What to pack in your carry on

What luggage and accessories you will need to pack for your holiday in Europe


Luggage and accessories for a four week trip

Packing time is drawing near, but before you decide what you are going to pack, you need to answer the all important question, “What Luggage to take?”

Your options are limited only by
a) Your airline’s luggage restrictions
b) Your willingness to pay for excess baggage and
c) How much luggage you really want to lug around with you on your trip.

What luggage do you need?

I truly admire those travellers who manage to travel with carry on luggage only. Prior to our first trip, I’m sure our daughter’s life passed before her eyes when I jokingly sent her a photo of a sixteen piece luggage set a-la Hyacinth Bucket on “Keeping up Appearances”, asking her if she thought it would be sufficient.

Even though we were proudly under baggage limits on our last trip, I am determined to streamline even further this time. However I don’t aspire to carry-on only – I’ve come to explore the world, not wash every day.

Having said that, you need to consider a few points when choosing your luggage:

  • Hotel rooms are often much smaller in Europe than in Australia, so excess luggage can make a small but cosy room somewhat cramped. You may also need to lug your baggage up several flights of stairs.
  • Unless you are on an organised tour where your luggage is taken care of each day, when you are walking, running and manoeuvering on and off trains and buses with your luggage, you will certainly find less is more.
  • Internal flights, buses and trains will also have luggage restrictions, often less than your international flight.

This time we will be boarding our flight with one 79cm lightweight wheelie “cell case”, one smaller wheelie carry on and Ian’s lightweight daypack between us.

Airline restrictions

When choosing your luggage, do check your airline’s weight restrictions,  as the weight of your empty case will be included in this. However most airlines will allow you to “pool” your baggage weight. Our airline allows once piece of checked baggage to 23kg each, with a maximum weight per bag of 32kg.  So Ian and I can share one bag up to 32kg, (as opposed to two bags totalling 46kg)

The cases Ian and I chose were similar to these, available on Amazon

We chose a lightweight “cell bag” which zips open into two sections. It is strong and durable, so able to take a few knocks, but light enough to easily wheel along cobblestone streets.  It also has a TSA approved luggage lock inbuilt, removing the need for keys etc to traditional luggage locks, a retractable handle and easily manouvreable wheels. Our only mistake was in choosing black.  Every suitcase rotating on the baggage collection is black.   If possible choose a standout colour like orange or lime green, or put a vibrant coloured luggage tag on the handle.


Carry on luggage

You are usually also allowed one piece of carry on baggage (approx 7kg), plus one personal item – ie handbag, laptop suit bag each.  Ours is the smaller sister to our checked bag and sits neatly against the handles of the bigger bag so both can be wheeled together. Don’t kid yourself however that you will be able to “just pop” things in and out of this bag during your flight. You wont. Clambering over your fellow passengers, standing in the way of cabin staff mid flight, while manoeuvering your bag in and out of the overhead storage bin to “just grab” the toothpaste is just plain awkward.  The only time you will easily be able to access this bag will be during your layover, so think ahead and if you will really need it before your first stop – put it in your handbag.

Useful accessories

In our carry on we will pack:

  • A full change of clothes – particularly useful should your checked luggage go missing for a couple of days.


  • Medications and toiletries. Remember liquids aerosols and gels are limited to 100ml per container and must be presented in a clear ziplock bag at security. Unless you really can’t do without a certain product, so much simpler to just either use the hotel shampoo or buy it over there.


  • Passports, money cards and travel documents.

    • Battery charge pack – for the uninitiated this useful little iPhone accessory will give you up to five charges for your phones between being recharged itself.


    •  Adjustable power adapter – can be switched to any voltage if you are travelling to several countries is a must – we found ours on Amazon.



    • Neck pillows. Somewhat bulky and Ian objected to the space they took last trip, but this little pillow for me was the difference between sleep and no sleep on a long haul flight.
    • Lightweight rain jackets. These were a “must never travel without” purchase from our last trip. Light, zip up, hooded rainproof jackets that roll up to nothing in the bottom of the daypack.
    •  I take a small handbag, and Ian has a canvas daypack large enough to carry all our needs for a day’s sightseeing.

      Packing advice

      We heeded the advice of a former London-bobby friend just prior to the last trip in choosing these accessories:

      • No wallets in the back pockets boys – a magnet for pickpockets
      • Ditch the “bumbag”. This nifty little bag secured around your waist does seem like a very safe way to carry your valuables. But it also screams “TOURIST”, leaving you a walking target for scammers.
      • Carry your bags across your shoulder (ie strap on left shoulder, bag sitting on right hip) making you much less susceptible to pickpockets and bag snatches. Similarly, a backpack on your back can easily be pick-pocketed in crowds such as public transport etc.

      So now we have the luggage sorted, next blog will deal with what to put in that suitcase.

      If you have enjoyed this post and would like to learn more about planning a trip to Europe, click on the Amazon link at the bottom of the page, where you will find a range of travel guides which we found helpful. We do earn a small commission from any sales at no additional cost to our readers



5 comments on “What to pack in your carry on”

    1. We usually have one bag full of “things the kids cant buy in Germany. We usually get a list including vegemite, milo, last trip there were two pairs of Dunlop Volley sandshoes, as well as the “things we left at home that we have decided we need.” At least we have an empty case to bring back.

      1. No, two of them went to study in Berlin after their uni degrees here, the other went along for a working holiday. All are now working and living in Berlin

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