Monday, February 7, 2011

How to pack a carry-on for 10 days (and 4 countries)?


I just returned from my extensive and eventful 10-day trip around 4 popular destinations in Europe, namely

Oslo, Norway
Paris, France
Barcelona, Spain
Porto, Portugal

and will be posting reports on those locations shortly, however first things first.

A 10-day trip is not an overnight stay or a even a weekend somewhere else, it’s a full-on trip. Especially if it includes so much shifting between climate zones. For example, when I stopped by Oslo, the average temperature there was -15C, Paris was already warmer with -2-0C, Barcelona was almost shocking with its palms and 14-16C and Porto completely knocked my socks off with 18-20C during the day.

It was easier to navigate through such weather changes than one might think though and overall it was an extremely pleasant itinerary for me, except maybe I would’ve taken one day off Barcelona and spent it in Porto instead.

Now, straight to the facts. I own a standard suitcase and a regular-size Puma backpack, regular in this case means 40x30x20cm, so it’s even smaller than Ryanair’s permitted 55x40x20cm and I managed to travel with that for 10 days. It is similar to this backpack here. Looking back, it doesn’t look plausible to me anymore, but indeed that’s all I had for 10 days.

Here’s the breakdown of the things I managed to stuff into the backpack:
  • passport
  • insurance
  • 6 boarding passes
  • Couchsurfing print outs
  • paper+pen
  • underwear
  • socks
  • jeans
  • 2 T-shirts
  • light sweater
  • shirt
  • light and flat sneakers
  • additional pair of glasses
  • ziplock bag: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel
  • hairbrush
  • cell phone
  • cell phone charger
  • mp3 player and cable
  • sleeping bag (!)

At the same time, I was also wearing
  • pants
  • tights
  • t-shirt
  • woolen sweater
  • scarf-o-hat
  • winter jacket
  • winter boots
and I had a wallet in my pocket and a watch on my wrist.

Overall, the weight was 5-6kg and 1.5kg of it was the sleeping bag. Honestly, I could’ve taken many more things with me if it wasn’t for the bag, it took most of the space and I used it only for 4 days, however it proved to be absolutely necessary. As it appears, most apartment buildings in Barcelona do not have central heating and it can be quite chilly at night.

Of course it was always an adventure closing my backpack, I couldn’t sit on it because of its size, but I was squeezing it alright. Things got a little bit worse when I for some reason bought a replacement pair of jeans and 2 shirts in Oslo, which was right after my first flight, so I had 5 more to take. Obviously, there was no more space at all. The old pair of jeans had to go and I had to put even more layers on, even as I went south and I had to have my DSLR camera outside the bag. That could’ve proved to be a problem with Ryanair as they are quite strict on their one-bag rule (you can take up to 10kg worth of stuff, but it has to fit in one bag), so I had to hide it in my huge scarf or dissemble it and put the two parts into the pockets of my jacket… It could have been fun if it wasn’t so stressful. But I made all boardings safely and peacefully.

However, I see this incident as one more reason to sell the DSLR and get a regular camera that fits easily into the palm of a hand or pocket, it makes things easier.

And while I am on the topics of electronics, I should also highlight the fact that I didn’t take my laptop with me. Mostly for the sole reason of lacking space for it whatsoever, not because I wanted to be cut off Internet for a while. But it was a very liberating experience, my time online was limited to about an hour or two on the Internet (which is next to nothing, obviously) and once I even survived the day without being online and that let me enjoy the cities in a much more convenient way, I didn’t have to tear myself away from the screen as I always have to do when I get too absorbed. That said, I don’t think I’ll be brave enough again to leave my laptop behind. It feels strangely weird without the surfing.

To sum it up, I'd say that the answer to the question how to pack a carry-on for 10 days is, just take the stuff you need, no excessive clothing, material or books you won't read, cosmetics you won't use, just take the basics and wear layers if necessary.

And before I forget:

10 Days in a Carry-on - a photo guide to packing the right way, I'll adopt some of the techniques next time I do a similar trip

4 comments:

meutererin said...

why so much clothes??? i mean in a photo guide..

True story said...

Maybe the lady likes to change outfits 3 times a day or something

meutererin said...

I suppose so. I mean, 10 days, five pair of jeans and pants....

Amy Pospiech said...

Not easy if you're a girl who likes to glam up a bit for some nightlife - nothing seems "excessive" then... sigh

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