Packing Light for Europe
Today I’m sharing a few thoughts about the joys (and the practicalities) of packing light.
Often people ask me about what to pack for a trip to Europe or the UK.
If at all possible, when I leave my house I am only carrying this backpack. I can get by for two weeks in almost all kinds of weather with this pack, and I am SO happy about it when I’m getting on and off buses and trains, walking around a city on a transition day, or just hopping on an airplane without checking a bag. I know it seems a little hard core, but packing light makes travel so much more pleasant.
I only let my kids bring small backpacks when we are traveling and I promise that everyone is happier.
If you need to bring more, I won’t judge you I promise. Not everyone has dreadlocks, rarely bathes, and is comfortable wearing the same pair of wool socks for a month. 🙂
A few reasons for packing light that might not be super obvious:
More time for sightseeing: On your last day somewhere, if you have a bunch of stuff, you usually have to set aside some time for packing. But you can throw in one more tour, one more stop at a museum, or just one more walk around the city if you don’t need that time to pack up. The same can be true of unpacking when you arrive somewhere.
You spend less money on souvenirs (AKA junk to carry back home that no one needs). If you have no room to carry that cute leather fringe bag or double decker bus piggy bank, you’re way less tempted to buy it. Sometimes if something reminds me of someone, I send/tweet them a picture and say “This reminded me of you!” It’s almost as good as taking it home to them and way cheaper.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Europe is not like Africa. In the UK, there is a drugstore on every corner. If you need something, you’ll be able to find it. So the list of things you need to pack “just in case” is really small. A raincoat is about the only thing I recommend as a “just in case” and that’s because in the UK (and especially in Scotland), if it doesn’t rain, well, you need to be thankful. VERY. THANKFUL.
So here is what I actually pack:
In case you want to try packing in a small backpack, I thought I would share a quick rundown of what I pack + what I wear when I go wandering in Europe.
In my backpack:
1 small black dress
black leggings or tights
black flats (Toms)
1 tank top
1 long sleeve t-shirt
1 pair socks (wool)
5ish changes underwear
converter for charging my phone + camera (i like this one)
1 book OR kindle
smallest available toiletries (soap/toothbrush/toothpaste/deo/chapstick/lotion) in a ziplock bag in top pocket, ready to pull out at airport security
deck of cards (seriously)
small package of tissues
money belt/wallet that holds my passport, debit card, credit card and cash (I wear this under my clothes after I get off the airplane and just put 1 credit card and 20-40 in cash in my pocket or a tiny change purse. Oh, and I don’t get cash until I am in the airport at my destination. Don’t bring a bunch of USD to Europe. It’s best to wait and pull cash out with you debit card after you get here than it is to exchange actual, physical money. More explanation about that here.)
a granola bar
a ziplock bag of nuts/trail mix
a small pill bottle with a cocktail of meds I might need (ibuprofen, claritin, vit C, benedryl)
a rolled up cloth shopping bag for buying picnics/groceries
1 pair jeans (+ underpants)
1 t-shirt (+ bra or camisole)
1 pair wool socks
tennis shoes or comfortable walking boots or any shoe I can walk FOREVA in.
PS Don’t pack a hair dryer or hair straightener or any kind of small appliance. The conversion in the outlets burns them out. Everywhere you stay will have hair dryers available.
Do you have any other questions or thoughts about packing light?? Ask/Share away!