As the mountains of bags at airports across Europe continue to climb higher and higher, it’s become somewhat of an open secret that the airlines are having a tough time catching up with the sudden surge in demand for travel. While horror stories of delayed and lost bags are circulating online, you should remember that the chances of your Samsonite becoming just another stepping stone on the luggage-laden Himalayas from hell remains slim.
Your Carry-On Allowance
Before we dive into what you should bring and how you should bring it, remember that usually, you’ll actually be allowed a carry-on bag and a personal item. The carry-on must fit in the overhead compartment, while your personal item needs to fit underneath the seat in front of you.
We like to keep our essentials and anything we might need in-flight in our personal items for ease of access. Usually, all of our clothing goes in the carry-on above.
Whether you’re checking a bag or not, you always want to keep your essentials in your carry-on or your personal item. There’s zero plus side to checking anything you absolutely can’t go without. Instead, think risk/reward; in the case of essentials, the reward from checking them is a big fat nothing.
ID and passport
Printed copy of travel insurance
Printed copy of hotel information and itinerary
Phone with photo backup of all your essential documents and charger (a phone with a nice camera means you’ve got no need to bring a bulky camera)
Laptop if you need it and charger
Toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste
Prescriptions and medications
Travel size first-aid kit
A pen (because it’s always good to have a pen… )
We prefer using plastic bags or packing cubes to separate these items and sliding them into the outside pockets of our bags; however, do whatever feels best and safest for you.
It’s also important to remember that any liquids you bring in your carry-on must be in containers smaller than 100ml, or security will confiscate them; this includes roll-on deodorants.
These are simple and straightforward, but worth reviewing to make sure you don’t forget anything. If you’re bringing liquids, remember to purchase travel size bottles so you don’t lose them through security.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
Shampoo and conditioner
Fractionated coconut oil (works as makeup remover and lotion in case your skin is dry or a bit burnt from the sun)
Nail clippers, tweezers and nail file
Now that you’ve got the essentials squared away, it’s time to figure out how to fit everything you were going to check into your carry-on.
Spoiler: you won’t.
The sooner you come to terms with this horrifying reality, the better off you’ll be. If you want to make things easy on yourself, you’ll have to leave more of your things behind and pack a little lighter. However, if you’re creative and clever and think about versatility, this shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Let’s start with the base layer, literally. Every person is different, but most want fresh undergarments every day. This one’s usually the most important, and luckily all undergarments can generally be bunched, scrunched, folded, or rolled into small sizes. So, don’t feel pressured to skimp in this area.
When planning your outfits, it’s crucial to think about versatility. You shouldn’t be packing clothing you can only wear once. Instead, try to find a few shirts that are light and airy, easy to wash, and can be worn for various activities and occasions. Think about comfort over style and clothing that breathes.
Footwear is often the heaviest part of a bag and can be a real hassle when forcing everything into a carry-on. So, minimize it. We’re talking about one comfortable pair of shoes that you can wear during the day and out at night. If you’re heading to a beachy environment, you can throw some sandals in. If you’re heading somewhere more urban or geared toward nightlife, you can pack some more stylish shoes deep in your bag.
7 pairs of underwear and socks
3-4 breathable shirts, including one dressy or button down
2-3 pairs of pants or shorts, including one for a nice night out
1 comfy, stylish outer layer
1 pair of comfortable shoes and one pair of dressier shoes or sandals
1 sweater for the plane
1 neutral colored scarf to be cozy and use as a shall at night in case it gets cold
2 bathing suits
1 pair of jeans
1 nicer/cozier bottom like a long skirt
1 statement piece outfit
2 workout loungewear outfits (1 long legging and top & 1 short legging and top)
3-4 light dresses (rompers and jumpsuits also work, they take up little space and you don’t have to worry about making an outfit work together. Make sure 1 is more daytime, 1 more nighttime and 2 that are more versatile, day to night.)
1 sarong for the beach or to throw on quickly after the shower
Many women swear by packing mostly neutral colors as they provide the freedom to mix and match. When it’s time to fly, wear your bulkiest pair of shoes and your outer layer on the plane to minimize the size of things in your carry-on. If you need or want to bring a hat, wear that on your flight too.
Just as we’ve been taught to boil our broccoli, for years, our mothers and fathers have told us to fold our clothes when we pack our bags. Stunningly, just as they were mistaken about the broccoli (roast it and thank us later), they may have missed the mark on the clothing as well.
Now, this hint is a bit subjective; some may even disagree entirely. However, if you want to save space when you pack a bag, you should roll at least some of your clothes as tightly as possible. You’ll be able to squeeze in more than you would if you were folding, and if you do it right, you should be able to avoid a wardrobe of wrinkles. Some people even swear by very specific rolling methods.
If you don’t want to roll everything, consider folding bigger, bulkier items and dresses first and then lay them flat. Roll shorts, workout clothes, and non-wrinkle shirts around them to make sure there isn’t any wasted space on the sides or corners.
When it comes to organization, packing cubes can be particularly helpful in keeping shorts, shirts, and pants separate. They’re also great for dirty clothes; if you use these, roll the clothes you pack in there as well.
When we’re focusing on getting everything into our carry-on, it’s easy to forget things, and that only causes more problems down the road. If that sounds like you, consider making a spreadsheet of everything you’ll need and checking it off as you pack.
Once you’ve got that made, lay everything you’ve got for your trip on your bed and go down your list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. If you’ve got a cosmetics bag, pack that first, followed by bigger or bulkier items.
Some people prefer wheelie bags. Others prefer travel backpacks and enjoy laughing at people trying to use wheelie bags on narrow, cobbled European alleyways.
Whatever you choose is your preference; just make sure it fits or can be forced to fit in an overhead compartment. There is absolutely nothing worse than finding out your carry-on is actually a checked bag and then having to foot the bill.
For some people, packing everything in a carry-on will be a snap. For others, this may be an altogether miserable experiment in minimizing a maximized lifestyle. However, it’s important to keep in mind that beyond the near guarantee of never losing a bag, there are other benefits to carry-on only. Not only will you never have to pay a checked bag fee, but you’ll also never have to wait tirelessly at a carousel for your bag to arrive. In the end, in our opinion, it’s well worth it to forgo the checked bag and pack a carry-on only.