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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Europe, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Rome

2 Week Backpacking Trip to Europe in December- doable with just a carry on?


I'm doing a 2-week trip to these cities (Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid & Rome) in beginning of December and I was wondering if it's possible to do this trip with just a carry-on (luggage / backpack), preferably backpack. I'm trying to travel as low budget as possible and my travels consist of inter flights with easyJet, Ryanair & Norwegian air. Reasons I'd prefer to backpack; ease of travel, budget & time. I want the check-in flow to be smooth. I know the weather will be cold and wet during this period but has anyone done it? I've done some research on the carry-on size permitted by those airlines and it seems 40L - 45L backpack should be fine? I could be wrong. Packing tips would be great too! 

13 Answers

top answer by
Sabine from Amsterdam

Hi Dahlia,

It really depends on what type of girl you are and if you don't mind wearing the same clothes over and over :-). 

Like Maria suggested on the flights wear layers; warm coat, nice warm scarf, your hat and your heaviest, biggest boots. You just need 1 extra pair of shoes I guess. When going out or having drinks in Europe (especially Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Berlin) it is totally fine wearing flat decent shoes and jeans. Especially in winter. So don't bother bringing anything fancy or heels :-). 

In total 3 trousers should work. 

Take note of the liquid rules at all airports!! No more than 10 items, 100ml per item. So just bring small packages. At any airport, but also at most drugstores in all cities (in Amsterdam at 'Etos' and 'Kruidvat') you can buy mini toothpaste, mini deodorant, mini shampoo and so on. 

Please beware that Easyjet especially is very strict with hand luggage rules. You can only bring 1 item of handluggage weighing not more than 10 kilos. So also your purse, camerabag or small backpack or any other bag your bringing MUST fit in that 1 item. Also take note of the size of your backpack (56 x 45 x 25cm), because they WILL ask you to measure it on the spot. If it doesn't fit you have to pay (not sure how much, but a lot). 

Have fun! Even though it might be rainy and cold I am sure you will love it!

3 thanks

answered by

Absolutely! You will never regret packing light, because after all you'll be carrying your pack everywhere. Pack clothing that you can mix/match, so you'll have several different outfits even though you'll be wearing the same clothes for two weeks. Minimize how many pairs of shoes you take (one comfy pair for doing lots of walking and another more dressy). Wear your biggest/heaviest pair on the flight and whenever you're moving from town to town to lighten the load of your pack. Don't take heals, since those don't walk well on cobblestone. And since you'll be traveling during the cold season take warm (but not necessarily heavy) clothes you can layer. Take one heavy coat/jacket and wear/carry that on your flights. Ditch the hairdryer and any other bulky things you use at home. In other words, plan on getting by with less than you feel comfortable with, because you will very likely find you don't miss those things while traveling. When I travel (always with carry-on backpack) I get excited about getting by with as little as possible. Challenge yourself!

Fold and roll your clothes instead of just folding/stacking in your pack. This will help you fit more clothes into your pack. Don't forget an umbrella and poncho, since in December you may get rained on. And a trash bag to cover your pack too in case it's raining when en route to your next city. Since you can only carry on minimal liquids/gels/etc take only a tiny tube of toothpaste to allow more room for your favorite essentials in that tiny baggie.

Don't sacrifice health while traveling, because moving around a lot can be draining. Traveling is life accelerated, so take care of yourself, eat well, don't become too sleep deprived while still pushing yourself to have fun and see much. Don't try to take in everything in each city. Assume you will return someday, hopefully repeatedly (ideally).

Here's a terrific article on packing light that coincidentally just showed up in my inbox as I'm writing this

Also, Rick Steves travel guidebooks are my favorite for traveling in Europe and he's a genius at packing light

Hopefully you'll be visiting some Christmas markets there. The holiday season in Europe is magical.

Have a wonderful vacation, and remember when it comes to packing a carry-on less is more.

1 thanks

answered by
Lynnette from Madrid

Yes, It is possible to travel with just a backpack.  Just keep in mind that your souvenirs may just be postcards.  If you are going to use a backpack or a small suitcase I would suggest that you purchase spacepackers.  This has been a life saver for when I moved to Spain as well as traveling through Europe.  There are called Flight 001 .  They are awesome.  Also, get fabreeze travel size bottle to freshen up your garments.  There is also a wrinkle free one as well from Downy.  I have done it with 5 shirts, one black dress, 3 pairs of black tights, 2 leggins, two scarfs and two pairs of shoes.  This was more effective for me because i wanted to bring things back home.  If you have any other questions contact me privately.

1 thanks

answered by
Paul from Redmond (Washington)

Absolutely! We've traveled in Europe for up to three weeks (with two small kids) with carry-on bags. We had a convertible setup i.e. could be a roller bag but also had straps to make it a backpack. There are some excellent choices available for bags but frankly it doesn't matter too much if you are comfortable carrying a standard backpack.

The key of course is packing light: don't overdo on shoes, pack only a few changes of clothes (wool and tech fibers are best), etc. There are several great guides on the Internet. Also remember that generally you can buy what you need when you get there. Don't pack for every emergency or contingency; sometimes the best souvenirs are that scarf you needed for a cold day or an umbrella picked up in a Paris rainstorm (trust me on that one).

1 thanks

answered by
Peter from Los Angeles

For sure! Just bring a few layers and one outfit and shoes that are a little dressier in case you get invited to something worth dressing up for. Just bring a few pairs of shoes, scarf, gloves hat, light Patagonia thermals and jacket and you are comfy and mobile. You can pretty much live in jeans, sneakers/runners and a sweater 90% of the time. Buen viaje!!

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answered by
Oguzhan from Amsterdam, Netherlands

A 45L backpack should be enough for 2 weeks. Just bring a winterjacket along. And  six city's is maybe to much for 2 weeks.

