Three weeks in Europe + One carry-on | Minimalist travel packing in practice & tips

Carry-on luggage with packing cubes packed

My husband and I went on a three-week trip to Europe in April 2019, visiting three countries: Italy, France and the Netherlands. 

We took one carry-on and one personal item bag each based on what the air carriers allowed us to bring on the airplane.

If you’re travelling to multiple destinations, taking various forms of transportation and staying in different accommodations, what can you do to make it easy to get around for three weeks? 

Don’t forget you will also need outfits that work for a variety of temperatures and weather conditions. In our case, we dealt with temperatures as low as low of six degrees Celsius to as high as 26 degrees Celsius and heavy rain.

I’m going to share with you some of my travelling tips and essentials when it comes to the carry-on luggage.

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Helpful drop down menus for travel packing...

  • Carry-on luggage made of plastic (preferable) with premium 360° wheels, convenient handles and 1 main telescoping handle
  • Travel packing cubes
  • Waterproof toiletry bags
  • Toiletries – click here for video
  • Shorts x 2
  • Dress
  • Long pants (jeans and formal) x 2
  • Sleeveless top x 2
  • Long sleeve shirts x 2
  • Short sleeve shirts x 2
  • Multi-functional scarf (can be a blanket or shawl)
  • Long sleeve shawl
  • Hooded coat (rain and wind resistant)
  • Underwear x 10 – 12
  • Bras x 2
  • Sports bra
  • Jewelry (earring, necklace and/or ring)
  • Long socks x 3
  • Short socks x 4
  • Formal shoes
  • Plastic bag to put formal shoes in
  • Regular walking shoes
  • LED light
  • Pads for periods
  • Hand sanitizer wipes
  • Tissues
  • Cough drops
  • Lense wipes for eyeglasses or sunglasses
  • Tea
  • Lense cloth for eyeglasses or sunglasses
  • Extra hand bag
  • Laundry clips
  • Laundry bags for delicate clothing
  • Cleaning gloves
  • Extra plastic bags for dirty cloths
  • Variety of Ziploc bags
  • TSA approved lock
  • Ziploc bags and liquids bag provided by air carrier / airport
  • Digital weight
  • Medicines
  • Umbrella
  • Portable hook

If you find our blog or video useful, you can support us by using our affiliate links to purchase the products in or referenced in our blog or video. 

We purchased these products ourselves and are not sponsored by anyone.

1) Travel packing cubes 

2) Marie Kondo’s tidying up book OR Marie Kondo’s tidying up book (Manga version)

3) Plastic Hanger clips/clothespins 

Carry-on versus Check-in baggage

carry on luggages

Tip 1: Bring only a carry-on, preferably with premium 360° wheels, convenient handles and one main telescoping handle.

The reason being based on:

  1. Ease of mobility on flat surfaces – you can roll your carry-on with you as you walk. If you run into stairs or cobblestone, you can carry your luggage if needed.
  2. Reduce costs of paying a check – in baggage fee
  3. Convenience of having your carry-on with you as you have all that you need on you for easy access at all times regardless of what happens when travelling by plane.
  4. Reduce headaches
  • Lost check – in luggage, which can and has happened to my husband in the past OR
  • Having to wait for your baggage
  • Lugging around a bigger and heavier piece of luggage with you
  • And if you’re travelling in Europe, flights get cancelled or changed frequently and having a checked bag makes you less flexible to be able to switch flights last minute. 
 

Bonus tip: Preferably bring a carry-on with a plastic casing versus fabric for easy cleaning and maintenance. Also no exterior pockets on the outside of the carry-on creates less opportunity for people to pickpocket your luggage.

Packing smart

Tip 2: Clothes that serve multiple functions & mix and match well

Pants

For pants, I brought:

  1. Two shorts – one for PJs and for wearing under my dress, in case the wind blows underneath my dress and one for exercising or hot weather
  2. One dress – for formal occasions or hot weather
  3. Two long pants – one jean pants and one formal pants both with pockets and one with zipper pockets

Tops

For the six tops, I brought:

  1. Black sleeveless top – for exercising or for hot days outside
  2. Black long sleeve top – bought from Costco specifically for the trip as the top is good for cold days, wicks away moisture, is super comfortable and is fast drying
  3. White short sleeve top
  4. Light peach spaghetti strap top for hot days
  5. PJ t-shirt
  6. Another long sleeve top that is light and loose on the body
  7. Also a scarf that also serves as a light shawl to use with any of my short sleeve or sleeveless tops 
Black long sleeve top from Costco

A really good item to have on you is some sort of shawl to put over any of your clothing to layer up on cold days, so that there are fewer bulkier pieces to bring on the trip. 

Further I’m bringing one hooded coat that is rain / water resistant and wind resistant, so no need for me to bring an umbrella.

