In my latest travel post I talked about how I prefer to only pack a carry on for literally any destination I ever travel to. This turned out to be pretty shocking to some people, and lots wondered how I do it! It was definitely a plan of mine to address this topic at some point on my blog, and so here we are. Once upon a time there was even a video of me packing a carry on for Europe for two weeks, but I had to let go and press the delete button because I had the wrong focus setting while filming. Don’t you love when that happens?

So, without the longest introduction ever, here is EXACTLY (exactly) how I planned my two weeks in Europe in a single Ricardo Beverly Hills 21 inch carry on.

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1. I Only Took Travel Size Products

If you’re bringing a carry on most people know by now that you’re only allowed 3.4 oz of each liquid product anyway. So this is one you really have no choice with. Bring travel size everything. I even brought smaller cotton rounds than I normally do. You can find some amazing travel size products for skin, makeup, and hair in the stands at the Ulta checkout. Those little stands were my lifesaver! I was able to find travel size dry shampoo and high end shampoo and conditioner. Stock up on a few empty bottles from Target for 99 cents to empty products in to that you cannot find in a travel size.

2. I Booked an Airbnb

This one isn’t obvious, but the best way to avoid the bulk of a suitcase is getting an Airbnb where you already have amenities you don’t need to bring. I always make sure the Airbnb I book has a hair dryer available. Hair dryers are so huge and can take up a ton of room. Just ditching this one item gives you room for an extra pair of shoes. Lots of places will also provide body wash and other products. Of course, the biggest reason Airbnb is a great choice is for the laundry. This is an option most hotels just do not have and it will save you a TON of room in your carry on. I am partial to using Airbnb for the laundry, price, and overall experience.

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3. I Took an Old Pair of Shoes

Okay this little tip I didn’t actually discover until my latest trip to Krakow and Prague. I inadvertently packed a pair of shoes that were probably on their last leg anyway. They were my favorite and (turns out) most comfortable pair of shoes while I was in Europe and I nearly wore them every day. While packing my carry on for the trip home I was having trouble fitting a new pair of sandals I purchased from Zara, so I decided, why not just chuck these old boots and give them a grand Czech burial? And so I did! Truth is, I probably would have tossed them back home anyway. They were demolished and I had gotten three good years out of them. So next time you pack a carry on, try taking a old pair of shoes to make room for the way back.

4. I Packed a Bag in a Bag

This is one of my favorites. I am never really scared the airline will lose my luggage on the way home. For some reason the thought of lost luggage beginning a two week stay abroad absolutely terrifies me. For me the carry on process is much more important on the first leg, so sometimes I check my bag on the way home depending on what I’ve bought (I love to shop). For this reason, I always pack a large fold-able bag in my carry on. That way I can check my carry on if need be, and then I can carry the other large bag as my carry on, most likely full of stuff I purchased. I am talking something like this that can be completely folded or rolled up. You don’t want anything leather or hard to fold. A bag within a bag will change your shopping life abroad!

5. I Chose Three Bottoms, No Matter What

Jeans can take up a lot of space and weigh a lot too, which is something else to also consider. I only brought three pairs of jeans to Europe for two weeks. I could have brought two pairs of jeans and a pair of shorts, or a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, and a skirt depending on where I was traveling to. I was traveling in the colder months so I chose all jeans. If you chose an Airbnb you can wash your bottoms at any time so you won’t need any more than that. Still, you’ll be surprised after you stack three pairs of jeans how much room they take up.

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6. I Brought Stuff I Loved, Not Stuff I Liked

You only have so much room, so you have to be selective. Before bringing that necklace or blouse, ask yourself “can I see myself wearing this and not getting sick of it?” If the answer is yes then it’s mostly likely something you love and you should bring it. Also ask yourself, “is this item versatile?” Can you wear it with more than one thing or more than one way? These are all things I thought of before I decided on items on I wanted to bring (specifically tops, accessories, and jewelry).

