Saturday 4 June 2016

How To Pack For 3 Weeks In Europe With Just Carry On Luggage

what to pack for paris italy amsterdam using only carry on luggage

For those of you who have been following my blog for some time, you'll know that I absolutely love traveling but hate the hassle that comes along with lugging around, checking and waiting on a huge luggage.  Since the very first trip that I traveled using carry-on luggage only, I haven't looked back and am still amazed at how much time and frustration you save when packing lightly and only bringing carry-on.

If you've been following along on Instagram, you will have seen that we just got back from a 3 week whirlwind trip through Europe.  Our travels took us from Paris to Brussels, from Milan to Florence, and then Amsterdam home to Toronto. With a trip consisting of 5 cities, 4 countries, 2 train rides and 4 flights the amount of time saved using just a carry on luggage is invaluable - especially when you only have a precious few days in certain cities!

Take a look at what I packed to get me from Paris to Amsterdam in the springtime. I wanted to be ultra-prepared, since traveling through Europe in the spring can leave to a variety of different temperatures.  Luckily for us we had mostly sunny skies and mild weather, with a few rainy periods. As you'll see I stuck to a very light, neutral colour palette for mix-and-match ease.

paris packing tips

5 Dresses

To me, dresses are some of the easiest things to pack, and can actually be quite versatile - especially in changing weather conditions.  I was able to wear each dress on its own during warmer days, and layered over some black tights and with a jacket for when the weather cooled down. Depending on how heavy the fabric is, dresses can also substitute as a shirt when layered under pants or a skirt; the chambray dress on the far right was used as a top with jeans!

how pack for Europe using only carry on luggage

4 Shirts

Well, technically 5 shirts if you count a grey t-shirt that I ended up using as a sleeping shirt. I tried to keep my palette very neutral so that everything could be mixed and matched, and the shirts were no exception.  Each shirt could be - and were - paired with each of the bottoms for a simple, no-fuss outfit. I like to pack very lightweight shirts to save space in the carry-on, plus they're great for layering since the weather can go from freezing cold to very warm in the course of a day (especially in Paris!)
**Not Shown: One large sweater

what to wear in paris travel

2 Bottoms

I know that you're thinking - white jeans, are you crazy?!  In my defence, I wanted to stick to a light-coloured neutral palette for my clothing so white denim were an obvious choice for me. To be honest, I didn't find having light-coloured jeans and more maintenance than dark jeans, especially since I knew that they would be going straight into the laundry as soon as I got home.  A black shirt was an obvious choice for me as well, since it paired well with each top as well as tights, and was a good length without being too short.
**Not Shown: a pair of black, opaque tights,  those were thrown out at the end of the trip.

how to pack for italy in the spring

2 Jackets

Packing jackets while traveling can be a bummer, but are absolutely essential when traveling through Europe in the spring.  For this trip I brought along two options: a lighter, oversized blazer that was great for layering and a heavier black trench coat for when the weather really cooled down.  I honestly used the lighter blazer for the majority of the time, but was glad to have the trench coat - especially at night! Before leaving I went back and fourth between the trench coat and a leather jacket and, although I settled on the trench, I think that either would have been appropriate and practical.

what to pack for paris and italy


Here's the make-or-break category when packing using only a carry on.  You accessories are essential to mixing-and-matching your clothing pieces to create new outfits and can be extremely practical as well!  The blanket scarf that I packed was often a substitute for a jacket, a pillow on the train and even served as a picnic blanket when sipping wine under the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A silk neck scarf added some interest to otherwise very boring outfits, and I never travel without a hat (Tip - I wear my hat on every airplane and train to avoid it from becoming crushed in my carry on.)  I only took one purse this time, but made sure that it was extremely practical and went with every outfit.


Though I don't have a flat-lay of my shoes since they're currently in desperate need of a wash and/or polish, I did end up bringing one pair of flat black boots (you can see them in my last packing post), a pair of taupe, sleek running shoes and some nude flats.

The Outfits

what to wear in paris in spring

For all outfits, as well as some travel photos, follow the hashtag #LPNtravels on Instagram.

Take a look at my last Italian packing post for some helpful hints, as well as how I pack my toiletries for carry on travel.  I also have a post on what to pack and wear in Paris to avoid looking like a tourist.

What do you guys think?  Are you a carry on convert?  What are some of your best packing tips?  Let me know!

xo Joëlle


  1. Amazing post! Thanks for sharing your tips xo

  2. I love posts like these; thanks for sharing! I wish you had also included a photo of what your bag looked like when it was full because I am having a hard time imagining how it all fit into one carry-on bag, haha. :)

    1. So glad that you like this Kimi! I was hoping to get a shot of my suitcase but it couldn't convey they amount of detail that I wanted. I'm going on another trip in September and am hoping to do a packing video then to show how I actually get all of my clothes into a carry on!

  3. I always take a carry on when traveling - it really SO much easier! Love seeing all of your outfits!

    Lee -

    1. Yay carry on converts! Thanks Lee, so glad that you liked the outfits!

  4. Joelle, I am in awe of you. I cannot fathom how you survived for 3 weeks with just a carry on - and did it while looking fabulous! I don't think I could ever manage!

    1. Thank you Siffat! You could totally manage - if i can do it, anyone can!

  5. Honestly-- slay girl! You nailed it. Your outfits were so great and I would have never guessed you brought so little. Way to make the most of out your pieces, and your time!

    xx Gabriella

    1. Thanks Gabriella! I'm definitely huge on wanting to maximize my time while traveling, so carry-on only travel is perfect for someone who's impatient like me.

  6. Based on all of the photos you shared along the way, I had a hard time believing you packed so lightly. I'm a chronic over-packer and can't even IMAGINE how you pulled this off! Even when I go to NYC for the weekend, I bring a full suitcase....but I feel like that's probably not necessary?

    Seriously, mad inspiration!

    Something About That

    1. You could totally do it! I used to be a huge over-packer as well - but I still have nightmares about lugging my massive luggage through the Paris metro and that was all it took to go carry-on only! Once you do it your first trip, you'll never look back!

  7. You've done it again! Fab picks Joelle! And I'm totally on board to see a packing video :)

  8. i am traveling to bulgaria next week and i have no clue what to pack its my first time with my fiance

  9. I love your blog. I have a "I haven't found a great answer" question that I hope you can help a girl out of a packing dilemma. We are going to Switzerland and France for 16 days. Yay me! Now the packing dilemma. In Switzerland it will be all about day trips that include mountains and light hiking. In France, it will be all about biking and sightseeing. How does a girly girl pack for both in a carry on? Seriously awaiting your invaluable help.

    1. I would definitely layer on my more girly outfits for Switzerland and just pack two different pairs of shoes for each country. Wear the heavier shoes on the plane with you.


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