I did it. Three months travelling across Europe with carry-on only — and it wasn’t summer either!
My trip to Europe this fall took me across 14 countries, 45 cities, and countless more natural wonders. My adventures had me journeying through sweltering heat in Croatia to chilly temperatures in Iceland. Needless to say, I had to pack for all sorts of climates.
Where I Travelled
September — UK, Hungary, Croatia, Austria
October — Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Italy, France
November — Germany, France, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium
December — France, UK
And the best part is that I managed to travel all that distance with carry-on only!
Why Travel with Carry-On Luggage Only
There are so many reasons for packing light and travelling carry-on only. You don’t have to pay extra airplane fees. You’ll be the first to leave airports since you won’t have to wait for your luggage. It’ll be so much easier to maneuver trains, buses, and other forms of transportation.
You’ll have less unnecessary things, you’ll be more lightweight, and you’ll be freer.
And let me tell you, that feels AMAZING.
Finding the Perfect Backpack for Your Trip
Before you start packing for your trip, you’ll need a bag to pack your things in. Make sure that you have a backpack that is suitable for you and your trip.
The backpack I decided to buy for my 3-month European adventure was the Osprey Farpoint 40L and it was the perfect carry-on backpack for me. It’s the right size for my body, lightweight, and very comfortable.
One of my favourite features of this backpack is its front-loading design (as opposed to top-loading). This means that I can simply zip it all the way open, grab whatever I’m looking for, and zip it back up without having to pull everything out of the backpack to find one thing.
I’m very happy with the Osprey Farpoint 40 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a new carry-on-sized backpack. It’s great for everything from short vacations to round-the-world trips. Let me know if you’d like a full review of the pack in the comments below!
The Osprey Farpoint 40 was my carry-on luggage item. If your airline allows, you can then bring a second bag (your “personal item”) with all your valuables and essentials.
Tip: For most airlines, your carry-on bag should measure 22” x 14” x 9” and your personal item should measure 17” x 10” x 9”.
Packing Advice for Carry-On Only
Here are my top bits of advice for you to help you pack for your trip to Europe!
- Be practical. Choose comfortable clothes that you will actually wear on a day-to-day basis.
- Take a lot of solid colours. This will make mixing and matching way easier.
- Bring pieces that can be layered — especially important on a multi-weather trip!
- Pack efficiently. You may have heard it before, but rolling your clothes really does save space because this compresses everything. To save even more space you can use compression sacs to vacuum seal your clothes. An alternative is to use packing cubes to help you keep your clothing more organized.
Carry-On Packing List for Europe
So here’s how I did it — this was my multi-weather packing list for 3 months in Europe!
- Osprey Farpoint 40 — My carry-on.
- JanSport Backpack — My personal item.
- Small purse — I can stuff this into my personal item if the airline is being strict on their two items policy.
What’s in My Carry-On?
- 3 t-shirts
- 3 tank tops/singlets
- 1 3/4-sleeved top
- 2 long-sleeved tops
- 1 sweater
- 3 dresses
- 1 Encircled cardi/dress/scarf
- 1 cardigan
- 1 denim jacket
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 pair of jeans
- 2 pair of leggings
- 1 pair of tights
- 1 pair of denim shorts
- 3 bras (1 sport, 1 strapless, 1 normal)
- 12 underwears
- 6 pairs of socks
- 1 t-shirt and 1 pair of shorts for sleeping
- 1 bikini top and bottom set
- 1 pair of Asics running shoes
- 1 pair of Converse
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 3 packing cubes
- 1 large microfibre travel towel
- 1 silk sleeping liner — Very important! For quite a few of the hostels I stayed at, they charged extra for clean sheets. If you plan to travel for more than a few weeks, buying a sleeping liner will definitely save you money in the long run. The “clean” sheets provided at some hostels can also be pretty questionable… you’ll probably have a better night’s sleep knowing you are wrapped in your own sleeping liner.
What’s in My Personal Item?
- 3 oz Travel Bottles — The amount of liquids, aerosols, and gels you can bring in your carry-on is limited to containers 3.4 ounces (100 mL) or less. I packed all my liquids (shampoo, shower gel, and face wash) into these travel bottles.
- Shower gel
- Face wash
- Toothpaste — Make sure the tube is under 3.4 ounces.
- Retainer and case
- Lotion — Make sure the bottle is under 3.4 ounces.
- Face cream — Make sure the bottle is under 3.4 ounces.
- Hair brush
- A few hair ties and clips
- Nail clipper
- Hand sanitizer
- Debt card and credit card
- Small wallet
- Backpack locks — Very important! It’s a small investment to secure your valuables and deter casual theft.
- Extra plastic bags
- Notebook and pen
- Water bottle
Note: My sister flew in to join me in Iceland and brought me my winter jacket, a pair of gloves, and a hat from home. After she left, I was still able to travel carry-on only with the additional items. If you’re planning on spending time in Europe during the late fall and winter, I would suggest you bring a light winter jacket with you. This can be easily stored in a compression sac and will barely take up more room in your bag. Alternatively, you could buy a jacket for around 50 euros in stores such as H&M or as cheap as 10 euros from thrift stores.
And there you have it — that’s everything I packed on my 3-month trip to Europe!
What do you think? Can you travel carry-on only for your next trip? I challenge you to try it and let me know about it in the comments below! Bon voyage!
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