What to Pack to Backpack Through Europe >> Life In Limbo

What to Pack to Backpack Through Europe

The Trip: I’m backpacking through Europe for 3 months, spanning the summer and early fall. I’m travelling with a carry-on bag only, and you can read more about why I came to that decision (and find a link to the bag if you’re interested) here. My travels are mainly focused on the more balmy mediterranean countries, but I’ll still be there as it starts to get chilly, so I’ve packed enough layers to see me through different temperatures.

Great Resources: My list of what to pack when backpacking through Europe is inspired by a lot of wonderful lists I found online. OneBag is the mother of all packing lists, with great recommendations and detailed explanations for each item – definitely start there. While I didn’t pack everything he has on his list, Rick Steves knows what he’s talking about when it comes to packing for Europe. I really liked Peanut Butter Fingers’ post for inspiration about what clothes to pack – she’s more my age than some of the other blogs, so it’s a bit more of an accessible post. Her Packing List has a huge resource page for a plethora of different packing lists for all over the world in all seasons. Finally, Never Ending Voyage has a great packing list for carry-on travel.

The List:

Clothes

Clothes 1

  1. Three cardigans (two long-sleeved, one 3/4-sleeves)
  2. Two plain t-shirts (one navy blue, one black)
  3. Three shirts (all short sleeves)
  4. Five tank tops + 1 sleep shirt (not pictured)
  5. Bras, underwear, socks, black tights
  6. One long sleeved striped shirt (not pictured)

*Two Eagle Creek packing cubes

Clothes 2

  1. Two skirts
  2. Black leggings
  3. Five dresses (one not pictured)
  4. Two pairs of pants (one pair of jeans, one pair of khakis) and a belt

Clothes 3

  1. Knee-length running shorts
  2. Long-sleeved running top
  3. Bikini top
  4. One-piece swimsuit
  5. Two bikini bottoms

Clothes 4

  1. Jacket: light weight and water-resistant
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Purse with shoulder strap

DSC_0112

  1. Toms
  2. New Balance Minimus running shoes
  3. Crocs flats: these are completely washable and quick-drying, so I’m planning to use them as shower shoes, water shoes, or flats

*The reason some things aren’t pictured is because I added them at the last minute, post photoshoot!

Toiletries

DSC_0118

Top Row: Headband, bandaids, Advil, earplugs, hair elastics, floss, razor blade, matches, soap flakes

Second Row: L.L. Bean Toiletries Case, headlamp, whistle, USB drive, eye mask, Light My Fire spork, comb, toothbrush, Diva Cup, padlock

Third Row: Dr. Bronner’s Lavender All-Purpose Soap, 2 bottles Clear Care contact solution, sunscreen, Polysporin, toothpaste, Tide-to-Go pen, conditioner, Lafe’s deodorant, contact lens case, Q-tips, razor.

*Not pictured, because I forgot: concealer, blush, and mascara

Technology

Technology - Packing

  1. Chargers for my camera, iPad and phone
  2. Earphones
  3. MicroSD to iPad connector (to upload photos)
  4. European adaptor
  5. Camera remote
  6. ONA Roma Bag: a camera bag insert that fits into my purse and protects my camera
  7. iPad Mini (a graduation gift from my Dad)
  8. Unlocked iPhone 4
  9. Not pictured (because I was using it!): Nikon D90 + 35mm f.18 lens

Miscellaneous

Extras - Packing

  1. Waterproof bag: for carrying phone, keys, wallet while swimming if I’m at the beach on the solo part of my trip
  2. Sea to Summit Silk sleep sack: lightweight travel sheets (doubles as a blanket on trains)
  3. Travel towel
  4. Passport
  5. Travel wallet and change purse
  6. Moneybelt
  7. Pens, washi tape (for anchoring memorabilia into my notebook), and a notebook.
  8. A small beach towel (not pictured)

Details

I am going to be wearing one pair of shoes and packing the third. I’m also going to be wearing my jacket when travelling between cities (or at least carrying it) but if it’s too hot, it fits, folded into the front pocket of the bag. My shirts + running clothes all roll up nicely and fit into my large packing cube. All my other clothes get rolled up and packed in the bottom of the suitcase along with my travel towel and sleep sack. In my purse I’ll carry my camera and other electronics, unless their are flight restrictions in which case I’ll pack everything inside the bag.

