Anyone else find packing everything you need for a month in a backpack challenging? I remember the days in the 90s when airlines didn't even charge for baggage (or meals, for that matter!) and I could recklessly pack a bag with anything and everything I thought I might need.
Those days have changed, especially if you're taking budget airlines in Europe where they weigh and measure your carry-on obsessively. Plus, do you really want to haul a heavy suitcase on and off trains and through hostels?
I've found a backpack is absolutely the way to go! How you pack it and what you prioritize are just as crucial.
Step 1: Pick the Right Backpack for You
Yes, there are a ton of cool looking backpacks out there with a bunch of pockets and attachable day-packs and so on. But keep these few things in mind when investing in a travel pack:
- When it doubt, less is more! The bigger the bag, the more you'll pack and the more you'll carry. It'll be halfway through a month before you're throwing out the extra pair of sandals you thought were crucial to make room for priceless old postcards you found at a flea market.
- Make sure the backpack works with your height. I'm pretty petite, so carrying a lot is definitely not an option. As a rule of thumb be sure the hip strap falls correctly at your waist and the top of the bag does not come higher than shoulder level.
- Make sure the shoulder and waist straps are padded for support. There will be plenty of walking uphill, walking in heat, walking while lost on the way to your hostel. Definitely good to plan accordingly.
- My number one favorite feature of my backpack is the way it loads. Rather than the typical top-loading option, where everything has to be pulled out if you need something from the bottom, my front-loading backpack zips all the way open like a suitcase. I can live out of it much more easily when I can see everything.
Step 2: Invest in the Right Gear
Some of the simplest and fairly cheap packing items have truly made my life easier on the go! One of my most helpful tools are my packing cubes. These help organize everything and allow you to even roll clothes inside for maximum space. When you're living out of a backpack for weeks at a time, it's great to know that everything has a place.
I've also grown to love my foldable day pack. This little guy cost around $12 on Amazon and is a great solution for anything from hiking to just carrying a wallet, water, and snack around a city for a day.
For hostel stays, definitely remember to pack some lightweight shower flip flops and a microfiber travel towel. Most hostels will rent you a towel but it always helps to have your own. At just $15 on Amazon, these towels dry quickly when you're on the go.
Pick up a water bottle with a filter that you can refill with you in hostels and bathrooms. Over the course of weeks, this will save you tons of money on water bottles and helps save plastic.
Step 3: Get Creative
With such limited space, think creatively about how everything you pack can serve multiple purposes.
A lightweight scarf will ball up easily and serves as a picnic blanket on the go. Re-wear outfits with different combinations of tops and bottoms. Put multiple books on a kindle or phone or just take one and exchange it at a shared hostel library.
To save money, bring flat and reusable food storage containers. These can rinse out and store many different things throughout your trip. Store train snacks or fill up with nuts and berries from a local farmer's market. Many hostels will have kitchens which will allow you to cook and save money. While a crucial part of travel is sampling the food, after weeks on end its satisfying to cook a healthy meal.
While packing for a long period of time in a small bag can feel overwhelming, its much easier when you use these simple strategies. You can create your own sense of home and space on the go by having a well-organized pack and being prepared with the right gear.