How To Pack in a Carry On – Tips and Tricks

Congratulations! You’re on the verge of embarking on your much-anticipated European escape. With your flight booked, accommodations settled, and a list of must-see attractions in hand, there’s one task remaining: packing in a carry-on. I have had a love/hate relationship with packing for many years because it can be stressful.

Many travelers can agree that it is a stressful endeavor, but fear not! I have had many years of practice packing for both short weekend getaways and long-term traveling. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll provide you with a detailed packing list with how to pack in a carry-on to make your packing experience easy, stress-free, and efficient. 

Travel with a carry on backpack 

As a self-proclaimed minimalist, I understand the value of maximizing space in your suitcase or backpack. Let’s start by determining the type of luggage you will bring. This will determine how you pack in a carry-on. Your options are a small suitcase or a large travel backpack. While both can accommodate a similar amount of clothes, I personally favor the convenience of a large travel backpack. I highly recommend the Osprey Fairport 55L. Backpacks are not only versatile and spacious but also easier to maneuver, fit easily in overhead bins, and provide convenience while navigating airports.

When thinking of how to pack in a carry on and choosing your luggage, it’s essential to consider your arrival in Europe. Many European cities heavily rely on public transportation, often involving navigating cobblestone streets.

This is yet another reason why I favor backpacks. The flexibility and mobility they offer can make your travels much more convenient and enjoyable. However, if you plan to taxi or Uber to your destination, this factor may be less critical in your decision-making process.

Now that you’ve selected your preferred luggage, it’s time to determine what to pack. Below, you’ll find my ultimate minimalist carry-on European travel packing list, tailored for trips to a warm destination in Europe. This trip is most suitable for trips 3-7 days but can adapt for however many days you are traveling.

Clothes to Pack in a Carry-On:

  • 4 shirts: Choose versatile options that can be dressed up or down, to create different looks with minimal pieces.
  • 2 leggings: Leggings are comfortable, versatile, and easy to layer for various weather conditions.
  • 2 pairs of jeans: Opt for jeans in neutral colors that can be paired with multiple tops and shoes.
  • 2 pairs of denim shorts: Perfect for warmer days or layering with tights during cooler evenings.
  • 2 dresses: Dresses are easily dressed up or down and mixed with different accessories.
  • 3 sets of pajamas: Comfortable sleepwear is essential for a good night’s rest during your travels.
  • Swimwear – An absolute must! Whether you plan to hit the beach, relax by the pool, or visit a local spa, pack your favorite swimwear.
  • Your chosen sandals (I personally prefer Chacos): Opt for comfortable sandals that are suitable for long walks and exploring new cities.
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Invest in a reliable pair of walking shoes to ensure comfort during your European adventures.
  • 4 bras: Pack a combination of comfortable and supportive bras that suit different outfits and activities.
  • 6 pairs of underwear: Carry enough underwear to last your trip, with a few extra pairs for unexpected situations.
  • 5 pairs of socks: Socks are often overlooked but make a significant difference in comfort, especially when you’re on your feet all day.
  • 1 lightweight cardigan or sweater: Even in the summer, European evenings can get chilly, so having a lightweight layering piece is essential.

Toiletries to Pack in a Carry On:

  • Shampoo and Conditioner: Opt for travel-sized bottles or decant your favorite shampoo into smaller containers.
  • Outlet converter: Ensure you have the necessary adapter to charge your electronic devices. I recommend this one!
  • Glasses/contacts: If you require glasses or contact lenses, make sure to pack them along with any necessary accessories.
  • Hair ties: Keep a few hair ties handy for those windy days or when you want to tie your hair up for a different look.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste: Having a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste is a must-have!
  • Brush: Pack a small travel brush to keep on hand. 

Electronics/ Misc:

  • Laptop and charger: If you plan to work or stay connected during your trip, don’t forget to pack your laptop and charger.
  • Phone charger: Keep your phone charged and ready for capturing memories and staying in touch with loved ones.
  • Local currency for your destination: It’s wise to have some local currency on hand for immediate expenses upon arrival.
  • Passport: Your passport is the most crucial travel document, so safely store it in your carry-on.


Feel free to mix and match items on this list based on your personal preferences. When it comes to how to pack in a carry-on, I find it helpful to select versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits from a single shirt. This not only saves space but also significantly reduces the weight of your luggage.

As an avid minimalist traveler who packs in a backpack, I have mastered the art of packing efficiently without sacrificing essentials. By carefully curating your wardrobe and choosing versatile items you can make the most out of your European adventure.

I hope this comprehensive guide empowers you to pack efficiently and enjoy your European vacation to the fullest. If you have any questions or need further assistance, feel free to follow me on Instagram and reach out. Happy travels!

Planning a trip to Europe? See my guides here!

I’m Danika! A travel obsessed, Disney adult, with a knack for budgeting.

In 2020 I was furlough from my “dream” job at Disney and have pursued my first love of travel ever since. I have traveled to 33 states and 28 countries spanning 5 continents.

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