Packing in One Carry On for European Travel | Travel Tip

I get a lot of questions about packing light on my blog, so I put together a little guide for how to pack only a carry on for a few weeks of travel in Europe. This can be adjusted to your tastes, travel style, favorite colors, and needs as applicable. Luckily you can be fashionable and still travel light! The key is a little planning and smart packing.

Why pack light?
I don’t always pack this light! Sometimes I overpack, especially on short trips, but if you really want to travel to many countries in Europe in a short period, traveling light is a must! Nobody wants to be switching trains or dragging huge suitcases down miles of Italian alleys. Seriously, this WILL happen to you. When you are in Europe you will do A LOT more walking than you think with your luggage. You will consistently travel in crowded public transportation and will be grateful to be able to move around easier. Most train stations or subways require carrying your luggage up stairs. Many small hotels in Europe don’t have an elevator, and if they do they are quite small. (Sometimes only small enough for one person and maybe a piece of luggage.) We’ve stayed places we have to send luggage up and meet it. Budget European airlines often charge for every pound of your luggage, and…. need I go on? Hopefully you see the value!

Washing Clothing
Packing light hinges on your ability to do laundry at some point in the trip. This can be done in your bath tub at night, by spending an afternoon at a local laundromat, sending it out from your hotel, or my favorite option, the fluff ‘n fold. I like finding a place ahead of time that will wash and fold your laundry for you. Often for cheap. In Spain it cost us 6 euro to do a large bag of laundry, which is a complete steal and meant we didn’t have to spend any time doing laundry.

Quick Tips
– Mix and match colors and styles to your taste (everything should go with everything else you bring)
– Pick darker clothing (it stays cleaner longer!)
– Don’t pack anything you haven’t worn before
– Bring only your most comfortable shoes that have been worn in
– Leave room for things you buy while traveling 
– Wear your heaviest shoes onto the plane and carry on your jacket
– Pack clothing that doesn’t wrinkle easily
– Only bring things you are willing to wear 2-4 times (another reason plain pieces that can be dressed up or down are great)
– Accessorize with jewelry, scarves, and other items that take up little space (remember you can also buy these things as souvenirs along the way)
– Scarves and cardigans can (and often are) used as pillows/blankets while traveling so keep them close

Packing Cubes
The key to this whole operation = packing cubes. They compress and compartmentalize. Can I praise these enough? Complete game changer when used correctly. No more searching for one shirt and having to refold everything! This will make you queen of efficiency and allow you to pack more. I usually roll up my shirts in a bigger one, all of undergarments in a smaller one, and lay my bottoms on the bottom of the suitcase. Electronics, sweaters, makeup, and jewelry all go in a backpack.

Other important things to pack..
Passport, money, travel confirmations, digital camera and charger, cell phone, laundry packets and sink stopper, outlet conversions, sleeping mask, Kindle/iPad, medications, toiletries, hand sanitizer, and glasses.

So here is the thing. Fashion is personal to you. I can give my opinion on how to travel fashionably and light, but that is so subjective. My feelings on the matter? You’ll never regret a photo where you are wearing a great quality black top with dark jeans. You’ll look chic and timeless. The simpler the better. Remember, you’ll being making wonderful and priceless memories and although looking fabulous in photos is wonderful, being in the moment (and comfortable) is the most important thing you can do while traveling. 


This entry was posted in travel 101, travel essentials, travel guide, travel tip.
  • Christine

    Completely agree!!! I finally caved in and wore sneakers when I was Italy! Best decision ever. I'm now a convert 😉

  • Rachel Gault

    Great tips! I love using packing cubes for travel!

  • Arni

    I definitely love this post and yay to the most comfortable shoes.

  • Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders

    Such great tips! My goal is to pack in a carryon for our two week trip to Europe next year, so I'm definitely pinning this for later!
    And you're totally right about choosing more timeless pieces that will look great in pictures for years to come!

  • Emily S (Em Busy Living)

    This is great info! I haven't had to pack so lightly for such a long trip before, but when I do I'll refer back!

  • Cece

    Love this post! I was that person lugging a big suitcase up stairs, down stairs and onto trains when we went to Europe. Ugh! I vow that I will find a better way next time I go and this should help. I've already saved those cubes in my amazon wish list. I try to bring a variety because I want to look "cute" but I love the idea of sticking with mix and match basics and still looking good.

  • Ashley R

    Seriously. All that walking? You have to be kind to your feet.

  • Ashley R

    The best.

  • Ashley R

    Aw, I am so glad this helped you!

  • Ashley R

    You can definitely get away with more shirts if they are lightweight and rolled, and keep your bottoms basic.

  • Leigh

    I love the tips and I ALSO love that dress in the “foundation pieces” section. Where is it from? Thanks! You looked fab. :)

  • Darlene

    Have you ever been to an all inclusive resort and if so what would you suggest I pack?