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Tips for bringing just a carry on for 2 weeks in Europe

I am one of those girls who packs my suitcase until it is bursting at the seams.
For an overnight trip to L.A. - and for something like 3 days at High Point Market.
I like to have options folks.  I never know What I might want to wear. And don't get me started on shoes...

So when thinking about packing for Europe for 2 weeks... well, I was sure I would need a checked bag and a carry on.

But, I also knew we would be moving quite a bit to new areas, riding trains and planes and going up and down A LOT of stairs where we were staying.
(remember the 850 stairs to the village in Roquebrune? )
So the week before we left- I decided to forget the checked bag and go with just a carry on.

My husbands friends at work laughed at him when he told them what we were doing- and one of them said that I would need a carry on for just my shoes.
 Yeah, I proved him wrong.

I got everything for 2 weeks in the carry on size luggage- with 3 pairs of shoes and with extra room.

And today, I am sharing what I packed and why I knew that the small luggage would work, what shoes I knew would be good for walking miles every day.

Number one

If I was to be honest with myself- I really wear the same things all.the.time. I don't have a huge wardrobe full of pretty clothes- I have a curated selection of clothes that I love and wear.
I am not a huge clotheshorse. I am most definitely an antique chair and fresh flower horse though.
The jeans in my closet?
I have several pairs of the same size and brand jeans- and I wear them all.
The dresses for date night and the opera?
Just a few select options.
I have a basic capsule wardrobe of classics- denim, black, white, blush and a few wild hairs that I love like cobalt blue, coral and lime green. I know- so random.
I do have a few that I wear so little they stay mostly because I just like to look at them- I will be honest- but the others- I rotate and wear all the time unless they are glittery heels for a formal occasion.

So, when I thought about what I usually bring- to NYC or High Point for example-where I go wrong when packing light is that I bring a lot of options. That suitcase is chock full with jackets, blazers, shirts, etc. And I literally usually wear just 3 different shirts, pants and 2 pairs of shoes for the 3 days I am there.  So right there, I could whittle down my selections knowing what I usually wear.

Number 2

We were staying in apartments all except one night in a hotel in Europe.
We wanted to be in a home like locals would be - rather than a room- and more space than just a hotel. Plus we wanted in room amenities- like a kitchen for cooking and a washing machine for doing laundry.

So, though I packed enough unmentionables and socks just in case we ran into a washing machine issue- we did laundry every couple of days in our apartments to keep things clean and ready to wear again.

So What did I pack?

Believe it or not- even with all the thought and curating ahead of time,  I actually packed things I didn't wear. haha.  Seriously!  But- it wasn't my fault.
The weather was unseasonably cold and rainy in Paris- we even had hail one day while out wandering. So, those cute sundresses and denim jacket pairings stayed in the suitcase and I wore my jeans and winter coat (that I literally brought at the last minute) more often.

Here is what I brought:


4 tank tops (I wear them to bed and under everything)
2 dressy casual shirts
2 denim button shirts
1 sweater
Light rain parka
Denim jacket
Winter jacket


1 pair of jeans
1 pair of black pants
1 pair of capris
1 pair of shorts
2 sundresses


1 pair of tennis shoes
1 pair of comfort boots
1 pair of flip flops

Side note: I wear flip flops while inside the apartments/hotels and while taking a shower when traveling, etc. Call me crazy,  but growing up - I was on a swim team and I learned a long time ago about walking bare foot where a lot of people are walking and the reasons you should not to do it.
So they are always in my suitcase.

I wore some of the heavier items like my jeans, boots and my winter coat on the plane.
I am always chilled it seems- so the winter coat was a no brainer- but I originally didn't plan to bring it. I was told I wouldn't  need it in May- but the more I looked at the weather, the more I decided to leave the lighter coat at home and bring it

AND- I wore it at least half of the time we were in Europe.  It is also a coat that could be dressed up if we decided to go to a nice restaurant.

All of the things I brought were interchangeable. The shirts went with each pair of pants, the denim coat with dresses, pants, shorts - and my 2 pairs of shoes worked with everything as well.
And guess what- my suitcase had extra room even with all of those things in it. Which is crazy. No sitting on it to get it to close over here.


This was a big one. My husband would tell you that I tend to wear pretty shoes that hurt my feet- because they look good. I would agree I am guilty of that.
But I also knew we planned to walk and explore every day- and there was going to be a lot of stairs in two of the villages we were staying in.

and so I researched a few good looking and good functioning options and came up with running shoes

and a pair of comfort boots. 
I used to wear Teva Sandals when I was in high school- we wore them in the river or when camping -hiking rocks, etc.  but I haven't worn them in years. 
But when I saw these Teva Foxy booties - I decided to give them a try. 
And let me tell you- these boots were a game changer. 

They actually were more comfortable to wear everywhere than my tennis shoes.
They have a 2" heel which isn't crazy but makes you feel a bit more put together- and they are perfect with shorts, jeans, black pants, dresses- you name it.
I wore them constantly - they were perfect for navigating all those charming cobblestones  I might have bought these as a second pair already.

