That Time I Travelled Europe Hand Luggage Only

Although I most definitely didn’t overpack for the Asia leg of our trip, I was sure I could pack even lighter for our European jaunt…

I’d been inspired by a plethora of posts on the subject of packing light. And with it becoming more of a challenge to keep costs down once we hit European shores, every Euro that could be saved on baggage fees was a prisoner.

So when it came to loading up a backpack for part two of my summer 2012 of travels I decided to leave the 45 litre beast to gather dust in the cupboard, and called upon my trusty Billabong backpack…

Needing to fit in enough clothing to get by without washing for a few days (the clothes, not my body!), towel, toiletries, camera, books, gadgets and meds… It looked like it was going to be a challenge!

Yes, you can see my pants!

Yes, you can see my pants!

Honestly, how the heck was all that gonna fit into that standard sized backpack in the top left corner?

Well as it turned out, pretty damn easily! Here’s a full list of what I took:

  • Clothes:
    – T-shirts (x5)
    – Boxers (x6)
    – Socks (x3)
    – Shorts (x1)
    – Boardies (x1)
    – Football shorts (for sleep!) (x1)
    – Jeans (x1)
    – Belt (x1)
    – Zip Hoody (x1)
    – Rain mac (x1)
    – Shoes (x1 pair)
    – Flip-flops (x1 pair)
    – Hats (x2… I know, I know!)
  • Washbag:
    – Shower gel
    – Roll-on anti-perspirant
    – Deodorant
    – Hair putty
    – Shaving razors (x2)
    – Moisturiser (no shame!)
    – Sun cream
    – Hats (x2… I know, I know!)
    – Wet wipes
    – Paracetamol
    – Plasters
  • Accessories:
    – Travel towel
    – Phone
    – Phone charger
    – iPod Touch
    – iPod Touch cable
    – Multi-tool
    – Padlock
    – Neck leash
    – Second wallet with backup cards
  • Books/Documents:
    – Insurance/Flight documents
    – Notebook
    – Lonely Planet Spain book – Madrid pages
    – Lonely Planet Barcelona book

Packed tightly it might have been, but to my surprise every zip was done up securely, and all my chosen belongings for Europe were in one bag! We didn’t even know how long we were going for, but I was confident I had more than enough, especially with us heading into the European summer sun.

And it was a seriously odd sensation to be strolling up to my girlfriend’s on departure day simply carrying my usual backpack, only this time rather than just to crash the night there, we were cruising off to the European mainland.

Already though it was a massive improvement to be just carrying a small backpack rather than a behemoth 45L pack. Especially with Chelcie downsizing too this time, taking a small roller suitcase along with her small backpack. Upon arrival at the airport it really hit home how much easier it was when I didn’t have to drop off any baggage, and I couldn’t help but have a cheeky smile looking at all the people off for their week in the sun with two suitcases each!


Easy! (Image Credit: Enrico Vivian – Blogspot)

Sitting on the plane and not having to worry about my luggage was a massive plus point. Although my bag was pretty packed meaning that having it by my feet – my preference – was out of the question, it was awesome knowing that I had absolutely everything within reach in the overhead lockers. And of course the extra money I was saving on not having to pay luggage charges was hugely appreciated by the wallet.

The whole stress of finding our way from airport to accommodation was lessened hugely by a lighter load as well. With it being pretty damn warm in the Paris, Madrid and Barcelona undergrounds a smaller backpack was a godsend. My back was much less sticky than expected! In particular with the endless staircases of the Madrid metro to have a lighter load to carry was a real relief.

Being able to almost completely unpack in every room or hostel locker was yet another massive positive. My locker in our Barcelona hostel in particular looked almost empty with just my backpack and washbag standing inside it. So much easier than a massive bag filling the entire locker. Our American roommate couldn’t believe that was all I had brought with me, but then she did seem to be dragging her life around with her…

I actually lightened the load even more towards the end when I ditched my skanky travel towel. I wasn’t a fan of it at all, and with our Italian accommodation being all guesthouses I knew I could rely on having a towel provided. Even more space!

Whilst I was helped massively by the scorching weather in Europe at the time – another blistering summer heatwave – meaning I could wash clothes in the shower and let them dry during the day, I absolutely loved this decision to travel light. It made the actual “travelling” aspect so much easier, and packing up before moving on was literally a two minute process. Everything was made so much easier! Heck, even when I got home I got unpacked everything and sorted myself within 5-10 minutes. Result!

So for me the travelling light experiment was a 100% success, and I’ll be doing the same on every western European trip from now. Even if just for the satisfaction of being stood, with one small backpack, behind a family that ended up getting charged €480 in additional baggage fees! Yes, that really happened in Nice…

Pack light, look human!

Pack light, look human! (Image Credit: The Daily Beast)

Have you ditched the hold luggage and travelled light before? How did it go?


12 responses to “That Time I Travelled Europe Hand Luggage Only

    • Glad to hear! 🙂 It really did make life so much easier, I can’t recommend it enough!

      Thanks for commenting too!

    • I really think it is in summer time! Obviously a lot more difficult to do in colder climes though. But it was so much better!

      Thanks for checking out the site too! 🙂

  1. Congratulations on making the transition! It really is the best way to go and you’ve already realized so many benefits. No worries for plane reroutes, freedom to use public transportation, and just the sheer freedom of simplicity.
    The “best” onebag site out there is He has a great packing list that is downloadable.

    • I’m glad to have made it too! Although I think I’ll be reverting to my larger bag for my upcoming Japan trip unfortunately.

  2. I would love to hear how your girlfriend got on…My boyfriend always seems to have heaps of space in his suitcase while I always end up on top of mine, wailing that my straighteners/make up/20 pairs of shoes don’t fit in 😛

    • Well she still had a roller suitcase and a backpack remember, so that’s still a fair bit of space ha! But it was definitely a massive reduction from what she took to Asia so she did do well! Of course my washbag had to go in that suitcase when we travelled by air – something I didn’t think about until we got to the airport – so it’s a good thing she did take that!

  3. I traveled all summer with just one backpack, I think it was more practical and easier to do…and it is possible to do 🙂

  4. Pingback: That Time I Put Together My Packing List for Japan | That Time In·

  5. Pingback: That Time I Was About To Head To Amsterdam | That Time In·

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