Monday 22 September 2014

What I Packed for 2 Weeks in Europe Using Only Carry On Luggage

The time has come to put my money where my mouth is, and pack for an over 2 week long vacation to Europe (specifically Italy) using just carry on luggage.  The concept seemed so challenging at first - until I stopped to think of my other trips, and how I had a huge piece of checked luggage filled with clothes, and still managed to only wear a few things over and over again.

Packing light and using only a carry on luggage when travelling to Europe has many advantages:

  • You don't run the risk of your luggage being lost on the flight over - especially if you have any connections along the way
  • You are more mobile with a small piece of carry-on luggage.  I still have nightmares of schlepping a huge suitcase through the Paris metro - with it's never-ending staircases, and no elevators.
  • It's cheaper - most airlines make you pay for your checked luggage, adding as much as $50 to the price of your plane ticket.
Without further ado, here is what I will be taking on my 2 week long vacation to Italy, packed only in my carry on.

4 Dresses

I will be bringing 4 dresses with me.  All of the dresses are fairly casual, except for a fancier silk dress (to the right of the photo) that will serve for a fancier evening, but can still be dressed down for casual sightseeing.  I love bringing dresses because they are an outfit within themselves, and can be transformed by layering a shirt over top and acting as a skirt.  They are also easily transitioned into the cooler weather by layering over top of tights.

3 Skirts

Skirts are by far my favourite pieces of clothing, especially when travelling to Italy where the weather can get pretty warm and wearing shorts typically labels you as a tourist.  Each of these skirts can be paired with a variety of different tops to achieve different outfits, as well as be layered over tights to accommodate cool weather.

1 Pair of Black Pants

I packed my favourite pair of black jeggins, which can easily be worn with each of the tops and are great for travel days. 

5 Lightweight Shirts

I chose to bring 5 very neutral shirts that are lightweight - great for layering - and can easily match with each of the bottoms that I've packed.  You may notice that I packed more bottoms than tops.  It's all a personal preference, but I firmly believe that changing up your bottoms help to give a feeling of a whole different outfit, rather than changing your tops.  It's also important to mention that each of these shirts are easily washed, and are all made of materials that dry quickly and easily.

1 Chambray Shirt, 1 Cardigan

A Chambray shirt is so versatile; it acts as a shirt to pair with pants, a skirt or tied over a dress, and can also be used as a lightweight jacket.  I also packed a neutral lightweight cardigan that can be layered over every item that I'm packing.

1 Leather Jacket

I know that the weather in Italy will be warmer once we arrive, but it will no doubt cool down at night, and get cooler as we move our way North (Rome to Venice).  I like a leather jacket when I'm travelling because it keeps me warm, is wind and rain resistant, and can be dressed up for formal evenings.

1 Pair of Black Tights

A pair of tights are always in my luggage - they easily convert even the lightest outfit into something more appropriate for cooler weather.  

1 Pair of Flats, 1 Pair of Sandals and 1 Pair of Boots

I'll admit it, the footwear is what really challenged me during my packing for 2 weeks in a carry on.  I finally decided on my most comfortable pair of leopard moccasins - after all, leopard is a neutral in my books and can easily match with each and every item of clothing in my bag.  I packed a pair of gladiator sandals (no flip flops!) for our time spent on the coast of Italy and finally a pair of black boots for everything in between.  I packed boots because I wanted an option if we hit any rain, and I like the support that boots give to your feet.

2 Purses

I love my small Longchamp Le Pliage bag as an everyday purse - it's lightweight, water resistant and can house all of my essentials and then some!  The zipper is essential when traveling through Europe, where pick pockets are rampant, and the leather flap offers extra protection.  I also packed my favourite Marc Jacobs cross body bag because it's a great option for going hands-free and can be used as a clutch at night by removing the strap.


Here is where I kind of went to town.  I packed two scarfs, a hat, 2 belts and a few pieces of jewellery.  I love scarves because they can totally transform an article of clothing - for example, a black dress can look like two different outfits with two different scarves.  Belts, jewellery and hats can also transform an outfit, and take very little space in your carry on - plus, I'll wear the hat to the airport.

