Inside My Bag: Packing For Europe
It’s no secret that packing is on the list of my least favorite aspects of travel, ranking somewhere between sleeping in the terminal during overnight layovers and being seated behind a teething infant on twelve hour suspension-free bus rides. Even a weekend trip to Vegas can reduce me to a puddle of packing misery, so imagine what a multiple-month, several-stop, varying climate itinerary could do to me. Or maybe don’t — it’s fairly unflattering.
My summer in Europe consisted of (1) a week in London with plans of hitting the town and predictions of lots and lots of rain, (2) a week in Malta with lots of sunshine and salty swims on the agenda, (3) a week in Belgium to attend Tomorrowland and (4), three and a half weeks in the height of Greece’s steamy summer. I overpacked — I’ve lived with this addiction for so long now, I think I’d be lonely without it — but was overall happy with my choices.
As usual, clothes, shoes, toiletries and accessories went in my Osprey Aether 85L Backpack, while gear and electronics went in my Eagle Creek Afar Backpack. A nice canvas purse “borrowed” from my little sister functioned as my day-to-day travel purse, and my personal item on the plane. My checked bag, the Osprey, varied between 33-37lb (as you’ll see, some stuff got tossed along the way and I made a few small purchases) while my carry-ons combined varied between 26-30lb — camera gear is heavy!
Clothes and Shoes
• 3 dresses + 1 romper (ditched the white dress in Greece after it came back from a laundry with irreparable stains)
• 11 tops + 2 t-shirts (mildly excessive)
• 4 skirts + 3 shorts + 1 pair of jeans
• 4 layering tops (one Lululemon jacket, one light sweater for evenings, one thin long sleeve t-shirt and one shoulder-covering shrug)
• 1 pair leggings + 2 workout shorts + 2 workout tops + 2 sports bras
• 6 bikinis
• 12 pairs underwear + 3 bras
• 3 pairs socks
• …and a full set of packing cubes to keep them all organized! I use two Eagle Creek Pack-It Half Cubes, a Pack-It Specter Cube Set and a Pack-It Specter Compression Cube Set. I would never travel anywhere without them.
• 1 pair running shoes
• 1 pair fake Keds (these literally fell apart upon arrival in Belgium and were promptly ditched)
• 1 pair dress sandals
• 1 pair flip flops (these cheap ones from Target barely made it through Malta before needing to be replaced — not a good purchase!)
• 1 pair black pumps (debated whether or not to bring these and then never even wore them — I brought them with nights out in London in mind, but it was cold and rainy nearly the entire time and I ended up wearing boots every night)
• 1 pair black boots (debated whether or not to bring these as well and so glad I did — they were a must in both London and Brussels)
Diving and Beach Stuff
I knew I’d be diving in Santorini and Malta, which was reason enough to bring my snorkel set but not my full set of dive gear. I also got excited about two new wetsuit purchases and decided I just had to have both with me as well!
• Mask + fins + snorkel
• 2mm Billabong wetsuit jacket + Rip Curl G-Bomb Spring Suit
I mailed myself an entire packing lists’ worth of costumes and camping supplies for Tomorrowland, which was tragically held hostage by Belgium customs — and now it seems is lost forever! Note to self: never mail anything to Europe ever again. From now on, if I can’t carry it with me, it’s not coming.
Toiletries and Accessories
For more details on my toiletries, check out my in depth post on the subject (which, granted, is in serious need of an update considering my new solid shampoo obsession, plus other minor changes.)
• Toiletry bag
• Medicine bag
• Jewelry bag
• Makeup bag
• Shower bag
• Sunglasses (a few pairs!)
• Sun Bum Continuous Spray Sunscreens + Sun Bum Face Stick + Sun Bum SPF Lip Balm + John Frieda Sheer Blonde Lightening Spray (how I keep my hair blonde, salon-free!) + leave in conditioner (a must for trips involving sun and sea)
• Tote bag
• Eagle Creek Packable daypack
• Evening bag (necessary for nicer nights out in London and in Greece)
• 1 Flight001 Go Clean Laundry Bag
• Umbrella (hello, London!)
