What do you do when someone reaches out to you on social media asking advice about traveling?! You BLOG about it!
An acquaintance of mine recently sent me a message on Instagram asking for some advice for packing for his 2-week trip through four western European countries in June. “I am both excited and terrified because I’m bringing a backpack and carry-on luggage and want to make sure I have what I need,” Mark said. “I know you’ve done some videos but what are the MUST haves to pack for a trip like this?”
(Very sweet you think me a travel expert, Mark! Julie to the rescue!)
Since his itinerary is not unlike my 4-week trip last August through western Europe, I figured I could draw on my own experiences to help out a pal in need!
Packing list for a month-long summertime jaunt through Western Europe
My backpacking adventure took me to Spain, France (& Monaco), Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and United Kingdom.
During my trip, temps literally deviated 50 degrees, which made packing a bit interesting. Rome was the hottest, surpassing 100, while showers in Salzburg and Maastricht brought us down to the cool, crisp 50s.
- 2 pairs of shoes
- Shoes for walking. Love my La Sportiva trail runners, great for those cobblestone roads
- Sandals. Pro tip: Buy Birkenstocks overseas — I bought mine in Barcelona and they were cheaper than in the U.S.
- 1 versatile jacket
- Something with a hood in case of rain! I like my Columbia lightweight jacket.
- 2 pairs long pants
- Skip bulky jeans! I brought one pair of leggings and a pair of lightweight black pants.
- 2 shorts
- 2 dresses
- 1 skirt
- 1 sweater
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 swim coverup
- 3 tank tops
- I also bought 2 tees while I was abroad, at H&M.
- 3 bras (1 bralette and two sports bras)
- 3 pairs of underwear
- Ex-Officio is great. It’s made of antimicrobial, moisture-wicking, fast-drying fabric, perfect when you’re washing and drying your own laundry.
- 2 pairs of socks
It may be hard to believe, but all of this stuff plus my toiletries fit in a carry-on size backpack. (40 liters is standard carry-on size; I have one like this.) When I went exploring during the day, I left the backpack behind and carried around my daypack, a 8L Patagonia Atom Sling. It’s the perfect size to hold a reusable water bottle, iPad and iPhone, selfie stick, portable charger, wallet, sunglasses, and small essentials. Plus, it can be worn on your back or on your chest.
Accessories and ninja knick-knacks
- Multi-country power adapter
- Portable charger and charging cords
- Plastic wine corkscrew
- Sink stopper and travel container of laundry detergent (or powder)
- Packing cubes
- Combination lock
- Travel pillow
- Reusable water bottle
General rules for traveling light
Pack stuff that you can mix and match. Pretty much everything I owned was neutral (shades of blue or gray) with a few pops of color. Every few days, I’d wash some clothes in the sink, leave them to air-dry, and rotate the other clothes in. Because everything matched with everything, outfit selection was a breeze.
Practice street style. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want to look like a tourist. (White tennis shoes and khakis, I’m talking to you.) The pieces I brought were breathable and layer-able, but they didn’t look like traditional “gym” wear. I love Athleta clothing for this reason — you can go from the mountains to the city streets and look like a class act.
Use packing cubes for ease and organization. I was constantly on the run, moving from one city to the next, so this allowed me to pack more quickly and stay organized by keeping like items together. I also “rolled” each article of clothing to maximize space (watch my video below!).
Forget the travel books and paper maps — they take up physical space (and make your tourist status pretty obvious). You don’t need a global cell plan; you can use your phone offline to store all the information you need. Just be sure to download all your apps, eBooks, and movies in advance of leaving the U.S. (more on that here)!
Don’t freak if you forget something. Almost anything else you need, you can buy. You’re not on a foreign planet. Hello, Sephora and H&M!
Do you have any ninja packing tips to share? Leave me a comment!