Packing for a trip can be extremely stressful but it doesn’t need to be! Even if you’re choosing to travel with only carry-ons and no checked baggage, you don’t need to stress out about it. We live in an era of low-budget airlines and packing lightly is becoming almost mandatory unless you want to pay for ridiculous additional charges.

When I backpacked around Europe for a month, I brought just one backpack that fit as a carry-on. I made it work but I definitely didn’t pack as efficiently as I should have. Since then I have thankfully learned how to consolidate what I bring on trips and thought I should share my knowledge with you. Trust me, I’m now an expert on packing!

The Number One Packing Secret

People always ask how I’m able to take so much on trips. I’ll get to that secret later, but for right now I’ll focus on how I’m able to bring so much HOME from trips. The secret is that I throw away things I don’t need before I return home.

Before anyone gets upset that I’m being wasteful, here me out.

In our everyday lives, we have clothes that we want to get rid of. This can be because they’re old and worn, don’t fit, are no longer in style, or are even stained. Instead of donating them at home or tossing them in the trash, take them with you on your trip! Underwear that’s looking raggedy, socks that have holes in them, and clothes with stains are perfect candidates for the “throwaway pile”. So as you travel and wear these throwaway clothes, just leave them behind! You were going to get rid of them anyways, so you might as well get rid of them on your trip to leave more room for souvenirs!

Don’t feel like all of these clothes have to go straight into the trashcan. If anything, just throw away the socks and underwear since nobody else will really want those. As far as the clothes you throw away, fold them and leave them behind. Housekeeping or whichever hotel or hostel you’re staying at will likely find a use for them. Or you can donate it to someone homeless on the street, or really anything. The possibilities are endless! Whatever you do, just be responsible and try to leave as much behind as possible.

Europe Packing List for Only Carry On - The Traveling Storygirl
Guess how many of these things were meant to be thrown away? That’s right, the heels and the flip flops!

My European Packing List

Here is everything I took for a week in Barcelona. I’ve got a fairly neutral color palette which means that I can mix and match for maximum outfit options. Interchangeable outfits are crucial to packing light. You really don’t need to have a LOT of clothes, just versatility. I’ve even included an outfit for going out, which is more than I typically do. But hey, I’m going to Ibiza so I’ve got to be prepared.

Since I actually plan on experiencing the Spanish nightlife, I figured I would also need a pair of heels. I didn’t want to haul heels all over Spain and I didn’t want to ruin a good pair. So, I took these older heels that I NEVER wear so I could just leave them there. You can see in the picture that they look a little bit old and worn out. I won’t miss them. Even though these heels don’t really match with my outfits, I’ll make it work.

Europe Packing List for Only Carry On - The Traveling Storygirl Europe Packing List for Only Carry On - The Traveling Storygirl

My Bags

Europe loves budget airlines and those budget airlines love to have ridiculous size restrictions for carry-ons. Some airlines don’t even allow for a personal item. You get one carry-on and that’s it! Sometimes I just try to sneak in my personal item and it hasn’t failed me yet!

This time, I’m carrying a 38-liter Jack Wolfskin backpack as a carry-on with a Michael Kors purse as my personal luggage. Level, Ryanair, and Vueling all let me on without an issue for either of the bags so they’re fairly good sizes for each requirement. If you have a backpack similar to mine, check to see if there is a compartment at the bottom of the backpack that has a water resistant covering. This covering protects the backpack but if you won’t be hardcore backpacking or there isn’t rain in the forecast, take it out to give you a little bit more packing room!

Europe Packing List for Only Carry On - The Traveling Storygirl
I brought just this bag and my backpack to Europe with me and never once had a problem. I returned with even less!

I also recommend bringing a small fabric bag with you. It should be able to scrunch up all tiny and can be thrown in your luggage or even your daypack. You never know when you may need it to haul groceries, additional stuff you accumulate, or sandy shoes after a day at the beach. Royal Caribbean gave me some reusable plastic bags that I love to use because they can be squeezed into a tiny, golf ball sized ball but can hold a lot of my stuff when necessary. Like I say, it’s better to have and not need than need and not have.

Electronics to Take

It’s always hard to choose what electronics to take on a trip. Some people refuse to bring their laptops, whereas I insist on bringing mine so that I can download pictures from my camera card. It’s also helpful for watching Netflix when I’m going to bed. The choice to bring a laptop is completely up to the individual traveler!

If you’re traveling anywhere you NEED to have a camera. If you don’t, then I am hardcore judging you. Why would you not bring a camera? It doesn’t have to be a fancy camera – even a phone with a camera will suffice. I have a nice DSLR camera that is my baby and I take everywhere but it’s a pain in the butt to haul around the extra lenses. Instead, I just take my one wide lens that is fairly compact and almost turns my camera into a point-and-shoot. When I want really wide angles or am doing something adventurous, I also bring my GoPro. My GoPro is a Hero+ version so it’s a few years old but it still takes pretty good pictures.

Europe Packing List for Only Carry On - The Traveling Storygirl
All of the electronics I took to Europe. If you’re looking for ways to cut down on space, I recommend leaving the laptop at home!

Toiletries

The toiletries I bring are what weigh down my luggage the most. I’m prepared for every single disease that comes my way, from a headache to the Black Plague. Heaven forbid I have to purchase drugs from a pharmacy while traveling! Not everyone is as OCD and over prepared as I am but I do recommend everyone to take at least common medicine on his or her travels. When traveling to foreign places where you anticipate you’ll eat street foods, you should bring some sort of anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea pills. If something doesn’t agree with your stomach, you do NOT want to be stranded without anything to help you. TRUST ME!

Europe Packing List for Only Carry On - The Traveling Storygirl
I basically have a pharmacy in my backpack at all times. You can never be too prepared!

Even though I’ve provided you with a good base of things to pack, it’s important for you to pack FOR YOUR LOCATION. Are you going to be spending your time relaxing on Greek islands? Maybe consider bringing a GoPro. Planning on hiking in Switzerland? You should probably wear some sturdy shoes. Feel free to use the packing list I’ve included below and change it to best suit your needs. Just remember to pack light because future you will thank current you as you haul your luggage around the world!

Europe Packing List
Europe Carry-On Packing List – The Traveling Storygirl
Europe Packing List for Only Carry On - The Traveling Storygirl
Europe Packing List for Only Carry On – The Traveling Storygirl

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