If you’ve ever been to Europe, you know that everything is small and the cities are crowded. So for Europe, packing small is the best choice. However, it can be hard to pack for ten days in just one carry on. Actually, it isn’t. Below, I’ll show you my tips on how to pack a carry on for 10 days in Europe.
For those of you that don’t know what a carry-on is, it’s a bag or luggage that each person is allowed to take with them on the airplane. However, checked luggage is stored in the luggage compartment and has to be checked beforehand. The most common choices for a carry on are backpacks, carry-on luggage (Has to be within airline restrictions), duffel bags or tote bags.
Find the Right Bag for the Airline Restrictions
Before departing you should check in with your airline and find out the limits for your carry on. For instance, for American Airlines, it’s 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Just do a google search like this: “Your airline carrier” carry-on restrictions. Also, here’s a great online tool to see the most common airline regulations.
When you know the allowed size, check what options you have. Also, decide whether you want to use a backpack or a carry-on. As a rule of thumb, I generally use backpacks for one to three-day trips and a carry on for trips that take three days or more. In addition, I may bring an empty backpack inside the carry-on if I will need a day bag for hiking or walking.
Although most European cities have some cobblestone streets and lots of escalators, a carry on is more than enough. In Europe, everything is tiny, and the public transport is crowded, so it’s better to stick with just one carry on. Also, if you’re looking for new carry on luggage, I’ve made a list of the best luggage brands for you to choose from.
Think About the Weather and Your Activities
To figure out what you should pack in your carry on you should think about your destination. Are you traveling to warmer climates or northern countries? Will you be doing physical activities, like hiking, camping, e.t.c.?
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t take bulky jackets with you to warmer climates. For instance, on my trip to Croatia, I brought with me just one long sleeve shirt, which wasn’t that thick at all. Also, for northern countries, it’s better to dress in layers. It’s advised to check the weather forecast for your trip before packing.
As for the activities, think about what will you be doing at your destination country. If you’re hiking or camping, take appropriate gear. Think about whether you will be doing any activities at night when it gets colder. Will you be traveling alone (If so, here are some tips on how to travel solo), with your family, or as a couple?
Consider Packing an Empty Backpack or a Tote Bag for Return
If your trip involves lots of walking, hiking or other daily activities, you should consider either bringing an empty backpack or a tote bag in your carry on. It can act as a safety measure if you accidentally purchase too many souvenirs. You can take the backpack with you on the return flight and check in the carry-on. (With additional fees of course). Most commonly though I don’t have to check it in, because I pack smart and manage to squeeze everything in my Travelpro carry-on.
Make Sure All of Your Clothes Fit Together Nicely
I like to travel very compactly, even when space isn’t an issue. A tip that saves a lot of space is taking clothes that share a similar look and can be worn together. For instance, you can wear a pair of shorts with three different t-shirts and so on.
You should pick a color that you like and take only clothes that fit within this color scheme. For instance, it’s common to take either dark or light color clothes. Also, don’t bring clothes that take up too much space. I like synthetic clothing the best for traveling as it takes up very little space.
Consider Washing Your Clothes Midway
If you’re tight on space, consider washing your clothes midway. Some of the hotels in Europe offer this service, or some dry laundries can be found nearby. If you choose to do this, it will save up a lot of space.
Pro tip: Ever had to deal with bed bugs in cheap hostels? Then check out our guide on preventing and getting rid of bed bugs in luggage.
Pack Just a Few Pairs of Shoes; Ladies Leave Your High-Heels
Shoes are one of the worst items to pack up in your carry on. They’re bulky, can’t be squashed and have to be put in bags to avoid making a mess. Flip-flops or sandals are much better.
I usually take only sports shoes, casual shoes, and sandals or flip-flops if I’m traveling to a warmer climate. If I wouldn’t be running, I’d most likely take only two pairs of casual shoes or just one pair of universal shoes.
This one is for the ladies: Often you may think it’s a good idea to take your high-heels with you because you will be going out. Most of the times, you will be too tired to even walk on the high heels, because walking through different cities and hikes can be exhausting. So you will end up with a pair of shoes that takes up space pointlessly. I’d recommend leaving them behind for most cases.
