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Packing For Three Weeks In A Carry-On

Packing for three-weeks in Europe in a Carry-On Bag

Last May, my husband Dominick and I went on our very first international trip! We had three weeks off and chose to spend our vacation exploring Portugal’s cities, hiking trails, palaces, wineries and beaches.

For convenience, light travel, and a fear of lost luggage, we decided to pack for our Europe trip using only a carry-on bag! 

I spent a significant amount of time to preparing to pack for this trip – I created spreadsheets, made vision boards on Canva, and packed and re-packed my bag at least three times. In the end, I successfully fit all my necessities for a three-week trip into a 40-liter bag!

I loved traveling with only a carry-on and plan to do it for all future international travel! Keep scrolling for packing tips, my three-week packing list, and details on everything I packed in my carry-on bag. 

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Tips For Traveling Europe With A Carry-On

Packing for a 3-week trip to Europe can be challenging. But if you’re trying to avoid the hassle and cost of checking luggage, it is worth it. Packing everything in a carry-on saves you time at the airport and it helps you avoid the stress and strain of dragging a bulky suitcase on cobblestone streets or squeezing into packed trains. 

 

Here are some tips for packing for a long trip using only a carry-on bag:

  1. Use compression packing cubes: In my opinion, packing cubes are a game-changer. Not only do they help keep your clothes organized, but they compress them to fit more in your bag. Here are the packing cubes I used for my 3-week trip to Portugal. 
  2. Pack versatile clothing: I only pack clothing that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits. Neutral colors like navy, olive green, brown, white, and beige are great choices since they can go with almost anything. 
  3. Pack clothing that can be layered: If you’re traveling to Europe, you’ll want to bring clothes that work with a variable climate. This looks like breathable layers (I loved wearing linen), fleece, and an outer layer (like a denim jacket).  
  4. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane: If you’re traveling with a bulky jacket, wear it on the plane to save space in your bag. You can also wear your heaviest shoes, like hiking boots, instead of packing them.

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Packing List For 3-Weeks In A Carry-On

Here’s my packing list for three weeks in Portugal:

40 Liter Bag

Crossbody Purse

 

Clothes:

  • Crop top x 4
  • Tank top
  • T shirt x 3
  • Button down shirt x 2
  • Fancy shirt
  • Shorts x 3
  • Jumpsuit 
  • Skirt 
  • Pants x 3
  • Swimsuit x 2
  • Fleece jacket
  • Wide brim hat

 

Shoes: 

  • Chaco’s
  • HOKAs
  • Blundstone boots

 

Other:

  • Underwear x 10
  • Socks x 4
  • Bandana x 3
  • Small towel
  • Sunglasses
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Liquid IV
  • Snacks
  • Reusable bag
  • iPad
  • Canon Powershot

 

Toiletries: 

  • Shampoo + conditioner bars
  • Bar of soap
  • Denman brush
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush + Toothpaste
  • Floss picks
  • Cotton balls + Q tips
  • Contact solution
  • Contact case
  • Extra pairs of contacts
  • Cuticle clippers
  • Glasses
  • SPF
  • Bug spray wipes
  • After-sun spray
  • Lotion 
  • Chapstick
  • Makeup (eyebrow gel, mini concealer and liquid blush)

 

Keep scrolling for all the details of my packing list!

What I Packed For Three Weeks In Portugal

40-LIter Carry-On Backpack

For my 3-week trip to Portugal, I used the Gregory Border Carry-On 40-Liter as my main luggage. I love the split case design, which allowed me to separate my clothes and gear into two distinct compartments, making it easier to access what I needed without having to dig through all my stuff. 

 

This bag has lots of pockets, including a padded laptop sleeve that fit my iPad and journal. Most importantly, it was durable! I felt confident that my belongings were well-protected, even when the bag was tossed around during Uber rides and airport travel.

 

Psst! Want to save on your next Gregory pack? Use code JACEY15 to save 15%!

Crossbody Shoulder Bag

For my personal item, I used the Gregory Nano Shoulder Bag. For being only 3-Liters, this little bag fit a surprising amount of stuff! I kept my wallet, passport, medications, sunglasses, headphones, phone, hand sanitizer, and so much more in this cross-body bag. 

 

In addition to being handy for airport travel, this was the bag I used to take on all our day trips! It’s cute, compact, and versatile from city to trail. 

Tops

Packing list for Europe in May
  • 3 Cropped Tank Tops 

As an avid hiker who lives in a warm climate, I live in cropped tank tops. My favorites have a built-in bra and are neutral colored so they go with every outfit. While I wear crop tops as bras under my shirts, I also wear them on their own or under an open button-down shirt. 

 

Here are the three cropped bras I packed for Portugal: 

 

  1. Vuori Rib Crop Tank
  2. Vuori Halo Performance Crop Top
  3. Free People Happiness Runs Crop
 
  • 1 Tank Top 
 

This ribbed tank top from REI Co-op was a last-minute addition to my bag and I’m so glad I brought it! Not only was it great for hiking and general exploring, but it also served as my sleep shirt. 

 

  • 2 shirts 
 

I visited Portugal in May, when the highs were in the 80’s F and lows in the 60’s F. With lots of hiking and general exploring on the itinerary, I wanted to bring a couple of versatile t-shirts that were moisture-wicking. 

