How I Packed for a One-Week Trip to Europe in a Small Weekender Bag

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We just got back from an amazing week sightseeing in Paris and Amsterdam! Naturally, as minimalists, we packed as lightly as possible to skip super long checked-luggage lines at the airport (and sleep in a little, woohoo), avoid tripping people with roller bags, and forgo jamming cumbersome luggage into overhead bins. The ease of packing so light was especially noticeable when we took the train from Paris to Amsterdam and didn’t have to worry about dragging additional luggage while trying to figure out the transit system and running to catch the next Metro.

Packing lightly required a little planning and creativity so below is a description of what and how I packed for a week of sightseeing in November.

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Outfits: Dark jeans and fleece tights with a black skirt were great neutral bases for any top and layering with a black vest and light-weight green anorak coat were perfect for the 30-50 degree weather. I also brought a pair of lightweight shorts and tank top to sleep in.

Since my wardrobe is already very small — only a handful of neutral color bottoms and and a small collection of versatile tops — it made the outfit prep simple. I grabbed the two most comfortable and cute bottoms (dark jeans and leggings/skirt) and chose a small selection of tops based on style and function (warmth).

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Blanket Scarf: My favorite versatile travel accessory! It functions as a blanket for chilly outside seating at cafes, a wrap, and a super warm scarf.

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Shoes: I planned on only wearing this pair of booties but quickly found that I hadn’t broken them in enough prior to traveling. So, we made an emergency stop for a pair of little black walking shoes in Paris. I packed my booties in my husband’s small backpack each day (his only luggage, btw) and switched them out throughout the day based on the level of activity. Turns out that having two pairs of shoes is just the ticket for me. Thankfully I had space in my weekender bag (similar one) for the extra purchase!

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Toiletries: travel-sized tooth brush/toothpaste, makeup, half of a shampoo bar, citric acid, deodorant, sun flower seed oil (face moisturizer), prescription medication, melatonin, ibuprofen, hair accessories, and jewelry.

Below are a couple ways that I saved some major space with my toiletries.

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Deodorant: I removed the block of deodorant from the travel-size applicator and packed it in a reused Altoids tin that also housed my shampoo bar. Note: this is not zero-waste, but I’m using this method until I can find a homemade deodorant that works for me.

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Makeup: It seemed silly to bring giant makeup containers for just a week abroad, so I simplified as much as possible. I only brought the leftover stub of an eyebrow pencil and brought a little powdered foundation in a small pill container with a cotton-ball applicator. I purchased these little plastic containers a few years ago and am reusing them as many times as possible.

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Hair care: I use shampoo bars with a citric acid rinse to wash/condition my hair and super love how small and light they are for traveling! I brought powdered citric acid in a small reused pill bottle and mixed a little with a glass of water prior to showering. Read more about this process here! Also, putting my hair up in a bun every day meant that I could leave my hair dryer and hair brush at home.

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Purse: This mini crossover/wristlet purse perfectly fit my phone, sunglasses, tinted Chapstick, phone charger, European power adapter, passport, cash, bandaids, Ibuprofen for achy feet, earbuds for museum audio tours. As a bonus, backpacks weren’t allowed in museums but I was able to bring in my essentials by using this tiny purse.

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Travel Guides: The Lonely Planet travel guide for Costa Rica was immensely helpful on our trip back in January, so we brought the Paris and Amsterdam guides for this trip too. They were great resources especially when cell reception was slow or spotty. We brought the guides with us each day in my husband’s backpack which was also lightly packed with my additional walking shoes, hand-sanitizer, and a bottle of water.

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Travel outfit: I wore my bulkiest clothes when traveling on the plane (above: jeans, wool sweater, vest, coat, blanket scarf, and booties) and packed the rest into my weekender bag.

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So this is it  everything that went in my black weekender bag; clothes (orange bag contains one week of underwear), travel guides, and toiletries. A small backpack would have worked perfectly as well, but trying to be cost-conscious, I opted to reuse my trusty little weekender that I also used to travel to Costa Rica in. Hard to believe that this small amount of stuff could be sufficient for international travel, but it was more than enough!

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And, voila — ready to go! Note the extra space in the top… that’s on purpose! How else would all of that delicious cheese and chocolate going to come back with us?

There was more than enough space for a few souvenirs! Below is the stash that we brought home that fit in the available space.

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And here’s the proof — pictures of our week! We spent half of the week in Paris and took a train to Amsterdam where we spent the remainder of the week. The weather was a little overcast and slightly rainy, but it didn’t matter! We were so happy to have the chance to visit such beautiful cities, taste amazing things, make some friends, and see SO MUCH art. Our favorite sights were Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam.

Now I would love to hear from you, dear readers! Do you have any travel tips and tricks, favorite piece of luggage, or packing hacks? I would especially love to know if anyone’s found a way to pack lightly for traveling over the holidays! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Simply – Becky

1.jpgParis, France

2.jpgAmsterdam, Netherlands

59 thoughts on “How I Packed for a One-Week Trip to Europe in a Small Weekender Bag

  1. That is truly a TALENT!!! I am the worst packer, ever! I cannot travel without at least a carry on and a very heavy suitcase! I absolutely have to learn how to do the travel magic =) Thank you for sharing and for the inspiration!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We’re about to start planning for holiday travel packing too. The hardest part for us is figuring out what to do with brining/receiving gifts — super tricky! We might need to check a bag for the first time in a while. 😐 Cheers!