DSC_0142It closes like a charm! For most airlines, you’re permitted a carry-on plus a purse or camera bag. I’ve heard that some European budget airlines (Ryanair/Easyjet) are strict about allowing only one piece of luggage. In the event of that happening, I will still have enough space in my bag to pack my purse inside. The water bottle is a Vapur bottle I can also stow away if I have to.

DSC_0149

And there you have it: my home for the next three months! I love how compact it is, and how everything has its proper place inside.

For this trip, I’ve omitted a few things that most long-term travel blogs recommend: a rubber doorstop (I’m staying in multi-person dorms, so it wouldn’t make sense), a travel clothesline, a well-stocked first aid kit, etc.

What are your travel necessities? What have you packed and then later decided was unnecessary? Have you travelled with only carry-on luggage before? Any tips about how to make my trip go more smoothly?

Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Anastasia

    Do you mind sharing how you pack all those things into that one small bag?

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi Anastasia,

      I’ve updated the post to include some information about how I get everything to fit inside! Trust me, when it’s all rolled up tightly it takes up less room than it seems to. Thanks for your question!

  • Pajamas could be useful for dorms and shared bathroom accommodation.

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Great point! I am going to be adding a sleep shirt (that can double as a running shirt or tank if necessary), and my running shorts can be used as sleeping shorts in a pinch.

  • Anastasia

    Thanks for sharing. I’m looking for ideas on how to pack as much as possible with a carry-on bag so I was curious how did you pack with all the stuff that you’re bringing with you.

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hope it was helpful! Thanks for your comments.

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  • Awesome list. I would re-think your ballet croc flats as your water & shower shoes. I have the same pair and LOVE them, but they do not work well when wet. Your feet slide all around and they are unsafe to walk in at that point. Test drive them at a pool or something first before you commit to that being your waterproof pair.

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi! Yep I agree, the Crocs are not as good when actually submerged in water, but I’ve found they’re amazing for anything but! I’ve been wearing them to the beach, while wading in shallow rocky waters, as flats for dinner and walking around, etc. I found that as long as I’m careful I’ve had no issues except for the occasional wet squeak – ha! :)

      • Sarah Struthers

        Hello! I’m using your post as a base for my month long adventure this summer! If the crocs aren’t working well for shower shoes, is there anything else you would recommend? :) Thanks! ~Sarah

        • stephaniepellett

          Hi Sarah! Thanks for the comment. :)

          I might be contradicting myself here, but if I were to do it over again, I would probably still bring the Crocs flats and use them as shower shoes when needed. I know that Casey, the other commenter, advised against this, but I personally never really had any problems as long as I was a little careful. Yes, your foot slides a little inside of them when they’re wet, but I found they still gripped the floor fine and I was happy with them for my purposes. If you are worried, a regular pair of flip-flops I think would do the job nicely because they’re light and easy to pack so they wouldn’t take up too much room. Good luck! Have fun. :)

  • This is amazing, and extremely inspirational!

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Thank you so much!

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  • Cassandra

    Awesome and super helpful list! I’m backpacking Europe soon and have just started to look at backpacks and what to pack. Now that you’re traveling would you make any amendments to what you brought and didn’t bring? How are you finding the L.L. Bean backpack? Comfort level while carrying? And also, would it be possible to post a picture of what it looks like on? I’m particularly curious of about this. Thanks! Hope you’re having an awesome time traveling!

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi Cassandra! Thanks for your comment. I have recently updated the list with amendments to what I brought, so you can check that out if you’d like! I love the backpack, I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s comfortable and flexible, and I haven’t had to check it once which was my goal. It gets a bit heavy if I’m carrying it for a long time, but that’s not the bags fault so much as my own. :) and I’ll update the post to include a photo of me wearing it. I think it’s still too early in my trip to say if there’s anything I regret bringing or wish I had, but at the end of my trip I’ll post a recap about that. Thanks!

