While I leave for Europe in just under a week, it feels like I've been preparing for this trip for such a long time. From saving all the money to deciding what bag made the most sense to creating dozens of Google Docs containing information for this trip, it's been a whirlwind. Being that I'll be traveling for just over four months and moving from city to city pretty quickly, I knew I needed to get practical in my planning and packing, and as I am now getting all of my things together and organized, I wanted to share some of the practical ways I'm packing for this Europe trip.
The first thing I did was start researching what kind of bag I wanted to use. For a long time, I was torn between a backpack or a rolling suitcase. While some people recommended the former, I saw three big issues with a backpack: I have minor back issues so it didn't seem smart to carry around a ton of weight every other day, the idea of having to unpack/repack a backpack so frequently seemed too tedious, and then there was the fact that I already have an everyday backpack that I was bringing to carry my laptop, camera, etc. and use as my carry-on for flights. I had been eyeing an Away Bag for a while, and finally decided that it would be the best choice for this trip (and life in general). Not only is it built of unbreakable polycarbonate, but it has an amazing lifetime warranty so that if literally anything breaks or malfunctions, Away will replace it. I chose the Medium size (26") in Asphalt, which is just bigger than a carry-on.
If you've been thinking about getting an Away Bag, I can't recommend it enough, and you can use this link to save $20 on your purchase!
Along with my suitcase, I am also bringing a backpack and two very practical day bags which both have safe, hard-to-reach interior pockets for my valuables while walking around:
- Brevite Backpack. I've had this for about a year and half, and it's served me well on many trips. It's specifically made to hold tech/camera gear, and I love this bag because it perfectly holds all I need to carry-on while traveling.
- Fjallraven Kanken Mini. I currently use this as my everyday bag and can't wait to adventure with it in Europe. I will actually pack it into my bigger backpack when I travel to save space and keep stuff organized. I love that it's small enough for everyday but big enough to hold my water bottle and camera at the same time, and it's waterproof!
THE PRACTICAL STUFF
After I purchased my Away bag, I started getting some of the practical things that I knew I needed (but didn't really want to spend the money on). Here are some of the best things I got for this trip:
- Packing Cubes. I got two sets of the multi-sized packing cubes which are notorious for saving space when packing. They naturally help to compress your clothing and keep everything organized. Win-win.
- Power Converter. I received this as a Christmas gift, and it's amazing. It's a power strip/surge protector with 3 plugs and a few USB ports, and it came with a bunch of converter plugs (I am taking the ones for Europe, UK, and Italy).
- Microfiber Towel. I got this for two reasons: to save room in my bag, and because of its fast air-drying abilities.
- Compression Socks. Boring buy, but these will hopefully help keep blood flowing through my legs on my long, direct flight to London.
- Luggage Scale. This was a good purchase for two reasons: one, I have pretty strict weight restrictions for most of my transportation (flights, trains, etc.) so I wanted to be able to weigh things myself prior to travel; and two, I don't want to overpack since I will be lugging my suitcase everywhere, so this will help me save on weight before I leave.
- Laundry Detergent + Hangers. Four months is a long time to live out of a suitcase and I will definitely need to do laundry while I'm traveling, so I found these detergent sheets on Amazon and snatched them up. Bonus: they take up zero space in my bag! I also got some small, foldable hangers for when I need to air dry my clothing.
- Locks. I bought two locks for my hostel stays: one for the locker and one to lock my bag to my bed. Paranoid? Maybe. But I'm not trying to lose anything. Plus I can use the locks on my backpack while I'm between cities.
- Tile. As an extra precaution, I wanted to be able to track my luggage just in case it were to get lost or stolen.
THE CARRY ON
In addition to the things listed above, I also got some things just for my carry-on while I'm on the plane.
- Passport Holder. This was another Christmas gift, and I love it. It has slots for my cards, my tickets, and my passport, plus a small built in phone charger. It will also hold my International Driving Permit. While not all countries require an IDP to rent a car, I wanted to be safe and make sure I wouldn't run into any problems. It costs $20 ($40 if you don't bring in photos) and is valid for one year.
- Portable Charger. I got this before I went to NYC last year, and it comes with me every day on every trip.
- Sleeping Mask. Having this will be helpful while I'm staying in hostels as well as traveling.
- Swell Water Bottle. To fight dehydration, save plastic, and avoid having to pay for water everywhere I go.
- Under Eye Mask. For my long flight, I decided to get this eye mask to help with puffiness.
Seeing that I will be living out of a relatively small suitcase for four months, which may include rainy days in London and warm days on the coast of Italy, I knew from the beginning that I needed to think practically and minimally when it came to what clothes I was going to bring. Fortunately, I'm pretty minimal with my wardrobe in general, so it wasn't too challenging of a process. I created a Google Doc with a list of each clothing item to bring, including section for "it it fits" items. Here are the basics of what I'm planning to bring:
- 2 Jackets: 1 jean jacket + 1 army green jacket
- 2 Jeans
- 4 Shoes: 1 sneakers, 1 converse, 1 sandals, 1 flats
- 10 Tops
- 6 Dresses + Skirts
- 1-2 Sweaters: 1 cardigan, 1 pullover
- 1 Bathing Suit
- 2 hats: 1 beret + 1 ballcap
- 2-3 Pajamas
- 12 days worth of undies + socks
- 2 Leggings (especially for travel days)
I've been mixing + matching the items I am planning to bring for the last month or so, which has helped me to really visualize just how many outfits I will be able to make with a limited number of clothing items, and I'm excited to be challenged with my wardrobe each day I'm in Europe.
TO SUM IT UP...
I knew from the start of planning for this trip that packing was going to be interesting, especially needing so many boring but necessary/practical things, but was super ready for the challenge. I'm excited to see how this trip plays out, to see what clothing or items don't get used as much as I thought they would, and most of all to see what God teaches me throughout the four months that I will be traveling. I know that He is up to something big, and can't wait to watch it start to unfold.