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How to Pack for a Month in a Carry-On 

Get all the carry-on packing details for a month trip in Europe from raincoats, what layers and shirt to pack. Here are my best tips and advice on how to prepare it and pack it under 9 kg with the lightest carry-on luggage.  A frequent topic of inquiry is how do I manage packing for a month in a carry-on only. I don’t proclaim to be an expert at the carry-on travel style but I ‘ve gotten much better at lightening my load.

I expected packing for a month in Europe in a carry on only for a 2-week self-drive in Ireland followed by a 14 road trip in Scotland to be an impossible feat but I managed with great success. Read more to find out how to pack light and our top packing tips so you too can travel carry-on only.

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When you a  preparing for a trip that is more than 1 week long, many considerations go into packing for a month in a carry-on. The top ones are the weather and type of activities. What is the weather going to be like?  Will it rain a lot or mostly hot and sunny?  Any formal business to attend? Will you be exploring the countryside by car or plan to do a lot of hiking? Then all of these outfits have to fit in an approved airline carry-on luggage.  

These packing tips solve these issue of maximizing space and efficiency. All of them can be modified to suit your style and needs, just remember the key how to pack light starts with smart planning.

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Why Travel Carry-on Luggage Only

Travelling carry-on only has so many advantages. On top of not having to worry if your checked luggage made it through your airport connections, you can hit the ground running, so to speak, when you arrive at the destination. No need to wait for your bags at the carousel, hoping nothing got crushed inside or stolen. 

Travelling in Europe with a carry-on only has loads of benefits. The first major benefit is weight. Since you’ll do a lot more walking than you can expect to with your luggage, travelling light is a huge one..no pun intended. Second is manoeuvrability. Public transport areas like train stations and subways are very crowded making your lightweight carry-on luggage much easier to move around.

Add to these elements cobblestone streets to navigate, charming old hotels without elevators and possibly getting a little lost along the way (happens to me every time) going carry-on only will quickly sink in as the smart and budget-friendly travel option. 

Selecting the Best Lightweight Carry On Luggage

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When choosing your carry-on you will want to verify airline requirements and compliance, especially for budget European airlines which are very strict on carry-on luggage weight allowance with limitations often being between 8 and 10 kg. Note that most wheeled carry-on ranged from 4 kg to 6 kg not leaving much ‘’room’’ for our own gear! 

For that reason, I opted for the best lightweight carry on luggage the Samsonite B-Lite.

Furthermore, in order to choose the lightest carry on luggage, I strongly recommend opting for a 2 wheel upright model instead of a 4 wheel spinner model. The main reason is that the actual wheel system for spinners take up precious space inside the luggage and secondly their wheels aren’t as though to endure cobblestone streets or uneven terrain of European streets. 

Samsonite Lite Carry On

You could select a backpack or duffel bag for your second cabin luggage but I have a Pacsafe Venture 25L backpack for my laptop, Ipad and electronics which counts for the admissible personal bag on budget airlines and I adore it. It’s by far the smartest investment I’ve made for travel gear.  If you want peace of mind that your gear is safe and well protected, I can’t recommend them enough.  And since airlines let you bring on board 1 cabin luggage, wheeled or not, with an additional small personal bag, this backpack will do, even on Ryanair!

Keep in mind that size and weight restrictions on hand luggage vary between airlines. So if you’re unsure if your handbag or laptop case counts as extra and how big is too big, check this great Cabin Baggage Guide from Skyscanner here.

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Planning outfits: 

Going to a hot tropical climate makes this step a breeze. Swimwear, flip-flops and toothbrush and you’re good to go. But if travelling to an uncertain climate zone such as Northern Europe and the UK, you need to plan for rain and wind. No one wants to be cold and miserable so keeping warm is always a top priority but looking smart is also primordial.  

Here are a few pointers to plan your outfits

  •  Choose dark colours, they require less maintenance and stay cleaner longer 

  • Pick neutrals such as grays, browns with accent colours. Rule of thumb each item of clothing should be able to coordinate with every other one in the bag. 

  • Only bring things you are willing to wear multiple times. Plain pieces that can be dressed up or down are a great option.

  • Build layers: instead of bringing that big cuddly sweater your grandma knitted for you, think of building layers. Leggings under pants, camisoles under tees topped with a long-sleeved shirt.

  • Select quick drying clothing. Investing in good quality performance gear can be a wise choice. Most are wrinkle-free can be washed in a sink and dry overnight. Winner combination.

  • Hard shell/wind shield/rain jacket. A soft raincoat will also protect from the wind and keep you warmer if put over some good layers, this one from Marmot has served me well.

  • Choose items with 2 double duties. Leggings for layering or pyjamas, zip off pants that become short, a pashmina that serve for accessorizing or can be used as a small blanket, sun cover or towel …you get the drift

  • Pack one smart and dressier looking versatile item. A comfortable little black dress or dark coloured jeans will do the trick when we need to attend a fancier affair

  • Lighting up the load wherever you can. For example, do you need to bring your full wallet or just a couple of credit cards? How about your toiletries? Go for travel sizes bottles (100 ml/3.4 oz) such as these Go Tube and remember you can always purchase what you need where you are traveling.

  • Wear your heavier pieces on you on the flight. Hiking shoes and bulky cardigans that can always be used for pillows 

  • Extra items to pack:

  • Pack a foldable cargo bag so once on land, you can use it for groceries and to bring back purchases and souvenirs.