• Lonely Planet Malta & Gozo + Lonely Planet Belgium + two novels (I didn’t bother bringing guidebooks for England or Greece as I’ve been to both before)
• Work and travel documents + notebook + backup credit card and cash pouch + calendar
• Wallet + passport
• Travel pillow + eyeshade + earplugs
• Headlamp + combination lock + personal alarm
• Clearly Filtered Water Bottle
Gear and Electronics
• MacBook Pro + charger + laptop sleeve + portable mouse + portable laptop stands + backup hard drive + laptop lock*
• Headphones + headphone splitter
• Canon PowerShot S100 + charger + spare battery + leather case + 16 GB memory card + Canon Underwater Housing
• Canon Rebel T2i + charger + 15-85mm lens + 70-300mm Lens + 32 GB Memory Card
• iPhone + charging cord + Lifeproof Waterproof iPhone Case + Mophie Battery iPhone Case + Mophie cord + USB charger + USB car charger (I knew I’d have a rental car and be using map apps heavily in Malta, so this was a must)
• Cheap disposable phone for locals SIM cards + charger (actually didn’t end up using until I reached Southeast Asia)
• GoPro + charger and accessories (in white bag) + XShot GoPro Arm*
• UK and Europe adapters
* Lesson learned! I didn’t use either of these items, because I didn’t test them before I left — and they didn’t fit my new laptop/my GoPro edition. Next time I give something precious space in my bag, I’m going to make sure I can actually use it first.
Do you find it as challenging as I do to pack for multi-stop trips?
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Please note that all Amazon and Eagle Creek links in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission from anything you buy at no extra cost to you. I truly appreciate your support in keeping this site running! I was also provided with the following items in this post by the manufacturers: the waterproof iPhone case, the travel pillow, the wetsuit jacket, the water bottle, and the laundry bag.
Ugh packing nooo. I’m already stressed thinking about packing for my next trip, covering winter in Mongolia and Russia to summer in the Balkans. My backpack always gets stuffed with frivolous things like party dresses and nail polish remover, so I’m impressed with your packing skills!
I think there is a fair share of frivolity on this list too, ha. Actually one thing I wish I had more of right now is dresses! I’m going to be on the serious hunt for some when I get to Bangkok 🙂
I know you’ll probably get some hate on what you brought, but personally I found it refreshing to read about a woman who cares about fashion/doesn’t necessarily want to look like a hobo all day every day while traveling, and shares the wins & misses. So often, I feel like travel bloggers think it’s a badge of honor to pack the least or something. Great if you can, but you’re not winning any medals. And while I’d love to be a super minimalist packer, that’s just not my style — I like options! Anyway, thanks for this. I’m planning a long-term trip right now with several different climates, and this was helpful.
Yeah, I’m certainly in no danger of becoming a minimalist packer! And thanks for the support — my back needs it! 🙂 Glad this post was helpful, and good luck with the packing planning.
1. Aren’t packing cubes the best? 2. How do get that giant backpack on your tiny self? haha. I love packing lists and seeing how other people pack, and what they take. I always get awesome ideas! I’m super curious about the blond spray, as my blond hair is slowly turning darker and darker…
The blonde spray is a miracle worker! I think you need to have naturally blonde hair to start with (mine is a dark blonde that naturally lightens up in the sun, so this just helps it along, especially when I’m not getting enough outside time). Give it a try! And how I carry that backpack is still somewhat of a mystery…
Holy shit girl! That’s a lot of stuff! It must have weighed as much as you. I have a tendency to be a last minute packer and overpacker. But, I’ve learned to pack everything into my pack and then unpack it and take things out. And I definitely love my packing cubes! I purchased some after reading one of your posts a few months ago! Did all this stuff go with you to SEA?
Yeah, for long trips like this I pack over the course of a few days. I’ll lay everything out in piles and do a bit every day, which leads to a lot of hemming and hawing but is a process that seems to work for me. Towards the end I’ll pack and unpack and get a bit real!
I sent a box home on my last day in Belgium that had all my Tomorrowland souvenirs and stuff (my entry bracelet and some other bits and bobs) as well as some things I knew I’d no longer need — the umbrella, my boots, my heels, my guidebooks and the darn laptop lock I realized didn’t work! Plus, as mentioned, some of this stuff got ditched along the way as I tend to wear my clothes/shoes right into the ground. I’ve since bought plenty of new stuff since arriving in Thailand, so it will be interesting to see the difference in what I left home with and what I return with!
i had to do some tricky packing last month with a stop in muskoka, canada for my brother’s lakeside wedding, followed by sun, sea & dance ’til dawn nightlife in barcelona & ibiza. not nearly as complicated as your trip though! i ended up ditching all my wedding finery with my parents in canada & am so glad i did.
i def related to the “black pumps” dilemma. i’m always debating the one pair of heels for those few nights where you want to be extra sexy. in the end though, they almost always get left behind!
how do you even own 6 bikinis??