  • April Blau

    What backpack is that? I am leaving on a trip soon and need new bags! Mine are all pre-9/11 and don’t work with size guidelines anymore! Thanks!

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi April – Thanks for your comment. It’s the LL Bean Quickload Travel Pack! There is a link in the post. Thanks :)

  • The more I research minimalist travel, the lighter I want to pack! I love your list and, while you’ve done a great job of condensing so much into a relatively small pack, it still looks pretty heavy! Are you finding that you packed light enough? Would love to hear how you’re holding up mid-trip. Happy travels :)

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi Jess, thanks for your comment! I would definitely recommend packing light! Having a bag that is a manageable size and weight has really made my trip better, for sure. It is still heavy, but I can walk with it for twenty minutes if I have to, so it’s not that bad. In my post “Thoughts on half” I wrote a little bit more about how I am feeling about my packing, but to answer your question, I’ve only regretted packing a couple small things (ex. One dress I never wear, a waterproof bag) and nothing major. I’ve been pretty happy with how I packed!

  • I just finished a month long trip spaning Texas, Maine, New York, London, and Austria. You’re pretty spot on doing the backpack because I used a saddle bag from Pacsafe and it killed my shoulders. I recomend anyone traveling by air make sure they pack their liquids in the required clear bag and have it on top so it is easy to slide out at airports.

    Also when ever re-entering the States be sure you get to the ticket stand of the airport at least two hours before your departure so you have enough time to get your boarding pass and get through customs. I got stuck in Dublin on the way back because I only showed up an hour before my flight. They said to show up 75 minutes before or they will not issue you a boarding pass.

    Travel by train as much as you can. It’s a great way to meet people and if you ever get delayed due to the trains they are super nice and usually give you a hotel room for the night free :)

    I recomend Austria highly! Learn a little German and bring bug spray if you’re there during the spring and summer because the mosquitos are huge!

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi Kaye, thanks for your comment! Awesome tips in there. I agree on all points: for example, I have adored travelling by train! Today my train through the south of Germany was some of the most stunning scenery I’ve seen my whole trip. I’m not going to make it to Austria this time, but I’ll keep your pointers in mind for next time. :)

  • Katie

    Hello,

    LOVE YOUR LIST! I’m taking a 3 1/2 month Semester at Sea this summer and I’m determined to pack as light as possible. I plan on spending a week in London before the trip. I was hoping you’d have some tips for a lone 20 year old woman travelling Europe. I am considering buying pepper spray just in case… I plan on doing a LOT of sight seeing and traveling within the 13 cities I will visit.

    Hotels won’t be a problem after London (since I’ll stay on the boat,) but I’m worried about walking the streets in foreign cities alone.

    Any advice, if I can’t find a group to go with for something?

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi Katie, thanks for your great comment/question! I was actually planning on writing a post with my tips for solo travel, and you kicked me into action! Check out the post for my tips (http://www.lifeinlimbo.org/2013/10/23/10-tips-for-solo-female-travel) and have so much fun on your trip! Good luck, it sounds absolutely incredible.

  • Caitlin

    Just stumbled on this list and it’s so helpful, thank you! I’m doing two months backpacking through Europe next September/October and am just starting to plan. Any advice for fall weather packing?

    Also, where did you get that purse? I love it!

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi Caitlin,

      Definitely bring layers! I know everyone says it, but it’s so true. Even if each of the layers isn’t all that warm on its own, having several will help. When I arrived in rainy, cold Munich and Amsterdam after two months of blissful sunshine, I had only thin cardigans and tank tops – neither were very helpful! Also my thin canvas Toms didn’t do well against the rain. Definitely have a warm jacket. This post might help: http://indulgy.com/post/Dpkvdns262/how-to-pack-for-days-with-a-carryon-winter-edition

      And the purse is an old one from Aldo, they probably still have a similar style. Thanks for your comment! :)

  • Rachel

    Hi there! I’m planning on backpacking Europe in the fall, so this post was super helpful! I’m just wondering what size toiletry bag you got from L.L Bean? I’d like to purchase one, but there are different sizes and I’m not sure which one to get.

