Today by popular request I’ve compiled a list of what I brought with me on my Europe trip in carry-on form. It’s been over a month since I’ve been back home from our three week trip – sorry it’s taken me so long to publish this post – it took me a while to figure out how to photograph and edit everything. I’m still missing Europe very much and it took me a while to get adjusted back to reality. I hope to go back again very soon.
To recap, my husband and I spent three weeks traveling through Europe. We traveled to 9 cities via 7 flights and one 7 day cruise. It was my husband’s decision that we travel with carry-ons only. His logic behind this decision was based on a number of things: we would avoid long lines at airport check-in, we’d save time from having to wait at baggage claim, we wouldn’t have to worry about lugging heavy suitcases around Europe, and we could try to look less touristy. I had no intention in participating and had plans to pack regular suitcases like normal people do. However after doing a lot of research on airline reviews (there are so many horror stories about bad experiences) I decided to make it work with carry-on bags.
I’ve traveled with carry-on suitcases that fit US Airline standards but European Airlines have different dimension restrictions on luggage. All the options in the US are larger than what European Airlines list as acceptable. I didn’t want to risk it so we decided to go the backpack route. My husband helped research travel backpacks and day packs. He picked out this Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L GII Backpack. It worked to fit all of his clothes, flip flops, and laptop. He’s over 6 feet tall and it worked for him, but I’m 5’3″ so this one didn’t work for me. We looked for one a bit smaller and I opted for the Ultimatesafe 22L version. This combined with my Tumi Voyageur Tote (mine is an old model, current ones here) is what I brought with me on our trip.
These two bags fit all my clothes and makeup. For reference, my two other packing posts for this three-week trip below (note my husband carried his own products in his own bag):
Left backpack fit clothes, flipflops and one makeup pouch
Right tote fit my laptop, electronics cables/cords and earphones + liquids
Inside each of my bags shown above, I used several things to organize and compact my items. If you order items directly from J.Brand they will send denim and tees packed in these nifty black pouches (shown on the far left). I’ve kept them from previous orders and brought 2 of them with me to keep tops in one and jeans in another. I know people usually say roll your clothes. I think it works with regular rectangular shaped suitcases. I found flat packing to be better for me, but there’s really no right or wrong. We also used a number of the Eagle Creek Packing Cubes. I brought three: one small one for electronics, one for clothes, one for small items such as socks, underwear and swimsuits. (My husband brought and packed the Translucent Specter Pack-It Cubes).
Many have asked for a very specific list of everything I brought with me. I’ve split it up into categories to help make things easy to view. First up include electronic devices. I brought multiples of some items since both my husband and I had our phones, laptops and one iPad. For our flight I splurged on the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. They were well worth the high price. These make a world of difference and are really great for long flights. I brought one Tumi USB Travel Adapter and several Apple plugs, cords and the World Travel Adapter. For charging I had one for my camera. These Mophie Powerstation Chargers are lifesavers. I brought two and it was definitely worth bringing both of them on our trip. I use them in everyday life too. Having an extra one charged up in my purse is great for times I have super low battery. I kept most of our electronic plugs and cords stored in the smallest size of the Eagle Creek Black Pack Cubes.
Onto the clothes I packed. We spent our first week in Paris and second week in Rome, but my mind was set on our cruise through Greece. Here are the clothes I packed. Most items were thin in material and I’m petite so it was relatively easy to keep everything compact to fit into my backpack. Keep in mind I had one outfit on at all times, so everything pictured below minus one outfit was what was packed in my carry-on.
The tanks and tees worked really well for warm hot weather. The ones I brought were lightweight in material so they folded up easily and didn’t take up a lot of space. I brought two casual dresses with me. In hindsight we both should have brought at least one nice outfit but we kept thinking our vacation would be a relaxing trip. Also if we needed something more formal, we could just buy something in Paris or Rome. Due to the limited luggage space we didn’t buy any clothes. We had to pass on several restaurants we wanted to go to because we didn’t have anything formal enough. In the end though we had a really good time and had lots of fun so it didn’t matter. Next time we know to pack differently.
