Pack the Perfect Carry-on for Europe in 8 Easy Steps

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Are you a packing ninja? Around the Untours office, we like to geek out about packing. We all have tips to share and oddball habits. But on the essentials of the all-important carry-on bag, we largely agree.

1. First things first: Are you checking a bag?

The less you pack, the better. If you can fit it all in a carry-on and a personal item, like a big purse or small backpack, we salute you. Pack a 3 ounce bottle of laundry soap (concentrate) and go for it! If not, read on…

2. You are what you wear

Before you pack your checked or carry-on bags, think about what you’ll wear on the flight. Try wearing your bulkiest footwear and tying a sweater around your waist. Dress for comfort, and flexibility.

3. The bag itself

Be sure your carry-on works well with your checked bag, so you can handle them easily together, without fumbling or needing a cart or other assistance. Being self-contained makes you more efficient, saves time, and helps you avoid pickpockets. I favor a shoulder bag with handles that can slip over the extendable handle of my rectangular wheeled bag. 

What’s in the bag?

4. Pack for the worst case scenario

There is always the possibility your checked bag will not make the flight. It is pretty rare, but in case of delayed bags, you don’t want to miss out on the fun your first day or two. Be ready to roll by packing all your essentials in your carry-on.
  • 2-3 changes of socks and underwear.
  • 2-3 extra shirts and 1-2 extra bottoms (pants or skirt), matching colors
  • Leggings or boxers to sleep in
  • Medications and eyeglasses
  • Toiletries, in at least a starter supply, including soap that can be used for laundry
  • Hair brush, toothbrush, other grooming essentials

5. Pack paper

We recommend taking photos of your passport and saving reservation details as PDFs, so you can view and access them offline with your phone. But remember, your phone could get lost or stolen as easily as your passport or wallet could, so have paper copies of things to fall back on.
  • Photocopy of passport and all credit cards (including the toll numbers to call and cancel them, as 1-800 numbers do not work abroad)
  • $100 in cash.
  • A paper copy of all your travel arrangement details: hotel names and numbers, airline reservation details
  • Map, guide books
  • A pen and journal or notebook

6. All tech and valuables

Of course you’ll want to keep all electronics with you, secure and within easy reach. Never check them.
  • Tablets and e-readers
  • Cameras
  • Chargers for phones, cameras, and tablets
  • Jewelry, keys, and other items that are valuable or hard to replace

7. Pack for personal care and comfort

Plan to take care of yourself, in the airports, in flight, and during the down time of transfers. Pack accordingly with these things handy.
  • Wipes, to cleanse hands and face
  • Snack, like little packs of nuts, granola bars, or crackers
  • Face mask and earplugs, so you can sleep anywhere
  • A cardigan or sweater

8. Don’t forget to make your “personal item” count

If you normally use a small purse or day bag, tuck it into a bigger tote bag that holds other stuff, like a novel and magazines for the flight. Be sure that item is easy to secure and transport as you handle the rest of your luggage on arrival and departure.
Have a great time in Europe!

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