      Like

  2. New to your blog so I’ll ask. Have you tried no poo for even more reduction? I rinse my hair frequently and occasionally condition but haven’t used shampoo in 3 years. Your body adapts and produces less oil, plus it reduces waste and expense 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Becky, I love the idea of traveling with only one bag. Although I’m not going out of the country, I’m going to try this method when I go home for the holidays. I usually bring a whole suitcase just for a week! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I tend to look for cotton rich ones in statement colours. I’ve seen a gorgeous red&pink winter scarf at Zara recently that I would love to add to my collection! Mango has some good ones usually too. Which ones do you like?
        Thank you so much for your lovely feedback, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I definitely recommend visiting during tulip season, it’s an absolute dream and also a quick stop in Utrecht if you have time!

        https://2weekendwanderers.com

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Truly inspiring! I have been travelling nd living out of my backpack (exchange student, summertime-waitress and freelancer) for a year now. Unbelievabe how much less we need to live a life!
    P.S. Hope to see you somewhere in Europe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome, that’s definitely how we roll too. I think that I overpacked by a shirt or two for my recent international trip, but it’s so hard to know what will be necessary. Constantly learning! I roll some, bunch some, fold some… all of the above, lol. I packed as many items into crevasses as possible, which in my last TSA check was meticulously unpacked by an agent — I’m learning there too. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Becky, I’m quite envious of your ability to minimize your wardrobe selection. My husband and I did our best to use a minimalist mindset when packing for our most recent trip to NYC, for both ease and stress reduction, but it seems that my travel wardrobe (perhaps, my wardrobe in general) could use a bit of improvement. We each used a bag that was small enough to be an overhead carry-on and what a difference that made! It was so much easier to trek a couple of blocks to meet our Uber, etc! However, I did make the same mistake as you did with your booties. My husband purchased a pair of sturdy black, heeled boots for me to bring along (I wore them to the airport due to their girth) and they were killing my ankles by the end of the trip!

    I’m a beginner when it comes to learning about minimalism. I’ve gone through natural cycles of purging my unnecessary belongings for as long as I can remember and have no trouble getting rid of meaningless “junk”. However, I have doubts that I would be able to fully submerge myself in the lifestyle, as I’m a very sentimental person and would have great trouble ridding myself of any objects that I feel have significant emotional meaning. I do feel that minimizing as much as I can will certainly reduce stress and anxiety in my life, though. Gathering too many things in my home stresses me out!

    I think my favorite aspect of the concept of minimalism is the “no waste” principle. I try to be environmentally conscious and love to advocate for conservation as much as possible.

    Thank you for sharing this! I enjoyed it very much and think your blanket scarf is fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad to know that I’m not alone in the great walking-shoe mistake, haha!

      I too had the same doubts about getting rid of sentimental things, but I’ve found that I restrict myself from enjoying future sentimental things if I can’t fit them into my home. One way that I’ve coped with this is creating a memory box — one box and location for all of my sentimental things helps me maintain the amount (my blog post: http://www.lightandminimal.com/2017/07/27/storing-sentimental-things/). By curating a small selection of highly sentimental things in this box, I’m able to focus on each item so much more. Also, snapping a pictures of things that are difficult to part with is also a great way to ease the tension of letting go (this tactic was SOOO helpful for me!). I love this post by the Minimalists regarding sentimental things: http://www.theminimalists.com/sentimental/.

      Honestly, I think the most challenging part of minimalism is keeping things out. I had been through the “buy-organize-clean-purge-buy-organize-clean-purge” cycle one too many times, so when I made up my mind to dive into minimalism, I created systems to kick this cycle. Check out my blog post about the systems that I used here: https://lightandminimal.com/2017/06/19/4-tips-for-effective-minimizing/. Being strategic and having a simple set of systems has been the most effective at keeping our life and home simple.

      Hope that’s helpful! Thanks for sharing and for the kind comments!!

      Like

  6. Love the approach on minimalism! Something I gravitate more towards every day. Packing is such a struggle, you know that meme.. I could wear the same shirt 3 times at home but at soon as I pack for a week i need about 27 things.. Lol. Really great read. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi 🙂 I am new to WordPress and also new to embarking on a minimalist journey! I will be following you for lots of inspiration! My first post I have put up is about how I am taking up a minimalist challenge. I am off on a week long trip to the inlaws at Christmas and will be using some of these tips too! thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this post so much!! I am the type of person who goes away for a weekend and ends up packing for two weeks because… you never know when you might need something else. I like the idea of having a small bag, easy to carry, for small trips and will definitely try out some of these tips… Thank you for sharing!
    Here is a link to my lifestyle blog, please feel free to check it out!
    https://wordpress.com/view/claireidelle-infinefettle.com

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow this is wonderful!! I’ll be spending a month in Italy this summer and all I’m bringing is a backpack! I will DEFINITELY be referring to this post when I pack, especially the toiletries section! Taking the deodorant out of the container?? Genius!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A whole month in Italy sounds so dreamy!! Way to be preparing ahead of time! I kinda scramble to think about what I’m bringing until the last minute. Pretty sure that’s what got me into the painful-shoe mess! :/ I’ve recently been inspired by ultralight backpackers, like this guy http://bit.ly/2zjvHgO. Enjoy preparing for your trip!!

      Like

  10. HA! I have the same shoes like you! And almost all my shoes are in 3 colours: black, light brown or dirty white/blush pink. These colours always match with my outfits!

    Liked by 1 person

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