Expert Packing For Travel to Europe with Just a Carry On

You can absolutely spend a month in Europe with just a carry on. The last thing that you want to do when you go away is to take too much, because in the end you always end up wearing the same outfits, the same shoes, and most of what you took with you never sees the light of day. 

When I go on a trip, I can pack everything I want to take in a carry on

So first things first. I was going to Europe for 3 weeks with my sisters when my suitcase went missing and I didn’t have it returned to me until the day before I went home – not very helpful. But it was having that suitcase lost that made me realize that I didn’t need any of the other stuff I took with me.

So now when I go on a long trip, I can pack everything I want to take in a carry on. The best thing about having everything in that one bag, is that you will have everything you need to arrive at your destination fresh and ready to hit the pavement.

You’ll notice that I choose pants and shorts that are black, navy, neutral or gray. That’s because you can mix and match these colors. Black & navy goes well with neutrals or grays. Neutrals go with black, navy or gray. Grays go well with black, navy or neutrals.

Also, try to choose items that aren’t too thick and bulky, because you want to be able to quickly wash things out in your hotel room at night and have them dry overnight. Use shampoos or body washes supplied in hotels. These wash just fine until you get to do a machine wash.

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First let’s take a look at what you should pack.

I’m not going to include most of what you wear on the plane as this won’t be going into your carry on. We’ll talk about what to wear on the plane a little later.

    • 1 pair shorts. These will be for every day when you’re doing more ‘active’ sightseeing. Choose a color that is either black, navy or gray so that all of your shirts/tops will go with them. A dark color is probably best as if you spill something on them you can just sponge it off so that you can get a few days’ wear out of them.
    • 1 pair of pants. Something that you can dress up or down, like some cotton capri pants. Black, navy, gray or neutrals are good for pairing with your tops. People in most of Europe do like to look a little dressy, so if you’re in a city, try to look a little less casual. You’ll feel more like a local! 
    • 3 polo shirts or t-shirts or tank tops for daytime. You want shirts that will go with your shorts, pants & jeans. Usually I go with colors that will go with the color of  your shorts or pants. Eg; a pink, blue or white top will go with black, navy, gray or neutral. And having some color in your tops means that you won’t feel like you’re wearing drab colors every day.
    • 1 or 2 summer dresses – knee length or longer. The length matters because some churches won’t let you in unless you’re wearing a skirt, and the skirt usually needs to be at least to the knees. You may also need to have your shoulders covered, so that’s where the cardi/jacket mentioned below comes in. 
    • Nice pair of sandals. Choose a nice neutral color that are either flat or have a low heel as these can be worn with pants, jeans or a dress for going out to dinner or if you’re going somewhere special during the day. 
    • Sunglasses, hat and sunscreen.  
    • Underwear. OK, this is where you really need to control yourself. You do not need a pair of underpants for every day you will be away! Believe me, I’ve traveled with people like that… You need around 3-4 pairs of underpants other than the ones you’ll wear on the plane. And 2 bras. One to wear and one that is drying that you washed. You will also need 2-3 pairs of socks. Again, wear a pair when you’re drying a pair.
    • Something to wear to bed. 
    • Makeup. How happy was I when my luggage was lost but I had my makeup bag with me? We all have our favorite makeup right? The last thing that you want to do when you get to your destination is to have to run out and try to buy makeup that you like. So take your essentials with you and happy days! 
    • Toiletries. We all have different toiletries that we can’t live without, but the essentials should be: deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, face wash, face scrub, body lotion, face cream, tampons, hair brush, hair ties. Try to work out how much you’ll use in the time you’ll be away and fill up travel bottles if necessary rather than taking large bottles. Don’t forget that absolutely everything can be purchased when you get to where you’re going. So if you need shampoo, get it when you need it. You don’t want to lug around shampoo and conditioner with you do you? And if you don’t end up using it all, leave it behind! It’s not worth the hassle for a couple of dollars.
    • Small purse for daytime –  you won’t pack this, but will take it with you on the plane. Everyone seems to think that they need to take a backpack or a larger tote to take with them during the day. You don’t! Do you see women in Paris or Rome out for a day of shopping with a backpack on? No. You only need to carry your passport, money, cards, keys, phone and of course some lip gloss! If you want to take water with you, you can always carry a small bottle.
    • Worn in walking shoes. You’ll wear these on the plane, so won’t be packing them, but don’t buy some nice new sneakers or walking shoes just before you go. Do you want to go through the pain of wearing them in when you’re away? Either buy some shoes a couple of months before and wear them in, or take some that are already worn in.

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Now for what to wear and take on the plane with you (other than your carry on).

    • Comfortable pair of jeans
    • Comfortable t-shirt or top, other than the 3 tops listed above.
    • Socks and walking shoes. 
    • Light cardi or jacket. This will be handy on the flight as planes get pretty cold, as well as throughout your trip. As mentioned above, some churches require your shoulders to be covered and this is where your jacket/cardi come in handy. 
    • Earphones. The ones on the plane aren’t usually that great and your earphones will be handy during your trip when you want to listen to music or books when traveling. 
    • Eye mask. What a savior these are when travelling. Get a good quality one so that it really does block out the light when you put it on. 
    • Ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones. Blocking out noise so that you can sleep is a must when travelling. 
    • Cleansing wipes. These are handy for washing your face or your hands whilst flying. You don’t need a huge packet, just 10 or so will do.
    • A book. It’s up to you whether you take a book or not. I find that there’s enough in flight entertainment to keep me going and a book just takes up a lot of room. Try to download one to your phone or tablet if you really want to take something to read.

Now because you have everything with you that you’re taking on holiday, an hour or so before you land you can pop into the toilet and freshen up before you land. Start by brushing your teeth and your hair. By using the wipes that you brought with you, you can wipe your face over and re-moisturize and put on some fresh makeup. Give yourself a quick wipe over with a couple of wipes and put on some fresh deodorant and a clean shirt and underwear. It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel and you’ll be set to go until you can have a shower.

Bon voyage!

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