How To Pack for 3 Weeks in Europe With A Carry-On

8 min read by  •  Time Visited: October 2018

I know what you’re thinking… How did I manage to pack for three weeks around Europe in only my Away Carry-On and a travel backpack?! Thrilling. Even before my trip, that was always one of the top questions I received from my girlfriends; most guys don’t have this issue and therefore wouldn’t even consider this a dilemma. “Sounds amazing… but how are you going to pack for that?” Trust me, I was panicking. I am usually an over-packer and by no means a minimalist in my daily life (though somewhere in the back of my mind I do strive to be). After I purchased and received my new travel gear (reviews here!), I literally practiced packing. I know it sounds silly, months out from departure packing my suitcase to make sure it all fits. It took trial and error, folding vs. rolling clothes, this jacket or that jacket…so tricky! The other challenge is that traveling just about anywhere (except South Florida, of course) in September means fluctuating temperatures approaching the beginning of fall. I looked at weather averages in each city… but they had such an unusually hot summer! If you share these same anxieties as me, read on for the perfectly packed suitcase for a stress-free and unforgettable European adventure.

Away carry-on
Away Carry On

Before I get into my exact packing list, I will note that I knew I would be able to do laundry in the middle of my trip while staying with a friend in Rotterdam in The Netherlands. While this worked out very well, I knew I would still need to pack for about 7-8 days worth of clothes. As it turned out, all of our Airbnbs had at least a washing machine, but since I packed so well I didn’t really need to wash anything again until I got home to Florida.

Our Itinerary to Pack For

We were in Europe for a total of 22 nights and 23 days. The weather ranged from the 40s to the 70s (in fahrenheit), with some windy and/or rainy days. Despite a few lousy days, I would say that we had fantastic weather. We were lucky it wasn’t too warm given only one of our Airbnbs had air conditioning. Stay tuned for in-depth guides for every city we went to!

  • 9/10 – 9/11: Overnight flight to London
  • 9/11 – 9/16: London
  • 9/16 – 9/24: The Netherlands
  • 9/24 – 9/27: Prague
  • 9/27 – 9/29: Vienna
  • 9/29 – 10/2: Budapest
  • 10/2 – 10/3: London
  • 10/3: Fly home to Florida

Plane Outfit

For my two long-haul flights between Orlando and London, I wanted to wear an outfit that was comfortable to sleep in on the way there, but also something I could wear out and about during the day. It also needed to incorporate my bulkiest items – my boots and leather jacket. I usually do not get cold on planes, but in the past I have found that night flights and long flights (over 4 hours) do tend to get cold at some point. Alas, layers! 

<a href=httpsadventuresingourmetcomgotopshop faux leather jacket>Topshop Jacket<a> <a href=httpsadventuresingourmetcomgorails hunter plaid shirt>Rails Flannel<a> <a href=httpsadventuresingourmetcomgomadewell v neck pocket tee>Madewell V Neck Pocket Tee<a> Black Pashmina Scarf old GAP Jeans old <a href=httpsadventuresingourmetcomgoblondo lanka booties>Blondo Waterproof Booties<a>

I love wearing button down shirts on planes because you can wear it closed for maximum warmth, open for minimal warmth, or tie it around your waist if you’re walking around a hot airport. Denim chambray tops with black jeans is another one of my go-to’s. I also love wearing booties on planes (when appropriate) because they are easy to take on and off for security or on the plane.

In my backpack, I also brought a pair of sweatpants and fuzzy socks of course (for the cozy factor). More on that below!

What I Packed In My Suitcase

If you read my Away Carry-On review, you would see how the suitcase is designed to compress soft items on one side. I also follow my Top 6 Packing Tips, especially #3! With one medium packing cube and one compression cube, I fit the following items as shown:

How to pack

I found that folding the clothes in the compression packing cube worked the best, and rolling the clothes in the regular packing cube. I could have gotten away (no pun intended) without packing cubes thanks to the compression system in the Away suitcase, but I like the packing cubes as a way to stay better organized and tidy. Rolling allows you to see everything more easily, and helps to prevent wrinkles.