  • Extra resealable bags are also a must to bring along. Perfect for all kinds of duties like dirty shoes, laundry and snacks.

  • Travel Clotheslines for hanging a quick wash with a bar of laundry soap

  • Security is always high on my list. So A double loop security cable with small padlocks to lock up bags and luggage in the room. I always use these if there’s no safety box in the accommodation or if valuables are left in the trunk of a rental car.

There are different techniques for long-term carry on travel packing, but most importantly follow concise rules and stick to them. Get my latest list for an extended trip here.

Detailed Packing List for 1 month

Tops : 10 / 5 long sleeve Tees , 5 short sleeve Tees
Layers : 3 /1 light fleece hoodie, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 base layer
Bottoms: 5 /1 light Capri, 1 light hiking pants, 1 jeans, 1 athletic leggings, 1 urban legging
Undies: 5 quick drying 
Socks: 1 merino, 3 casuals
Hard Shell Raincoat : 1
Gloves : 1 Scarves : 4
Sunhat: 1 
Swimwear: 1
Shoes: Waterproof hiking shoes + flat casuals
Toiletries: 2 / 1 for daily moisturizer & makeup, 1 for hair products
Travel Clothesline

Step-by-Step for packing a month in a carry on

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Now that you’ve narrowed down what you want to bring, lay it all out. Step back, think hard about the use of each of these items. Are they double purposed? Will you really be wearing this sweater more than once or is it an “in case of”.  Take out all the maybes and sort them by packing cubes. 

The best way to pack cubes is to roll the items. I’ve found that the bulky items are better folded than rolled, think jackets and cardigans. For that reason, I recommend using many layers instead of one bulky item. Oh and remember, there’s always the possibility to do laundry along the way.

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Essentials for Packing a Month in a Carry On 

Wonder what to pack in your carry on? Here are a few of my essentials for flying with hand luggage only. Tried and tested!

Lightweight and extremely comfortable. Dressy or casual, the ultimate travel pants.

Wash & dry overnight, a true travel essential. Quick-drying and moisture-wicking fabric with stretch for added mobility. These lightweight and packable undies are my best travel companion.

Use as headwear or neck tube, for chilly to cold weather, this merino accessory packs light but delivers loads of warmth

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There’s a reason everyone talks about these…They’re a game changer. Looking for a top? Get that Cube out. Looking for an undergarment? Get the Undergarment Cube out. Easy peasy plus everything stays neat.

I mostly use this type of bag when travelling g to colder climates. You stuff your items in and then roll out the air. Ideal for bigger items such as sweaters and pants.

I did try the cheapie kind and have now invested in a top brand. They have an identification space in the collar of the bottle so you can tell if you’re using lotion or conditioner on your body or hair 🙂

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Didn’t quite believe this would work at first but I’m now big time converts! Keep the germs at bay when flying by using a squirt before take-off. Repeat on long flights. I now swear by this product!

Even if you travel carry-on you can still bring back souvenirs on your trip back with this foldable bag. Also great to use it for hauling provisions and such.

I wanted waterproof shoes for our Ireland & Scotland trip and wanted some that could serve both for light hiking or urban setting. These were definite winners and a smart purchase.

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Better safe than sorry.  Always tie up my locked Pacsafe with the luggage to a fixed item in my lodging.

I prefer using a traditional scale unit, even if slightly bulkier because I got tired of batteries constantly running out of the digital version.

Double duty these padlocks secure our Pacsafe and are used to lock the double loop cable together.

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PRANA PANTS: Lightweight and extremely comfortable. Dressy or casual, the ultimate travel pants.

SUN HAT: Packs flat and has a great rim for sun protection

QUICK DRY UNDIES: Wash & dry overnight, a true travel essential. 

PACKING CUBES: There’s a reason everyone talks about these…They’re a game changer. Looking for a top? Get the Top Cube out. Looking for an undergarment? Get the Undergarment Cube out. Easy peasy plus everything stays neat.

COMPRESSION BAG: We mostly use this type of bag when traveling to colder climates. You stuff your items in and then roll out the air. Ideal for bigger items such as sweaters and pants.

GO TRAVEL BOTTLES: We did try the cheapie kind and have now invested in a top brand. They have an identification space in the collar of the bottle so you can tell if you’re using lotion or conditioner on your body or hair 🙂

FLIGHT NASAL SPRAY: Didn’t quite believe this would work at but we’re now big time converts! Keep the germs at bay when flying by using a squirt before take-off. Repeat on long flights. We now swear by this product!

CARGO BAG: Even if you travel carry-on you can still bring back souvenirs on your trip back with this foldable bag. We also use it for hauling provisions and such.

WATERPROOF SHOES: I wanted waterproof shoes for our Ireland & Scotland trip and wanted some that could serve both for light hiking or urban setting. These were definite winners and a smart purchase.

DOUBLE LOOP CABLE: Double duty these padlocks secure our Pacsafe and are used to lock the double loop cable together.

TSA APPROVED LOCKS: Better safe than sorry. I always tie up our locked Pacsafe with the luggage to a fixed item in the lodging.

TRAVEL SCALE: Much prefer using a traditional scale unit, even if slightly bulkier, got really tired of the batteries running out of the digital one I had.

Are you travelling with Carry-on Luggage Only? I hope this post will motivate you to do so. Please leave your comments or questions below.

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