That reminds me of my worst packing dilemma ever. I was leaving Albany and over the next six weeks I was going to a conference in Denver (semi-professional clothes!), a wedding in Philly (formal wear!), a week in Iceland (cold weather crap!), a week in London (city chic!) and a week in Myrtle Beach (bikinis and club clothes!). Luckily I was using a friend’s apartment in NYC as a layover crash pad between trips and they let me set up a little repacking station in their living room, ha.
And yeah, this was my first time actually packing those damn black pumps for anywhere other than Vegas or Miami. I don’t think I’ll do it again.
Good Job Packing!!
In 6 months of backpacking I already learned that high heels and long trips are not best friends. I also discovered that we can look beautiful and sexy in flat shoes. 😉
My biggest problem is with all the gear and electronic stuff. Sometimes they are heavier than my clothes… Do you feel the same?
I wish we could have only one charger and plugs for all the equipments. As we are travelling around the world we still have to carry the adaptors. 🙁
This was my first time bringing high heels on an international trip — don’t think I’ll be doing it again! They were useless and heavy and awkward to shove into a backpack. And yes, my carry on front pack (electronics) is almost as heavy as my backpack (clothes!). It’s nuts. I think of it as my mobile office 🙂
I also hate packing and I’m definitely an overpacker, so I feel your pain. Trying to pack for different climates is the worst. I’d say you did a mighty fine packing job!
Thanks girl! I learned a few lessons but that’s standard. One day I will reach packing nirvana!
Where was your woolly hat and waterproof for the UK? You were an optimistic traveller!
Ha, well it was July! Perhaps I should have clarified the dates 🙂 I do wish I had brought a light rainjacket, though. I just didn’t have one and was too frazzled to go get one before I left!
I love packing so this post definitely made me smile. Something about all the neat piles and organization. Thanks for sharing!
Writing these posts has actually made my experience with packing so much more organized! I’m glad I started the tradition.
Wow, that’s a lot of tops and bikinis! But a girl needs options, right? 🙂
Ha, actually I probably should have made a not that I might not have brought QUITE so many bikinis was I not headed straight to Southeast Asia after Europe. Though I definitely enjoyed having all the options in Malta and Greece!
I have to get packing cubes!
I have always been a pretty good packer but got even better when I started travelling with my son (especially when it’s just the two of us) – it’s stressful enough to make sure I’m holding his hand and still holding our luggage – until he’s big enough to carry his own, I will be a very minimalist packer!
Oh wow, that is an aspect of traveling with a munchkin that I never even considered! Hats off to you for adding that into the mix 🙂 And yes — try packing cubes!
I’m getting increasingly curious about these packing cube things since a lot of travel bloggers have been mentioning them. To me, it’s all about organized chaos: I stuffed my loose clothes and small items in the little nooks and crannies of my backpack where more structured items would not usually fit. I don’t quite know how I would fit everything into my small-ish backpack if everything was pre-packed into these large cubes…
I was actually worried about that when I started using them as well. However, the first thing I realized is the cubes are super malleable, so they kind of squish into little spaces really well. Also, not everything goes in them — usually I have a few categories that didn’t make it into a cube, like sweaters and dresses in this case. So those fit in the nooks and crannies 🙂 Very valid concern though!
I love that 11 tops you noted as excessive, but 6 bikinis had no such note… lol I just packed for a month in the jungle (which I leave for today) and considering my outfits in Goa are little dresses, I had so few options to take! yet, somehow much bag is overflowing and I’ve got a big extra one lol. This time since I’m staying in India, I decided to take a FULL size pillow… ahhh luxurious & so worth carrying from hotel to hotel. i’m on a bus tour so figure I can get away with it this one time.
