How to backpack lightly through Europe and still manage to look cool
Packing for any vacation can be a little stressful. You're combing through your closet, picking out outfits that say "yes, this is vacation me" and trying to pull together looks that will garner lots of Instagram love. It's tough, and in years past, I've been an absolutely TERRIBLE packer. I usually end up waiting till the last minute, shoving clothes in my suitcase I haven't worn in months and packing duplicates of items. You don't need four identical black dresses, ALEXA.
*Me as Larry David deciding what shade of black to bring.*
Deal Diva Katherine Snow Smith just wrote a post about packing light for her New York City trip. And girl, the battle of the backpacks has begun.
I'm leaving for Europe for two weeks on Friday, backpacking through Copenhagen, Sweden, Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris by myself. These are fashion "it-girl" Capitols, people. Blogs are dedicated to mimicking Persian fashion. Pinterest boards are full of European street styles. Seriously, google "cool girl" and try to tell me the first few photos are not some chic outfit walking down a cobblestone street. But how do you live out of a backpack for two weeks in the world's most stylish cities, and still manage to look cool? I shot my high school's French foreign exchange student a Facebook message, asking her what items I should try to bring. She didn't message me back. Thanks A LOT.
Anyways, here is my attempt:
My trendiest pieces are also, unfortunately, my bulkiest. Am I just supposed to leave my baby blue leather studded jacket behind?! I don't think so. My favorite pair of distressed mom jeans? How can I NOT be seen in those? So I decided to center all of my outfits around two statement jackets -- my leather jacket and a lightweight bomber jacket. Side note: I have a real problem with packing items I think I'm going to wear, but aren't necessarily staples in my wardrobe. So packing items that only paired well with my two favorite jackets helped keep me from loading my bag with a mix-match of colors and prints that can't be recreated into new looks.
This meant packing several solid-color shirts and tanktops that I won't be upset about losing if I have to make room for new clothes and souvenirs. I also eliminated any fussy clothes, or outfits that call for constant fidgeting. I also made it a point to only bring shirts that could be worn with all of my pants, but also both of my skirts. I invested in an accessory organizer for my last trip. For someone like me who has spent way too much time untangling necklaces out of a plastic bag, these are a life safer.
In most hostels, towels (and sometimes blankets) are not provided. So some prime backpack real estate can get eaten up real quick. On my last European adventure, I brought a mid-sized microfiber towel. This time around I opted for a purple Turkish towel I bought from the St. Pete Indie Market that can double as a blanket (it's so soft) or be wrapped around as large scarf.
As for shoes, I'm bringing a comfortable flat, a black ankle boot for going out and black adidas. Sports apparel is having a real moment right now, so I'm capitalizing on the fact that comfortable street sneakers paired with jeans is on trend.
Wanting to look cool while in another country is easy to understand. Who wouldn't, amiright? But try to avoid dressing as an archetype. I'm talkin' black and white striped shirts with a beret holding a baguette in Paris. Let's not. Wear what you feel like yourself in.
Here are some other tips for packing light, and a full breakdown of everything I managed to fit in my backpack (with room).
- Lay your clothes flat on top of each other, then roll. This saves up more room than rolling them individually.
- For big backpacks like mine, I found it easier to have the bag resting straight up for a tighter fit.
- Make sure your shoes are positioned around your clothes or on the bottom of your bag. Fill them with small items like socks.
- If you're worried about how something will travel, do a trial run. I rolled up a few dresses and unpacked them the next day to make sure they were fit for the journey.
Light denim boyfriend jeans
Black jeggings with ankle zippers
Black high-waisted jeans
On the plane: Black stylish athletic pants
Black denim skirt with buttons
Light blue wrap skirt
1 Hall & Oates T-shirt
2 fitted black leotards (or bodysuits)
1 loose fit white, cropped shirt
1 black turtleneck
1 black and white button-down blouse
1 black tank top
Black T-shirt dress
Floral tea-length dress with midriff cutout. I'm loving all of these midriff looks from Deal Diva Michelle. Check out her own vacation pics for inspiration.
On the plane: Baby blue cropped leather jacket
Green bomber jacket
On the plane: Adidas sneakers
Cross body purse
As you can see from the pics, I managed to leave a lot of room in my bag. I threw in an extra black tank top dress because old habits die hard. Will I pull this off? I'll be sure to post again with my favorite vacation looks when I get back.