In short: carefully.
I did a ton of research on the packs themselves, and we ended up opting for LLBean's Quickload Travel Packs: they meet most carry-on requirements, and they unzip like regular suitcases, rather than loading from the top, which made them easier to unpack and repack at each of our seven (turned into eight) destinations. I also perused blogs and posts from others who had done similar, adapting their packing lists for my destinations, weather, and planned activities (I didn't, for example, pack any nightclub clothes, which I don't own anyway).
- 2 pairs of pants (jeans and black jeans)
- 2 tank tops (1 white, 1 black)
- 2 t-shirts (1 grey, 1 black)
- 3 long-sleeve shirts (1 white, 1 black, 1 black-and-white striped)
- 2 "nice" shirts (1 white, 1 black)
- 2 sweaters (1 black, 1 green)
- 2 three-quarter sleeve cardigans (1 red, 1 grey)
- 1 black maxi dress
- 1 knee-length black shift dress (for warmer weather)
- 1 pair of hiking shoes (Merrell Allout Blazes)
- 1 pair of nude-colored sandals
- 1 pair of black patent-leather flats
- 8 pairs of socks
- 8 pairs of underwear + 3 bras
- 1 pair of pajamas
- 1 tote bag
- 1 raincoat
I wore every single item in my suitcase at least once, if not multiple times. We packed dehydrated "sheets" of laundry detergent, and washed our clothes in the shower/sink of each apartment we stayed in (though one or two did have a washing machine, not a single one had a dryer).
Lesson learned: Wash your clothes on arrival at each location, so they can drip-dry and (hopefully) be dry by the time you pack and leave. Never underestimate how long it takes something to dry when you lack a dryer's oh-so-handy spin cycle.
Because our backpacks don't have many compartments, we used these amazing eBags packing cubes to roll our clothes, which served the dual purpose of keeping our clothes compact enough to fit in our cases and tidy enough not to make us crazy with unpacking and re-packing.
I kept the toiletry section as light as possible, because we planned to carry on our bags for each of our six total flights, and liquids are a pain to deal with. I brought:
- Travel-size shampoo + conditioner
- Travel-size perfume (which leaked and got tossed about two weeks in)
- Travel-size deodorant
- 2 red lipsticks
- Small tube of face lotion + SPF40
- Travel-size sunscreen
- Travel-size shaving cream + razor
- Travel-size toothpaste + tiny toothbrush
- Fold-up hairbrush
We bought bars of soap (or hoarded hotel mini-soap) along the way, and re-stocked if/when we ran out of things (toothpaste, mainly). I wish I brought a real hairbrush, but since no place we stayed had a working hairdryer, the hair went in a bun almost every day anyway, and brushing it was the least of my concerns.
- Universal power adapter (we got this one from Amazon, and loved it because the fan on the unit kept it from overheating when plugged in)
- Door-stop alarm: the concept here is a doorstop that sets off an alarm if, say, anyone tries to open the door and hits the door wedge. While a good idea in theory, we a) never felt unsafe in any of our AirBnB rentals (or stop-gap hotels), and b) the device stopped working round about day 3. So we trashed it. Waste of money and luggage space.
- Canon Eos Rebel T3i camera, plus charger. Also invested in a super-size SD card, so we didn't have to worry about running out of space (we had about 600 pictures left on our 5,000 photo card when we got home)
- ONA Bowery camera bag, to protect the camera when packed in my backpack, and to use as a day bag/purse/camera case while exploring
- Four Lonely Planet pocket-size travel guides: Barcelona, Rome, Edinburgh, and Paris. There weren't pocket-guides available for our other destinations (Dublin/Ireland, Marseille, Milan), and these ended up being pretty useless anyway, though I suppose they make nice mementos, and the maps were occasionally helpful.
- Nook Simple Touch, which holds its charge for at least a month without WiFi, and has the added bonus of sharing a charger with my...
- Smartphone: though the phone part didn't work in Europe at all (I kept it on airplane mode), WiFi hotspots were surprisingly plentiful (even Versailles is online), so I kept my phone on hand to snap quick pictures, load previously saved maps, and look up directions/destinations as possible. We also invested in Skype credit to call home a few times and assure our respective parents that yes, we were still alive and well.
- A money belt: I only wore this in Barcelona, a city unfortunately notorious for its pickpockets, but was glad to have it just to put my mind at ease while we were there.
|And we're off!|