Haha, bikinis barely take up any space! To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have packed so many had it not been for the fact that I was going to Southeast Asia after, but I did love having them all on the beaches of Malta and Greece! The pillow sounds like a worthwhile indulgence 🙂
Wow, mad props for getting snorkel gear in there! I think I may have to give those travel cubes a try…should I ever backpack again. Last year I did six weeks split between Michigan, Peru, and Colombia and shoved all my clothes into Ziploc bags and rolled all the air out. Worked well enough, but it was a pain getting things in and out.
Well, you are already halfway to packing cubes then! They might be a worthwhile upgrade from the ziplocks 🙂 That sounds like an awesome trip by the way!
I am amazed! What you packed to go to Europe for three weeks is about the same as what I packed to live in Japan for two years!
Ha, yup, never claimed not to be an overpacker 🙂
It’s SO hard to pack for multi-stop trips! My husband and I have been traveling all year and have had to factor in weddings, Easter, leading backpacking expeditions, exploring cities, every climate imaginable – and now we’re headed to Australia and New Zealand where we will need more summer clothes, rash guards for surfing, backpacking clothes and nice clothes for cities and family gatherings. Whew! Props to you, friend. This sort of life is no small feat 🙂
Learning to let go of what I don’t love along the way, and mailing home what I do, has helped a lot 🙂 It’s not easy traversing climates!
I LOVE your packing posts, Alex! I want to get some packing cubes to try and I know you have a few different sets. Which would you recommend for a starter set? What do you use or recommend for help with flotation while snorkeling (in Panama) that takes up little space?
Hmmm, I’m not sure about flotation devices… I can’t say I use one personally, so I don’t know if I’m the best person for a recommendation. Maybe it would be best to just rent a life jacket upon arrival if you aren’t confident in your swimming/floating? As for packing cubes, I’d get started with a Pack It Specter Cube Set — perfect basics! 🙂
Geez Alex, how the hell do you physically carry an 85L backpack?! I had a 60L and couldn’t even stand up straight! You must be a lot stronger than me. I used to be an overpacker but I have converted and now have a 40L backpack. I do overpack tops – usually taking about 8, and I always have at least 2 dresses but they don’t take up much room 🙂
I don’t think I ever have it full unless I’m carrying my dive gear 🙂 I probably could fit everything into a 60L. But I like having that extra space in case I am going diving!
I never travel without my packing cubes anymore. I own a set by Dot&Dot and they really helped me in my way of packing! 🙂
I’m thinking of picking up a few more lately… might have to check out these Dot and Dot ones, thanks for the tip Marj!
To pack the heels or not to pack them – always a dilemma! I feel like whenever I bring them I don’t wear them, but whenever I don’t there is at least one night where I wish I had ’em. haha!
Seriously. That’s Murphy’s Law, no?!
Wow, that seems like a truck load of gear, especially in the clothing section…
What weight did it all come in at??
Hey Chris, weights are listed in the post intro 🙂
There’s no way this all fit in 2 backpacks! Pics or it didn’t happen. 🙂
For someone who hates packing, you really killed it if you fit all this!
Haha — I’ll have Heather take one of me now that I’m on the road again!
What about all your stuff for Asia? Did you ship it over?
Nope, it’s all in here! In fact, I shipped a bunch of this stuff back after Europe and then just picked up whatever else I needed (some cheap dresses/skirts) when I got to Bangkok.
Do you trust the Clearly Filtered bottle in the developing world? Would you use it for tap water?
Yup! I’ve used it all over Southeast Asia and Central America with tap water. Love it!
Let us just say that we are supremely impressed with your ability to fit so many things into your pack and your carry-ons. Seriously. We know that you hate packing, but for someone who harbors odious sentiments toward suitcases and such, you do pretty well!
Ha, thank you! I’m always fighting my own little packing wars, and it never seems to get any easier…
It’s amazing how you live your life.
Thanks Juan! I feel lucky to do what I love for a living.
A little opinion here: when I’m thinking about how to organize a trip myself in Europe, I always, just always take things for rainy weather, even if I’m going to a generally sunny Greece or Spain. Maybe I’m just unlucky, but I have an impression that Europe is the second most rainy place in the world (behind southeast Asia).
Interesting! Outside the UK I’ve been lucky with sunny weather in Europe, but maybe I’ve just been lucky 🙂
Did you get a chance to wear the boots?
Indeed, several times! In both London and Brussels!