With repeated trips you get a good idea of what should be in your bag and what you should leave at home. Here’s my backpacking checklist I mentally go through before each trip into Europe.
• Passport. Sounds obvious, but you can’t afford to forget this little puppy. I keep mine in a leather passport cover.
• ATM/Credit Card. I bring an ATM card for cash withdrawals and a VISA credit card for backup.
• Travel Insurance. If you’re an EU citizen, an EHIC card is a good thing to carry, as it gives you discounted (sometimes even free) medical care inside Europe. But I also get backpackers insurance as well to be on the safe side. It’s cheap and makes me worry less about my things. Who you go with is a matter of personal preference, but I’ve always been happy with the company Lonely Planet recommend, World Nomads. ***UPDATE*** Someone has written in drawing my attention to this World Nomads Promotional Code which awards you a 6% discount. I’ll try it for on my next trip and will let you know if it works.
I figure if you have your passport, a credit card and have your backside covered with insurance, you’re equipped to deal with pretty much anything else.
• Backpack. The smaller the better. I have a 75 litre backpack for big trips and a 40 litre for smaller hops. If I’m flying by budget airline, such as Ryanair, I only travel with a carry-on bag to save the £20 checked-in bag fee, and the 40 litre is the closest to their carry-on dimensions.
• Rainjacket. I have a lightweight Goretex rainjacket that packs down very small.
• Fleece. I bring a warm fleece for winter trips to Europe, and will bring a lighter long-sleeved garment for summer.
• T-shirts. I bung a few t-shirts in my bag, enough for a few days. If it’s a long trip I will wash them either in sinks or at launderettes if I’m feeling lazy and flush.
• Trainers. I tend to travel with just a single pair of canvas trainers on short trips. Perhaps two pairs on longer trips, the second pair being boots or sturdy walking shoes.
• Underwear. Five pairs of boxers, five pairs of socks.
• Trousers. Two pairs, one thick, one thinner, although this depends on season. I might substitute one pair of trousers for shorts in the summer.
• First Aid. Paracetamol, plasters, antiseptic, any other personal medication.
• Washkit. Travel sizes of shampoo and shower gel. Comb/brush, hair wax, toothbrush, toothpaste. Condoms.
• Towel. One of those small, thin camping/travel towels. Takes up zero space and dries quickly.
• Camera. A small digital camera. I don’t normally spend more than £100 on it as my insurance has a single item limit of £100.
• Electrical Adapter. Plug adapter thing to convert the unsightly three-prong British plug into the more elegant two-prong European style.
• Odds and ends. Elastic washing line, universal sink plug, ear plugs, padlock, torch.
• Guidebook. I’m not precious about them and will rip out the relevant pages to my trip and only bring them with me.
That’s all you should need for a shoestring trip into Europe.