Packing a Year in Advance for my European Backpacking Trip

On my list! Photo credit

On my list! Photo credit

I’m about to return back to Venezuela for my third year teaching at an international school in that country.  However, before I go, I need to think about what I will need at the end of the school year, when I begin my backpacking journey across Europe.

The common backpacker advice is to pack half as much as you want to bring and to bring twice as much money. As a teacher with a budget I am trying to bring what I think I will need based on experience, and to not spend more than the $6500 USD I have budgeted.

The parts of Europe that I will be visiting are pretty uniformly warm, so other than London where I might catch a rain shower, I am not too worried about layers and raincoats.

I have backpacked around China (10 days), Thailand (21 days), and Argentina (21 days), but while they have prepared me for this trip, I have never been gone for the 28 days that I intend to travel this time. Nor have I ever backpacked across multiple countries in one trip.

Tip: Place copies of your passport, credit cards (front and back), birth certificate, state or government ID on a cloud – do not carry paper copies.  If you place them electronically somewhere you can download them from any computer at any time.  I also have a complete set of copies left with someone back in the US whom I trust as a backup.

The Essentials


Flight reservation number and/or booking confirmation

ID (Drivers license, 18 & over card or another form of identification)

Yellow International Vaccine Card

Copy of Travel insurance

Travel document wallet

Flexible water bottle– you need water to survive, so I always have a bottle near at hand! This bottle will take up less space and weight as you drink!

Tip: Remember to wear your heaviest/bulkiest items if you are flying to minimize weight and bulk to meet carryon requirements.



8 Thongs (I’d say 4 if you wear bikinis, or 3 if you wear boxers)

3 bras: one black, one nude, one strapless (wear one of these on the plane!)

2 pairs socks 

4 dresses- 1 maxi, 2 sundresses, and 1 LBD for going out

2 tshirts– No cotton because it soaks up sweat and stays wet. Merino wool is best. Wear one on travel days.

2 tanks

2 Skirts- 1 high-low black skirt, 1 knee length

1 capri pants or shorts- (wear on travel days)- I can wear these on hot days and not worry about chafing.

1 black capri leggings

1 bikini

1 sarong (wear it over a bikini as a dress on a beach day, use as a beach towel, or as a wrap on a cold flight)

1 shorts and t-shirt that can double for exercise if the mood strikes

Rainproof jacket (wear during travel days)

2 Silk scarves to change up the look, wrap shoulders in a church. They weigh almost nothing and take up very little space. Wear one on the plane.

Tip: I wash whatever outfit I’m wearing when I take a shower, and hang it up to dry overnight. It’s that simple. Even if you can’t do sink or shower washing, you can easily get by with a week’s worth of clothing if you do laundry once a week.


Merrell ballet flats– (wear on travel days)- I can dance in these, walk in them, and they still look cute with anything

Dancing/dress shoes– Salsa is one of my passions so I make room for them and plan on salsa dancing in every city I visit, but you will want to dress up now and then too.  If you are about to meet your weight limit, I would cut the dress shoes out first.

Birkenstock Gizeh sandals– they can be dressed up or down

Shower sandals – Lightweight and will save your feet while using hostel showers. Can also be worn on beach days.



Iphone Unlocked w/headphones- This provides my music, light, quick camera, GPS, calculator, and alarm. I want to look into finding a SIM card that will work all over Europe. Is there such a thing?

iPad– for quick blogging, reading, PDF versions of guidbooks, emailing. I think a Kindle Fire would work just as well too and I’ve been thinking about getting one because it is lighter and cheaper, but I’m trying to save money!

Canon T5i DSLR with 18-55 lens, and UV Filter

Pancake lens- I think I will most likely use this lens the most, but I’m bringing the other lens just in case something happens.

Extra battery for DSLR

4 8gb sd cards so not all of the photos can get lost if camera gets stolen

Camera Bag Insert– This fits in my messenger and a daypack to protect my DSLR and lenses

SD Card reader for ipad- This way I can upload my pics to my ipad and/or Dropbox as I go to make sure I always have a copy.


220 volt adapter

Belkin travel power strip so you can charge everything at once!

Tip: Carry a combination lock with you. You will lock up your stuff in all types of hostels and couchsurfing places. If you travel with a fancy DSLR and plan on leaving it in the hostel for a night of dancing then you might also think of using a cable lock to lock your bag to your bunk bed.

Tip: Try to bring as few liquids as possible (less of a mess and less of a problem fitting it in the quart size baggie through airline security). Try getting a powder version and putting it in these snapshut containers.



Bar shampoo/conditioner – I have long, thick hair that I usually wash (or use dry shampoo on) every day. The 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioners NEVER work for me.

Dry shampoo for the days when you can’t wait for the shower

Natural bar soap– I would chop this in half to take up less space and weight.