 

Here are the t-shirts I packed: 

 

  1. Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt 
  2. REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt
 
  • 1 Long Sleeve 
 

When it came to packing a long sleeved shirt, I wanted something light-weight that would give me sun protection. I packed my Patagonia Lightweight A/C Button-Down Shirt and wore it constantly! It kept the sun off my shoulders, matched all my outfits, and kept me cool while walking around the cities. 

 

  • Fancy Top 
 

Even though this was a backpacking trip, I still wanted to bring at least one cute top to wear out! I picked up this tie-front shirt from Madewell as a birthday gift to myself and am so glad I did! It looked super cute with my skirt and linen pants. 

Bottoms

what I packed for three weeks in Europe
  • 3 Shorts

 

Since I knew we were going to be doing quite a bit of hiking, kayaking, and an adventure tour or two, I packed three pairs of shorts. I was very intentional about choosing colors and went with navy, cream, and olive green. *In retrospect, I wish I had left one pair of shorts at home and packed an extra pair of bottoms, like a skirt or dress. 

 

Here are the shorts I packed for Portugal: 

 

  1. REI Co-op Trailmade Shorts
  2. Vuori Villa Shorts
  3. Outdoor Voices Windbreaker 3″ Short
 
  • Jumpsuit

 

I almost left my Patagonia Fleetwood Romper at home and am so glad I didn’t – it was the piece I wore most on my trip! This jumpsuit is flattering, comfortable, easy to wear, and versatile… it truly is the perfect travel outfit. 

 

  • Linen pants

The Quinn Pants from Free People were the perfect addition to my travel wardrobe! The linen kept me cool and they are so versatile! I wore them as lounge pants in the hostel, sleep pants in a cold hotel room, and a beach cover-up. 

 

  • Skirt

My most complimented item of clothing from this trip was a vintage red Eddie Bauer skirt that I found on Poshmark! I was nervous about packing such a bright color but it looked amazing in photos and was fun to wear with my Madewell shirt, cropped bras, and over my bikini. 

Outerwear

Denim Jacket

 

Right before I left for our trip, I impulsively bought a denim jacket from Marine Layer and I’m so glad I did! It was the perfect outer layer for spring and it had massive internal pockets, which were handy for keeping my phone and camera handy! 

 

Windbreaker 

 

Since I had heard that the coast could be quite cold and windy, I opted to bring this packable windbreaker from Cotopaxi. I only ended up wearing it once but it was still nice to have on hand and didn’t take up much room in my bag.

 

Fleece

 

Upon my husband’s instance, I brought my Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Pullover fleece jacket. I didn’t have enough room for it in my bag so it was packed in my husband’s bag. Don’t tell him I said this… but he was right. The fleece came in handy multiple times! 

Shoes

Blundstone Boots

 

I wore my Blundstone Boots on the plane and they ended up being my most-worn pair of shoes on the trip! They were nice for travel days and comfortable for walking up and down cobblestone streets. 

 

Chaco’s

 

I love having a pair of waterproof adventure sandals to wear to the beach and on hikes, and brought a pair of Chaco Z/1 Classic Sandals. These sandals looked cute with my skirt and linen pants, and came in handy for costal hikes and kayak trips but learn from my mistake — they need to be broken in. I didn’t break them in before our trip and was rewarded with massive blisters. 

 

HOKA’s 

 

Even though I wore my Blundstone Boots on the plane, I wanted a separate pair of shoes for hiking. I packed my go-to Mafate Speed 4 Trail Runners from HOKA because they are lightweight and ultra comfortable. To pack them, I stuffed them with 4 pairs of hiking socks and wrapped them in a plastic grocery bag in case they got muddy. 

Swimsuits

We spent a lot of time on the beach in Porto Covo and the costal city of Lagos, so to give myself some options I packed two swimsuits: 

 

  1. Eva One-Piece from YouSwim
  2. Bikini from Left On Friday – HiHi Bottoms + Sunday Top 

Toiletries

I packed all my toiletries in my favorite REI Co-op Shower Roll (size large) and carried my liquids in a quart-sized Stasher Bag. 

 

  • Shampoo + conditioner bars
  • Bar of soap 
  • Denman brush 
  • Deodorant 
  • Toothbrush + Toothpaste 
  • Floss picks
  • Cotton balls + Q tips 
  • Contact solution
  • Contact case
  • Extra pairs of contacts
  • Cuticle clippers  
  • Glasses
  • SPF
  • Bug spray wipes
  • After-sun spray 
  • Cerave lotion in a reusable bottle 
  • Chapstick 
  • Makeup (eyebrow gel, mini concealer and liquid blush)
What I packed for Portugal for three weeks

Other

Gear

  • IPad 
  • Cameras (GoPro and Canon Powershot) 
Guide to Lisbon in 5 days

Final Thoughts + Regrets

It’s a little dramatic to title this section “regrets” but I do wish that I had packed one less pair of shorts and opted for one more pair of pants or another long skirt. 

 

And as I mentioned, I regretted bringing Chaco’s – I wish I had brought my Teva sandals or Birkenstocks. 

 

I know that packing for a trip can be a daunting task, but with a little planning and the right gear, it doesn’t have to be! I hope this post inspired you to pack light and efficiently for your next adventure! 

 

Let me know if you have any questions about packing for a 3-week trip in a carry-on! And if you want to see the outfits I wore on my Portugal adventure, check out my Instagram!  

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Meet the author

Jacey West

My mission is simple: Inspire you to get outside. I like camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and exploring National Parks. I’m passionate about sharing all the details of my adventure so you can plan some of your own!

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