It is possible to pack for a Euro trip in just one carry-on bag. Here’s why you should, what to pack and how to make everything fit.

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You’ve purchased tickets, made plans, and as the adventure creeps closer to take off, you’re ready to begin packing. Naturally, the first instinct is to grab the largest piece of luggage in your possession and start filling it to the brim. Don’t.

What if you did something a little different this time? What if you packed entirely in carry-on luggage and checked zero bags instead? You might be thinking, “Carry-on!?! No way.” Hear us out. We’re here today to help you put your faith into the carry-on life.

Let’s get started by talking about the benefits of using a using a carry-on versus checked luggage, shall we? Then we can dive into our top tips for packing it all in one carry-on suitcase. Here are some of the top reasons for choosing carry-on travel that may make you never want to check luggage ever again.

Why You Should Pack for Europe in a Carry-On

how to pack for europe in a carry on
  1. Convenience. If you’re traveling to multiple places, that also means you’re likely lugging around luggage a lot as well. Carry-on luggage is smaller and one hundred percent easier to get around with. This is especially important when traveling to Europe. There you’re up against tiny cars, small staircases and cobblestone streets. Lug large luggage no more.
  2. It’s a money saver. Let this be a reminder that (most!) airlines do not charge for carry-on luggage. Free is the best price. Less money spent paying your airlines for handling luggage means more money left in your pocket for adventuring on your vacation!
  3. Easy access. Have you ever been stuck in an airport or had your luggage lost? These things happen all the time – it goes with the territory of traveling. Now imagine being in a foreign country without your luggage. That’s even scarier! What makes things incredibly less stressful in those situations is when you have all your belongings right there with you in your carry-on and all those issues melt away.
  4. You won’t over pack. When forcing yourself to choose a smaller luggage size, that also means forcing yourself to bring less with you. Yes, it will require you to make tough decisions while packing, but you’ll be thankful for it on your vacation. When you actually wear everything you brought along and didn’t bring a bunch of unnecessary things, it means you are now a packing guru.

Now that you’ve hopped aboard the carry-on train let’s take a look at what all of that actually looks like and how it all comes together to fit into the allowed personal item and carry-on luggage.

How to Pack for Europe in a Carry-On Bag

Make the best use of your allowed purse or personal item for everything you will need while you are on the plane and in transit.

What to Pack in a Purse or Backpack for a Euro Trip

purse - how to pack for europe in a carry on

  • Earplugs and headphones – Noisy neighbors on the plane can get frustrating on a long flight. Bring both earplugs and headphones. It gives you the option to drown out the noise with silence or listen to music or plug-in to watch a movie.
  • Eye mask, neck pillow and cover up – Getting comfortable is key to getting through any plane ride, especially a long one over the pond. Once you get over feeling a little silly with your eye mask and neck pillow, you’ll be happy as a clam all cozy in your seat! Planes tend to get chilly so don’t forget a blanket or cover up of some sort.
  • Anti-bacterial wipes – The bad news is that planes are full of germs, but the good news is you can easily solve that problem! As soon as you get to your seat, wipe down your area with anti-bacterial wipes and say goodbye to all those germs.
  • Notepad, pen and reading material – It’s always good to have a notepad handy in case there is something you need to make a note of. Travel plans may change, or perhaps you just want to journal your experiences abroad. Of course, reading material will come in handy if you get bored because, let’s face it, you probably will.
  • Sunglasses, contact case, contact solution and glasses – If wearing glasses or contacts is something you require, be sure to have them handy if you need to switch from one to the other. Be sure to have sunglasses handy for when you get outside, too!
  • Gum – This is a lifesaver on a plane when your ears are popping from the elevation and pressure changes.
  • Lip balm, tissues, and aspirin/Tylenol – It goes without saying that all of these are necessary and extremely helpful when you need them.
  • Phone, wallet and passport – These are the most important of all the items packed – check your bag before you leave the house for these bare necessities! Be sure to pack your phone charger in your personal bag or purse, too.
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How to Pack Toiletries in a Carry-On

toiletries - how to pack for europe in a carry on

Toiletries are probably the hardest part of packing a carry-on because you’re limited on the amount of gels and liquids you can carry onto a plane. Everything needs to be 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less per item and should fit into a quart sized reusable bag. For more details, visit the TSA website.

Although you are limited with toiletries, you absolutely have enough room in a carry-on for all the necessities for your trip to Europe! If you run out while you are there, it’s easy enough to find additional toiletries at the local store.

Toiletries to Pack for Europe

  • Hairbrush and comb
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash
  • Makeup remover
  • Tide pen
  • Body and face wash
  • Deodorant/deodorant wipes
  • Facial spray
  • Dry shampoo, hairspray, clips, hair ties  and bobby pins
  • Extra contacts
  • Sunscreen
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Perfume
  • Makeup
  • Shavers
  • Personal care items

Clothing to Pack for Europe

shirts - how to pack for europe in a carry on

The key to sightseeing is to be sure that you are comfortable first and foremost. Once you have that in mind, pack items that are easily interchangeable with different top/bottom combinations. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Maxi skirt (1)
  • Shorts (3)
  • Jeans (1)
  • Tank tops (4)
  • Camis (2)
  • T-shirts (2)
  • Dresses (2)
  • Sandals
  • Wedges
  • Sneakers

Not pictured:

  • Pajamas
  • Bathing suit
  • Socks
  • Undergarments
  • Jacket

Once you have all your items together, be sure to roll EVERYTHING! This trick will help save room and make all of your items fit in your carry-on luggage.

Now you are ready to hit the road and enjoy your vacation to the fullest. We know we will! Check out Jackie Hausler’s European adventure this summer and follow her adventure on social media @haus2home!

Have you traveled to Europe with only a carry-on for luggage? Let us know your tips for packing light in the comments below!

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About the Author


Jackie Hausler

Jackie Hausler seeks to inspire creativity in the name of reclaiming, reusing and upcycling. With each project, she walks followers through do-it-yourself projects, shows how to give old items a new chance at life, and teaches ways to be eco-friendly and live a green lifestyle. She believes making your house a home doesn't have to be expensive to be beautiful and is passionate about accomplishing that while being kind to our earth. Jackie is the founder of the home and lifestyle blog Haus2Home.

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