7. I Packed a Carry On Within a Carry On

Really. I did this too. I didn’t want my purse to be my carry on, because where the hell would I store my laptop that I would blog from? And what about my book that I wanted to read? No Kindle here. Also, I didn’t want to bring a large purse to lug around Europe, as they can be quite impractical. So I opted to take a tiny over-the-shoulder Fossil bag as my purse which I could fit in a large tote bag, which would then become my other carry on or ‘personal item’. Total in my large Tote Bag (like this) I was able to fit my computer, small purse, hardcover book, portable phone charger, umbrella (always be prepared kids), scarf, snacks, a bottle of water, passport wallet, sunglasses, regular glasses, a small cosmetic bag for freshening up, and my jacket if I needed to store it. And breathe…

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8. I Had to Make the Difficult Shoe Choices

…one should never have to make. I could only fit two pairs of shoes in my carry on, and one pair I wore on the plane. I opted for a pair of trusty shoes I knew were comfortable, fashionable, and went with everything. Then I brought an Adidas Superstar and a more fashionable pair of boots. Nothing on this list had a high heel. It’s difficult, but you can find really cute shoes that are comfortable and don’t have a heel. I opted for a more fashionable sneaker as well. Never once did I feel like I looked like a tourist, and that was validated by the fact that people kept assuming I spoke Polish.

I know a lot of you ladies think that a carry on for two weeks in Europe is just not possible. I actually never would have thought it was either! As I age and continue to travel I am noticing myself valuing more things other than my clothes or my looks. I want experiences. You don’t need a large suitcase to have a great vacation. Maybe you just need a partner in crime, a little mascara, and a bag in a bag. #carryonlife

Was this helpful? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

[striped]BRANDS[/striped]

Ricardo Beverly Hills

Ulta

Airbnb

Fossil

Adidas

92 Comments

  1. These are excellent tips Emily! I’m also a staunch proponent of traveling with only a carry-on and have been doing it for years, yet you brought up some points and suggestions I hadn’t previously thought of. Thanks for such an informative post!

    Reply
    1. You’re welcome! Glad it was useful. I learned a few things myself on this last trip! Yay for carry ons. 🙂

      Author Reply
    1. Agreed! I love grabbing the higher end ones in Ulta. That way I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice anything from my normal routine.

      Author Reply
    1. Thank you! I don’t think I’ll ever not use it anymore. Though there are the occasional beach vacations where I want to be pampered, so I usually book a nice resort then. 😉

      Author Reply
    1. Thanks Rach! It’s definitely a lot easier if you have access to a washing machine. Give it a go next time!

      Author Reply
  2. I hope I can do this too the next time I travel. I’m not good in packing, not even in folding clothes 🙁 I think I should start sorting out the pieces that I only need when I travel because I almost bring everything with me even if I end up not using it at all. 🙁

    xoxo,
    SHAIRA // New post

    Reply
    1. The same thing used to happen to me. I would bring so much stuff just to have ‘options’ and I literally wouldn’t wear half of it! Hope these tips help you!

      Author Reply
    1. I agree. I hate traveling with a huge bag. It’s especially hard when you arrive in a country and you’re trying to get your bearings!

      Author Reply
    1. It’s definitely nice to have a lot of options, but also so nice to just have to travel with a small bag. 🙂

      Author Reply
  3. These tips are so great! I’m a terrible over-packer and need to learn that sometimes, less is more. Asking myself if I love an item versus, this top would look great but only with those bottoms, is something I also need to work on as I tend to pack outfits instead of quality versatile pieces that can be worn multiple different ways!

    Allison / Joy and Ivy

    Reply
    1. Haha you totally can! I believe in you! JK it’s not as easy as it looks, but hopefully some of these tips help. At the end of the day, we’ll always be over-packing girls!

      Author Reply
    1. Thank you Shireen! That is such a nice comment and means a lot to me! Traveling is one of my favorite things and I hate having to bring a huge bag. It’s definitely do-able! You just have to get crafty haha. Hope you have a great weekend!

