Europe for...7 months! Pack light?

Hello! Due to an unexpected turn of events, I will be backpacking around Europe for 7 months, starting in April and ending in November. I'll be starting in Turkey and working my way to Berlin. I understand the benefits of packing light (I just did Southeast Asia for 3 months with a carry-on hybrid rolling backpack and messenger bag). But 7 months is awhile, and I was hoping to bring 4-5 travel books with me, as well as my laptop. I'm considering bringing my hybrid rolling backpack and another largish carry-on backpack, as well as a small messenger bag that will compress into one of the packs. Thoughts? Thanks in advance!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22015 posts

@Sherry, Kindle also has a FREE E-Reader app for P.C.'s, Mac's, iPods, iPhones, etc. That makes it VERY easy to have access to a large variety of E-books, including Rick's Guidebooks. AFAIK, it's possible to use the books on multiple platforms, so a book could be accessed on an iPod Touch while out touring, or on a Laptop / Netbook when back at the hotel. Cheers!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22015 posts

Mikel, One VERY important point that you'll need to consider is the Schengen Visa, which allows tourists to remain in the Schengen zone (most of Europe) for a MAXIMUM of 90 days in any 180 day period. In other words, if you travel for 90 days, you have to leave for 90 days before you can return. Those caught violating the rules can face hefty fines and deportation for the E.U. for periods up to 10 years. The rules for travel in Europe are MUCH different than in Southeast Asia. Regarding the luggage I only use Backpacks, but if the rolling bag worked well for you in Asia, I'm sure it will also work well in Europe. Happy travels!

Posted by Monique
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
583 posts

I was hoping someone would be the first to mention the VISA issue, but if you have this worked out already, can you please let me know your secret? :) In other news, I shouldn't really be replying to this post because I can't take a weekend trip to Cleveland without packing a large suitcase and a duffle bag... and a makeup bag ...and my purse. But I have gotten somewhat better over the years, and I learned a lot from this site. Under the Graffiti Wall there is a link that takes you to tips on packiing light, which you no doubt have experience in since you did the Asia thing with only the backpack/messenger bag. I honestly would just pack as you did for the 3 months, and then at the end of the 3 months, evaluate what needs to be replaced. Toiletries can be replaced. And you can always find markets or charity shops to replace overly worn clothing or shoes. If you think in terms of 7 months, it might be overwhelming, but if you think in terms of 3 months (which you alrady have success in), it might help.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
2918 posts

My thoughts? Carry just enough clothes for 2 weeks. They have washing machines in Europe. They also have retail stores where you can buy clothes if you wear the others out.
Rick Steves says he can travel indefinitely with a 21" rolling bag. So can you travel with just a carry on.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
973 posts

Thank you Mikel! Nothing makes us happier on this board than pointing out Schengen to anyone who mentions a long trip. I know Turkey is not in the zone but still....we just love to point it out. I would still pack small if I planned to move about and figure I'd buy things along the way as needed. I just picked up a 10" tablet and it travels much lighter and smaller than a laptop. Books can almost always be downloaded onto a tablet as well and I wouldn't want to carry as many as you mentioned.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

While the Helpline's obsession with instructing posters on the finer points of the Schengen Treaty is certainly interesting, it does serve some purpose since there seems to be so many posters totally unaware that countries actually do have entry/exit requirements. And SE Asia is different for sure. Cambodia, for example, requires a visa for tourists, and it's good for just one month. Vietnam also requires a visa, and it's only good for one entry...screwing up in this Communist nation might result in charges and jail time...then deportation later. My guess is that if Mikel has traveled around SE Asia, I'm pretty sure he doesn't need any extra info on entry/exit for Europe...he's probably got it covered. As for which bags to use, I would recommend going as lightly as possible. Whatever worked for you in SE Asia should be fine in highly-developed Europe.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8862 posts

Frankly in a grand majority of cases ( but not all) the posters who come on these forums asking for any advice about long trips do NOT know about the Visa requirements and they are literally "saved" from quite bit of hassle and perhaps disaster by being made aware of it. They can then alter there plans to make it work for them. I don't care how often people ask the same sort of question, or how often we have to remind people about some basic but important facts. To the poster it may be the first time they they learned about something new. Mikel, I have gone for 3 months with a small- medium suitcase. I wash clothes, I throw out tshirts that have died and occaisonally buy a new one ( just like I would at home). Pack for 2 weeks and figure that in 7 months some things may come and go.. and you will have to do laundry!1 I would never travel with 4-5 books, I do as rick suggested and ripped out relevent sections of guide books( you rarely need the whole book) and throw out when done that country, I also sometimes just copy helpful bits for forums and guide books into a small notebook. Carrying books is heavy,, and for a 7 month trip, no way would I want to dealwith that . Some people are horrified about ripping up a guide book, but for goodness sake books are like 20 bucks, buy a new one when you get home if you feel you must.. I find I never use the hotel recommendations and resturant sections, but have written down a few names of them in my notebook. With a laptop I personally would not bring a book at all, the lap top will give you uptodate information why bring a whole book? I don't travel with any electronics except my camera and sometimes my nanopod. So sections of books can be helpful.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

My upcoming trip is guidebook free. I am using my Kindle & free & pay guide books. Trip Advisor has a pretty good selection of free city guides with Off-line maps.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1815 posts

If you will have a smart phone or similar device, you can get rid of lots of guidebooks/paper by installing one of the PDF readers. I use GoodReader app, and replaced a good deal of paper by allowing me to carry PDFs describing local sites.