I brought two sweaters with me and two long-sleeved tees. One tee I threw away on the trip as well because I ripped it and it was beyond saving. J.Crew makes the best long-sleeve tees I’ve tried, they have lots of colors and I like the stripe ones. One soft cardigan was packed on day trips for places I needed to have shoulders covered. In the hot summer heat there were days I would have died if I wore long-sleeves the entire day so having a light weight sweater rolled up in my purse was a lifesaver. I packed one jacket which worked well throughout the trip.
Banana Republic White Woven Moto Jacket (in-store only)
For bottoms, I could have skipped one pair of jeans (probably would have left the white ones at home). Having four pairs of shorts was definitely good for me. I packed one skirt to wear out at night with any of the tops shown above and one pair of yoga shorts to sleep in.
Miscellaneous items include three swimsuits (I could have been fine with two), 1 pair of flip flops and 1 pair of sneakers. Many asked if I thought bringing the Pumas over Nikes was a good idea. Let me first say that I usually hate sneakers. I’m a flats or sandals kind of person, but I needed a good pair of walking shoes for our trip. The Pumas worked really well – they did take 2-3 days to break in. After wearing them for 3 weeks walking hundreds of miles, I have to say that I do like them and give them a thumbs up. If I were to do it over again though, I would have brought Nike sneakers instead. In my experience they just feel a lot better.
For an everyday tote, having something with fully closed zipper at the top was essential. I didn’t have to worry about pick pockets. A simple canvas material is also non-flashy and doesn’t draw unnecessary attention. I opted for the shoulder version which worked just fine. It’s small enough to fit my petite 5’3″ frame but large enough to hold my camera, wallet, water bottle, sweater and then some. Cross-body bags might be a good option if you have a very compact camera. I found it difficult to find one suitable for all my needs so the tote was the next best thing for me.
I didn’t photograph my socks or underwear but I did bring enough for 10 days worth of wear. In our three weeks away, we did our laundry four times. Twice we hand washed items in our hotel sink. The other two times we had laundry service on our cruise ship. Ideally we could have done laundry once or twice but it was so hot there were
days we went back to our hotel to change mid-day so we went through
We made the carry-ons work. I brought one backpack and one tote. My husband brought one backpack. After our first week in Paris we decided to buy one Longchamp Expandable Tote to carry souvenirs and disperse some clothes so they weren’t all squished. It was the largest carry-on tote we could find at a relatively affordable price. The sales rep who helped us said he knew for a fact all European airlines would consider this acceptable so we bought it. I like it because you can unzip it around the middle to expand it. It comes with a large over the detatchable shoulder strap. My husband on the other hand hates it. He prefers bags that have some support, structure or decent pockets. This one is just an open nylon tote. It’s very sturdy and durable but it has no shape so you can fold it and put it away easily.
If we could go back in time and do it all over again there is not much we would change given our itinerary. We had a lot of stops and quite a few flights. I can’t tell you how relieved we were at the airport when we were able to skip lines to check and weigh bags. Most airlines have weight restrictions but as long as your bag doesn’t look heavy we found most didn’t weigh our carry ons. My backpack at the heaviest was 17.3 pounds (most weight limits were around 19-20 pounds). It was a bit challenging but it’s definitely do-able. We would have definitely packed 1-2 nicer outfits. I would have brought one nice pair of shoes. To make room for those I could have skipped a lot of the beauty or skincare items I packed. Paris has so much to offer, I could have relied on pharmacy minis for the entire trip.
Our next trip to Europe will consist of fewer destinations so we will definitely be taking regular suitcases. It was all our flights and stops that made us decide to do carry-ons only. Had we planned to stop in 2-3 places, suitcases would have been the way to go.
I hope you found this post helpful! I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to travel. I know many who travel with carry-ons only all the time and they make it work.
