One of my favorite things about our recent trip to Italy was that we packed everything in a backpack and a little purse/day pack. When people find out that we packed everything for two weeks in such small bags, their eyes get big and their next question is “WHY?” So, here’s why.
Why pack in a backpack for 2 weeks?
As I said in my first post about our trip, I’d done the whole travel amongst many cities and carry a large bag thing. It’s not for me. I love clothes and shoes just as much as the next girl, but I was tired of lugging a massive suitcase all over the place. I wanted the freedom to know I could carry everything I needed and didn’t need anyone’s help. I also knew we would be traveling amongst various cities, catching trains and planes with short layovers. I didn’t want to worry about checking a bag and possibly losing it. I wanted my bag to fit in all overhead compartments and allow me to be as mobile as possible. For travel tips, check out my trip planning post.
One more reason to carry a backpack in Italy (or anywhere for that matter)…cobble stones. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried rolling cheap plastic wheels across ancient rocky uneven cobblestones, but it’s nearly impossible. At the very best, you’ll come out of it with one missing wheel and a bit of extra sweat on your brow. We got tons of compliments on our light packing and while others had to literally pick up their rolling suitcases, we booked it through each city with ease.
And one last thing. For a woman who is always made fun of for her embarrassing amount of clothes and told there was no way she could get all of her stuff in a backpack, I felt a sense of great pride knowing I accomplished even just this little challenge. If I can pack for 2 weeks in a backpack, you can too! But, seriously. Don’t worry, you can still look really cute and fit a surprising amount of stuff in an Osprey bag. Now that we’ve done the backpack thing, there is definitely no going back.
Happy packing, friends!
Packing Basics & Tips:
- Backpack: Osprey Porter 46 worked for both my husband and I. The best thing about this bag is that it comes with a warranty and opens like a suitcase. If your backpack opens like your old 7th grade school backpack, you will undoubtedly hate your life for the few days you are traveling. We also loved how the straps across the top cinch everything down. It has several sets of straps that help give your back support and allow you to easily carry it. I was worried it wouldn’t work as a carry-on bag, but we never had a problem. It fits the measurements and was so easy to put on and off the airplanes. We packed all of our clothes and shoes, minus what we wore onto the plane and everything fit like tetris. It’s kind of incredible to see. We got our packs at REI and got to try them on before we bought them, but you can also buy them from the above link.
- Packing Cubes: These things are a lifesaver. They keep all your clothes organized and easily accessible. We got the 3 piece variety pack and were so glad we did. For shoes, I used my old TOMS shoe bags or other cloth bags to hold shoes, because I think it’s gross when they touch my clothes. Haha.
- Daypacks: we could carry these without a problem despite also carrying our bigger bags. Matt got an Osprey daypack which was great for maps, water bottles, snacks and anything else we may have needed on our days exploring.
- Large Purse: I got this canvas satchel bag and put my purse inside it. For my travel purse, I always try to carry something that can hold just what I need for the day, go across my body, zip all the way closed and has no pockets on the outside. For this trip, I chose to go with black since my shoes were mostly black and grey.
- Pack a week or so in advance and practice with your bag. I may or may not have worn my fully packed backpack all over the house for a few days. 😉 Make sure it’s not too big or heavy for you to handle. You need to be able to lift it above your head to fit in plane or train overhead compartments. You also don’t want a sore back, so make sure your backpack is the right size for you and adjusted properly.
- Here are a few helpful travel items for your adventure. You can wash in the sink and dry clothes with a clothesline or towel warmer. Don’t forget to bring laundry detergent. You can also take clothes to a laundry facility, but you can fit enough clothes in your Osprey for two weeks. Invest in a great, small toiletries bag. Get some euros before you go on your trip. If not, find an ATM as soon as you arrive at your destination (use your 0 foreign transaction fee card). Passport covers often provide a place to store your tickets and passport in one place. I like to carry a nice folder like this one to keep hard copies of my itineraries, passport and other reservations. Get a good language book/dictionary to study or find a great language app. We like this Eagle Creek money belt for situations when you feel a little uneasy with your valuables. You’ll want to have a great travel adapter kit. I love this pocket charger (which you’ll find useful just to own for everyday use). Also, be sure to have a sturdy water bottle and clip, so you can clip the water bottle onto your bag.
- Shoes: You’ll want good, comfy, stylish shoes and we’ve had lots of questions about the kind of shoes we bring on trips like this. I love any of the classic Keds for cute and comfy tennis shoes. Also love Converse, which is what my husband wore most of the time. We both like wearing grey shoes, because they go with almost anything and don’t show dirt. I love these Crown Vintage boots that can be worn with tights or jeans. We also got these Chippewa boots for Matt and they worked really well in the rocky, dirty streets we often found ourselves walking through. And of course, my favorite Target ballet flats.
- When you are choosing what to pack, make sure you really like the items you are packing so you are happy to wear them over and over again. You want to be comfortable and blend into the cities you are visiting rather than looking like a typical tourist. Pack basic/neutral pieces and add pops of color with scarves and jewelry. Also, try to pack your lightest weight clothing items and those that dry easily. Here are some examples of what I packed.
Stay tuned for a post on Sunday with a full packing list for a 2 week trip to Europe!