I’m headed to France and the Netherlands in a few weeks and I’ve already started to think about what to pack. I only travel with carry on luggage and a medium sized purse. Yes, even to foreign countries for extended periods of time.
Actually, I brag about my packing abilities. I’m not so proud of the bragging but I am very proud that I went on a 10 day trip to the Mediterranean with just carry on luggage. So, I thought I would share some of my packing tips with you as I gear up for my next big adventure.
Why only a carry on, you ask? Because I don’t want to give airlines an extra $50. That money is better spent on a souvenir or a nice meal- not to check luggage that could get lost. Plus, traveling can be stressful enough without worrying about whether or not your belongings will make it to your destination, especially if you have a layover. And if you are traveling overseas, it’s likely you have a layover.
It takes a lot of planning but traveling with only carry on luggage can be done!
My beloved carry on set up is below. It’s made by CaseLogic and is darn near perfect. The bottom picture is of the travel tote I use that connects to the handle of the carry on.
Here are my 10 packing tips that will allow you to visit Europe for a week with just a carry on:
1. Lay it out! I suggest laying out clothing combos 7-10 days in advance. Pick your most comfy and beloved items (the ones you chose to wear over and over again anyway). Once you have laid out all your options, start whittling down items piece by piece and eliminate anything you do not need. Plus, you won’t have to worry about doing laundry the night before the trip if you have set aside items you are bringing with you.
Do you feel the need to purchase something new for your trip? Refrain. I promise it will be worth it when you pick up something awesome where you are visiting.
2. Toss it! Bring clothing items you know you should throw away. Just let them go! If you have undergarments that are more than 5 years old, let them go!!!! Think old undies, bras, tanks, and tights you can toss after you wear them. This will free up some space on the way home for some treasures. The treasures that don’t fit in your carry on can be mailed to your house.
3. Wash it! Bring a small amount of laundry detergent (2 oz or less) and wash items in the sink. You will likely never, I mean never see the people in the country you are visiting again. I promise it’s okay to wear the same thing twice in one week. Actually, you know you have a few favorite outfits- just wear those a few times and switch it up slightly! Pick fabrics that wash easy, are wrinkle free, and make you feel good.
4. Go neutral! I happen to be traveling to Western Europe in early May but it really doesn’t matter where/when you go, the “neutrality rule” applies. Jeans, black skinnies, black tights, black three quarter length shift dress, cardigans- black and colored, long waterproof trench large enough you can layer underneath, 1 additional dress (that coordinators with one of your cardigans), 7 shirts (at least 3 neutral colors), 2 cardigans, one black blazer (that I usually wear on the plane), and pajamas.
5. Shoes! Limit yourself to 3 pairs of shoes and wear your biggest pair on the plane. I always bring a pair of brown riding boots, a pair of black flats, and a pair of colored sassy shoes for dinners, walking short distances, and cathedrals. Keep in mind that you do not want to bring a new pair of shoes. It’s not the time to break in new kicks. I don’t care how cute they are, just don’t.
6. Toiletries! Liquid items have to be less than 2 ounces each and should fit in the top of your carry on in a quart sized ziplock bag. You will get shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. at the place you stay. If you must, take a stroll through the travel item section in your local Target. Limit yourself to a shampoo/conditioner, small deodorant, toothpaste, and face towelettes. My favorite facial towelettes are the say Yes! products. They are super refreshing after travel. I also throw in some small hand sanitizers, and make a “first aid kit” that includes tylenol, pepto, prescription drugs, and bandaids.
Also limit yourself to one make up palette, whatever lip treatment you prefer, an eyeliner, and mascara. Find a great makeup look and just use one for your trip.
7. Accessories! Pick accessories that go with all your outfits. Stick to two pair of earrings, leave your wedding rings and super valuables at home, bring a watch, bring one or two necklaces, two scarves (black and colored) and depending on weather you may need a hat and gloves.
8. Cross-body medium sized purse! No exceptions. You do NOT need a suitcase of a purse. Trust me, you (and your shoulder and back) will regret it after walking around for a few hours. The best bags have zippered spots inside and several compartments for keeping items.
My favorite bags are made by fossil and they have the BEST pouches called Triple Key Per’s that travel amazing! The best part about these pouches beside they are super cute is they have a plastic coating that makes them easy to clean. What should you pack in there? 3 sections- zippered should have cash/id/most valuable, inside spot have chapstick/lipstick, sunglasses, snacks (thinkgranola bars/trail mix/gum/candies), medium sized reusable water bottle, baby wipes, pen/pencil and a small notebook.
Here’s my Fossil Bag, cute huh?!
I also pack my Triple Key Per Pouches.
The small one I use as my wallet, the medium for my make up and first aid supplies, and the larges one gets packed in my carry on for my electronics/cords and important documents/paperwork.
9. Entertainment! If possible, bring one electronic device that can house all your media and one paperback book. You can toss the paperback when you’re done and buy a new one on the way home if you need to. Borrow or invest in a power adapter so you can charge your electronics wherever you are in the world. Another great investment for travel is a battery extender, especially if you are using your phone for a camera. Oh, and don’t forget your earbuds!
10. Roll and tuck! Before you place your items in your carry on luggage, tightly roll them up before you put them in. Are you still tight on space? I recommend purchasing space saving bags that do not require a vacuum to get the air out. I have a set of these bags recommended by Rick Steves, the travel guru that allow you to roll the air out and they are quite effective for making space!
Do you have any tips/tricks for packing light? Let me hear them! I’m always looking for ideas to refine my process.