How I Fit 3 Weeks into a 46L

In the beginning of August I took the Eurotrip I have always dreamed of, which I will obviously write about in posts to come. Originally the idea was for my boyfriend and I to meet up with our friends (another couple) who had moved to Madrid, and backpack around from there. A few weeks prior to the trip, they broke up.

We got my boyfriend’s cousin to fill the spot and it became a boy’s trip, plus me. BUT, I can’t explain enough how fun and easy it is to travel with boys! 10/10 would recommend.

Anyway, I managed to fit 18 everyday outfits, 4 going going out tops and 3 skirts, 2 nice outfits, a ‘just in case’ pair of jeans, a pair of wedges, a pair of sandals, a tiny iron, and all my underwear, toiletries, and hair supplies in an osprey porter 46L. And trust me, this was out of pure necessity. If there weren’t such stringent limits on cheap european airlines I would’ve surely had something bigger than a backpack. That being said, I love this backpack.

I read so many travel blogs before I decided what to pack and how to pack. So many of them listed out capsule wardrobe ideas, or ways to mix and match outfits. That is NOT this post. Neat, but, hardly useful for me since I either didn’t  own enough neutrals (honestly who does?!), didn’t like the outfits, or they didn’t apply to the boiling hot summer in Europe vacation I was preparing for. So here are the traveling tips that actually helped me.

  1. Plan
    The most important thing in my OCD opinion is having a plan. When I started to pack I went through my itinerary day by day. I picked out what I wanted to wear each day, and literally sticky-noted it to each outfit, so I would remember while on my trip. I thanked myself for this many hungover mornings trying to sightsee at the crack of dawn. It’s important to consider what you will be doing each day to decide how comfortable you will need to be vs. how dressed up. It is especially important to check the weather to make sure you will be dressed appropriately. I have found myself being the typical American in shorts when it’s suddenly 50 degrees and raining (in my defense, late April is deceiving). Having a schedule of outfits helped me figure out the things I needed to buy and just how much I wanted to pack. But of course every plan needs a backup. A denim jacket stowed in your bag is the best accessory, especially for unpredictable French weather (even in shorts)! One pair of dark wash jeans is also an easy stand in if the weather gets a little cooler, or for evening out. And dark wash is easy to pair and either dress up or down. I also threw a little more caution to the wind with my going out clothes. They consisted of a few of my favorite tops and some skirts that could be mixed and matched with anything else depending on the type of place we were going and the temperature. This varied from club appropriate, to fancy dinner out appropriate. Also, make sure to plan airport outfits, especially if you have early flights. The classic advice still stands, wear your heaviest things! I chose to wear leggings and a tank top for comfort, and a denim jacket for warmth. I also picked my white sneakers because some days required sneakers, but these could also be dressed up easily.
  2. Break In
    I don’t mean like a b&e, no need to get arrested. I ignored this advice taking it as a platitude. I learned on day one it was a bad idea to wear my Jack Rogers for the first time of the summer. I wore them on the first day, which naturally, we walked the longest, and I had so many blisters. I had to stick almost exclusively to my sneakers until the second half of the trip! So, make sure you break in what you’re wearing before you get there! Even if that means just wearing it around your house. And this goes for clothes as well. I had the unfortunate experience of a skirt being a little tighter on me than I remembered; it ended up torn in a piggyback ride incident.
  3. Packing Cubes
    If you take anything from this post, let this be it. PACKING CUBES. Packing cubes saved my life. Especially when I was, “randomly selected” for a thorough search, a.k.a. taking every last thing out of my bag (BUT NOT OUT OF MY PACKING CUBES). I would have been so salty having to refold everything. I went with all mediums because they fit my bag perfectly. I guess the smalls could be used for underwear, but most backpacks have pockets for smaller garments. And the large ones could work well in larger suitcases, but are probably going to be too big for carry ons. In any case, they make it so easy to organize everything. I kept all my going out clothes separate from my day to day outfits since I did not use them as much. I also organized them in the order they were going to be warn. So I really only needed to open one cube at a time. This also made it so easy to pack up, which is important when you plan on visiting many cities. Packing is a pain (unless you have packing cubes)! I honestly can’t say enough about them, it was literally life changing and I couldn’t have made everything fit, or made sure I didn’t lose anything without them!
  4. Roll
    I was really skeptical about this whole rolling your clothes business, but it was actually really useful. I rolled everything and that was the only way it fit so well. If I had to make up a statistic, I’d say I was able to pack about 30% more stuff by rolling it. HOWEVER, depending on the material, a lot of things end up getting very wrinkly. Looking at you cotton t-shirts. I did pack this tiny iron though and it worked out perfect, until tragedy struck, but that’s a story for another time. About 80% of the places we stayed had an iron anyway, so I don’t think this should discourage you from rolling away!
  5. Tote
    Finally, having a tote bag is always a lifesaver. You can shove tons of stuff into them in case you buy too many souvenirs, or are mysteriously unable to zipper your luggage. And they are extremely functional for sightseeing. I always stuffed mine with cameras, snacks, water, and a jacket.I think the best option is one that has a single zipper, which makes it easy to be mindful of pickpockets. This is my favorite, which I’ll buy again and again, classic and functional.

Happy packing!


3 Weeks in a 46L


One response to “How I Fit 3 Weeks into a 46L

  1. Pingback: How to Plan the Perfect Trip | Expat(ish)·

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