Packing For a Summer in Europe (In a Carry on!)

I bet you’re tirelessly planning your summer trip to Europe now and feeling a bit overwhelmed planning your itinerary trying to pick the things you want to do (because there is SO much do here that choosing is kind of impossible).

With that said, I thought I’d jump in to make your life a little bit easier by compiling a packing list for you so you can spend the time doing what really matters: actually planning your adventure in Europe!

Did I mention it’s a carry-on only packing list? I’ll show you how I pack for most of my trips, including tricks on how you can take EVERYTHING you need to pack for a summer in Europe in just a carry-on.

The Benefits of Packing Carry-On

I love being a carry-on packer when I travel in Europe and I don’t really intend on going back. Here’s why:

Budget airlines in Europe charge for checked luggage.

It can be really cheap to get around in Europe using budget airlines. It’s nothing luxurious, but it gets you there with enough comfort. I once scored a return ticket from Germany to Morocco for $25 (both ways), and several out of London to Eastern Europe for like, $30.

It sounds too good to be true, and that’s because it is.

The way budget airlines make money is by charging for extras, and that includes checked luggage. By packing a carry-on, you avoid these fees and you’ll get to your next destination for almost nothing.

No lost luggage.

Airlines lose stuff, and that could be your checked luggage. If you pack carry-on only, you can rest assured that all your stuff is safe with you.

You’ll save money and avoid headaches.

Traveling with little luggage means being able to take public transport to the airport/train station instead of sticking to expensive taxis. Carrying huge luggage equals getting dragged down by the weight.

For this reason, lightweight hard-shell suitcases are perfect for those who are looking to save on space and weight when packing for a trip.

These types of suitcases are constructed from light materials that make them easy to carry without adding unnecessary bulk or weight.

Additionally, they have smaller dimensions than traditional suitcases, making them ideal for travelers who need to conserve space in their luggage.

And because they are less likely to suffer from wear and tear, hard shell suitcases can often be used for multiple trips before they need to be replaced.

This carry-on packing list for Europe in summer works for short and long trips!

I can’t stress enough that carry-on packing is possible regardless of the length of your trip.

I’ve traveled for three years using just a carry-on and honestly? I never lacked anything. Packing for a one-week trip should be the same than for longer trips, because:

1) If you forget something, you can buy it anywhere

2) You can wash your clothes (I recently wrote a post with six ways to do laundry while traveling if you want to check that out!)

My mantra is that dressing for travel should be the same as dressing at home. You don’t wear a different outfit every day of your life, do you?

Nope. You probably repeat outfits or mix and match items. The same habit should be applied while traveling.

Here’s my carry-on packing list for Europe in Summer:

Clothes + Accessories

  • 7 undies
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 3-4 bras
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 1-2 pants
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 2 skirts/shorts
  • 2-3 dresses
  • 1 cardigan
  • 2-3 bikinis
  • 1 pair of sandals (preferably nude so they match with everything)
  • 1 pair of sneakers. Wear them on the plane so they don’t take up space in your luggage. There are so many cobblestone streets in Europe that heels are just a waste of time and energy. I always bring white sneakers like these Nike because they are always trendy and go with any outfit (even dresses).
  • 1 pair of nice shoes (optional). I don’t usually bring fancy shoes when I travel, but in Europe, there is a bit more pressure to dress nicely. For nights out, I like packing either flats or a pair of chic ankle boots with a small heel.
  • 1-2 pashminas. I like pashminas because they have so many uses and take up almost no space. They are a great accessory to add a bit of style to your outfits. They can also be used to cover your arms if the weather gets a bit chilly or in case you want to enter a church. Aside from that, they can act as pillows for plane/train/bus journeys.
  • 1 purse (optional)
  • Flip flops. These are useful for hostel showers or questionable hotels. I love the Sidekicks Foldable Flip Flops because they are foldable and they don’t take up much space in my luggage. They aren’t meant for walking long distances, but they are perfect for showering at hostels.
  • Day bag. A day bag is a small backpack or larger purse you can use to go out and about exploring, or simply to put your most important stuff in when traveling. A great option is something like this one.
  • Extra: If you are headed to countries in the north, I recommend adding to your list two long-sleeve shirts and a light jacket. The problem with packing for northern Europe is that the weather is super unpredictable. I’ve spent summers in Germany where the weather reached 38 C (100 F) and the next summer, it got a bit chilly. In such a case, layers are the key.