First up makeup breakdown. I limited myself to 1 eyeshadow palette. I usually almost always bring one of the Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palettes with me on travel because they are versatile and can be used to create a number of looks. I decided to try something new for this trip and brought the MAC Nordstrom Naturals Palette with me instead. It worked just as well to create a number of different looks – I like that there’s a good mix of matte and shimmer. If you’re limited on space – there are some good browns that can double as brow powder.
Several of you have asked about the Anya Hindmarch case that I’ve previewed on a few posts and on Instagram. I bought mine from Net-A-Porter although several have told me they’ve found it discounted at Duty Free locations while they were traveling. Based on online photos and reviews I couldn’t tell if it was one open case with two openings or if it had two compartments. It has two compartments – one is slightly deeper than the other. It’s fairly pricey for a makeup pouch but the material is very sturdy and it’s very well made.
The MustaeV Bloom Pouch comes in two sizes, small and large. I discovered the line at The Makeup Show LA earlier this year and love them. I brought the large one with me on this trip. The small one was featured in this travel post back in April. I’ve added a repost shot of the large one below to show how it stands up.
For three weeks I brought plenty to last me the entire trip. I did miss my eyeshadow palettes and lip glosses but given the heat and warm weather a good portion of the trip was makeup-free for me so it didn’t really matter. I worried that skipping concealer would be a mistake but my skin has cleared up pretty nicely in the past few months so for face coverage, tinted moisturizers and powder was enough.
In case you missed it, how I packed all my liquids in this post here (Muji containers, clear pouches, his and hers travel skincare, fragrance and body care):
What do you like to bring with you on extended trips? Do you have any packing tips or favorite carrying cases?
The MustaeV bloom pouch and easy go brush was gifted during The Makeup Show. The Afterglow highlighter was also a gift courtesy of Edward Bess.
Italy was our next stop in Europe during our June vacation. We took a quick 2 hour flight from Paris to Rome via Vueling. I’m always amazed at how easy it is travel within Europe via air. We spent four days in Rome in a hotel near the Spanish Steps. Our first day there we my husband downloaded an audio walking tour onto his phone and we set out to explore Rome on foot on our own. It was a very relaxing way to see a lot of things in Rome at our own pace. The week we visited Rome it was very hot and sunny during the day at 28 to 31 ºC (82 to 87 ºF). Three of the four days it was too hot to wear any makeup – I only wore sunscreen on my face. It rained on and off in warm showers but it was more of a light sprinkle.
Walking through Rome felt like we stepped back in time. Ruins and monuments were everywhere and it felt like the entire city was almost like an outdoor museum. Many of the buildings were going through renovations and construction and partially covered, but it was still beautiful to see everything. Most of the Trevi Fountain was covered with scaffolding and the entire area was fenced off.
Our week in Rome was planned more for adventure versus relaxation. Two of the four days were spent hiking and biking outside the city. The areas and sites we visited included the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Appian Way, Roman Forums, Trevi Fountain, Palatine Hill, and the Pantheon. We also took a day trip to Naples to visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.
It was really interesting seeing the differences in architecture in Rome after visiting Paris. There are similarities in the classic style that you see throughout the city. The streets in Rome are small and narrow. I was surprised to see that the alleys in between buildings were actually roads – I was seriously impressed to see cars and vans maneuver their way through the tiny roads without hitting motorcycles, other cars, or pedestrians. Many of the cafe tables and chairs were laid out right along the alley – cars would drive up right next to them as they went through the streets.
Beautiful colorful buildings
Some snapshots of Rome
Entry to our hotel on Via Vittoria
We used the iRooms which are more like floors rented out in apartment buildings throughout the city in different buildings. This one is the one near the Spanish Steps. We had a pleasant stay and the rooms were clean with good air conditioning. WiFi was pretty good but we were too tired each night to do any work or internet surfing. Service was excellent but I personally prefer traditional hotels. Our room was used just mainly for sleeping since we spent most of our days outside walking or touring, otherwise I would have felt better if our room had usable windows. (More reviews via TripAdvisor.)
