How to pack for Europe with a carry on!

minimalist packing for Europe

A minimalist packing for Europe

Packing brings a lot of anxiety for most people. Packing for Europe can seem even more difficult! What does this suitcase weigh? Will I have to pay more airline fees? Did I pack enough clothes? What if I forget something? Sound familiar?

Lucky for you, I enjoy packing and planning what to bring on trips. Recently, I returned from a 3 week stent in Europe. (Check out my blogs about France and Iceland for details) I had the challenge of needing warm and cold weather clothes. When I begin to pack for any adventure, I always start with these few questions:

  1. Can I just use my carry-on suitcase? 98% of the time the answer is YES!
  2. What is the weather like where I am going?
  3. What am I putting into my personal item? IE: small book bag or what comes on the plane with you

packing for Europe

I pack for 1 week’s worth of outfits and wash every 3 days or so. I look for my lodging apartments to have a washer depending upon my itinerary. I love jeans because they can be worn a few times between washes. I also always bring clothes that air dry quickly. The best technique is the “roll and go”. By rolling your clothes, you can fit more in a small space and less wrinkles! win-win. To start, here are 21 packing mistakes to avoid BEFORE you get to the airport.

packing for Europe

What do I bring when packing for Europe?

  • 1 mini umbrella
  • 1 mini flashlight
  • A pair of sunglasses
  • 1 pair of warm gloves if it’s going to be chilly
  • 10 days worth of undies-can never have too many
  • 1 pair of sandals for a nice evening outing
  • 1 dress with light cardigan-nice evening dinners
  • 1 pair of tennis shoes for hiking about town
  • 1 pair of my beloved Keen’s sandal/hiking shoes-perfect for cobblestone
  • 5-7 light weight blouses (less if I need warmer tops)
  • 1 set of pajamas
  • 1 strapless bra/1 regular bra
  • 5 pair of socks (thickness depending on climate)
  • 1 swimsuit (can also be used as undies)
  • 1 camisole to be worn under long sleeves for extra insulation
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 rain jacket
  • adapters for electronics
  • chargers for phone, camera, ipad, etc.
  • 1 beanie hat if it is going to be colder
  • 2 pairs of jeans that I can roll up into capris
  • 2 pairs of cargo style capris for day hikes/journeying
  • 1 light jacket that I bring with me on the plane
  • 1 heavy jacket depending upon your destination
  • 2 scarves-1 comes with me on the plane (scarves are a great way to add modesty in churches and certain museums. Sone places require knees and shoulders to be covered)
  • 1 quart ziplock bag filled with miniature bathroom amenities and laundry soap. Don’t forget the sunscreen. (I place these bags underneath my clothes)
  • 1 small makeup bag- essentials only
  • 1 ziplock bag filled with clothespins for air drying laundry
  • 1-3 small pieces of jewelry (I choose to pack simple jewelry by finding pieces that go with all of my outfits)
  • Lastly, a stack of postcards specific to where I am from. I leave one at each place I stay as a thank you!

What’s on the plane with me?

  • 1 travel journal
  • important documents: itinerary, contact #s, addresses of lodging sites, debit/credit cards, passport, plane tickets
  • 1 book/2-3 magazines for plane reading
  • 1 gallon ziplock bag filled with meds-prescription or not-this goes with me in my book bag
  • Ipad, phone, camera+extra SD cards-all go into the book bag (If traveling alone, my over-the-shoulder purse goes into the book bag too because you can only have 1 personal item)

minimalist packing for Europe

Notice I did not put shorts on my list mostly because I am a minimalist packing for Europe. This is also because shorts are less tasteful in Europe, that I’ve noticed. Skirts are okay but remember to cover your knees before planning to go to a church or other sacred spot. Of course tropical destinations warrants shorts and less modesty but that is for a different post.

I always put a change of clothes in my book bag in case the airline insists on checking my carry on suitcase so that I am not out of clothes in case of an emergency.

In all my travels, I have never had a bag over 50#. Honestly, I only check my bag on the return trip because it is usually filled with wine. I then put more clothes into my book bag for the return flights home so:

1.) The wine fits safely

2.) The suitcase is never over 50#

I also recommend weighing your bag at the airport the night BEFORE you fly out. This way, any last minute rearranging can take place without rushing through security! Here are more minimalist packing tips just to be sure you’ve got all that you need!

minimalist packing for Europe

Be well and travel often!

Let me know your suggestions and if you have any questions about how to pack for Europe with a carry on. While this list isn’t 100% complete, (since each trip varies) I hope it provides guidance for packing for Europe, in your stressful time! Cheers!

**This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own**

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About Author

Maegan and Michael are Adventurous Southerners who share their world journey and approach to living the travel lifestyle. You can expect humor and lighthearted banter blended with REAL travel stories and tips. Maegan is a registered dietitian, while Michael has an excerise science background, but both are outdoor lovers, and revel in the beauty of cultures unlike their own. Now, Maegan and Michael are working towards expat life through remote work. Join the adventure. Do you love to travel? Does your full time job or career prevent you from living the life you dream of? This is the duo to follow. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.


  1. The Tale Light Trekkers says:

    Good for you! This is so inspiring! Traveling light is much easier. We spent 10 days in Europe and only brought a carry on each!

    1. It is so much easier! We are on the go when we travel, going from city to city. It’s nice having a small carry on to hop a train with versus a monstrosity pack. Thanks for the view!

  2. […] Fortunately for you, help is at hand. I will invite you into my bedroom and talk you through my personal packing list for my upcoming conference. You can then adapt and use this as your own “Packing For Carry On Guide!” […]

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