Scented body powder (spray some powder with your favorite perfume) to use after a shower to prevent chafing or to just smell good! This is also helpful if you can’t wait for the shower line in the hostel dorm!

Bar of face wash – I use this stuff year round and usually only need about four bars per year. So for travel, you could easily slice this into a bar 1/3 of the original size. Just be sure to keep it in a dry place so it doesn’t turn to mush!

Razor & Shaving Oil

Toothpowder, travel toothbrush & case, & floss- I love clean teeth, what can I say?!


BB Cream-Foundation, Sunscreen, Moisturizer all in one!

Sunscreen– I’m spending most of my time in cities and I’ve built up a decent tan while in Venezuela, so if I need more than the 2 oz I will buy it there.

lipgloss/chapstick– Who am I kidding, I will probably have one of each!

Travel size mascara, blush, eyeshadow, leftover black eyeliner stub- Some people go without makeup…I go without sometimes…when there wont be a camera nearby, or if I’m camping, or hiking in a jungle!

Divacup– I love this thing! It takes up almost no room and weighs next to nothing!

birth control/condoms

Sleep mask & ear plugs– I am a light sleeper and I always sleep in hostel dorms with 6-20 people, so with these babies I can get a good night’s sleep!

Tissues- I keep one in my purse and two in my backpack. You never know when there wont be toilet paper!

Insect Repellent– This stuff works. I used it in the jungle of Canaima. It is a little scary because it will take off your nailpolish…but it works!  This can also go in your carryon.


Miscellaneous Stuff I Pack

day pack/messenger bag/purse– I haven’t decided which one I will bring because I want to be able to easily access my DSLR which I normally carry in my Timbuk2 bag…but I like the option of the daypack to save my shoulders, and the purse because it is the lightest weight.

sunglasses- I don’t go outside without them.

Spice Missile or mini baggies of spices- As much as I will want to eat out for every meal, I just don’t have the budget for it, so I will be using my own spices to cook my own meals!

Corkscrew– because I love wine!

hand sanitizer- I feel like I never have enough of this stuff!

Travel towel– it is light, small, and super absorbent

Packing cubes and/or compression sacks– my pack is way more organized because of this

First aid kit – Usually I just throw some chewable Pepto, Advil, Bennadryl, Immodum AD, bandaids, Emergen-C, and tweezers in a ziplock baggie.

Laundry detergent sheets– gotta do my laundry if I want to pack light!

Journal: I suggest a 5X7 book that will fit in any bag. This will allow you to whip it out at any time, and make a quick note of something. Remember to draw pictures! And bring a couple of pens and a glue stick too.



Tide Stain Remover Pen– Nice to have around if you don’t plan washing your clothes after every use.

Tripod for taking those great shots

Money belt– I like these for transit days, otherwise I just use my purse.

Deck of cards (provides hours of entertainment during flight delays and on train rides!)

Ziplock baggies


Travel sleep sack– I used it one time in a camp style hostel outside of Florence, Italy. If I arrived at a rare hostel without free sheets I would just pay up or use my sarong!

Hairbrush (I usually wash my hair every night, wear it twisted up in a bun overnight, and rock the finger brushed waves the next day…and it has earned me many compliments over the past five years of doing it!)

Hair ties (I usually have 2-3 on my wrist and an extra in each bag because I have a TON of long and thick hair)

Books: I think of this as an emergency book for times when I can’t charge my ipad, I’m on a hot beach where I don’t want to fry the ipad, or I’m on a plane and they wont let me use it. Don’t carry more than one small paperback at a time. There are plenty of people willing to trade books, and most major cities have large book stores. If you are reading an interesting author, it’s also a good way for strangers to start conversations with you. This happened to me more than once.

Writing this almost a year before I leave seems ridiculous until you realize that if I need anything new, it will be better for me to buy it while I’m in the US. As an international teacher in Venezuela, you just don’t have access to many clothing items or other expat stuff. Or if it does happen to be in stock, it is sold at a serious markup.

So considering that I would love to get the cheaper airfare from Caracas (if at all possible) then I will need to basically pack my bag now!

Note: There are affiliate links in this post so you can click on any of the links for free and I might one day get a few pennies!

Please comment below.  Have I missed anything? Can I leave anything behind?


7 responses to “Packing a Year in Advance for my European Backpacking Trip

  1. Is this going to be your last year in Venezuela ? And your so brave travelling Europe on your own ! Good luck and love your blog xx


    • Thank you Ossai! I lived in Italy for three months while I was in undergrad and from what I’ve seen there, Europe is a lot easier to travel by yourself than a lot of other places I have been to. I’m not worried! I’m just starting at my new school in Venezuela, so while I will have been in this country for three years (which is a long time for me) I would like to stay at this school for at least two years. I also think Valencia, Venezuela might be the perfect spot for me so I could see myself staying longer. There are so many places in the world that I would love to teach at! Who knows?!


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