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  • Cassie Ofner

    Hello! First off, your blog is extremely helpful! I am also backpacking through Europe for three months, from April to July. I was contemplating what to do with my iPhone while I there, international plans seem pretty pricy, but i don’t want to get and huge roaming charges. Any suggestions?

    • stephaniepellett

      Hi Cassie,

      Great question! I actually made use of my service provider’s vacation option and put my phone plan on hold for the 3 months I was away. Once I came back I just called them up and had them re-instate it. While I was actually in Europe, most of the time I didn’t actually have a cell phone plan. I used my phone to look things up and send messages when I was in a wifi zone and used Facebook whenever I had wifi to meet up with people! It wasn’t a perfect system, but there’s usually a McDonald’s closeby you can use for wifi so it worked out for me. When I got to England I knew I would be meeting up with people a lot more frequently so I bought a pay-as-you-go SIM card and loaded it up with 10 pounds. I was able to do this because my phone was unlocked.

      Those are my suggestions! If it’s important to you to have a phone plan for day-to-day use, I would recommend a SIM card or buying a cheap pay-as-you-go phone once you arrive in Europe. Keep in mind though that SIM cards usually only work in one country, or at least that’s what I was told when I was there.

      Best of luck on your travels!! Sounds like you’re going to have an amazing adventure. :)

  • Brittney

    Hello :)

    I am heading to Europe in June for 2 months and I have to say I really enjoyed reading about your trip. Your photos were amazing also! I was just wondering where you got your skirts and dresses from?! They look so comfortable!!

    • stephaniepellett

      Hi Brittney, thanks for writing! I’m so happy you liked reading about my trip :) As for the skirts and dresses: the light blue denim skirt and the pink jersey skirt were both from a department store called Simon’s in Montreal. The black dress with white spots and the white dress with black spots (ha!) and the blue dress were all from H&M. And the black dress with white flowers is from Forever 21. They were all very comfortable. Hope that helps! Good luck on your trip! :)

  • Allie M

    Hi Stephanie! I am in love with your blog, you have so many great tips! I’m going for a month this summer, and I’m concerned about what shoes to wear!
    I plan on bringing sneakers for any long travel days, and a pair of cute sandals (probably more for style than comfort), but I’m worried I’ll want something in between with good comfort and good style. Based on your shoe choices, would you recommend the crocs flats or the toms for long days of city walking?

    • stephaniepellett

      Hi Allie! Thank you so much, I really appreciate you saying that. I am excited for you, your trip sounds awesome! I would probably recommend the Toms, because they can be worn in almost every situation, and I personally am able to walk in them all day. I did love my Crocs flats though, as (kind of) dorky as they are! Haha I think either way you won’t go wrong. Have so much fun on your trip! Good luck! And don’t hesitate to ask any other questions if you have them. :)

  • Yawen Chen

    Hello Stephanie! I’m heading to Europe for the summer and was wondering about power adapters. Did your adapter work in all the countries you visited? What kind of adapter is it? Where did you buy it?

    Thanks so much!

    Yawen

    • stephaniepellett

      Hi Yawen,

      As far as I know, most of the countries in Europe are on the same power/plug system. I believe in Great Britain I needed to borrow a different adaptor from my relatives. I only needed one adaptor for the majority of my trip, the round, two-pronged adaptor. You can buy adaptors almost anywhere – at a travel store before you go, at the airport or train station, etc. You shouldn’t have an issue finding the correct adaptor wherever you go! And if you want to get one before you go, just go to a travel or luggage store and tell them where you’re going. :)

  • Danielle R

    Hi Stephanie! I will be traveling to Germany at the end of August and your packing list has been so helpful!! My husband is putting my luggage on a strict limit and I didn’t think I could do it until I read this! Anyway I will be in Munich and Berlin, and a few smaller towns in between and I’m unsure about brining skirts/dresses verses pants. I’m sure it will be warm and the skirts might come in handy, but I don’t know if I will actually wear them at those destinations, as compared to say if I was going to Rome or Paris. I was wondering what your thoughts were?
    Thanks!
    Danielle

