Jul 15, 2013

Touring Europe for 38 days using ONE day pack... here's how

  If you're joining me from Pinterest, welcome to The Artsy Cajun! This post may be long, but it will give you most of the info you'll need to pack efficiently and still manage to have everything you need! Don't forget to take a look around my blog for other Europe trip blog posts after you're done here!

*At the bottom of the post, I will put my Packing List so you can just print it out & use it! GO TRAVEL! See this gorgeous world God has made!*

38 days frolicking all over Europe, 17 countries, in the winter, all using ONE day pack! I would normally say backpack, but most people think of the hardcore ones that have the metal frame.  I am talking about a day pack, a little bigger than a school backpack. Yes, one pack. In theory, it was such a good idea. we did this for a number of reasons. 

  • 1. SAFETY-  I am obsessed with safety. I read so many stories about so and so who went to Europe and had their bags stolen, lost or the young kids on mopeds that would ride by and slash your straps and take off with your bag. when it comes to safety, determination is my middle name. 
  • 2. We knew we would be on a bus full of people and we were told we could only bring so many pounds of luggage. Now, I won't say names, but a select few of our group strolled up with 2-3 LARGE suitcases, like largest you can buy them. Our tour was for less than a month. :) Trust me, we heard almost daily from the bus driver that said if we were to get stopped we would get fined for being overweight.  
  • 3. We knew the American airlines were starting to charge for even one checked baggage. Having multiple layovers & possible schedule changes, we didn't want to pay every single time, so we choose to just have one pack each.

Once decided,  I began scouring the travel sites and forums looking for any tips on the best packs to get. After countless hours, I finally found the holy grail of packs- the Pac Safe Venture 35L.    This bad boy has steel meshing INSIDE the fabric, water resistant, pockets galore, steel cable reinforcing the straps,  I mean perfect! Double checking with the airlines that the pack would be carry on size, we ordered two from Amazon for about $130 each, now, they are under that, and TOTALLY worth it people, trust me. These things took a beating and we still use them today!

 Now on to our next issue, it was winter...in Europe. Not that it is necessarily a problem, but we are leaving our Hawaiian home of the past three years to go where I don't even know how cold it is because everything is in Celsius and I hate math- But COLD. Part of the tour would be outside, of course, to see all the sights. And some places were warmer than others, but you always needed layers. So the clothes would be thicker but with Husband's army packing skills, we made it happen!

 The hardest part, for me, was letting go of what I "thought" I needed as far as bathroom products go.  I am a product junkie, and I will be the first to admit it. I love new products that smell good, or lotions, or pore strips... put it this way, in moving from Hawaii to Illinois, the moving company didn't allow any liquid items to be packed up. I literally had a 10-gallon garbage bag full of bathroom products that I had to give away. P.R.O.D.U.C.T. J.U.N.K.I.E. I also had a time trying to figure out what books to read. Since we were limited in space, I put the Kindle app on my iPad and bought a bunch of books on there. This link gets you started with 2 free books, can't beat that! Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

So, fitting everything I would possibly need one pack caused so much stress and anxiety for me. It took about 4 months for me to think about, stress about, research, find the best deals for everything, but I will tell you how I did it and made it all fit in pictures. One tip is get things that match with ANYTHING you wear. Ok, here goes.

For obvious reasons, undergarments are not pictured, 3 sets did just fine since we had travel soap and washed every night in the hotel sinks if there wasn't a laundry facility.

 In the quick access pocket went maps, schedules, tickets, anything we would need to get to right away.

  This packing list, well, there are things to remember. We were in Europe from Jan-March, so it was freezing most of the time. I had to pack warm, but I had to remember everything would be on my back at all times. Turns out we could leave things on the bus for our outings, but if you are traveling solo, count on it being on your back.