On the other side of my suitcase, I packed the following items that could not be compressed:

What I Packed In My Backpack

If you saw my review of my new travel backpack, you’d see how it eliminated some of the stress of using a small carry-on – it’s so spacious! The pockets helped me to stay organized to fit all my in-flight essentials and most valuable items.

  • Laptop – Mine is the 12-inch Macbook, but the backpack is designed to fit a 15-inch laptop.
  • Travel confirmations/documents
  • Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones – These headphones are a must! It was my first time traveling with them after purchasing them on Amazon Prime Day and it was such a worthwhile investment. I also brought an extra battery (which I did end up needing!) and a cord converter to plug into my iPhone
  • Travel Wallet – I loved that this one was cheap and had a wristlet! Passport, boarding passes, cards, local currencies, a pen (for customs paperwork – they’ll hand out the card to fill out on the plane, but they don’t give you a pen!) all fit well inside. 
  • Magazine – purchased at the airport
  • Eye Mask
  • Fuzzy Socks – These are SO soft…anything from this brand is.
  • Inflatable Neck Pillow – I loved how soft this neck pillow is, and how it takes up much less room than a traditional neck pillow
  • Sweatpants/sweater (not pictured) – for the flight there, I brought sweatpants to change into in attempts to sleep on the plane.
  • Pashmina Scarf – pictured above in my plane outfit. I had to allow room for it in my backpack for when it was too hot to wear.
  • Quip Toothbrush – I loved my new Quip Toothbrush I bought before the trip in the pretty metallic copper shade. It’s extremely travel-friendly and portable with a hygienic case. Highly recommend!
  • Retainer – Yes, I still wear mine 🙂
  • Liquids pouch – for security when I am not in the US (thanks TSA pre-check!) – Aerin Evening Rose Perfume, Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, It’s A 10! Miracle Leave-In plus Keratin, Ouai Wave Spray, DryBar Detox Dry Shampoo, Garnier Micellar Water, Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask, Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, Supergoop Unseen SPF 40, Sunday Riley Luna Oil, IS Clinical Active Serum, Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream, Pureology Hydrate Shampoo & Conditioner (not pictured), Dove Body Wash (not pictured), Kate Somerville Exfolikate (not pictured), toothpaste (not pictured)
  • In-flight essentials pouch – Anti-bacterial wipes, face cleansing wipe, chapstick, Aleve, Advil, stomach medicine, daily medication, sleep aid/melatonin, mints/gum, tissues, cough drops
  • Jewelry – I brought VERY little, but since it’s more valuable I wanted to carry it in my backpack
  • SnacksFlackers (my latest healthy snacking obsession), almonds, etc.
  • Deodorant – This is the best deodorant I’ve ever used, hands down! It’s not natural, but I just bought this one to try. 
  • Portable Charger (w/cord to plug into phone and cord to charge)
  • Travel Adapter – this one was the perfect size and works everywhere in Europe (and beyond)
  • Laptop Charger
  • Phone Charger – this one is really long and durable, I’ve been using it for years!
  • Basic Headphones (as a back-up)
  • Travel-size WetBrush – I love a good mini!

What I Forgot To Pack & What I Bought There

Well… I wouldn’t say forgot completely. I went to Orlando five days before flying out and left one item there accidentally – sunglasses! I ended up buying a cheap pair from Vero Moda while I was in Rotterdam and I now love them. Also in The Netherlands, I bought a beautiful gold necklace made by a Dutch designer at a local boutique in Delft, and a fun pair of earrings from a vintage shop in Rotterdam. I wanted to shop and buy more, but ultimately I didn’t have too much extra room in my bag and I was worried I might see something else at the next destination.

Whew! Can you believe I was able to pack all of the above in a carry-on suitcase and backpack?! So crazy.

