I've already posted this in the "Travel Gear" forum but wanted to get as many opinions as I could, so here goes...
I'm doing a study abroad in the The Hague, Netherlands in the fall; however, a friend and I are going over three weeks early to backpack in Spain, France, and Italy. I plan on only taking one suitcase to check and a laptop and backpack as my carry-on luggage. I'd like to backpack for three weeks straight out of my carry-on bag that way, if my luggage is lost, we won't lose any travel time waiting for it. What size bag would you recommend? Would a standard school bookbag be too small, do you think? I'm just not sure how big a bag you can even take as carry-on for an airplane. We figured we would take maybe four or five sets of clothes, a toiletry bag, and comfortable shoes and that would be it. Do you think we're going too slim on the packing?
Secondly - what would you recommend in terms of staying in touch with family/friends back in States? I've heard of Skype phones that you can use if you're in a Wi-Fi hotspot. We're looking for something that will best serve us not only during our travels backpacking but also for the duration of our stay in the Netherlands (which will be one semester).
Any help will be GREATLY appreciated! Thanks!