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answered by
Jonathan from Niskayuna, New York

Wife and I are in Italy for 2 weeks; though we aren't camping we did each fit everything into Osprey Farpoint backpacks. We didn't pack light, but we didn't pack for change of clothes each day either. More like a weeks worth with a laundry stop mid-way. Carried on without an issue, and best part was bypassing baggage claim and everyone dragging wheeled bags through train stations.

1 thanks

answered by
JJ from New York City

Yes it's absolutely doable and I've actually done it for nearly a month with just a carry-on in winter months. I have a few packing tips I hope you will find helpful:

1) Wear your bigger pieces on the plane. Coats, bulky jackets and boots takes up the most room in your suitcase, so it's best to have it on you so you can have plenty of space for other things.

2) Check your airline(s)' carry-on sizing and weight restrictions. 

3) Choose what you pack carefully. During the winter months, a good cashmere sweater and a thermal tee goes a long way. Fleece leggings are lifesavers when I'm traveling in the winter: they're light weight, goes with pretty much anything, provides great warmth and they barely take up any room in your suitcase. Plus they're just super comfy especially when you're going to be doing a lot of walking. Pack one dressy outfit for when you want to have a fancy night out. Since you're traveling to multiple cities, you can get away with just one dressy outfit :) Just pair it with different jewelry pieces, which you can pack a few choices since they're small. No need to take your laptop if you can make do with your tablet. This way you'll have a lot more room for other things in your backpack.

4) Only pack what you need. Other than your must-have skincare products, other toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner and lotion are often provided at the hotel; or you can always buy them when you land. Yes that'll be an added expense but it's a lot less than having to pay overweight fee if your luggage is too heavy because all the liquids.

5) Pack scarves! They provide so much warmth and does not take up a lot of room in your suitcase.

Have a great time!

1 thanks

answered by
buard from Nantes

your lugagge has to fit in the adapted space for cabin if you don't want to take a suitcase and wait for it. A quite bigger size could be accepted upon different criteria : the company, the hotess, the room in the plane... the best way is to table a soft enough luggage, so you can "wamach" it if someone tells you it's too big. Then you can fit on other empty bag in it so to bring some stuff back... You have to pay attention NOT to bring paste, liquid... Or you won't get in!

1 thanks

answered first by
Maria from Dublin

Hi Dahlia,

Sure it is! I have done it, more than once. The cities you are visiting are all very civilised and, if necessary, you can use a launderette and you can buy toiletries, to avoid having to pack them. I always bring a warm (hooded) coat and good walking boots. I wear layers on the flight (and my boots) and roll all my clothes in tissue paper. I can usually fit 3-4 pairs of jeans, a couple of dresses, 4-5 (lightweight) sweaters or sweatshirts and some long sleeved and thermal tee shirts. I put underwear and socks into pockets to save room and bring one spare pair of shoes to wear with dresses. It all fits into my carry-on wheelie bag. Ryanair allows a second bag (usually a handbag) but I bring a smallish backpack which fits my laptop, wallet, travel documents and make up. I have never had a problem but this works best when you only have to pack for one climate! The weather in Europe in December is pretty much wet and cold everywhere (except maybe Madrid or Rome) but you will have lots of layers to add or remove!

1 thanks

answered by
Inês from Brussels


Well, the north of europe is a bit cold, but I'm sure nothing you can't handle! Bring a nice and fuzzy coat, but not much clothes, because every place you enter is super hot! (that way you don't have to put on and take off your clothes all the time xD)

I think it's awesome that you're travelling with a backpack, but try to leave a bit of space for your souvenirs, because I'm sure you'll want to buy loads of stuff for your friends and family! - at least I always to. Don't forget as well that the size and weight of the bag always depends on the company, so it's better for you to check on your booking first :D (for instance, I think easy jet doesn't weight your lugage if it has the right size!)

Europeans are very friendly, but you can't be afraid to speak, to ask, and to smile ;D I'm sure that everyone will be very helpful.

I hope you'll have a great time!!! :D

answered by

I would say Michael has it down Cold !  I stress GOOD comfortable shoes, it always seems that wherever you go it's uphill and on cobblestones.  Be sure you wear them Before you go , break them in.  My last trip I did it all in a great pair of walking sandals which passed for casual and dressy. Cold wet weather calls more for closed shoes and an extra pair of socks.  I have a carry on on wheels and a small back pack for essentials.  Weight is important and not all airlines are the same. Most small ones weigh the carry on.  Sometimes I think they are going to start weighing the passengers.  And yes, Rick Steves recommendations are super.  Put his website on your phone, sometimes you can get discounts for showing his book , it adds weight but worth it, tear out the pages you need and throw away what you don't along the way.  Have fun, the lighter the better.  I got a great, very warm filled jacket at a major big box store that rolled up into a ball and fit in a small bag.  It is warmer than my winter coat. AH, technology.

answered by
Amanda from Sydney

Hi Dahlia, 

Although we haven't done this in Winter (yet), we did a 9 week trip to Europe last year with carry-on only. And it was actually really easy. For winter, I think it's still absolutely do-able. Just layer clothes, and have one big coat/jacket that you can wear on the plane. Go easy packing toiletries, even though you can pack up to 100ml, you don't often need that much, especially for two weeks. I find that I don't need more than 20 items of clothing/shoes, so I use that number to help me pack. Some airlines only have a 7kg wight limit which I find can be the hardest thing about packing light. So make sure you get the lightest bag you can so you don't waste valuable kg's there. Be ruthless with shoes and toiletries. And it can be surprising how much certain things weigh, taking a few things out of your bag can bring you in under the 7kg. 

Have a great trip :)


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