Packing into a 20" suitcase

My husband was in the military and showed me years ago about rolling clothes to have more room. So rolled up and tucked neatly to create as much room as possible.
Plus this is my Favorite suitcase. Aside from it being gorgeous gold metallic (it looks more pink here but it is the gold)  it has a TON of space and is sturdy- I take it everywhere.

I wore the heavier bulkier items on the plane and tucked anything extra in my carryall bag.

What else did I bring?
My curling iron
1 small bag of makeup (girly girl- but don't use a ton of makeup)
and 1 small bag of liquids.
Sanitizer / wipes (germaphobe here)


I brought my LV Neverfull GM- as my personal bag on the plane.
I have carried this for travel for work for several years now and it tucks right underneath the seat in front even if it is filled to the top.
It held my computer, cords, adapters and neck pillow etc.

The only places we ran into an issue at the airports 

London and Paris.

In London- it was actually hilarious. They were so nice and so funny - my husband and I were both pulled aside and our luggage searched- but not for doing anything wrong - other than having too many liquids.

 The TSA agent was so funny and I laughed and laughed when he looked at me and loudly asked 'What have you done!?!'
I replied 'uhhh, probably a whole lot of things! '

Thankfully, I did okay- it was just my baggie of liquids- when he picked it up he cringed and said
 'My God- this baggie is Massive!!'

I had no problem in the U.S with the liquids- but I had to whittle down what they let us have in the US to about 2/3rds-  and my husband had just 1 bottle of shampoo too much after they helped us to cram all the others into those tiny bags. So- lesson there- pack liquids even lighter in Europe as their  allowance is even smaller than here.

Read more about our stop and where to stay in London Here

In Paris- our bags were small enough- but they did weigh them on the way the back.
Oh yes... and heavy they were.

Thankfully, we had already paid for seating on the plane that included a checked bag at no charge- Which is another tip to do ahead of time- because otherwise it would have been an extra couple hundred dollars at the airport to check the bags.
Read more about Paris and where to stay for this view from your apartment Here 
And read about our travels in Cinque Terre, Italy,
Roquebrune, France and Avignon, France 

Honestly, after cutting my wardrobe back and being honest about what I do wear when traveling- I think my suitcase will be feeling a bit light again for my next trip.

Stay tuned for more about Paris, a recap of favorites and Must do, see, eat , etc. and the best tips for saving costs when traveling.

Happy July 1st everyone.

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  1. Thanks for these tips on packing they are really appreciated. I am the worlds worst packer. I need to learn how to properly roll the items.
    Love the shoes too. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Rolling things is a game changer. You can fit so much more than folding them! And the boots will be going with me to High Point and anywhere from now on- so comfortable.

  2. When Tim & I went to China,I took a small suitcase but also had to pack my Cpap machine so not easy to travel light. I always wear either shower slippers or socks in the shower

    1. Yes- I always wear in the showers too- and also just when wandering around the house/hotel. I am weird that way! haha. It isn't always easy to pack light of course -I was just so surprised at how little of what I packed that I actually wore when traveling.

  3. Replies
    1. I brought my Canon 6d with me -I was shooting some photos for print so wanted the big camera with me. My husband carried it as well as a small travel tripod in his bag. :)

  4. An absolute pleasure to travel light. One can always buy something if you really need it. We behave as if we were going into a shopless vacuum

    1. Exactly! For some reason we think we have to bring alllll the stuff in case we need it- but literally could pick up anything. Like that bag of toiletries. I should have just purchased over there rather than bring 257 little bottles of shampoo with me haha. :)

  5. I could do this with no problem, My husband ain't happening!! He will pack 5 pair of shorts for a week at the coast and 7 shirts and when we get there he will only wear maybe 2 of the ones he packed. But if I say anything he comes back with, well I thought I might need them. He is the world's worst packer. Even when we stay some place with a washer and dryer he still way over-packs. Absolutely love the tips and tricks and the pictures !!! I will keep trying to get him to leave things home!

  6. I appreciate your fun yet very informative post, Courtney! I try, but Always find I don't use half what I bring on trips. Will refer to your list and will check out the suggested luggage. Thanks for your experienced info! =)

  7. We did the same thing when we went for a month. Read up on Rick Steves travel guide tips...thought "Can we really do this?"...and sooo glad we did it with a carry on. Steves' motto is There are those who pack light and those who wish they did.😊

  8. Thank you for the packing tips! I do the same thing in that I wear all the same things all the time. Why do I even have so many clothes?? Ha! Now that all our household things are out of storage, I have all my shoes. ;)

    Happy summer to you and your hubby! Looking forward to reading your last posts about your trip to France and Italy,

    Summer hugs,
    Barb :)

  9. Thanks for the great tips.i have found that rolling clothes is the most efficient way to pack. And the clothes tend to get less wrinkles.