Here's a few other things to note - 
  • Commit to the fact that you will be doing laundry once during your trip.  Not shown here is enough underwear for a week, which will most definitely need to be washed halfway through the trip, along with each of the tops.
  • Bring insoles for your shoes - I have huge, cushy insoles for my flats and my boots that offer lots of support and comfort to my feet.  Trust me - these will save you after a long day of sightseeing.
  • Be cautious of which valuables you bring. I will not be taking my engagement ring, or my laptop just for added peace of mind.
  • Leave enough space for souvenirs along the way - I tried not to over pack to compensate for any thing that I pick up during my travels.
**UPDATE: Check out how I styled all of these items during my trip here.**

xoxo Joëlle



  1. Love love love this!!! I'm a big fan of travelling with only a carry-on, although I must admit I've never done Europe that way (yet). Can't wait to see all the outfit posts (been loving the sneak peeks on Instagram!).

    Kris |

  2. Your packing content is so well thought out and practical! I especially love how you included items that can be dressed up for a night out or worn more casually, I always struggle with this when packing!

  3. Looking forward to seeing how you put everything together!! Have the best time. :)

    xo Kimi

  4. Very impressive that you were able to pack two week's worth of clothes in a carry-on! I will definitely be using your tips for my upcoming trip in November. I hate relying on the airlines to transfer my stuff when I have multiple layovers.


  5. What about toiletries?

    1. For toiletries, I took all of my routine products and placed small quantities into travel-sized containers - including foundation. I'm leaving for Mexico in a couple of weeks, and plan on doing a post on what I pack (including toiletries and makeup.) Check back!

  6. What about electronics- adaptor, converter. hair straightener

    1. I brought one adapter/converter which was enough, and a straightener. I left anything frivolous (Clarisonic, etc.) at home, and didn't bring a hair dryer since most hotels have them now.

  7. Who makes those black ankle boots? I love them.

    1. Thank you! I found them at Marshal's last summer, and I didn't recognize the manufacturer.

  8. I don't know how big your carry on is but I have the standard size that airlines allow and I don't think all that would fit? Especially the three pairs of shoes (or maybe two if you are wearing one? I agree though that you always end up wearing the same things when you travel and I think you can even cull down your options more- especially if you can wash.

    1. My carry on is fit for international travel, and I can assure you that everything fits! The trick is to either roll your clothing, or to fold it neatly. Taking the extra effort to fold properly - as opposed to throwing everything in your luggage - makes a world of a difference!

  9. Replies
    1. Nope! Between the flats and comfortable boots with insoles, I was fine. A big misconception is that running shoes are the only option when striving for comfort; a flat boot with a comfortable insole is just as comfy as sneakers, weather resistant, and much more stylish.

  10. Thank you for the lovely article. I always pack only a carry-on but I can't say I do it in style. I find myself compromising on what I wear because of how much I can carry. It's nice to be able to peek into your luggage and figure out how I can improve mine :)

    Question: where, oh, where did you get those beautiful sandals from? I've been looking for something like that everywhere and simply can't find any that are both comfortable and simple like those.

    Thanks again!

  11. Not a fan of dresses or skirts. I went to Germany, Poland and Amsterdam with a 19" carry on and personal item. Took capris, one pair of yoga pants and a pair of jeans which I never wore as it was way too hot.

  12. Where are those boots from! I love them!

  13. Hi Thank you for sharing..
    May I know your lugagge size /dimension?

  14. How many pair of underwear? socks ? bra???

  15. What time of year did you go? You probably said, but I can’t find it!

  16. How much underwear?

  17. Of all the blogs(and I've read a lot of them), yours makes the most sense(but I'll skip the leather jacket and boots). Each trip I pack less, but I know I can do better. But it's still difficult to pick comfy shoes that go with multiple outfits. I've opted for classic white Keds and SAS sandals for Spain this Summer. I'm still trying to find comfy black wedge(?) sandals that can pass for dress shoes. Thanks for the great info.

  18. Wheeled carry on luggage is one of the greatest products for the travel industry in some time. carry-on luggage


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