Tips for choosing the right clothing items to pack for Europe:

Traveling with small amounts of clothes doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. The key idea to keep in mind while packing is to go for neutral colors that you can mix and match.

The number of outfits you can come up with this technique will really surprise you!

Here’s a visual of how I do it. All of these things easily fit in my carry on and even leave me with space for extras like a few colorful dresses when I want to spice things up.

Capsule packing for Europe in a carry on.

I didn’t even exhaust the options for outfits here, but I think this acts as a pretty good representation of what I mean.

Basically, just dress like you would at home by mixing and matching items and you’re good to go.


I’m a minimalist when packing toiletries because Europe has supermarkets and you can find everything here.

  • Travel-sized shampoo or dry shampoo.
  • Travel-sized conditioner
  • Travel-sized toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Hand-sanitizer

Pro tip #1: If you are very particular about shampoo or conditioner that you know is not available in Europe, get this set of travel bottles and fill them with your shampoo or conditioner of choice.

This will ensure that they don’t get thrown away at the airport as you are only allowed to fly with liquid bottles that are less than 100ml for security reasons.

Pro tip #2: Don’t bother bringing a big toiletry bag if you’re flying between European countries. By law, liquids have to go into ziplock bags when they go through the security scanner at airports.

It’s honestly super annoying having to take your liquids out of your toiletry bag and into a ziplock, so I just use ziplock bags as my toiletry bag during the entire trip.

Not fashionable at all, but who cares, really? You can also get these TSA approved bags for toiletries in case you don’t want to sacrifice style.

Makeup + Hair

I usually carry a small neutral eyeshadow palette (browns), eyeliner, mascara, eyelash curler, and concealer with sun protection.

To be completely honest with you, I rarely wear makeup and even less so when I travel. Still, I like to have the option to pep myself up at times. A little mascara and eyeliner can go a long way!

  • Small hairbrush
  • Bobby pins for quick hair-dos
  • Hair ties. Europe in the summer can get hot, and if your hair is long like mine, having it down all the time will get annoying due to the heat.


  • Phone + charger
  • Universal travel adaptor. Most of Europe uses a Type C plug, so you’ll need an adapter. In the UK, they use a type G. I recommend getting a universal travel adapter like this one (it will work everywhere in Europe, including England).
  • Headphones
  • Portable charger so you can charge your phone on the go and never run out of battery, I’ve always used this one from Anker.

I’m also currently obsessed with this phone-charging passport holder by Lovie Style.

  • Kindle (optional)
  • Camera + accessories (optional)
  • Laptop (optional). I carry my laptop everywhere I go because I work while I travel.

Useful extras

  • Travel towel. I’m a new fan of travel towels because they are honestly SO handy. I used to bring a regular towel on my trips and it was super annoying because it took up a lot of space and it always takes ages for them to dry. Nowadays, I never travel without my Travel Towel by Youphoria. It’s antibacterial, super light to carry, takes very little space in my luggage, and dries very quickly.
  • A book (if you don’t have a Kindle). There are many places in Europe to exchange books, so you’ll never have to go without.
  • Pen (always useful)
  • Water bottle. In most of Europe, it’s safe to drink from the tap. To avoid spending a good chunk of your budget on buying water bottles, bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill as you go.
  • Travel-sized umbrella and/or poncho. It can rain, and an umbrella like this one is always a good idea to bring along.
  • Packing cubes. They’ll save you tons of space because they compress air and they’re also a great way to stay organized. I love this set of packing cubes. I always use one cube for one item. Pants + skirts go into one cube, tops into another, and undies + socks into the third one. In this way, I can unpack easily and I always know where to find my things. I’m not usually a very organized person, but using packing cubes really kind of changed my travel life.

