Backpacking Around Europe: What To Pack

backpacking around eruope

One of the things I struggle with is packing light. I am notorious for being the one to bring at least 5 different outfits on a weekend away, with every excuse under the sun as to why I needed to bring each one.

My 3 month trip around Europe and California was the hardest trip I’ve ever had to pack for. I booked all my flights between countries with budget airlines. Only allowing myself one piece of cabin luggage, and a small backpack to serve as my personal item, as adding a checked/stowed bag brought the cost of each flight up exponentially.

Herein lay my challenge; packing everything I would need for three months, into two tiny bags. I managed it, to my disbelief, and here is what I ended up taking:


5-6 pairs of socks

5-6 pairs of underwear

A couple of bras

A scarf that can double as a light blanket – perfect for long airport layovers!

A hat

3 nice tops

3 tee shirts

A long sleeved shirt

A light sweater

3 dresses (or skirts) – one that can be dressed up.

Spandex shorts for under skirts/dresses

A pair of workout leggings – these tend to be thicker and less likely to be see through than cotton ones.

A pair of every day long pants – I chose an elephant patterned pair I got while in Bali.

2 pairs of denim shorts; one blue, one white

A pair of cotton shorts

PJ’s – even better if they can double as daywear!

Swimming togs – a “swimsuit” for those not from Oceania 😉



Walking shoes – I chose black low top converse because they can work with virtually any outfit.

A nice pair of sandals or flats –  for the places you can’t get away with wearing sneakers.

Jandals/Flipflops – lightweight, to wear in hostel showers or at the beach!



Quick-drying travel sized towel – many hostels will charge you to use theirs!

Earplugs and eye mask

Bar soap – I cut mine into a few pieces, so I can also use it to hand wash underwear/socks.

Ziplock bags – for dirty or wet clothes.




Solid deodorant – won’t take up your liquid allowance!

Makeup – only what you really need.


Baby powder – a great way to remove oil from your hair in between long flights, or stop the burn of chafing after a day of walking.

A mini first aid kit: medications, painkillers, plasters, etc


Hair ties/bobby pins

Sanitary items – enough for a couple of days, you can always buy more!

In your carry-on liquids bag: (travel size)



After sun gel






Liquid makeup – again, only what you really need. 

Hand sanitizer

Coconut oil – a super fast makeup remover!

Mini perfume samples


Important Extras


Passport wallet – I got mine off for $4! Great for holding your documents, eyemask, earplugs, daily medications, and anything you may need on the flight. (Not sponsored, I just really love wish!)



Portable chargers – often hostels only have a couple of outlets in a room with 8 beds, make sure you are able to charge your phone when they’re all in use!

A twisted elastic clothes line – perfect for drying your socks and underwear overnight after washing them in the sink. Find out how to make one!

Travel adapters – I use and recommend this Belkin one, because it has a surge protector, two outlets, two USB ports, and comes with changeable plugs (USA, UK, EU, India and NZ/AUS.)


Keychain flashlight

Foldable water bottle

Large padlock – for your hostel safe.

Small padlocks – to lock your backpack zippers together while out and about.

Money belt – keep all your money, cards, and small valuables in here where they can’t be stolen!

Photocopies of important documents

Drivers license

Debit/Credit cards

Loadable foreign currency cards

Lightweight cutlery set




Spare batteries and SD cards

A small daypack or purse – If you are able to leave most of your stuff in a safe, or with friends or family this comes in super handy!

Disclaimer: I took a carry-on suitcase because I didn’t have a proper “backpacker” backpack. Don’t be discouraged from backpacking if this is you too, it definitely still works so long as you bring a small backpack to keep your valuables on you while you leave your clothes and toiletries in the hostel! (This is where zipper locks come in handy.)


I put all my clothing into large ziplock bags by type and sucked the air out, effectively vacuum packing them so that they were super flat. This meant that all my clothing fit on one side of my carry-on suitcase (a hard shell, 4-wheel speed machine), leaving me with extra space once I’d packed everything. This is good if your airlines go by size and not weight, but just to be safe you can keep your suitcase under 7kg or 15lb and put your heavy stuff into your small backpack.

If you’re still struggling to stay within the weight allowance, take a jacket with large pockets. You can put your camera lenses, chargers, a pair of shoes, you name it inside and suddenly your suitcase is lighter, but you’ve not had to give anything up. Just make sure you walk like everything you’re holding is light as a feather!

I would suggest is making yourself a “necklace” for the keys to your locks, so that you always have them easily on hand and are less likely to lose them. I used a long piece of black cord (as opposed to a chain that could break if pulled) as I wanted to be able to hide it beneath my shirt out of sight of pickpocketers!

I also added some little packets of hot sauce to my liquids bag, which I was super thankful for when my vegetarian meal on the plane consisted of plain white rice with unseasoned steamed veggies!


Happy travels!!