Across the street was the cutest cafe called La Buvette. We ate breakfast here and they had the best café latte that I’ve had in my entire life. Both my husband and I enjoyed breakfast Italian style where you order a drink and pastry at the counter and eat/drink standing up. Note if you’re new to visiting Europe, an American Latte isn’t the same in Europe. If you order a “latte” in Rome, you will only get milk. Ask for a Café Latte. The ones in Rome are truly amazing. My husband enjoyed the cappuccinos.
Food in Rome was pure heaven for me as Italian food is my favorite. I could live off pasta and pizza 24/7. The Italians know how to cook pasta perfectly al dente which is firm but still fully cooked. I wish I took more pictures or note of the restaurants we visited. This pizzeria called La Montecarlo was recommended by our tour guide. She said it was the best pizza in Rome. Both my husband and I really enjoyed the food here. I would go back in a heartbeat.
My favorite place out of all the places we went to in Rome was this restaurant called Gusto. There are several variations of the restaurant all within the same block. There is a cafe for drinks and desserts, an outdoor casual cafe, an area just for pizza and a more formal dining area (although the dress isn’t formal). We ate here twice for dinner – it was that good.
My favorite place was this gelato and candy store called Venchi. I wish I had bought more candy at this store, best chocolates I’ve ever had. This was a rare moment when it wasn’t packed. It was close to our hotel room and every time we walked by there was a line out the door.
In terms of shopping, we didn’t do much. I took a few snapshots of the Valentino windows. I purchased some bath cubes from L’Occitane because I thought they were mini soaps. Oops! Zara seemed very popular – I wish I had stopped inside a few but it was so hot we were in no mood to do any clothes shopping.
For tours we booked three with City Wonders. In general we were happy with the tours. They were easy to find, tour guides were friendly, One was a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius which we both really enjoyed. We had three different guides all of which were excellent. The day we went was extremely hot but we both had a lot of fun. Pompeii was incredible. Mount Vesuvius was the highlight of the trip for my husband. I was ok climbing up the hill. It took about 45 minutes to walk to the third gift shop which is the farthest they will let you walk without a special guide. Walking down the hill was another story – to say I have a fear of heights is an understatement – my husband had to hold my hand the entire way down (yes, I’m a big chicken).
Another tour we booked was the Vatican City and Colosseum Duo. We were happy to be able to see both but given the crowds and heat, the tour guides moved us at a fast pace. The heat was unbearable, we almost gave up in the middle of one to skip it, but we stuck with it to walk through the Roman Forum. If you are planning a visit to Rome in the summer, I would recommend checking the weather patterns first before visiting. If it’s in the middle of summer, you might want to consider a night tour where it’s not as hot. St. Peter’s Basilica is amazing – we wanted to visit the catacombs but the tours were booked.
Below is St Peter’s Basilica
Last but not least is the highlight of our trip which was biking through the Appian Way with Top Bike Rentals. This was in the top two of my husband’s list and although I’m not a fan of biking I decided to try it anyways. I gave a sneak preview in my overview post but to recap, there are a number of bike tours through Rome. We both picked the E-bikes which I highly recommend – they don’t have motors but are basically assisted bikes which make it really easy to bike up hills. The tours are very well organized. We took a group tour which had about 10-12 people in it. We biked from center city Rome about 20 minutes to the Appian Way. Before you start biking everything is fitted and adjusted for you and then they take you to a small area to practice as a group. We took the Ancient Appian Way tour that takes you through the Aqueducts Park and St. Callisto Catacombs.
A few more snapshots of Rome
We both fell in love with Rome. June is the beginning of tourist season though so every place we visited was extremely busy and packed (although it was expected for the tourist spots). We considered spending another week in Venice at the end of our trip to be our vacation from our vacation but were concerned about planning too much for one trip so it’s been added to our wishlist for upcoming years.
