Travel Essentials for Backpacking in Europe

Travel Essentials for Backpacking in Europe

Twelve countries.
Two months.
One backpack.

* * *

I scanned the aisles of REI in search of the perfect backpack for my two-month venture across Europe. A saleswoman approached me and I immediately peppered her with questions. What do you recommend? Will this backpack fit on most airplane overheads? What does this pocket do? How do these straps work?

I was slightly overwhelmed by the abundance of travel packs carried by REI, but after trying on a variety, I found my match – a bright teal Osprey Farpoint 40. The saleswoman was about my size and stature, and she said this typically fit women of my size best. I loved the pop of color, the snug fit against my hips, and the surplus of pockets to cram my stuff into every nook and cranny.


* * *

I officially owned the most perfect backpack for my travels, but now it was time to figure out how to pack it to the brim. I had already scribbled a packing list for Europe, so I had a rough idea of how many things I needed to shove into my new teal Osprey.

I began lying out my clothes, accessories, toiletries and electronics.

Holy hell. This is too much.

I immediately rang up the troops (aka mom and dad) to help me out.

Together, we cut and consolidated until my pile of “necessities” was stripped down to a small handful of items. I let out a sigh of relief.

* * *

Final Packing List


  • 3 pair of shoes — Nike running shoes for working out, long walks/hikes and travel days; Steve Madden slip-ons for both comfort and style; Birkenstocks for casual sandals
  • 1 pullover / 1 sweater / 1 long sleeve top — For flights and crisp nighttime temps
  • 1 pair of jeans — I chose a grey jean so I could dress it up and down, and my dad calls these jeans my “beer pants” because they have a little wiggle room in the waist so they’re extra comfortable
  • 1 skirt — I chose a skirt over shorts because 1) shorts apparently make you look “too American” and 2) you can wear skirts a dozen times before even thinking about washing them
  • 4 dresses — 3 flowy daytime sundresses and 1 dress for fancier nights out
  • 3 tanks / tops — I chose lightweight tanks that I could dress up and down, and none of them nuzzle up under my armpits, so I can wear them multiple times before needing to wash them
  • 2 workout outfits
  • 1 bathing suit


  • Money belt with RFID-blocking technology — I purchased a slim, beige money belt so that it would easily blend underneath my clothing and the RFID tech ensures that identity thieves won’t be able to scan through the belt fabric
  • Travel size EVERYTHING — Toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, sunscreen, lotion, contact solution, etc. I stocked up on all of Wal-Mart’s travel size items before I left
  • Kindle — Niko gifted me a Kindle recently so that I no longer have to lug heavy books around on my travels. I’m currently pleasure-reading Mindy Kaling’s hilarious book, Why Not Me?
  • Handheld Bluetooth speaker — My 3x3in speaker is critical for mornings and evenings spent cooking and hanging out in our Airbnb’s
  • Sports Camera — My lovely roommates gave me a Go-Pro-esque camera for my birthday, which I now bring everywhere because it creates a panoramic view of my adventures. Stay tuned for a video montage of Europe at the end of my trip 🙂
  • Packing cubes — These cubes help organize and compress everything in your bag
  • Travel journal and calendar — I’ve had a calendar since 9th grade to serve as a daily log of my activities, so naturally I take it everywhere with me so that I can record every notable daily interaction and event. In addition, my grandparent’s just gave me a fantastic new travel journal to jot down my experiences while abroad

* * *

Admittedly, I recruited my dad – who happens to be an expert packer after many years of traveling for work and who also possesses some OCD organizational tendencies – to neatly load everything into my Osprey.

There was even some room left over, so I eagerly stuffed a handful of snacks into the front pockets. Two layovers and 15 hours of travel time = major need for snacks.

I heaved the pack onto my shoulders, clicked the hip and chest buckles together, and released a triumphant smile.

Europe, here I come.

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