      Author Reply
  4. I love your tips & I think we are travel twins! I just published a similar post because I also refuse to check a bag when traveling, and friends always seem so scandalized by it. Airbnb definitely made minimalist packing much easier, we did laundry twice on our trip!

    Reply
    1. Nice! I totally feel you on people being scandalized by it haha. But how nice is it to not lug around a huge bag? That’s the LAST thing I want to do in a foreign country. And with all those layovers, I get so nervous they will lose my bag. I’m definitely with you!! 🙂

      Checking out your post now!

      Author Reply
  5. Wow, this is impressive, girl! I love the idea because I always get concerned with loss luggage, so having some ideas on how I could pack everything I need for a trip as long as two weeks and keep it all safe with me is amazing, thank you! I’ll have to definitely remember to book an Airbnb! I hope you’re having a great week so far and thanks again for sharing!

    XO,

    Jalisa
    http://www.thestylecontour.com

    Reply
    1. Thanks Jalisa! I love Airbnb. It can seriously be so cheap in Europe too, it’s crazy! I get so concerned and paranoid the airline will lose my luggage as well. I know people say it’s just ‘stuff’, but man, MY LIFE IS IN THERE. Haha! Hope you have a great weekend.

      Author Reply
    1. Same here! It’s really hard to keep fashionable yet practical. I always try to go for a fashionable sneaker (usually 90’s or retro looking, and you can never go wrong with converse), and then a comfy pair of walking boots that are still super cute.

      Author Reply
  6. I am the world’s worst packer. I make a list ahead of time that includes outfits, shoes, toiletries, entertainment, and accessories… but I still fail so hard because I have NO discipline and it sounds like you have a lot. I always go, “what if?” Even nights I sleep at my BF’s place I bring 2 looks for the next day: very casual (like shorts and a tee) and a little nicer (like a sundress!) because he could surprise me and be like “let’s go here” and then I’m unprepared. Though, you do seem to have somewhat of a solution for “unprepared” on vacay… shopping and a way to bring it all home!!

    Nice list!! Good ideas!!


    Amber
    All the Cute
    Today’s Post: Popover Dress

    Reply
    1. Thanks Amber! I totally get the ‘what if’ thing!! I think that’s usually the reason us women over pack. “What if I want to wear this and not that?” It happens. But that’s what shopping is for when you get there. 😉 #shopaholic

      Author Reply
  7. Suze - Luxury Columnist

    Bringing a foldaway carry on bag is a great idea, you never know when you will need more space

    Reply
  8. This is such a great post! I really like that you mentioned you only pack stuff you LOVE rather than stuff you just like. That makes a huge difference and you will enjoy your outfit choices more too. I try to pack carry-on luggage only whenever I can, but I have not mastered a 2 week trip on carry-on luggage alone. Great job!

    Eden | Mint Notion

    Reply
    1. Yup, shoes usually take up the most room! I got determined when I realized that half the shoes I brought I wouldn’t wear. You should definitely try it sometime! It’s a great challenge. 😉

      Author Reply
  9. I WISH I would have read this post prior to traveling for 2.5 weeks to France and Spain. I realized as soon as I was looking in my luggage during the trip that I brought so much unnecessary stuff, it was actually embarrassing-not to mention I even brought my blow dryer(stupid right)? Haha, but I def learned from my mistakes. I think the biggest challenge so far was packing to come to Europe and not knowing how long I would be staying here so I pretty much brought almost everything I owned….literally a girl’s packing nightmare lol, but anyway here we are! Great post love.
    http://www.lacasabloga.com

    Reply
    1. Thank you Estrella! I only ever bring a carry on with me anywhere haha. It’s just soooo much easier and I’m always scared they will lose my luggage. It’s also kind of a fun challenge for yourself to see if you can fit everything. I feel like a lot of girls don’t think about the blow dryer, so totally not stupid. But that’s the first thing that always goes for me! I look up hair tutorials without a blow dryer before I leave, just in case I don’t have access to one. 😉

      Author Reply

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