That One Time I Traveled to Europe for 2 Weeks with Just a Carry-on Bag

You read that right. From hiking high in the clouds of the frigid, snowy Swiss Alps to touring the rolling Tuscany vineyards in the sweltering, humid heat of Italy, I managed to get everything I needed (for 2 weeks!) in just one carry-on bag.

With a dose of creativity and lots of intentionality, you can do it, too! We have lots of trips coming up this summer, and especially now that our baby requires a decent amount of things, I’m more intent than ever on packing light.

Follow along as I pack for our most recent adventure, a 10 day work trip to Kansas City! (By the way, this is my favorite kind of adventure because it includes family time + the best of friends + bar-b-que.)

Essentially, I’m creating a 10x10 in which I’ll use 10 pieces to create 10 different outfits for the 10 days.

This is only 9 items, so I may throw in an olive green dress for fun at the end. We’ll see if I have room!

This is only 9 items, so I may throw in an olive green dress for fun at the end. We’ll see if I have room!

First, choose a color block.

No surprise here, my base color is black and the coordinating color is olive green. Of course, I’ll throw in a few lighter tones (it’s Spring, afterall!) like gray and white. But each shirt pairs with each pant and each outer layer. This step is important-keeping a consistent color scheme creates more versatility. I pull shirts and pants and just throw them on my bed, aiming for that magic number 10.

What works for me is 3 bottoms, 4 shirts, 2 layering pieces, and one dress.

Simplify with 2 shoes

Now, coordinate shoes to match.

It’s tricky, but I try really hard to only take 2 pairs of shoes. Usually, I’ll take a more comfortable, enclosed shoe that I could use for high movement days, and then another pair that’s more trendy or appropriate for going out or dressing up a tad.

(Side note=I have a pair of Allbirds shoes on my Capsule Wardrobe Purchasing Priority list because they would be perrrrrrfect for these types of trips!)

Simplify with few accessories

Next, accessorize!

I keep it super simple here and just pack my watch, belt, and a pair of earrings that match.

Are you beginning to see why the color block is so important? It’s what makes matching shoes and accessories so easy!

Simplify with basic hygiene necessities; safe & natural products

Then, ‘things-to-get-ready’.

It’s important to be really intentional about what you need to get ready each day. Think through your low-maintenance routines.

  • Do you have to have a curling iron or could you use your straightener for double-duty this one time?

  • Do you have to bring shampoo? Although I prefer my own shampoo and conditioner, I almost always settle for whatever I find at a hotel or AirBnB.

Last but of course, not least…the undergarments.

I never skimp here. Count your nights and pack the necessary number, no more and no less. As long as your undergarments are clean, you will probably be able to deal with a slightly sour shirt from a second-day wear. (And if not-bathtubs are a great wash basin, and will be a great reminder to give thanks for electricity when you get home!) Don’t forget a pair or two of pajamas, but again…no more than 2.


One rule I try not to break: Don’t bring things for “just in case.”

Could I have benefited from an actual winter coat in Switzerland? Yep, totally! But then I wouldn’t have the hilarious memory of layering every single shirt I had brought just to keep warm on hikes.

Honestly, you’ll most likely not need those things if you don’t have them! In a rare case that you would need something you don’t have, it’ll encourage you to be creative! Sometimes, very rarely, but sometimes I’ll have to run out and get something I need. But it’s rare.


Fold it all, Marie Kondo Style!

Below is everything I pack in my bag, including a swimming suit and rain jacket because…Springtime. :) After folding everything like Marie Kondo, I pack tops on one side, bottoms on the other. Then everything else goes on top.

One thing I do to save space is pick the bulkiest items to wear on travel day. So given my options below, I’ll be wearing my Sperrys and heavy sweatpants, which are also one pair of my pjs. (I’ll be in the car all day, so style is out the window. HA!)

That leaves me with a duffle bag I can easily navigate through the airport and cobblestone streets of Amsterdam, or Kansas City.

Packing list for travel
Filled duffle bag for 2 weeks of travel
Carry-on luggage for international or domestic travel
Final product: ready for traveling

I hope this was helpful. If you decide to try it, will you leave a comment about where you’re going and how the packing worked out for you? I love hearing stories of adventure!