If you’re not familiar with the 3 – 1 – 1 rule, it basically means that airplane passengers have to store all liquids in 3.4 oz bottles (100ml), all of them have to fit in 1 quart-sized transparent plastic bag (Can be bought at airports) and each passenger can only use 1 bag of liquid toiletries. More info about allowed liquids on airplanes in this article.
I usually take just a small 100ml bottle of shampoo + shower gel, because most of the times, the hotel offers free shampoo and shower gel.
Before packing all of your toiletries, lay them all out and think about which ones you don’t need and which ones could be bought for cheap at your destination country.
What to Pack for Europe: Electronics
Check if your electronics offer dual voltage because in Europe the voltage is 220V and in America it’s 110V. Most newer devices offer dual voltage with something like this: 100-240v. If your device supports only 110V, you need to get a converter, which usually is pretty heavy to carry around. You can read more about the electronic specifics in this article about electronic devices in Europe.
As for the adapters, most of the European countries use two rectangular prongs instead of the two flat prongs that America uses. However, England and Ireland use three rectangular prongs and Italy, and Switzerland uses three smaller rectangular prongs. You should be able to find a universal European adapter pretty easily. I’d suggest buying one with multiple outlets as some cheaper hotels offer only one socket per room.
Most common electronics that you shouldn’t forget to include are a phone charger, a laptop with a charger, a camera with a charger, a pair of headphones with a headphone charger (If they’re wireless), a power bank with a USB charger, an electric shaver with a charger.
If you’re thinking about what to pack for Europe and are considering taking your hair-dryer, leave it. Most hotels have them anyway. If not, wake up an hour early and let your hair dry naturally.
If you’re having a hard time squeezing everything in your carry-on, check out these 9 tech-friendly carry-ons.
Consider Leaving the Camera Behind and Using Only Your Smartphone
Nowadays most phones have pretty good built-in cameras. If you take your DSLR with you, it can be a pain to carry around, not to mention it may attract muggers. So leave it home and use only your phone to take great photos.
Make a List of What to Pack for a 10-Day Trip
The next step is to write down a list of all of the things that you need. I advise you to write it down and revisit it the following day because you might have forgotten something.
What to Pack for a 10-Day Trip (My Recent Trip to Croatia):
- Five t-shirts + one long-sleeve top;
- Two pairs of shorts + one jeans;
- Vans sneakers + a pair of flip-flops;
- Ten pairs of socks + ten pairs of underwear;
- A light swimming towel;
- Sporting shoes + running shorts and tee;
- Laptop + charger;
- Wi-fi headphones + charger;
- DSLR + charger;
- Electric shaver + charger;
- Phone charger + power bank;
- A small bag of regular toiletries;
- An empty light backpack for day-walking;
Actually, on the return flight, I managed to squeeze in a few souvenirs and sweets from Croatia, so I managed to pack the carry-on pretty successfully.
How to Pack a Carry on for 10 Days in Europe: Now Comes Packing
Now comes the fun part of actually squeezing everything inside your carry on. If you haven’t traveled in a while, consider cleaning your old suitcase to make it look brand-new.
- Layout everything on your bed and take a last look at what you don’t need to take with you. Often hairdryers, other electronics, shampoo, and DSLRs’ (use the phone instead) can be left behind;
- Try not to bring more than two pairs of shoes (casual and outdoors) and one pair of sandals or flip-flops;
- Store some socks and underwear in the cavities of your luggage (Often near handles);
- Store additional socks and underwear in your shoes;
- Consider using packing cubes or compression bags as this makes things much more comfortable to pack and unpack;
- If not using packing cubes, start with filling the luggage with larger items and fill up the empty spaces with rolled-up shirts;
- A pro tip is to store your rolled-up items vertically, as it will be easier to take them out without reordering your whole carry on;
- Try to wrap your electronics and valuables in clothes;
- Leave room for souvenirs, sweets, and other return items.
Now zip up your carry on, re-check the dimensions and you are ready to go. Also, remember to re-read your packing list the following day, because you might have forgotten something. That’s it, now you know how to pack a carry on for 10 days in Europe.
When you’ve finished packing your case, make sure to come back here and comment on whether you managed to leave some space for some souvenirs and sweets. Also, if you have any other excellent packing tips, please do share them below!
Read Next: 75 Packing Tips For International Travel