Packing: 11 Days in a Backpack


I love it when someone goes on vacation and then comes back and blogs something like "Definitive How-To For [insert thing here]" as if they suddenly became an expert on this one aspect of travel or one specific location after doing it for the very first time.

So I'm not going to pretend that I know everything about packing light for carrying all your clothes and other stuff in a backpack for 11 days. Because I definitely could have packed even lighter! Also Jordan carried my toiletry bag in his backpack (and complained about it the entire week, but we won't talk about that). But I am super impressed with myself for how I packed and wanted to share in case anyone else feels inspired to take a rolling suitcase-less vacation ;) Below is everything I brought to England, including the clothes I wore during travel, all pictured above (and below)!

*Affiliate links are used in this post. I receive a few cents (literally, cents) when you click on a link, at no cost to you! Thanks for supporting my writing and my blog.

1. Outerwear
1 medium-weight Columbia jacket
1 lightly padded black full-zip vest from Old Navy
-1 cold-gear Nike half-zip hoodie

We went at a good time of year, meaning that it was in the 50s/60s mainly, with some parts of the day in the low 70s as the sun rose. We didn't need heavy coats, but I did take my Columbia jacket that I bought at the outlet mall near us a few years ago and layered long sleeves underneath.

2. Bottoms
-1 pair of regular blue jeans
-1 pair of black jeans
-1 pair of sweatpants for the airplane ride/sleeping in
-1 pair of comfy shorts for sleeping in

I didn't need anything else and used everything I brought! Perfect! I loved having one pair of blue jeans and one pair of black jeans so I could feel like I was switching up my look a bit. Plus the skinny black jeans felt more European to me ;)

3. Gallon Ziploc Bags
-1 for underwear/bras
-1 for socks

I squeezed the air out of each bag, and they were a compact way to keep things together. As the trip went on and things got dirty, I used one bag for dirty stuff and one bag for clean!

This was my birthday present to myself this year in preparation for our England trip. It's from LL Bean (love them!) has a hood that fully covers my face, lots of pockets, is fully waterproof, and (most importantly) folds up into itself. We didn't actually even take these out the entire time we were gone, which was crazy since I feel like England is known for being wet. But it was good to have them and nice they packed up so small.

5. Shoes
-2 pairs of walking shoes

I brought 2 pairs of walking shoes because I wanted to be able to switch out a pair every other day or so. A surprise favorite were these sneakers, which I brought more because they were cuter than my Brooks running shoes, but actually they help up so well and were super comfortable even after an entire day of walking! I have to give thanks to Rachel for first sharing about these on her blog. I could have gone the whole trip with just this pair, honestly.

-1 pair of Old Navy flip flops (I thought I might want these for walking around the hotel/air bnb at night. I ended up never taking these out of the backpack! But it was good to have them just in case.)

-1 pair of flats (*I didn't need these at all, but my thought was that maybe we would go somewhere nice and I wouldn't want to wear my grungy tennis shoes. I momentarily forgot we are neither fancy nor extravagant dinner people lol)

6. Extras
-1 flowery lightweight scarf
-1 medium-weight solid teal scarf
-1 headwrap (goes around your head like earmuffs)
-1 pair of lightweight gloves (didn't end up wearing at all)

I absolutely needed my scarves and am glad I brought them. I wanted two so I could mix it up with my outfit. Plus the weight of each was a bit different, so I could pick which I needed depending on the temperature outside.

7. Layering Tops
-1 brown sweater from J Crew* (side note: this came in my most recent Stitch Fix box. I requested something to wear on our Europe trip, and it was perfect. It looks like it's on sale right now too, sooooo... I might be buying one in another color.)
-1 green long-sleeved cardigan from Target
-1 purple half-button long-sleeved henley from Old Navy
-1 lightweight denim button-down

8. Sleeping Tops
-So actually, the very first thing pictured under #8 are my pink/orange sleeping shorts.
-1 longsleeved shirt (for sleeping)

-2 short-sleeved t-shirts (for sleeping) *really only needed 1 t-shirt

9. Comfy but Cute Tops
-2 tank tops (Do not even talk to me about any other tank tops. These are the best. Yes, they are maternity. I bought some when I was pregnant with R and have literally not bought any other layering tank since. I'm wearing one right now, in fact.)
-2 solid short-sleeved shirts (cuter than your average t-shirt but comfy for travel and layering!)

So that's it! Plus my toiletry bag, which was in Jordan's backpack as previously mentioned. 

Is anyone still with me? Is this the most boring blog post of all time? 
No, don't answer that.

