Fed up with hauling around a lot of stuff you don’t really need?  Bashed your ankles, or felt something go ouch in your shoulder when lifting a big bag?  Us too.  But we realised the error of our ways, and now we travel much lighter.  Here’s all we’ve learned about how to pack light for Europe.

Want to pack light on your next trip?  Why not pin this for later!

How To Pack Light For Europe_ Your No-Nonsense Guide

Hints And Tips On Packing Light: Your Bag

Choosing The Right Bag for The Trip

Most of us seeking to pack light will be looking at one of two options: a cabin sized wheeled case or a backpack.  There are pros and cons to both choices, and your selection isn’t clear cut.  A wheeled case will be heavier to start with, but you don’t have to carry that weight, just drag it or push it depending on the number of wheels.  If you’re headed to a part of Europe with a lot of history, two wheels might suit you better than four, it being easier to drag than push your bags on cobbles.  Hard shell may be more fashionable, but fabric can be a lot lighter.  One of my favourite bags is a soft wheeled Kipling, which has even survived the hold unscathed.

If you’re choosing a backpack, make sure you have it properly fitted, and take advice on a good capacity for your needs.  The maximum weight recommended for your pack is between a quarter and a sixth of your bodyweight, but if you are trying to pack light, this will hopefully not be needed.  Many people aim for a maximum of 22 pounds, this being the average carry on weight acceptable to airlines.  However, I’ve seen weight criteria vary from 15-40+ pounds, so check your airline’s current limits, especially if you are using a low cost carrier.

How To Pack For Europe: Your Essentials

Before you even start the packing process, it’s good to have a plan in your head for what you are going to do.  We normally work out whether it’s a “posh shoes” trip before we even pack.  What sort of activities do you have in mind?  Will you be wandering through cities, hiking, or on the beach?  What’s the normal climate at your destination?

If it’s somewhere new to you and you want to blend in, then take a look at Google images or blogs for your destination.  You’ll get an idea of what to pack.

Hints And Tips On Packing Light: Your Clothes

Your approach to packing clothes may be very different depending on whether you see clothes as necessary for warmth or very much part of your personal style.  But whatever your sartorial radar picks up, there are some things to bear in mind when choosing clothes for the trip:

  • Choose layering pieces and items that have enough stamina for the road.
  • It helps enormously if it all goes together, making for more choices.
  • This is not the time to bring something new and untried.  Finding out it creases like a paper bag, bites into your wrists or has some other irritating attribute is best discovered at home not on the road.
  • Select low maintenance and if possible washable items.
  • Some items like scarves and sarongs can do double or triple duty.
  • Take no more than 3 pairs of shoes including the ones you’re wearing to travel.
  • Work on a ratio of 2-3 tops to each bottom.
  • Most of us have a comfort zone for clothing.  Travel is not normally the best time to challenge that.  You probably won’t have the desire to wear an item that’s languished unworn in your wardrobe for the past year.  How to pack light for Europe?  Resist packing it!
  • Look at the average temperatures and rainfall for your destination, and check the weather forecast before you leave.  This reduces the temptation to add extra “just in case” items.

Before you pack it, lay it out on the bed or floor and remove the just in case duplicates.  Ask yourself exactly why you’re taking everything.

Hints And Tips On Packing Light: Toiletries

Here’s where it pays to be ruthless.  Unless you have special reasons for needing particular items, pare it right back to the minimum and use what’s at your destination.  Most of the time, the difference in how your hair looks using your favourite products and how it looks with something you’ve bought on the road is marginal at best.  So keep your kit carry-on size, bringing only the products you really need, and that will be difficult to find on the road.

Hints And Tips On Packing Light: Tech Gear

This is the area that I often struggle with.  For a few days, I can persuade myself that I don’t need more than a GoPro and a tablet.  But I’m then seduced by the fact that a laptop is much easier to use for blogging.  Plus I get to upload my pictures safely.

So I try to pack light around the fringes.  Buying a much lighter laptop this year has helped.  As does not bringing too many desired but optional extras.  The non-negotiables are the adaptors, connectors and charger, plus a powerbank.  The tablet has my books, magazines, guides and maps.

