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I’ve mentioned it before on the blog that I wasn’t much of a traveler before I met my husband. I was content living life in Seattle and taking vacations on the west coast. The thought of studying abroad never interested me—probably because it meant being far away from home for such a long time. Europe was always a place I admired from afar, but never really seemed attainable to visit. The thought of a long flight over the Atlantic and being so far out of my American comfort zone made me anxious. However, a few of months ago my husband suggested we take a few weeks to travel through Europe. Obviously I was excited, but also slightly terrified. Three weeks away from home and our dog?! Flying from New Orleans to Paris?! I know many people wouldn’t give this a second thought, but for me it was a big deal!
Then Rob suggested we get backpacks because it would be easier to travel from city to city. He explained that we wouldn’t want to roll around luggage as we hop on and off trains and walk around cobble stone streets. This made sense, but fitting three weeks of my stuff into a backpack?! Seemed impossible. But, here we are! This former fashion blogger survived three weeks in Europe with just a backpack! When I tell people this they find it hard to believe, but here is how I made it work:
Rob did a lot of research about which backpacks would be best. We decided to get the Osprey Farpoint 55, which worked perfectly! The main compartment had a lot of space, plus there was a detachable daypack that added more storage space and could be removed for day trips. There’s a fine balance between a backpack that has enough space, but isn’t too heavy. I’ll admit, there were times when I didn’t think I could take one more step with my backpack on, but the harness and hip belt really help take some of the weight off of your shoulders. We also purchased packing cubes, which were a lifesaver! We used the medium size Gonex packing cubes that we bought through Amazon. They made finding things and re-packing so much easier. Last, but not least: waterproof backpack covers! We found some online that fit perfectly over our packs when it rained.
Clothes & Accessories
Now on to what I packed. They key is versatility! I brought items that could be worn multiple ways and for multiple occasions. We were there in late September/early October, so light layers were perfect. I also kept one color palette in mind when choosing clothes and accessories. Everything I packed was a neutral color, so it was easy to mix and match.
When I was looking through my closet to decide which tops to bring, I picked one from each category. A long sleeve T-shirt, white short-sleeve T-shirt, cardigan, pullover sweater, nice blouse, daytime dress, etc. The items in the graphic above are almost exactly what I packed (some amount and type, but I couldn’t find all of the exact styles online). I wore the cardigan over almost everything, the black cami came in handy for layering under multiple tops, and of course striped T-shirts are a must!
I brought three pairs of pants, one of which I wore while traveling. Dark skinny jeans, black skinny jeans and my black Zella leggings. When picking which pairs to bring, I thought about how versatile they are, if they would stretch out after wearing them once, and how comfortable they are. We all have those jeans that we love, but are a little too tight ;) this is not the time to wear those! My tried and true jeans lately have been the Jamie jeans from Topshop and Old Navy’s Rockstar Skinny Jeans. They don’t stretch out and they have a classic, versatile fit.
Before our trip I purchased a trench coat and I’m so glad I did! It was the perfect weight, matched everything and was super comfortable. I also brought a denim jacket, which was another versatile piece (are you seeing a theme yet?). Last, but not least—a rain coat! We had a few days where it absolutely poured, so a rain jacket that can easily be squished into your bag is key. I brought my North Face shell, which I wore a ton in college. Zermatt, Switzerland was the only place where I wish I’d had a winter coat.
I packed three pairs of shoes: white sneakers, black Chelsea boots and nude flats. Again, comfort is key! We did a lot of walking in each city (at least 10 miles per day), so flat yet supportive shoes are important. You also want pairs that can go with almost any outfit and can be dressed up or down. I pretty much lived in my sneakers and boots, but didn’t get as much use out of the flats as I thought I would. However, it was nice to have them for when I wanted to dress up slightly.
Before we left I was debating about packing a scarf. I decided against it because it took up a lot of space and I wasn’t sure how cold it would be. However, I ended up buying one over there because it was much chillier than the humid, 90-degree weather we had left back in Florida. It also came in handy to use as a blanket/pillow on the plane and train rides. Another item we didn’t bring, but I kind of wish we had was an umbrella. There were a couple days where we were soaked after walking around with just rain jackets. I brought one purse for the whole trip. The size was perfect (enough space for my camera, wallet, etc.), it matched every outfit and the crossbody style left my hands free for taking photos. As for jewelry I brought one pair of earrings that can be dressed up and down and one everyday necklace. Sunglasses were also a must-have. And don’t forget the basics: socks, underwear, bras/bralettes and pajamas! Oh, your own pillowcase isn’t a bad idea either! I love this silk one.
This part was tricky! Rob and I bought two hanging toiletry bags beforehand and they were such a good buy! Europe has very limited counter space. I brought travel sized shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, face lotion, body lotion, toothpaste, floss, dry shampoo, my razor, deodorant, face wipes, laundry detergent, heat protector for my hair, comb, brush, shower cap, chapstick. Hmm I think that’s it. I also brought minimum amounts of makeup: powder foundation (+ brush), natural eyeshadow color (+ brush), eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencil, lipstick, and concealer. Also, don’t forget any medications! I found this awesome pill organizer (how lame/old do I sound?!), which I also filled with ibuprofen, allergy medicine, etc. You never know what you might need and it’s better to be safe than sorry!
First things first: adapters! The outlets in Europe are different than what we have in the US, so be sure to bring several adapters so that you can use your electronics. Note: unless your hair tools are dual-voltage, they won’t work/will fry. I learned that the hard way and lugged around a straightener that I never used.
Obviously I brought my phone (I kept it on airplane mode the entire time and hooked up to WiFi when it was available). Rob got an international SIM card for his phone once we got to Paris so that we could message our Airbnb hosts, get directions, etc. while we were out and about. I don’t know how people traveled before Google Maps and Google Translator! They were lifesavers.
I also brought my laptop so that I could get some work done during our down time and train rides. Of course my camera came along, too! I did buy a smaller, lighter lens though because my go-to Sigma 50mm is pretty heavy and takes up a lot of space. I also brought headphones, my Kindle and chargers for all of the above.
As I write all of this out, I’m shocked it all fit in my backpack. But I promise it did! If I can backpack through Europe, then you can too ;) Hope that helps! Feel free to contact me with any additional questions!