When we were planning our European adventures, a lot of talk and phone calls went into what we were bringing in our one carry on suitcase that was coming along on the journey. Let me preface this post by telling y’all that I am one of the worst packers in all of the land. Most of my suitcases only shut when I am sitting on them, I have even had one arrive home on the carousel duct taped shut, and I used to pack a full suitcase for a four day getaway, so when I tell you about packing only a carry on for ten days across the pond, these tips saved my life (and my luggage.) For a girl who lives (and I mean lives in yoga pants) it was imperative to bring a mix of casual and comfy, cute and chic. (Don’t worry, I still snuck a pair of Dear Kates yoga pants along for the hike and days on the train!)
I searched Pinterest high and low for tips and found some sound nuggets of wisdom that I have put to the test this last week and I have to tell you, I am confident that I can now pack only a carry on for my travels from here on out (remind me of this when I plan our next tropical escape.) Packing only a carry on has been one of the smartest things I’ve done in this life (beyond marrying Drew) because every few days we are hauling our belongings along the rough terrain of the cobblestone streets and hoisting them up into the train. I can’t imagine wheeling a full sized suitcase (and can only imagine how silly I would look!) While I certainly had my doubts about this whole carry-on endeavor, I am happy to say that I feel as though I have mastered the art of packing and re-packing and have only had to sit on my suitcase just once!
1.) Stick to a neutral color palette. For a girl with a closet that is busting at the seams, my intuition told me to grab everything bright and fun and floral and throw it all in my bag and figure it out when I arrived but what I quickly learned was that if I was going to fit everything in my tiny little suitcase, I had to stick to one color palette of clothes that could by mixed and matched into countless combinations. My entire wardrobe for Europe was: gray, white, black, and navy… sounds boring, but truth be told, I kind of felt chic. Each piece packed could be paired with at least three others, that was the name of the game. I packed a little bag with jewelry that has made my plain colors feel more sophisticated and each night I pile on a few pieces of jewelry that add to the fun of a simple color combo. Accessories are way easier to pack than five more articles of clothing (trust me, I tried)
2.) Shoes, shoes, not another pair of shoes. Shoes were the hardest thing for me to determine. I changed my mind all the way up to the airport in Milwaukee. What I ended up with were: my favorite Asics sneakers that are comfortable enough to hike the cliffs of Italy, but cute enough to wear with a skirt, a brown leather pair of Pons (adorable, modern, comfortable,) and a black strappy pair of cheap sandals from Target, I have yet to even wear those and have thought about leaving them behind one too many times. I added a pair of Italian leather sandals that were cute, comfortable, and only 15 Euro. Watching everyone navigate life as a tourist has taught me to be comfortable, don’t worry about showing off your pedicure, and you’ll look silly in shoes you can’t walk in. Listen when I say, leave the heels behind and stick to comfort, the cobblestone streets weren’t made for your stilletos, darling.
3.) Narrow down your electronics and toiletries as much as possible. I am typing this on my Macbook on a train to Paris but this one was hard for me. While this was a vacation, I still needed to stay on top of work. I managed to carry everything I needed in my Duluth Pack backpack and narrowed it down to the essentials: my iPhone, Kindle, iPod, laptop, and camera. I brought only the necessary chargers and all of these items live in my backpack while in transit. My computer has come in handy because we’ve also used it as a port to charge electronics, connect with our airbnb hosts, and help me get some pretty pictures edited on our longer train rides! I brought a hair straightener that hasn’t seen daylight yet (oops) and I pared down my cosmetics to a smaller bag of essentials! All of my travel sized shampoos and toothpastes will be left behind to lighten my trip home.
4.) Comfort Chic, that’s the name of the game. I was really worried about not looking like a tourist until I came to my senses and realized I am just that. My first day in Rome alone, I wandered the streets in my Dear Kate yoga pants, a cropped tee shirt and a light coat and I realized that I didn’t care if I looked like the other tourists (as if the blonde hair and camera didn’t already give it away!) Of course I have tried to dress up each day and actually put on some make up but choose clothes that you can walk five miles in and pieces that you can layer as the nights cool down. My Bella Luxx pants have been a staple for the long train rides and my leather coat has been a layering savior for the dinners on the terrace. Don’t worry too much, traveling isn’t a beauty contest and as long as you feel good, you’ll look good!
5.) Packing cubes, I could kiss my dang packing cubes. I picked up this tip on Pinterest and within two minutes I had a set of packing cubes being shipped to my place. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but when they arrived I was underwhelmed (little did I know, these things were God’s give to carry on travel!) These mess bags help you organize your clothes, make your suitcase more compact and organized, and make packing up every few days a heck of a lot easier. I was proud to open my suitcase for TSA to remove my liquids because my panties weren’t falling out and I looked like an adult. Make sure every single item you plan to bring (including your plane clothes) fits in your suitcase before leaving, chances are you won’t want to wear five layers on your long walks to the train station! If you plan to do any shopping, also have a plan of attack there or you might be starting a new fashion trend called “wearing everything I bought in Europe on the plan home because I have no more room in my luggage.” Packing cubes make my carry on look like a sophisticated game of Tetris and have become $30 well spent!
My 6 favorite packing finds: