PictureGare de l'Est, Paris
It's not usual for me to write a personal post, but a couple of weeks ago whilst catching up on summer holidays with friends over a coffee, I was asked how on earth I managed to pack for a three week rail trip around Europe with just a backpack. So here it is - my capsule train-friendly backpacking wardrobe with room for a few little luxuries.

For nearly twenty years it has been dream of mine to take a trip exploring Europe by train. Time out or a gap year to travel was a bit of a rite of passage when I was a student back in the 90’s. But after graduation I was keen to pursue my career and whilst I always had the idea in the back of my mind it wasn’t until the end of 2014 that I began seriously thinking of taking that inter-railing trip I’d always dreamed of. After looking into ideas for travelling by rail, everything I read completely inspired me to plan the trip – and though it didn’t on the face of it seem to be a relaxing holiday (with our twin boys and carrying our belongings with us for the duration), the challenge was set. After a few fraught evenings planning the route, train tickets and accommodation we were booked. 20 days, 7 countries and 15 train journeys. But what to pack - well, I’d have to carry everything I needed (plus half of the boys clothes) in my 65 litre rucksack and it’s nearly three weeks. We didn’t have a massive budget and booked to stay mainly in hostel-type hotels which had the benefit of laundry facilities. With a plan to do a load of washing every three days, this roughly equated to four days outfits plus some spare essentials, just in case.

What did I want from my clothes for the trip?
1) comfort - to be protected from the elements (cold, sun, rain)
2) easy to wash and dry
3) separates that all worked together colour-wise
4) to look a little more polished in the evenings (not much, just a little!)
What did I pack?
3 tops
2 pairs of walking trousers (the most flattering ones I could find - not easy)
1 fleece
Thermal long sleeve top & leggings
1 "buff" (works as hat, scarf, headband amongst other things)
3 pairs walking socks
3 pairs sports socks
2 foldable totes (including my favourite navy Longchamp)
Quick dry towel
Multi-purpose wash (body, hair, clothes)
1 pair pyjamas
Two paperbacks
Backpack unpacked!
And those little extras:
I treated myself to the REN Grab & Go Travel Kit - mini luxuries in washbag essentials. Make up? Just a BB cream, mascara and lipgloss plus my favourite summer perfume, Clarins Eau Ressourçante. 

Not packed, but worn for our first day's travel into London and on to Brussels:
-Skinny jeans
-Breton tee
-Linen cardigan
-Walking shoes (lighter and more versatile than boots)
One of our stops was Switzerland and the Alps – it would be COLD at the top of the mountains. But a heavy jacket would be bulky just for the sake of a day or two. The answer? Just wear EVERYTHING, along with a layer of light thermals that take up next to no space and weigh only a few grams.
My favourite picture - the Astronomical Clock, Prague.
Anything missing?
What I hadn’t bargained for was a heatwave – two weeks of the hottest temperatures Central Europe had ever seen (hitting 40 degrees C in parts of Germany). And whilst I didn’t want to burn in the sun, I definitely needed to be more comfortable in the heat as I'd only packed trousers. So I bought two t-shirt dresses in Germany – in the sale too – along with some extra pairs of light socks.
Other items that I bought en route, all really as a result of the extreme hot weather: hairclips and earplugs (city centre budget hotels with no air con = windows open & lots of noise!).

A pair of sandals or flipflops would have been good to include too - especially for just wearing around hotels and short strolls in the evenings.

What didn’t I need, wear or use?
The goody bag of toiletries were probably a little unnecessary - but they were a welcome little touch of luxury.

What would I have done differently?
Checked the long term weather forecast before we left...

So how was it?
We had an incredible trip that was better than we ever could have imagined. The only challenge now....I seem to have developed a wanderlust. Where next?

Our route around Europe took in: London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Munich, Innsbruck, Interlaken, Paris and back to London. We stayed mainly in Meininger Hotels and youth hostels along with a couple of (rather nice) hotels in Prague (Jurys Inn) and Paris (Le Marcel - very handy for Gare du Nord and the Eurostar Terminal for London).
What are your must-have items when you go away? Do you always pack more than you need or do you make sure that you keep it to a minimum with plenty to mix n' match?


24/09/2015 12:06pm

Great read. I travel a lot with work and am always looking for tips of how to have a variety of outfits that cover everything from comfort to smart and everything in between!

Katy Dyer
25/09/2015 4:10am

So glad you liked it Liz - it can be done, it's about making the most of your space and making sure pieces work together and complement each other.

Naomi Lewis
27/09/2015 12:46pm

WOW!!! I was wondering how you were going to do it and you certainly did. Am sure you looked glam throughout your travels! A real suitcase inspiration!

Katy Dyer
28/09/2015 8:48am

Thanks Naomi - glad you liked it!

janet hodgkinson
17/03/2017 8:15am

Lovely read. Think I will write down what I am taking onto the narrowboat and then what I actually wear - not what I think I wear - to make sure that everything really earns its space in my new home.


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