What goes into my day bag and what goes into my carry on?

Day bag

  • Laptop
  • Camera
  • Phone + Charger
  • 1 pair of fresh socks (so I can change them on the plane)
  • Pen
  • Book or Kindle
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Toothpaste + toothbrush
  • Headphones or earphones
  • Passport + important documents
  • My travel towel (sometimes). Sometimes I put my travel towel into my day bag because it can double as a blanket.

What I carry on me

  • Cardigan or light sweater. It usually gets cold in airplanes and buses, so this is my #1 packing essential. If it doesn’t get cold, it can double as a pillow.
  • Leggings + Shirt
  • Sneakers. They’re comfortable to wear or planes and trains. Plus they tend to take a lot of space in my luggage, so I always wear them instead of the less space-consuming ones.

Carry on luggage

Everything else on the list.

Travel Insurance For Europe

Make sure your travel insurance covers all the countries you plan on visiting as well as the activities you plan on undertaking. Some insurances won’t cover you if something happens while hiking or doing other adventure activities, so read your insurance terms carefully.

If you don’t have insurance yet, or the one you have won’t cover all your needs, I highly recommend getting yours through Safety Wing. It’s insurance designed by travelers and it’s super flexible and cheap (prices start at only $45 a month).

Top Europe tours


  1. After scrolling to a lot of articles about packing I finally found that actually will help me. Thank you so much for the usefully written article.

  2. Thanks Ariana! Europe in September is probably my favorite thing! Lower prices, decent weather, and not too many people… you’ll love it!

  3. I agree with your grandmother ?? We ve traveled a few times now, and we always seem to bring more than we can carry. This trip is different!

  4. In your cover photo there is 11 items on the top but you use 12 items in the outfits. You left out the blue skirt.

  5. *facepalm*. Thanks for pointing that out! I’m traveling now but will fix the graphic next week 🙂

  6. Great article! You actually show clothes that most people could/would wear.

    Please note that a couple of your outfits are “repeats” but we get the jist.

  7. Thank you!!!! This article is fantastic!!! We are traveling to Italy in Sept and I now have a solid plan to pack my very small carryon.

  8. Hi! I will be traveling to Europe this summer and was wondering if you recommend a certain type of carryon bag?

  9. I’m sure this article is great, but I always find it weird how so many non-Europeans talk about Europe like it’s one country. People who actually live in Europe don’t feel like they are Europeans first. They feel their Nationality, like German, or Spanish or Italian or Dutch or French, etc. We don’t even speak the same language, we don’t have the same lifestyle, we don’t have the same food, and summer in Europe is different in all countries as well. It would be like us saying, “We’re going to America” Then everyone would ask, “Where exactly?” Because all states are so different and we could even mean somewhere in North or South America. So why is that? Why do you keep lumping all our very difderent countries together in just one ‘Europe’? I’m curious.

  10. Ha! I agree with you – same thing happens to me when people think of visiting Mexico (my country). I’m aware it’s a continent made up of many different countries – the reason for naming it Europe is that this packing guide is aimed at someone going on a backpacking trip across the continent and visiting several countries (imagine my title would be “packing guide for Germany, France, Norway, +,+,+,+. That’d be terrible for SEO purposes, hehe).

    I think if you read the full list, you’ll see I give several recs for different regions/countries. I do have country-specific packing lists as well, in case you’re on the lookout! 😛

  11. There’s absolutely no way that all of this fit in one carry on! If you made it fit, it would be so helpful to show that.

  12. I’d like to see a picture, too! I’m traveling to Europe (Med) in late August and with current chaotic travel conditions, I’m considering just using a carryon.

    But I’m skeptical that everything you list will really fit! Please prove me wrong!!!

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