  So when purchasing things, get as light weight and as small as possible. Also, remember 

  • at the airport, you have to have all toiletries or liquids in a see-through/Ziploc 1 quart sized bag, and they cannot be over 3 oz. each.
  •  As for shoes, wear ones that can slip on and off if at all possible. This will help you get through customs so you're not running through random airports with a 30-pound pack punching you in the back, trust me ;)

Packing List:
1 Heavy Jacket
1 Light Jacket, I used a fleece one from old navy.
1 pair of hiking boots- Do your feet a favor and break them in for months beforehand.
1 pair of dressy boots
1 Day Pack, I used Pac Safe Venture 35L
1 large mesh laundry bag
1 Cross Body Purse, I used Vera of course :)
Camera plus extra SD cards
Camera battery Charger
European power adapter
Ipad & Ipad case
1 Master lock plus key- When you stay at hotels or hostels, they normally have a lockable wardrobe, and I suggest either locking it away or taking it with you EVERYTIME you leave your room.
2 t-shirts
1 long sleeve t-shirt
2 pair thermals, top & bottom
3 sets undergarments, including socks
1 set pajamas
1 pair of slippers
1 pashmina, Black, matches anything
neck gaiter
beanie hat
1 dressy shirt
2 pair pants
1 shimmy/shammy towel (find these in the camping section of big box stores)
1 toiletries bag (came with towel above)
1 small shower poof
small bottle of lotion
small nail clippers
Vicks vapor rub
Moleskin- This stuff saves your feet after miles of touring cities. You will need it!
1 small bottle of perfume
smash proof 3 oz. bottle of body wash
smash proof 3 oz. bottle of shampoo & conditioner combo
Carmex or another lip balm
small comb
2 hair ties, 4 bobby pins- super careful with these because we all know how bobbies disappear into thin air.
hard case for the soap bar
small bottle of face lotion with SPF
toothbrush & toothpaste
Travel laundry soap sheets (super cool)
Eyeliner, I used non-waterproof kind. Just so I could smudge it, it will double as eye shadow.
ink pen 
travel journal
Benadryl- Make sure to leave all medications in blister packs- otherwise, you might have explaining to do!
travel packs of Neosporin
Baby wipes- Get the flushable kind. These are awesome for freshening up after hours on a bus or plane!

That's all! Remember above all else, have fun! Take too many pictures and don't be afraid to talk to the locals! Money can't buy happiness, but it buys travel, which makes me pretty darn happy!


  1. Such good advice! i still can't believe you made it with just the one pack!

  2. Lol Jes. Still cant believe how easy it couldve been... But now I know for next time without having to stress about restrictions!

  3. We all know who had the most luggage :p Great post Jess!

  4. Thank you Ladies! I was difficult at first because you always think of what you need that you don't have. But after the first week of traveling so far, so fast, I was thankful we decided to do this!

  5. This is amazing!!!! So, i'm planning another trip soon. Keeping my fingers crossed and Praying everything goes well. Be ready ladies, I could be visiting one of you.

    1. Thanks Grace! I'm going to do a printable version soon. And I'm ready for you to visit any time you'd like!!! I'll warn you like I warned Kate, it's going to get really cold here in the winter time! :)

  6. I don't know how you did this and I can't even imagine it because I am hardcore OCD, especially when it comes to packing-- the last trip I packed for was a weekend and I made list after list a month in advance and I needed two bags. Anyway, I'm a product junkie too! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the smell of things, body washes and shampoos. Some of my favorite stuff!

  7. Thank you soo much for this post. I will be backpacking in Singapore this summer and didn't have the first clue of how to pack. I really appreciate you taking the time to break this all down for your readers.

  8. This is an awesome list!! I'll be traveling Europe next summer and trying to fit everything into one backpack, this is encouraging!

  9. I LOVE this post! I'm trying to convince my husband to go backpacking through europe so this is just another post that I'm going to be keeping around. Found your blog through the New Year's giveaway at In Due Time- thanks for sponsoring! :)


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