Travel Hacks

Carry On Packing Guide For Europe

Katie Chapman
January 16, 2024

Whether you're packing for your first or tenth trip to Europe, you are probably super excited to disconnect and immerse yourself in a new culture.  

Packing the essentials in your carry on can be key to enjoying your vacation, reducing unexpected costs and unnecessary stress during the trip. 

Not sure where to start? 

Here's a guide you can use to make sure you have the European vacation of a lifetime with only a carry on bag.

European Vacation Packing Tips

A few tips before we get started: 

1. Choose the Right Bag

A well-stocked carry on bag is a great first step in the packing process.

A lightweight durable backpack makes a perfect carry on bag. Keep in mind you may not want to push the limits of the carry on bag size if you plan on using the bag for daily touring on vacation. 

My pick is the Osprey daypack; it is roomy enough to carry the essentials on flights and small enough to explore cities without looking too touristy.


2. Use Packing Pouches

Separating items in different colored packing pouches or makeup bags is a great way to maintain organization in a stuffed bag. Group the pouches by content type, so you can always find what you need without searching.

Note: I'd highly recommend using these in any checked luggage as well!

Carry On Packing Guide: Must Haves 


Ok, after you've nailed the first two tips, here's what i'd suggest you put in your carry on.


Be sure to pack any medications or other must have items like contact lenses and glasses in your carry on. In the event that your checked luggage is lost, you can still enjoy your vacation!  

A pouch of over the counter medication is a great option to save money and time if you end up needing it during your vacation. A recommendation of must have over the counter medicines to pack is on the packing list below.


Do not take the chance that your camera could be lost or broken in your luggage. Pack your camera, battery charger and memory cards in your carry on bag. Cushion electronics with a rain jacket, scarf or soft makeup bag to avoid damage and skip the space hogging camera-packing cube.

Foldable Rain Jacket

A foldable rain jacket does double duty as a must have vacation clothing item and a blanket on a chilly plane. Find a lightweight rain jacket that folds into a pouch for easy stowing. I am a big fan of Land’s End foldable rain jackets.

Change of Clothes

Include a lightweight change of clothes in your carry on. A change of clothes after a long flight will help you feel fresh and ready to take on the day when you arrive in Europe. On the off chance that your luggage is lost, the change of clothes will be a lifesaver.

Power Adapter

Pack your outlet power convertor or adapter in your carry on for any charging needs in the airport after arrival. You can find adapters on Amazon for a great price depending on the design you need.

Laptop or Tablet

If you are bringing a laptop or tablet, be sure to toss it in your carry on bag to avoid airline damage and ensure easy access for tracking details to flight changes, accessing city maps or reading on the flight. Snag a carry on bag or backpack that has a laptop sleeve included in the design so you can securely transport your electronics.

External Battery

External battery packs are a lifesaver.  Seek out lightweight battery packs that can charge a laptop or cell phone and load them with a charge prior to leaving home. Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, and Amazon have external battery options that vary in price, charge capacity and size.

Sleep Aids

No doubt, you will be so excited that it will be tough to sleep on your flight, still pack sleep aids to try to get some shuteye on the flight. A memory foam neck pillow, earplugs, and an eye mask are my must have flight sleeping essentials.  

If you choose to pop a sleep aid like melatonin or dream water to aid in flight rest, be sure you know how your body reacts. Try out the sleep aid at home first to make sure you do not wake up groggy and confused.

Carry On Packing Guide: The Checklist


Over the Counter Medicine Bag

Pain Relief
Antibiotic Cream
Cough Drops
Allergy Medicine

Young Living Essential Oils
Thieves (for an immune boost)
DiGize (for stomach problems)
Lavender (skin irritation)

Makeup Bag

Lip Balm
Ear Plugs
Mouth Wash
Face Cleansing Wipes
Daily Contact Lenses for Entire Trip

Other Items

Camera (Battery Pack, Charger & Memory Cards)
Antibacterial Wipes
External Battery Packs
Foldable Rain Jacket
Memory Foam Pillow
Eye Mask
Power Adapter

Even if your checked luggage doesn't make it to Europe with you, this list should help ensure that you still enjoy your vacation no matter what!

This is the list I used specificially for my last trip to Europe, but of course you can apply it to your next trip regardless of the destination.

I hope this carry on packing guide is as helpful for you as it has been for me. Happy travels!

Katie Chapman
Katie loves traveling the world with her husband and finding the best travel deals to travel on a small budget. Stateside vacation favorites are visits to Walt Disney World with the whole family. When work life brings her home, Katie enjoys spoiling her pug dog daughter Peach, couponing to save for the next international adventure, reading and studying. A PhD student researching disability inclusion in higher education; Katie is passionate about disability rights, inclusion, and women’s issues and enjoys learning through travel how other countries around the globe approach diversity and inclusion issues.


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