But I have learned that you can pack light if you need, and in fact I could have packed lighter! It's all fun and games until you are literally carrying everything on your back ;)

What would you have packed differently than me?
LO said...

Question: did you do any laundry? I'm counting 8 shirts to wear during the day (4 of which are layering shirts). I know I may be in the minority in that I only wear a shirt once before washing it (partly because of sweat, partly because it just feels . . .gross?), but curious.

Sarah said...

i actually love posts like this! on a europe trip i would be very motivated to pack light...otherwise i am not. haha! most of it i blame on running clothes, but really...i like choices. that rain jacket is cute! i got a ll bean rain jacket in 2005 for study abroad in cameroon, and i still wear it but i think the zipper is starting to get messed up so i might have to get it fixed or splurge on a new one. :)

Amanda Bumgarner said...

Great question! We did laundry once on the trip. One of our air bnbs had a washer/dryer, and we did a load of shirts + socks/underwear :) I had planned on doing laundry a second time, but two things: 1) We didn't sweat much at all because it was cold and 2) I normally don't wash my shirts after only wearing them one time, so especially on a trip like this I was okay with it. I also swapped out what layer stuff was worn, so for example I used the denim button-up under the brown sweater AND then over the purple henley, if that makes sense. But by the end of the trip I was definitely ready to wash everything!

a m b e r said...

the maternity tank tops are my favorite! i need to replace mine soon because i wear it so much. the ziplock bags are a genius idea, by the way. i will definitely use that tip in the future!

Sarah @ Sweet Miles said...

I always wonder how people pack for Europe! I can't wait to see more pictures from your trip!!

Cece @Mahogany Drive said...

We went in the summer and a European summer is so so humid, we ended up so sweaty plus pool day/beach day gear. But I've been in cooler temps with no water excursions, and I see what you did. You simply packed LESS. That's the part I need to learn.

Maria said...

Ha! I love that you are still wear the maternity tanks! I now want to fish mine out of storage because I miss them. I actually miss all my maternity clothes and I know that's not normal.

I think this post is a great exercise and one that I try to do whenever I unpack from a trip: I remember what I DIDN'T use and don't pack that next time; like a flat iron ;) I feel like packing light is also good for your mentally. I know it always makes me feel less stressed. I tell myself if there's something I absolutely need (like one time I packed only sports bras and needed a real bra), then I can usually find it somewhere.

That being said, my packing light days are over for the next few years at least! Now, I pack light for myself and take eeeeeverything for the tot.

Audrey Louise said...

Honestly, I usually hate packing posts but I really really love how you did this one! And I love how you mentioned what worked and what didn't! Great job packing! I tend to over pack and I've been trying to fix that recently with all our work trips! I always end up carrying KYLE'S toiletry bag. So I feel Jordan's pain.... Hahahaha!

Jen said...

I love this! You definitely packed smart for this trip and you were able to utilize everything which meant you did it right! :)

Unknown said...

Way to go with category #2 on wearing everything and not needing anything!!!! That is such a magical moment that I'm pretty sure has only happened once in my life. As for what I do differently with packing-I'm pretty minimalist when it comes to packing for travel (especially if I'll be wearing everything on my back), so I only have the pair of shoes I'm wearing (for European travels, that's either been a pair of sandals or a pair of boots). I don't really wear pants, so I've typically just tossed a couple skirts and tops in my backpack and will mix-and-match them throughout the trip, adding in a couple scarves or other accessories and a cardigan (and a jacket) if I think it'll be chilly.

Oh, and thanks for the tank top recommendation! Those do look pretty comfortable. I will keep that in mind next time I need to bolster my layering tank supply :)

Amy @ A Desert Girl said...

You did so well with your packing!! Good job.

I hope you made a really dramatic retort to Jordan when he complained about carrying your toiletries bag. Something along the lines of reminding him that you’ve carried his children in your body so he the least he can do is carry your toothbrush. ;-)

Kinga K. said...

Nice things :)

Rach said...

Totally still with you! It's amazing how little you actually need when you stop to think about it. Of course, if I'm traveling by car then I bring ALL THE THINGS, but if I'm flying (even for 2+ weeks) then I am all about packing in a single backpack. So yes, definitely with you on packing light for Europe. Good choices in what you brought! Funnily enough, the sneakers that you linked to are ones you mentioned earlier this year and I really liked them, but they didn't have them in my size in gray. So I have been waiting and checking back periodically and they still don't have them in gray! So sad! I may just have to settle on black, haha!