MINIMALIST PACKING: 3 Weeks in Europe with a carry-on


I recently shared how I pack a small backpack for weekend trips here. Today I want to show an example of how I pack for longer trips (several weeks/months) with a carry-on suitcase.


Sometimes my friends ask me what sort of bag they should take for their first backpacking trip to Europe. While most people seem to be carrying around a huge hiking backpack wherever they go, the rolling carry-on is my bag of choice. It takes all the weight off your back, which is important if you are prone to backaches. Furthermore, with four durable wheels it can be pushed or dragged relatively easily, even on cobblestone streets. This means you are less likely to become a hot (sweaty) mess.

It is also A LOT easier to open and keep organized. Clothing is less likely to wrinkle. It also looks more chic. Let’s be honest, if you aren’t hiking or going off road you don’t need a trekking backpack. Perhaps people just want to look adventurous? However, it isn’t practical in my opinion. Nor is the bag very versatile for other types of travel. You certainly wouldn’t be using it on a business trip for good reason.


With a carryon, I love to use packing cubes. When I arrive at a destination they are easy to unpack and I don’t have to actually live out of a suitcase. Since everything stays in its cube, I am not fully unpacking either. It is great if you are hopping around from place to place. You also won’t be able to pack as much stuff if you use packing cubes, so it helps to put some physical boundaries on how much you can jam into your case.


As for what to pack, I encourage you to think about what you will actually need, not what society says you will need. Think about things you can purchase when you arrive to your destination instead of packing things “just in case.” Everything you pack is extra weight that you have to drag (or carry) around. In that sense you don’t want to burden yourself with items you don’t even know if you will be using.

On this trip I was heading home to England for Christmas and then to Barcelona for a short visit. As we were bringing Christmas pressies, I checked them separately in a cardboard box which I could recycle at my destination. I also brought a thin canvas bag just in case there were any presents I wanted to take back to Japan or anything I wanted to buy while I was traveling.

Check out the full contents of what I packed in the video below:


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