    • stephaniepellett

      Hey Danielle, congrats on your upcoming trip to Germany! Sounds exciting. I guess my advice would be to pay attention to what you would typically wear in similar weather at home where you live. I live in dresses and skirts in warmer weather, I can’t stand shorts and pants in the summertime so that’s my go-to. If you’re the same, then I’d say bring them along!! I’d say skirts would be just as acceptable/common in Germany as they are in Rome and Paris! :) Have so much fun!!

  • Shruti

    THIS IS AMAZING! Thank you so much for this list and helping us all out :) I was wondering where you got the brown purse/bag that you took along with you? It looks like a perfect size and I am looking for something similar for my trip! Thanks :)

    • stephaniepellett

      Hey Shruti! I’m so glad you liked the list. I love that crossbody bag too, I got it years ago from Aldo! It’s held up pretty well and it’s a really great size. Thanks for your comment!

  • Lisa Bida

    Great list! I’m off solo to Europe for eleven weeks on Monday! My bag is a little bit smaller than yours though so I can’t fit as much as you did. I was wondering if you found the spork and waterproof case useful? I would like to go to the beach when I’m on my own and trying to figure out to do with my things. Thanks!

    • stephaniepellett

      Hey Lisa! So the spork I never used actually, nor the waterproof case! To be honest, the times I went to the beach on my own I usually left my valuables locked up at the hostel and only brought a book and towel. And usually I was able to find someone to go to the beach with too! Hopefully you’ll have a similar experience. :) Good luck and have fun!

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  • Silje Strøms

    Dude, your blog got me so excited for traveling Europe this summer! Thanks for sharing your tips! (From a fellow female solo traveler!)

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  • cpam

    For the smaller airlines, did you have any issues with your bag’s weight?

  • I’m leaving in just eleven days for a six week trek through Europe (Portugal to Poland) – and was wondering if there was anything you brought that you never ended up needing? Also, were things you wish you had along the way or wish you didn’t have to purchase when you got there?

    Thanks!

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  • joyce.

    Hello. I am leaving for a 5 day trip to New Zealand. I decided to purchase the L.L. Quickload Travel Pack purely based on your review. I’m excited to receive it and hoping it fits all my needs for my quick trip down under! Quick question on your toiletry case.. did you purchase the small, or medium case? I’m looking to purchase the same, but wondering if the Medium case might be too big for the backpack.

    Thank you.

  • Gina Glowacki

    Great post!! My boyfriend is going on a 3 month trip to Madagascar and this post was very helpful! I ended up buying him the L.L Bean backpack/suitcase because I think it’ll be a lot less stressful for him if he’s able to carry everything will him on the plane. I was just curious though if you had any issues with the toiletries and stuff? I know for carry on bags you’re only aloud to have 3oz containers of things or smaller and it all has to fit in a plastic ziptlock bag? From what you showed in your post, did you not have any issue with bringing all that in your carry on?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Gina,

      Thanks for your comment – sorry I missed this! I love travelling carry-on, but you’re right sometimes the toiletries can be annoying. A few times, if I knew I was going to be doing mostly train travel or overland travel for a while (like I did for most of my trip through Europe), I would buy a larger bottle of shampoo/conditioner/soap at my first stop and then carry that around. If that’s not an option (ie you’ll be doing a lot of plane travel), I would recommend buying some solid options (bar soap, solid shampoo) so that you don’t have to worry so much about your liquids! I hope that helps. :) Good luck to your boyfriend on his amazing trip!

  • Jemima Guelfi

    Hi! Where is your purse from? I am looking for one just like it to take on my trip with me. Thank you :)

    • Hey Jemima! It was a very old purse from Aldo..such a workhorse, it lasted me for years and I absolutely loved it. Unfortunately I don’t know if they still make something similar – I hope so though, because I could use another one!

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