I have my packing post coming up soon but some have asked what shoes I ended up taking with me on the trip. I had two pairs I narrowed down my picks to: these Nike Pre-Montreal shoes and these Puma Suede sneakers. Both are very comfortable – I think hands down Nike is almost always a good pick because of comfort (I usually go up 1/2 a size). Pumas are true to size for me. I brought the Pumas and it took about 2 days to break in. They do run narrow but I have really narrow feet so if yours are normal to wide you probably will want to try something different. The Pumas worked well for street walking, biking, hiking up the dirt and gravel paths and also walking on slippery cobblestone roads. I would have liked to wear prettier shoes (like nice flats) but they wouldn’t have survived in Rome. I saw a lot of women (both Italians and tourists) wearing ankle-strap sandals that looked similar in style to like these Franco Sarto, these Steve Maddens and these Sam Edelmans. I considered taking those kinds of styles with me on the trip but given the activities I planned I don’t think they would have worked for 1/2 of the things we did. If you have any shoe recommendations for travel in Europe I’m all ears for future trips.
Have you been to Rome before? Any favorites? For Italy any other favorite cities you visited and loved that I should add to my travel wishlist?
I’m beyond excited to share that I’m leaving for Paris in a few days. I will be traveling for the next month to nine different cities across Europe with my husband – this is our belated honeymoon! We both married while we were in grad school (business and law school) and started working full-time immediately after we graduated. This was nearly seven years ago (time flies!) and this year we decided it was about time we getaway from everything and take a much-needed vacation. As I’ve been packing and preparing for our trip, I have also been busy photographing and swatching as fast as I can to have reviews on new Chanel, Clarins, Dior and more. I fully intend to keep posting while I’m away from the US but I don’t know how frequently I will be able to.
Here’s a quick preview of what I’m packing. My husband has decided that we should try and fit all of our items in carry-on bags. On one hand I agree that we should be minimalists in what we pack but being a woman this has had me in a bit of panic (actually a huge one). We did a lot of research and I found this Pacsafe 32L Daypack that actually fits all my clothes I picked out for our trip: four shorts, three pairs of jeans, six tank tops, four tees, one dress, one skirt, one pair of flip flops, underwear, socks, swim gear, and my liquids bag. The remaining items will fit in a small personal bag which I think will be either the Tumi Voyageur Q-Tote (I have an older color) or this Athens Laptop Shoulder Tote (any thoughts, I have both bags, but am still undecided?).
For day trips, I searched everywhere for an affordable shoulder or crossbody bag that had a zipper but that would also be large enough for my Sony NEX-6 (camera review here). While at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills, I discovered Goyard released a new style of bag in the US (apparently it’s been available since 2014 as a special order item). It’s called the Artois and is slightly smaller than the Saint Louis PM which I have in grey, orange and black (but it’s an open-tote). The Artois comes with a thicker canvas, has some leather detail at the bottom for more structure and most importantly a zipper at the top. Unfortunately you can only purchase this as a special order item and it takes around 5 business days to order so I wouldn’t receive it in time for my trip. I will try to find this one in Paris instead, and I hope the turnaround is faster (more on this style via Goyard threads at The Purse Forum).
After more searching, I decided the Longchamp Small Shoulder Tote would work perfectly. I picked one up from Nordstrom, all the colors were so pretty but black seemed like it would be the most versatile. I like how they fold up so I can fit in my carry-on easily while I’m flying. As a quick update to this post, since many have commented on shoes, I’m bringing along these suede sneakers or these ones from Puma both which are super comfy. I’ll buy flats while in Paris.
I have my packing 90% complete. I’m still in the process of editing my packing contents. I’m leaving behind my hairdryer and straighteners, one of my first stops in Paris will be Sephora to pick up those items.
If you have any travel tips or advice would be greatly appreciated! I’ll be sharing more about the cities we will be visiting over the next month. I will say now we will be staying in Paris and Rome for several days each city – I have a list of places I want to see and visit as this will be my first time visiting those areas. If you have any recommendations of must-see places, shops or museums, I’m all ears!