In 24 hours time, my boyfriend Rob and I board a plane from Chicago to Amsterdam, to kick off a 5 week long Euro-trip of a lifetime.

25 days out of those 5 weeks will be spent backpacking: Amsterdam > Paris > Venice (break for a 12-day cruise during which time we will have a shared suitcase being brought to us from the states) Rome > Reggio Calabria > Florence > Barcelona > Lake Como > London > Iceland.

We hope to not have to pay for luggage on any of our flights during the backpacking portion, so after much trial and error here’s what we’ve come up with.

General TSA regulations for the budget airlines we’ll be flying permit one personal item, 10 by 13 by 17, no more than 22lbs. We are pushing this a bit, but crossing our fingers and hoping some clever hacks will keep us from having to pay.

Each of our backpacks slightly exceed regulation size, but won’t be fully filled, and have some  drawstrings and such that will make them look smaller, and allow them to squish into the bins if needed. We will also be carrying low-profile fanny packs under our clothes for personal items, and always wearing layers and our heaviest shoes in the airports as needed.

Here are some pictures: the bag is fully packed with all the items below. It’s amazing how much you can fit if you pack smart.

List of clothes:

  • 8 pair underwear
  • 2 lightweight sport bras / bralettes
  • 8 pair socks
  • rubber flip-flops
  • 3 pair shorts
  • 2 pair leggings
  • 4 tops
  • 2 hats
  • solid tennis shoes for walking
  • 1 romper
  • 1 skirt
  • 1 dress
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 cover up
  • 1 lightweight windbreaker type jacket, mine is from Carbon38

List of toiletries:

  • folding toothbrush
  • 2 mini flosses
  • handful of floss picks
  • 2 mini toothpastes
  • mini folding hairbrush
  • full size deodorant
  • sunblock sectioned into TSA-sized container
  • shampoo sectioned into TSA-sized container
  • conditioner sectioned into TSA-sized container
  • razor
  • couple tampons
  • hair ties

List of makeup:

  • mini mascara
  • full size brow pencil
  • full size brow gel
  • full size concealer
  • foundation sample
  • powder sample
  • lip balm
  • one full size lipstick
  • one mini lipstick
  • face halo


  • phone
  • charger
  • outlet converter kit
  • Polaroid camera
  • one pack of film
  • headphones
  • travel journal + pen
  • folder containing print outs of all boarding passes, directions, contact info, etc
  • passport
  • 25 euro saved from last trip
  • microfiber towels that fold up super tiny and clip onto our backpacks – 2 sizes
  • similarly designed shopping bag, folds up smaller than an iPhone
  • empty water bottle
  • sunglasses
  • low profile fanny pack, also from Carbon38

General Packing Hacks:

  1. Keep everything organized in the main pocket of your backpack by stacking like-items, i.e. shorts together, tops together, etc, and folding them over then rolling into little sushi rolls and packing side by side to leave room for souvenirs, camera, etc on top.
  2. Keep passport either on your person at all times in a safe, hidden zipper pocket like that in a fanny pack (what I’m doing), or in a hidden pocket in your backpack.
  3. Pack toiletries and makeup in an easily accessible space, like the front pocket, for easy access whenever you need a quick airport/train station touch-up.
  4. Pack a bag within your bag to separate dirty from clean clothes until you can reach a laundromat.
  5. Plan on doing laundry about once per week. We have 25 days of actual living-out-of-a-backpack planned, so we’ve packed generously for about 8 days worth of traveling, knowing we can re-wear certain things, hand-wash undies and socks if it comes down to it, etc.
  6. Do an initial pack, and then see where you can scale back. If you can’t justify bringing that 7th top, don’t. Keep in mind you’re traveling light and will likely want to buy some goodies on your way, so keep it simple.
  7. Wear as much as possible in the airport to make your bag look less stuffed. Wear your larger clothing, heavier shoes, hat, tie that jacket around your waist, just remember to take everything off going through security.
  8. Beauty thoughts: pick and choose wisely. I’m choosing to do my brows and maybe throw on some mascara and lipstick each day. I want to look cute in travel pics but also don’t want to waste precious time primping each morning. I decided to skip the foundation, eyeshadow, etc.
  9. Share space with your travel buddy. Working on a cruise ship we had a very strict 50 lb limit traveling home, or pay for the overage charges. By the time we got through immigration, everyone’s belonging’s were in everyone else’s suitcase, but we made it work. Same rules apply. Share that space.
  10. Function over fashion. We all want to be cute on vaca, but pack for practicality’s sake, you’ll thank me later.
  11. Use the outside of your bag as well. Hats with adjustable backs, anything with a carabiner, etc, can be clipped onto the outside of your bag for easy access and to save inside space.
  12. Pack as many multi-use garments as possible. For example, tops with built-in bras, a maxi skirt that doubles as a dress, a beach cover up that can be thrown over shoulders for sun protection or in cathedrals with dress codes, etc.

Did I forget anything?! Let me know in the comments below.

I have no affiliation with any of the linked items, just love the products, aside from Carbon38. If you do shop Carbon38, use my code KATIEMCG for 25% off your order.

Thanks for tuning in guys! I’ll do my best to keep updating this page as we travel!

XO, Katie




One thought on “25 DAYS IN A BACKPACK

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