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Before Travel Fashion Girl, I made a lot of packing mistakes, including an epic disaster on a two-week trip to Europe. Find out what went wrong and how to avoid it!
My Europe Packing Disaster
In February 2008, my friend and I went on a two-week whirlwind trip to Europe. I’m not sure why we thought going to five countries and eight cities in such a short amount of time was a good idea but needless to say, this was an exhausting endeavor.
Whether you’re traveling around Europe by coach, train, or metro, the one thing you may not expect as a first time visitor is the stairs. LOTS and lots of stairs.
Many buildings (such as your hotel or hostel) are centuries old, so they often have teeny tiny staircases with endless flights of stairs. Imagine walking up and down four-five flights of stairs every other day like we did. Please don’t do this.
Now imagine running up and down what seem like never-ending stairs in metros and train stations, especially when you’re short on time and trying to cram as much site-seeing as possible in a short time frame.
And finally, imagine doing these things while carrying (dragging) a MASSIVE suitcase filled to the brim and with a handle that breaks two days in your trip.
That happened to me. Well…kind of. It actually happened to my friend, but I ended up carrying her suitcase for her because she had back problems and I didn’t.
NEVER AGAIN. In fact, I knew not to pack that way because I had already done it on a previous vacation to Europe just the year before.
On the prior trip I’d packed a large 36” suitcase plus a 22” carryon and didn’t wear the majority of the clothing. I ended up leaving the large suitcase in the tour bus permanently after transferring the things I did want to use into my carryon.
However, it was my friend’s first time traveling to Europe so she overpacked and I ended up dealing with the aftermath.
Read the importance of having a healthy back when traveling!
I’d like to say that these things only happen to me. Bu unfortunately, a number of our readers shared similar stories from their own trips to London:
“Made it to London. One poor woman fell on the tube escalator and they had to stop it. Everyone had to carry their luggage up. Packing light saved me!”
“I nearly broke my arm on the stairs when my suitcase got away from me. Started bringing a carryon only after that!”
“Just got back from London. Watched a man wrestle with a full size bag…must have been 40 inches or so…onto the tube during rush hour. Almost delayed departure because it was hanging into the door. The station he got off at was one flight down with no elevator.”
NO. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU.
I’m not sharing these things to scare you; rather, my intention is to help you be prepared. Overpacking can seriously ruin your trip and this is not the experience you want to remember from that special trip of a lifetime that you’ve been dreaming about all your life. This is your one chance. Don’t let overpacking overshadow Paris, Rome, Barcelona, and London the way it did for me.
Here are a few quick tips to help you pack light for your upcoming trip:
Delsey Traversee Lite 19″ $79.99
The very first step in lightening your suitcase is to choose one that doesn’t weight a ton, especially if you’re flying with an airline that offers a limited weight allowance. If you can find a carryon that’s under five pounds or a regular suitcase under eight, you’re golden.
To help you get started, take a look at our round up of the best lightweight luggage under 5lb.
Choose the Right Clothing
It’s common for clothing to become too bulky to fit into a carryon when they’re made with materials that are not travel-friendly. Choose items made in fabrics like 100% cotton or rayon (for the heat) and merino wool or synthetic blends (for the cold).
Planning ahead and being prepared helps you to avoid packing all the wrong things while being ready for anything. We have over a hundred packing lists for international destinations so can you know the exact type of clothing to take on your trip no matter what time of year you’re traveling.
Note: use the principles, not necessarily the clothing shown in our packing lists to adapt it to your own style and personal preferences.
If you’re traveling to Europe, take a look at our ultimate Europe packing guide rounding up the very best of the tips found on the blog.
It’s easy to add weight to your suitcase when you pack shoes for every day of the week. Instead, try to bring no more than three pairs of versatile shoes that you can mix and match with all your clothing. Read our step-by-step guide to packing the best shoes for travel.
For Europe, read this guide on how to choose the best shoes for Europe.
Once you’ve strategically chosen you luggage, clothing, and shoes it’s time to think about packing organizers for your trip. Not every trip requires the same type of organizer so take a look at our helpful guide about how to choose the best luggage organizer.
Personally, I’ve found packing cubes (like the ones shown above) to be the most effective in organizing as well as compressing my belongings. They’ve allowed me to travel carryon only for years of full-time travel.
Watch my in-depth packing cubes video tutorial to learn how to use them, plus find out what brands are the best.
Prepare a Checklist
As the date of your trip gets closer, create a checklist so you can tick items off your list. This helps you to avoid forgetting something and will help you stay stress-free. We’ve created a printable checklist you can save and edit, too. It’s free! Download the packing list here.
After almost a decade of full-time travel I’ve managed to get my packing routine down pretty well. Want a peak? This step-by-step packing routine provides a breakdown of exactly how I prepare before a trip.
It was because experiences such as these that I created Travel Fashion Girl and with it the ultimate guide to packing light, stylishly.It not only shows you the secret to choosing the right clothing for your trip but it also shows you how to travel carryon only!
If you’re a serious overpacker, we also have a packing e-course called STOP OVERPACKING, which takes you through the entire preparation process step-by-step so you know all your options before each and every trip. Get it here!
What are your tips to avoid a packing disaster? Please comment below!
If you’re traveling to Europe, read these articles to start packing for your trip:
- 10-Step Packing Guide for Europe
- Europe Packing Lists for Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring
- What to Wear in Europe: Packing List for Every Destination
Suggested travel resources:
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