*All items linked are exact, except some beauty products are linked in full-size but of course I brought a travel-size/sample version I had. Only some are affiliate links. Anything not linked is old or I couldn’t find it online.

Comment below with your must-have packing essentials!

12 Replies

  1. What a great guide!! I will be using this for our Europe trip in July! Thank you

  2. Ariana says:

    I’m so glad it was helpful to you! Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Maureen McNelis says:

    This is amazing. Just what we needed to know for our month in Europe though we are also going south in September so will need fewer sweaters. Answered my query about needing the bigger backpack. Absolutely! Thank you soo very much!

  4. Ariana says:

    I’m so glad it was helpful to you! It was definitely tough to decide what to bring and what not to bring – the weather is unpredictable! Wishing you a safe and smooth trip.

  5. Shannon Golledge says:

    Hey Ariana, are you able to share the weight and if you had any issues with any flight carriers?

  6. Ariana says:

    Hi Shannon! I did not have any issues with the weight of this carry on bag. On my trip, the only airline where it was not allowed to be carried on was Easy Jet in EU. Luckily, I knew this before the trip so I was prepared to pack my most important items in my backpack. In using it since on pretty much every trip, I haven’t experienced issues on any other airline. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  7. Mary says:

    Hi Ariana, Thanks for your detailed packing tips.With the luggage nightmare I saw at Heathrow I was wondering if I could actually do 3 weeks in Italy with only carryon. Your advise makes it look very doable. Thanks for posting.

  8. Ariana says:

    Hi Mary! I totally hear you on all the luggage nightmares at airports lately. Carry-on is definitely the way to go! You CAN do 3 weeks for sure, but I would try to have access to laundry once. Like anywhere else, there are laundromats, hotel services, or a host at an Airbnb/VRBO should also be able to make a laundry recommendation.

    If you prefer to not have to think about laundry, you can fill a travel-size container with some detergent for hand washing of a few essentials – just make sure they are materials that will dry easily. Another alternative is to bring a fabric freshening spray. I know the brand The Laundress has one. I also like to think about what I can easily buy in a destination and don’t pack those items (or only pack a small amount as a safety net).

    A few more tips I have are to download the Google Translate app if you haven’t already. If you click on “camera” once you’re in the app, then you can hold it up to laundry instructions in Italian at a laundromat for example to have it immediately translated to English. This will be especially helpful if you are doing laundry on your own, or even for reading menus or signs.

    If you do end up having to check a bag, I would purchase an Apple Air Tag to put in your bag. That way you can track its location from your phone at any time. Lastly, make sure you bring extra outfits in your carry-on. Nothing feels worse than to be stuck in your worn clothes after a long flight.

    Safe travels and let me know how your packing goes!

  9. Cristina says:

    Hi! Did you happen to fly between the different countries with Wizzair or any small airlines? I know that they’re strict about the size of handbags that you bring on board. If you were to pay for your carry on, do you think that they would allow you with your backpack as well? Or would they make you pay for 2 carryons? I’m looking to travel between 4 countries for my honeymoon in the span of 4 weeks so it’s best to bring a carryon instead of a whole big suitcase (in case it gets lost). TIA!!

  10. Ariana says:

    Hi Cristina! The only small airline I flew was EasyJet (one time). I did end up having to check my carry-on suitcase but was allowed to carry on my backpack with no problems. Fortunately, from researching in advance, I knew this would happen and packed my backpack accordingly. It was still a risk, of course, but is unfortunately pretty inevitable with any of the small airlines to my knowledge. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions, and I hope you have a fabulous honeymoon!

  11. Tina says:

    Wow these are great ideas! Thank you!! My husband and I are traveling to Spain this March and only bring carry-ons and it has me so stressed!!

  12. Ariana says:

    I totally understand the stress! It seems impossible so that’s why I wanted to show people that it IS possible with the right gear and strategy. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

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