a weekend in romania with a tiny backpack

Posted on Location: , 5 min read

This summer, I spent 4 days traveling around Transylvania and Bucharest with a tiny computer backpack as my only luggage. Between the slash-resistant lining and excessive waterproofing, this bag isn’t designed to hold much more than a laptop, a wallet and a few charging cords. But I had previously learned the hard way that I wouldn’t want to lug around a larger duffel. And since I was flying exclusively with budget airlines, I definitely didn’t want to risk my bag being thrown into the hold (at a fee that would have matched what I paid for the entire flight). Plus, what better motivation is there to minimize than to eliminate excessive extra options?

Packing List


  • (2) t-shirts
  • (1) tank top
  • (1) sports bra
  • (1) bandeau bra
  • (1) pair of shorts
  • (1) pair of jeans
  • (1) pair of leggings
  • (1) pair of shower slippers (not pictured; they didn’t survive the journey)
  • (1) scarf (which doubles as a hair wrap or towel if the hostels charge extra for rentals)
  • (3) pairs of socks
  • (4) pairs of underwear


  • (1) quart-sized toiletry bag (makeup excluded; I only took the basics – shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, lotion, soap, tooth kit and razor)
  • (1) hairbrush
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Small purse (for things I needed to be immediately accessible)
  • Flash drive/necklace with emergency documents
  • Charger cords with (with EU adapter)


  • Travel journal
  • Power bank
  • Sunglasses
  • Luggage lock

Note: If I took this trip in the fall or winter, I would only make a few modifications to this list like swapping my two t-shirts for a long sleeve top and a sweater. I would also add a heavier coat, waterproof rain jacket and some sturdy boots – all of which I would wear onto the plane, layering as much as possible for convenience.


 DAY ONE: Sibiu, Romanian Evangelical Cathedral and Potters Tower

What I wore:

  • Jeans
  • Tennis shoes
  • Striped t-shirt
  • Sports bra

Since most of Europe is quite humid in the warmer months, I’ve gotten used to hand-washing my clothes in hostel bathrooms. It doesn’t take long to become drenched with sweat and city grime after a day of walking through stuffy bell towers and crowded squares. Overall, this wardrobe was pretty appropriate for the weather as well as my activities throughout the weekend. I also changed locations every day, so being able to easily unpack and repack was a crucial element. This bag was even small enough to either put on my lap or under the seat in front of me on all flights and bus rides, and I didn’t have to deal with waiting for other passengers to organize the overhead bins or communal storage areas.

The weather was fairly muggy but, while in Sibiu, it did rain a few times, and I was happy that I brought the scarf and a pair of jeans. On my last day in Bucharest, however, I spent nearly the entire time in my shower flip-flops and sleepwear because of the heat. To my surprise, I wasn’t the only one.

I spent the majority of the weekend on my feet, and the sneakers I wore onto the plane were perfect for the entire trip. They can handle getting wet, and are easy to clean quickly if they get muddy or grimy from strolling around a stone-and-dust-filled city all day. Even going out is doable with standard tennis shoes if you’re interested in the more casual pubs and dive bars. At least in Transylvania, the vibe seemed to be incredibly laid back (almost to the degree of cities like Denver, CO).

DAY TWO: Bucharest, Cismigiu Park

What I wore:

  • Leggings
  • Tennis shoes
  • Tank top
  • Bandeau

Bucharest has a pretty bustling nightlife scene, so I’d recommend a pair of booties or flats with jeans for more trendy clubs and lounges. However, you can always wear your heaviest shoes on the plane and then stick the other pair into the side pockets of your bag, or you can squish them together and compress them into a drawstring sack before packing. You may even get away with tying them to the outside of your bag, although this really depends on their airline and who is in charge of boarding for your flight. To play it safe, always leave a small amount of space in case you need to shove something in your bag last minute. You just have to make it ON the plane, and can usually separate your belongings once you’re seated.

DAY THREE: Bucharest, Old Town and Palatul Parlamentului

What I wore:

  • Shorts
  • Tennis shoes
  • Striped t-shirt
  • Sports bra

DAY FOUR: Sibiu, Old Town

What I wore:

  • Jeans
  • Tennis shoes
  • Black t-shirt
  • Bandeau
  • Scarf

While in Sibiu, the scarf was a perfect cover-up for entering more conservative church buildings, even though it seemed like jeans and a t-shirt were acceptable attire for tourists. In some Orthodox churches, you may be required to cover your head. If you don’t plan on sitting down at a restaurant with white tablecloths, this type of clothing is fine for grabbing a drink and a meal at an open air cafe – or for a picnic in the park. During the day in Bucharest, just about anything goes. Some locals readily wear crop tops and short skirts pretty much everywhere in the city, while others are covered from head to toe. Jeans are a safe bet, but leggings and shorts are also fine for walking around town. I didn’t receive any negative attention and I felt like I blended in decently well (sans ridiculous tourist backpack). On the other hand, dressing up a bit wouldn’t make you stick out like a sore thumb, either. Loud colors and patterns are popular, but neutrals are also common. Just leave the fanny pack at home.

If I were to do anything differently, I would have probably worn a dress and leggings onto the plane, with maybe my shorts underneath so I’d have one more option that would be appropriate for warmer weather, or even cooler nights if I wanted to dress up a bit. Using the “roll-and-pack method” and layering as much as possible for the airport outfit are my two favorite ways to pack as much as I can, while also leaving room for some souvenirs. Since I tend to stick to more neutral mix-and-match pieces, I think this packing list would be fine for up to a week as long as I’m able to hand wash every few wears (with maybe a few more undies and socks added in). I will say that packing less is ALWAYS favorable to packing too much. It’s always harder to talk yourself into leaving something behind than it is to justify a new purchase once you arrive.

When it comes to budget travel, less is truly more. Don’t underestimate the versatility of a bathroom sink, and you can definitely leave your bulky makeup kit behind (P.S. you’ll feel soooo much better without having to worry about finding your removing wipes or hauling yourself to the communal bathroom when you return from a night out at 3AM). The freedom you feel from skating through the boarding line right to your seat on the plane, as well as the peace of mind you’ll get from having everything you need at your fingertips, is well worth the uncertainty of whether or not you’ll really need that extra pair of shoes.

Cover photo credit: Rowalk

All other photos provided by Nicole Frost.


Subscribe so you don’t miss a post

Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No Comments Yet.

desert harmonies: a photo feature with danny upshaw
a weekend in romania with a tiny backpack