Your Personal Item

Not every airline will allow you to take a personal item in addition to your carry on bag.  But if you are able to bring a day bag, think about how to pack light here too.

Choosing Your Personal Item

It may seem obvious, but you can also reduce the weight of what you carry by your choice of personal item.  If you need to bring your laptop, then your personal item may be chosen for its protective abilities.  But given a free choice, find your lightest bag.

Is It Up To The Job?

Check it’s fit for purpose.  By that I mean does it stay put when you carry it, or does it slither around in an irritating way while you walk?  If it’s a small backpack, and your carry on is a larger backpack, do they work together to fit one at the front and one round the back to carry?  Yes, I have been that Ninja turtle.

Rid Yourself Of Everyday Items

If you’re taking something that you carry everyday, now’s the time to go through it and adjust.  All those loyalty cards?  Not needed.  Unexpected items in bagging area?  Discard.  Things you carry for work?  Not on vacation.  It’s surprising how much you can reduce your load by ridding yourself of the things you need for home life, not holiday life.

Ready To Pack?  How To Cut Things Down Further

Now you’re ready to pack, stack everything in piles on your bed or sofa.  Take a long serious look.  Have you got unnecessary duplicates?  Things that you’ve not yet worn, and haven’t tested their comfort?  Too much just in case?  Are your extras really the things you would find it hard to replace at the destination?  Time for the final cull of unneeded items.

How To Pack Light For A week And Beyond

We’ve talked here about packing for a week.  In truth, there’s not much difference if you take a longer trip.  If I’m heading out for two weeks ore more, then I normally take clothes for around nine days.

How To Pack Light For 2 Weeks: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Why nine?  It allows me a couple of days grace to find somewhere to launder and dry my first week’s items.  I try to plan my accommodation so I can find laundry facilities at the end of the first week.  If that doesn’t work out, then I have a couple more days to wash things through in the sink and get them dry.  Unless you’re in a very hot climate, don’t underestimate the time needed to get your gear dry enough to wear or pack.  There is no fun in trying to dry your next day’s undies in a towel or under a hairdryer.

How To Pack Light For A Month: Extras You Might Need On The Road

When I’m gone for more than a week – or less if it’s a work trip – I’ll often need to pack extras relating to work.  That might be a bigger camera than the GoPro, my laptop, a notebook and a diary (yes, I still have mine on paper).  If that’s you as a working traveler too, then be aware of the extra weight you are adding to work on the road.  This is where it really pays off to have cut down your clothes and toiletries at the beginning.

Final Thoughts On Packing Light

Next time you go on a trip, make unpacking on your return worthwhile.  As you take everything out of your bag, ask yourself whether you used it.  Aside from items like medication, which it’s always good not to have needed, how much have you carried with you for no reason?  My unneeded pile has reduced steadily over time, to the stage when it’s no longer a pile.

Looking for More Advice On Packing?

You’ll find all kinds of travel products under discussion on the forums here at Flyer Talk.  From the lightest carry on bags to one bag travel, there’s someone discussing it there.

We’ve got you covered for packing carry on in summer, and packing carry on in winter.  I’ve also put together a list of road trip essentials.  And if you want to know what to pack for London (and the rest of Britain), you’ll find it here.  How to pack for Europe isn’t difficult.  Travel light and enjoy it.

Ready to travel lighter?  Pin this for later.

How To Pack Light For Europe_ Your No-Nonsense Guide


Author: Bernie

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2 thoughts on “How To Pack Light For Europe: Your No-Nonsense Guide

  1. I think my favourite three words in this article are ‘resist packing it!’
    We used to be terrible for packing things we don’t need, but travelling has taught us to be more ruthless. Some excellent advice here that totally resonates!

    Posted on September 20, 2018 at 7:08 pm
    1. We’ve definitely become ruthless. And resistant. Although my partner once leaving his boxies behind for a 2 week trip was a step too far, I suspect…

      Posted on September 20, 2018 at 7:58 pm