It’s the night before I’m about to leave on holiday and my room looks like a war of maxi skirts against crop tops (and the jeans won.) Which makes about as much sense as that fact that I have flip-flops packed for a trip to Alps (just in case?). Packing is my personal nightmare and when I left for a backpacking trip around Europe for the first time, challenged to pack everything I would need for TWO WEEKS into a CARRY-ON, I wanted to scream.
Like can I also pack the jacked man who is going to be required to actually carry on the carry-on?
But inevitably, through multiple packing frenzies, I became an expert and here are my tips to perfecting the two-week carry-on:
1. 50L backpack (and eye-ball it’s size)
When you’re flying budget (as most of us students are) they confine you to a VERY little carry-on. I recently flew on about 7 different budget airlines on over 40 different flights and my 50L backpack always fit. Granted, it was skinny. The check-in attendants are the ones determining if your baggage needs to be checked, so you need to kiss their butts and fool them into thinking your carry-on is small. Eyeball the one you are going to take and make sure it LOOKS like it can fit into the upper bunker of a plane (even if in reality you’re going to have to shove some people in an effort to make it fit).
2. Solids, not patterns
You’re about to take about 1000 pictures and you best bet you will look cute in ALL of them. This requires you to not look like you’ve worn the same top 3 times in a row. A patterned shirt or skirt will catch attention and you’re going to have to bring a different shirt for all 14 days you’re gone! Bring solid, neutral coloured things you can wear multiple times.
3. Accessories are your greatest companion
Building on the last point, that black T-shirt dress you have is going to look hella different with a plaid shirt around your waist and sunglasses on your head, then it’s going to look with a pendant necklace and a light scarf over your shoulders. Pick accessories that weigh little and take up little space like sunglasses, necklaces, and light scarves that make an outfit go from boring to chic.
4. Sensible shoes only
I hate to break it to you, but you AREN’T going to wear your heels. It’s not worth trudging those heavy things on your back while you’re patrolling through the streets of Barcelona trying to locate your AirBnb. Take cute, flat boots, flat sandals, and converse/runners. All the backpackers you’ll be partying with will be in the exact same shoes (pun intended). And you and your feet will thank me later.
5. You want that sweater
Sometimes, when you’re away from home, you need a comfort piece. Although you might be debating bringing your fav crewneck because it’s bulky and takes up space – bring it. I guarantee you will be cold in your hostel one night and you’ll need more than the crappy quilt they provide you.
6. Be a plane burrito
Don’t want to shove that sweater in your backpack? Wear it. Along with the other top 5 most heavy things that you’re bringing with you. Clunkiest shoes? Wear em’. Heaviest pants? Wear em’. Two sweaters and a toque? Wear em’. You can always peel these layers off once you’re past the security desk, and sometimes they come in very handy as a rolled up pillow when you’re sleeping on an airport floor waiting for a 4 AM flight.
Roll those clothes up, sista. Folding is so 2005. You’ll be surprised by how much space it creates and how much easier it is to actually pack your backpack. Having a backpack can make things much harder to find than in an open suitcase. The rolled up sausage-like clothing actually make it easier to locate and grab in your bag, while saving space!
The trip is about the experience, the people you meet, and seeing the world, not about the clothes you’re going to wear! Pack to be comfy, casual, and cute, without worrying too much about how many shoes you will pack or what you’re going to wear each day. Chances are, you will be so taken with the sights and start to realize the people on the streets of Belgium truly did not know what you were wearing in Amsterdam 3 days ago, and don’t care! Pack away with no regrets, sistas.