Posted by Mikel
San Francisco, CA, USA
9 posts

Hi Everyone - Thanks for the quick replies. I know about the Schengen Visa requirements, but was planning on visiting the following countries (in order): - Turkey (non-Schengen) - Bulgaria (non-Schengen) - Romania (MAYBE-Schengen) - Serbia (non-Schengen) - Croatia (MAYBE-Schengen) - Hungary (YES-Schengen) - Poland (YES-Schengen) - Czech Republic (YES-Schengen)
- Germany (YES-Schengen) It's the "Maybe" countries that will foul up my trip. As I haven't purchased my return ticket, I could always purchase it after I visit Romania or Croatia. I hope 3 months is plenty to spend in Hungary/Poland/Czech Republic/Germany. (and yes, I was lame for not posting the exact countries I'm hoping to visit!) There's no hard/fast rule about how long I'm staying - it's just actually cheaper for me to stay longer, as I'm sub-letting my apartment in San Francisco. Thanks again for the advice! Mikel

Posted by Love to Travel
San Diego, CA
126 posts

First off, that's great that you can take the time off to travel for so long! One thing about traveling is you can always leave things you don't like, and buy things you do need. Do you have a kindle or ipad? That way you can combine your reading and internet into one device. Are there certain travel books you want to bring? You could buy them there...or download them online. Or just leave your guidebook in the hostel on your last day in the country. That's always the hardest as I'm very sentimental with my guidebooks. I still have my first Europe on a shoestring guidebook for my first trip. But do you really want all of that stuff to keep track of? Are you going to be in places for several weeks at a time? If you will be in a city for 3 weeks then that's less packing. But if you are moving around a lot that could be tough.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

Year ago, I travelled and worked for 2 years through Europe(before the restrictions) with a backpack filled with basically 2 weeks worth of clothes. As things wore out they were replaced and going into colder countries we bought warmer clothes as needed. Realistically, if you actually monitored your own clothing use at home (except for special occasions) you probably wear basically the same rotation of clothes over a 2 week period. It may not sound like alot of clothes, but it is.
As for travel books, they're nice to have but weigh a ton. We ripped apart our Let's Go Europe and only kept the applicable pages, which we chucked when leaving the country.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22015 posts

Croatia will be joining the E.U. on 1 July 2013 (only a few short months from now). I suspect the process will take some time to implement fully, but that's the "official date" at the moment. Cheers!

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5410 posts

There will be lots of cold days on your trip, and wet ones too. My recommendation is to take a couple of sets of thermals and a sturdy rain poncho that will keep you and your backpack dry even in a downpour.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
937 posts

Croatia is joining EU in July 2013, but that is not the same as joining Schengen which will (probably) follow a year or two later (but no guarantees, Romania has been put off at least twice so far).

Posted by Debra
Sacramento, CA, United States
35 posts

Hello! We took a 6 month trip last year through Great Britain, Portugal and Spain. We traveled from the end of Septemer thru the end of March. My husband and and I both took a rolling carry on bag with multiple light layers and one longer (but light weight wind and rain resistent) coat. As others have mentioned we tossed out and replaced clothing as needed. We aimed more for a weeks worth of clothing, rather than two weeks. We did take a few travel books and tossed them as we left countries. We also travbeled with an Ipad and Iphone, but we can't seem to give up the tactile delight of real books.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
973 posts

A SIX MONTH TRIP!!!! Oh my god! How did you do that without violating the Schengen agreement? Why are you not in a European prison or can you never return to Europe for the rest of your life? Please tell us before most of the RS travel board has a heart attack thinking about it.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5693 posts

Richard, you didn't pay attention to where Debra went, or you don't know Schengen. She went to Great Britain. We can be there for 6 months without a visa as they aren't part of Schengen.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2029 posts

it's just actually cheaper for me to stay longer, as I'm sub-letting my apartment in San Francisco. i find this hilarious and homesickness inducing at the same time. Oh, SF and your completely ridiculous rental prices. i agree that you should really just pack as you would for a 10 day-2 week trip, clothing wise, and get used to doing laundry. I wouldn't want to have two largish bags with me - too much hassle on trains and etc. (i recently had to carry my bag and my husband's bag on a metro and it wasn't fun, and this was for a weekend trip). laptop goes in messenger bag. forget 4-5 travel books, get a kindle. yes, travel guides on kindle suck in terms of formatting, but it more than makes up for it in terms of packing light. another option is to take the physical books, but leave them at your hotel/hostel when you're doing with that country, which frees up space for bringing things home.