed a light cardigan and a light windbreaker to layer over my t-shirts and dresses when it got chilly. A cardigan or scarf is also ideal for visiting religious sites with stricter dress codes.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Europe’s quaint historic streets might look lovely, but the cobblestone will ruin your feet. And if your feet hurt, you won’t enjoy yourself. I underestimated how much we would walk on our trip (an average of 30,000 steps a day!) and paid for it dearly with sore, blistered feet.
- Don’t pack for every eventuality. Sometimes it’s tempting to throw loads of useless extras into your suitcase at the last minute “just in case” there is a blizzard or a volcano eruption or you get invited to tea with the Queen. But that stuff just takes up extra space and weight. Instead, cover the basics (windbreaker, cardigan, sunglasses, sunscreen etc.), and decide that if you really need something else, you can buy it at your destination. Odds are good you won’t miss it.
- Plan to do laundry. Instead of packing enough clothing for two weeks, we packed enough for one and did laundry in our apartment halfway through our trip.
What I Packed
With those guidelines in mind, here is the list of everything I took on a 16-day-trip to Europe in September:
- 1 set of pajamas
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 2 plain t-shirts (1 navy and 1 black)
- 1 striped t-shirt
- 1 chiffon blouse
- 2 dresses (1 dressier, 1 casual. The casual dress doubled as a swimsuit cover-up)
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of pants (olive green)
- 1 pair of jean shorts
- 1 grey cardigan
- 1 light windbreaker
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 pair of slip-on shoes
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 floppy hat
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- 1 purse
- 2 necklaces
- 1 bracelet
- 1 miniature hairbrush (I use this one)
- 1 travel blow dryer (I use this one)
- 1 curling wand
- medication (nausea, pain, sleep aids)
- blister band-aids
- travel-sized sunscreen
- travel-sized toothbrush/toothpaste
- travel-sized face wash
- disposable razor (I have never had trouble taking one of these through airport security)
- Lonely Planet Pocket Guidebooks (Paris, Barcelona, Italy)
- wallet/credit cards
- 1 iPhone (and charger)
- outlet converter (it’s a bit bulky but we use this one)
- 1 book
- 1 magazine
- sleep mask/earplugs
Take a quick look inside my backpack:
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