Hey! We’re back (and with a new little traveler, Evelyn Kate Beals, born October 7, 2017)! We’re excited to get back to posting! Today we have an oldie but a goodie: How to Pack 2 Weeks in a Carry On. We wrote this way back in 2013 (so excuse the fashion sense) when we were heading out for our second-ever big European trip since getting married. On our first trip to Europe we took a huge suitcase and a carry-on rollerboard each, along with a backpack, tote bag, and camera bag. After lugging everything up multiple flights of stairs and on and off public transit, we swore we’d never take big luggage again (and for the most part, we still don’t).
We plan on writing a follow-up with how we pack today, with maybe a couple on how we pack for the girls, for winter, for travelling by train, etc. If there’s a scenario you’d like to see us pack for, leave a suggestion in the comments!
It can be done. Let’s just start there. It is possible to pack for a two-week European vacation of uncertain weather in a standard, airline approved carry-on. [EDIT: Many budget European airlines allow much smaller cabin luggage than American carriers (if any at all), so be sure to check all your airlines’ baggage allowance policies before you head out.]
Before you start packing light there’s a few things you need to consider.
First, take a look at the forecast. For us, the weather is really uncertain. It’s supposed to be cold and rainy in Munich and Innsbruck, but then get warmer and sunnier as we go south to Rome. This means that we have to plan for packing rain boots, rain jackets, and lots of layers.
Next, consider how you’re traveling. We’re allowed two checked bags each on our international flight, but aren’t using them. Why? Because the idea of lugging gigantic wheeled suitcases on and off trains, through cities with cobblestone streets, and up and down stairs at B&Bs is a nightmare – one that we lived on our Europe trip last year and have no desire to repeat.
Take a look at your carry-on bag. The ideal carry-on has crazy wheels (that spin in all directions), tons of pockets, and reinforcing on all the external seams. We got my carry on from Tuesday Morning for about $90. It’s London Fog brand and is, if you’ll allow a little nerdy humor, a little like a Tardis (it’s bigger on the inside). This puppy has more pockets, nooks, and crannies than any suitcase I’ve ever seen. It’s sturdy and unique looking; I’m not likely to walk off with the wrong luggage.
Next, contemplate what you plan on packing. Before this trip, I’d take an outfit for each day. Now, I take just enough clothes to get me through a week. Yes, this means that we have to do laundry mid-trip, but we don’t mind. If we can’t find a laundromat, we’ll just hand wash everything and hang it to dry. As for detergent, we plan on grabbing some once we land. No point bring it along for the flight if we can just pick up a bit later. For us, a few hours spent in a laundromat with wifi is a change not only to wash our clothes, but to catch up on emails, upload our photos from our camera to the cloud, and take a couple hour breather from a whirlwind trip.
So what exactly did I pack for two weeks sightseeing in Germany, Austria, and Italy?
I packed four pairs of pants: one pair of colored jeans, one pair of skinny jeans, one pair of boyfriend capris, and one pair of (longish) shorts. [EDIT: in 2017 I would toss out the capris and mint jeans and substitute with a lighter pair of skinnies and maybe a pair of wider legged trouser jeans.]
I packed one maxi skirt and one dress.
I packed six tops: one long sleeved striped tee, two basic V-neck tees in white and black, one black camp shirt, one chambray button down, and one tank top.
I also packed three jackets: one jean jacket, one olive military jacket, and my Columbia rain jacket.
I’m surviving with only three pairs of shoes (not counting my rain boots): one pair of flat sandals, one pair of heels, and my Sperrys (for walking). [EDIT: I never wore the heels, so now I just go with a pair of walking shoes and a pair of comfy sandals (my current faves are discontinued, but were a thong version of these Tevas).]
I also packed a few accessories: three belts, two scarves, and a few (cheap) necklaces.
I also packed enough unmentionables and undershirts to get me through a week.
To pack all this, I folded and then rolled each piece as tightly as I could. This method not only saves space, but keeps your clothes from getting too wrinkled. Once rolled, I packed everything into three packing cubes. [EDIT: My packing cubes came with an old luggage set, but if you’re looking for some I’d suggest these from eBags. They have the same sizes I used here and have some really fun colors.]
I’ll be wearing the jeans, chambray shirt, and Sperrys on the plane. Everything else tucks away nicely in my carry on. I make sure to use every avalible bit of space: stuff belts in shoes and socks anywhere you see a void.
Finally, I threw my rubber boots in on top.
Everything else – my toiletries, makeup, kindle, and whatnot – live in my tote bag.
And that’s it. Two weeks in a carry on!
Have you ever packed for two weeks in a carry on? Could you do it?