I know this may sound harsh, but I always feel sorry for people who go to Europe with a massive suitcase (unless they’re studying abroad). I mean, do you really think that’s practical for a trip where you’re going to be bouncing around every few days in another continent? Trust me, no amount of outfits is worth lugging a huge suitcase on trains, around cities, to your accommodations, or to and from airports.
With that being said, I’ll be honest. This was my first time packing in a carry-on for a Europe trip, and even I was a little skeptical about whether or not I could do it. I typically pack in a carry-on for trips under two weeks long, so packing for a month was definitely a stretch. However, it’s so much easier to have a small bag– especially in places with hills like Cinque Terre! So, I committed to fitting everything into my cabin-sized bag. Here’s how I made it work:
First, lay out everything you want to bring.
Think about where you’re going. What’s the climate going to be like? Will you have access to a washing machine? I knew I was going to be gone for 25 days, and that some of my B&Bs would have washing machines. I also knew it was going to be hot in all of my destinations besides Budapest, so I would only need a small amount of warm clothing. I also tried to be strategic with what I packed. For example, I brought three white tops that matched all of my bottoms, and two kimonos I knew would look great over my black romper to make different outfits.
Obviously, your packing list is going to vary depending on where and when you’re traveling, and what you plan on doing while you’re there. The key is to be minimalistic, and to only bring what you know you’re going to need. After narrowing down my selection, I ultimately decided on bringing the items pictured below. My only regret is not packing an extra bathing suit, because I was in the water a lot during my trip.
Packing cubes are your best friends.
These little babies have completely changed the way I pack. Not only do they keep my bag completely organized, but they save a ton of space. Another added bonus of using packing cubes is they basically act as drawers when you get to your destination.
The clean/dirty cube (the large black one pictured below) is one of my favorites because it’s double sided to separate clean and dirty clothes. I also have a black [non-compression] half cube, which is the perfect size for my bras, underwear and bathing suits. Prior to packing for this trip, I also purchased two white and lime green Eagle Creek compression cubes (one full-sized and one half-sized).
To use the packing cubes, I roll everything to the size of the cubes, and fill them up. Believe it or not, I could’ve fit more in them than I did. Don’t be afraid to cram them full if necessary! Lastly, I lay out what I’m going to wear on the plane. (Side note: I actually purchased these Birkenstock sandals after I took this photo, so I opted to wear them on the plane and leave my espadrilles at home).
The Eagle Creek compression cubes can zip down to almost half of their height. I decided not to use this feature because I had enough space in my bag and didn’t want my clothes to wrinkle from the compression. However, if you want to pack even more clothing in less space, these will do the trick!
After filling the packing cubes, it’s time to break out the suitcase! I use a Delsey Helium Sky 21″ carry-on. If you’re in need of a new carry-on, this one is more than 50% off right now. Take advantage! I always throw in a few dryer sheets to keep my clothes smelling fresh throughout my trip. Another tip is to use a bag with two wheels instead of four. I know the four-wheelers are easier to roll, but they don’t store as much.
The two full-sized cubes fit side by side on the bottom of the suitcase, followed by the two half-sized cubes on top. This leaves the perfect amount of space for the rest of your loose items.
On top of the other cube, I fit my wet brush, curling wand (which I barely used), an umbrella, and two bags. In the black and white patterned pouch is my Rebecca Minkoff Mini Mac crossbody purse, which I take pretty much everywhere with me. I also brought my ultra-light longchamp backpack for hiking in Cinque Terre and Plitvice Lakes. On the other side are my white ralph lauren sneakers (I kicked my converse to the curb because they gave me blisters) and my Nike running shoes.
On the outside pocket, I fit my shower toiletry items along with my Sam Edelman sandals.
The rest of my items go into my Lo & Sons OG Bag, AKA the most incredible carry-on bag in the world. I’m not exaggerating when I say this bag has a place for everything. There are so many little compartments for your laptop, tablet, pens, chapsticks, keys… Heck, there’s even a hidden compartment for an extra pair of shoes! Definitely check it out to see why it’s such a great investment.
Anyway, inside it, I store everything I wouldn’t want to lose should I have to check my bag, like my electronics, chargers, jewelry pouch, sunglasses, toiletries, and of course my wallet. Click here to read what exactly I fit into my toiletry bag.
I also add items I know I’ll want easy access to like my neck pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, Well-kept wipes, and Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment. Tissues are another must, as many restrooms abroad aren’t stocked with toilet paper. Not pictured: Nivea chapstick, pen, travel jewelry pouch, Nikon5300 (used to take these photos), and my wallet.
Don’t forget to add a name tag in the rare case that you’ll have to check your bag!
My last piece of advice is not to get discouraged. The more you travel, the easier packing light will be. I promise!
Have you packed for a month-long trip to Europe or another continent in a carry-on? I want to hear your packing advice in the comments! Happy travels.
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