In addition to the tops and bottoms, don’t forget that your flight outfit also counts for additional tops and bottoms to have on you. This brings me to a total of seven tops, excluding the shawl and jacket, and five pants.

All my tops and bottoms can easily mix and match due to the majority neutral colours I have for tops and for bottoms. Further, I have enough variety to meet temperatures as low of six degrees Celsius to as high as 26 degrees Celsius and heavy rain.

Packing cubes + KonMari style of folding 

Tip 3: Use packing cubes

Purchase here using our affiliate link:

Travel packing cubes 
(Availability in other countries)

This time around I tried packing cubes as they kept clothes organized in one place, especially being on a group tour moving from one hotel to the next every two days. 

The packing cubes allow you to throw the clothes back into the appropriate place without having everything get disorganized and shuffled around as you move your luggage back and forth.

The cubes can help compress the clothes to help them fit better into my carry-on. Just need to press down and zip it up. 

Further, the packing cubes I purchased have handles on them to make it easy to carry my clothing and to pull out from my carry-on luggage. 

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Tip 4: Apply KonMari style of folding clothes

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OR

If you prefer a more visually illustrative “Coles notes” version of Marie Kondo’s famous book, check out the manga fictional version of it! 

~ I enjoyed looking at the illustrations. ~

Purchase here using our affiliate link:

Marie Kondo author of the best selling book “The life-changing magic of tidying up” helps readers apply a folding method, a KonMari method, that allows clothes to:

  1. Stand on their own
  2. Display clothes in a way that you get to see what you own at one glance
  3. and to help save space
 
CATSA bag

Toiletries

Tip 5: Pack essentials and non-negotiable items, based on personal preferences

I brought two toiletry bags both waterproof to throw my toiletries in.

In my personal experience, I refuse to negotiate on certain toiletries based on my preference. Bring what you need and don’t compromise when you know certain products or clothing suits you best.

Keep in mind when travelling by plane my liquids were carried in my personal item bag for easy access when going through security, as they tend to ask for these items to be displayed outside the bag.

Check out this video on toiletry packing!

Other items to pack

  1. 10 – 12 pieces of underwear, one extra bra, one sports bra, and some jewelry.
  2. Seven socks – a mix of long and short
  3. One pair of formal flats that are lightweight. Pack into a plastic bag so that it won’t dirty up your luggage. Also note, I had one pair of regular walking shoes with me on this trip. So I had a total of two shoes on the trip.
  4. Bring an LED flashlight just in case of emergencies.
  5. Pads for periods, three hand sanitizer wipe packages, and three tissue packages. The good thing about these items was that once I’ve used these disposable items I gained a little bit of room back in my luggage.
  6. Cough drops – not a brand endorsement, but I love these for travel.
  7. Lense wipes for eyeglasses or sunglasses, roasted green teas for upset stomach as this works well for me, and a couple of eyeglass cloths.
  8. Extra bag to bring my stuff, if I don’t want to carry a backpack or if I’m going to some formal dining. Since I had a Calvin Klein bag I wore the bag so that it shows the blank side out. This is so that I drew less attention for being a target for pickpocketing.
  9. We did our own laundry seeing that we didn’t pack three weeks worth of clothes. You want to bring some laundry clips to hang your clothes in case there are not enough hangers where you’re staying. Laundry bags to put delicate clothes in for washing. Cleaning gloves as we handled laundry detergent and didn’t want that to be absorbed into my skin. Plastic bags to throw my dirty clothes in. 
  10. Extra variety of big to small Ziploc bags for liquids, for coins or for putting souvenirs in to prevent from getting wet.
  11. Don’t forget to bring a TSA approved lock to lock your carry-on just in case.
 

My husband brought a couple other additional items that we shared between each other like: Digital weight scale, extra clothes pins, other medicines, etc.

Purchase here using our affiliate link:

Check air carrier restrictions

Tip 6: Comply with air carrier restrictions

It’s important that you check with your air carriers and comply with the strictest restrictions for weight and dimensions of your luggage as much as possible, seeing that we only brought a carry-on bag.

The strictest carry-on restrictions we complied with out of the three air carriers we went with, which were Air Canada, Air France, and Lufthansa, was:

  • Strictest weight: 8 kg / 17.6 lb (Air carrier: Lufthansa)
  • Strictest dimensions: Maximum size 55 X 35 X 25 cm OR 21 x 13 x 9 in including pockets, wheels and handles (Air carrier: Air France)
 

Tips summary

As a summary here are the six tips for minimizing and packing a carry-on:

  1. Bring only a carry-on with 360 degree wheels and handles
  2. Clothes that serve multiple functions and mix and match well
  3. Use packing cubes
  4. Apply KonMari style of folding clothes
  5. Pack essentials and non-negotiable items, based on personal preferences
  6. Comply with air carrier restrictions

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