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I went on a 2-week European vacation and only brought a carry-on — 5 things I'm glad I packed

I travelled to Europe but I only paid for a carry-on suitcase — here are five essentials I brought with me.

woman with brown hair sitting in white and blue reformation linen dress and white linen button-down, black birkenstock sandals
I travelled to Europe and just brought a carry-on bag — here's what I packed.

I recently did something alien and unthinkable — I travelled to Europe with only a carry-on suitcase.

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You see, as a classic over-packer, it's normal for me to bring enough clothes, shoes and toiletries that I could dress for all four seasons and address a myriad of skin conditions while I'm at it. However, my itinerary included four countries in two weeks, so to avoid any potential baggage mishaps, I opted to travel lightly.

Below, I've gathered five items I brought on my trip and ended up wearing constantly. To shop my trusty travel picks and see what else I brought along (plus the carry-on bag itself), scroll below.

The carry-on suitcase I brought: Away Travel The Carry-On Flex

The carry-on bag of my dreams! (Photos via Kayla Kuefler & Away Travel)
The carry-on bag of my dreams! (Photos via Kayla Kuefler & Away Travel)

Away Travel The Carry-On Flex

  • A dream come true for interior organization

  • The carry-on bag has earned a 4.9-star rating on Away Travel

  • It's the "perfect suitcase," according to reviewers

A marker of adulthood for me is investing in nice luggage. While owning Away's entire suitcase line is on my vision board, I'm starting with the brand's Carry-On Flex suitcase. The hardside suitcase boasts immaculate interior organization, 360-degree wheels, and an additional 2.25 inches (six cm) of expandable space.

The Carry-On Flex in Coast.

$395 at Away

5 things I packed

carry-on essentials, split screen of woman wearing black tank top and long white denim skirt and white denim skirt from dynamite
I like it, I love it, I want some more of it! (Photos via author & Dynamite)

Dynamite Denim Maxi Skirt

  • High-rise denim maxi skirt

  • 100 per cent cotton

  • Reviewers call the length "perfect"

This $60 skirt from Dynamite has quickly become one of my most-worn pieces this summer. While I was drawn to the original length, the skirt was a tad too long for me and has since been hemmed about four inches. Following my kitchen scissors DIY, I have worn this skirt on dates, to the office, out with friends and galavanting around Europe. What's more: I know of at least three people who have bought the skirt since seeing mine — a solid endorsement, I would say.

Denim Maxi Skirt in bright white.
$60 at Dynamite
split screen of model wearing TA3 swim black swimsuit and brunette woman taking selfie in black swimsuit and sarong
This is the most flattering swimsuit you will ever buy, I swear (photos via TA3 & author)

TA3 Plungey Swimsuit

  • 46.4+ million views on TikTok

  • Sizes XS-4X

  • 4.8-star average rating

I am about to make a bold statement. Are you ready? This swimsuit is single-handedly the most flattering bathing suit I have ever worn. I repeat: The most flattering, "oh my gosh, everyone look at me now," swimsuit I have ever worn. TA3's one-piece went viral on TikTok for its unique midsection-sculpting design. The swimsuit is made from lightweight activewear compression fabric, similar to a high-end sports bra, and features two strings at the back that you pull to cinch your waist. While expensive, if you want to look the hottest you will ever look in a bathing suit, it's well worth the splurge.

Plungey swimsuit in black.
$248 at TA3 Swim
I wore this linen dress a shocking number of times during my two-week vacation (photos via Reformation & author)
I wore this linen dress a shocking number of times during my two-week vacation (photos via Reformation & author)

Reformation Frieda Linen Dress

  • Designed to be fitted at bodice with a full skirt

  • Available in sizes 0 to 12

  • Shop it in black, beige and blue and white floral

I am almost embarrassed to admit how often I wore this Reformation midi on my vacation. You know when you're selecting photos to post to social media and you're wearing the same outfit in 95 per cent of them? That was me and this dress. It is chic and flattering, the breezy linen material was perfect on hot days, and it looked good despite infrequent washing. The cherry on top? It has pockets.

Frieda Linen Dress in Lisse.

$348 at Reformation
split screen of black Birkenstock's Arizona Big Buckle Sandals and girl wearing blue and white striped button down shirt and birkenstocks
A shoe that will always be in style? Birkenstock's Arizona Big Buckle Sandals (photos via Shopbop & author).

Birkenstock Arizona Big Buckle Sandals

  • Moulded cork footbed with leather lining

  • Polished gold hardware

  • Made in Germany

I am, truth be told, very late to the Birkenstock game. Prior to these Arizona Big Buckle sandals, I never really understood the visual appeal of Birkenstocks. However, one pair of Arizonas in, I'm sold. With their amplified buckle accents, the Big Buckle sandals are jazzier than classic Arizonas, delivering the same famous Birkenstock comfort and support.

These Arizona Big Buckle sandals aren't your basic Birkenstocks.

$228 at Shopbop
An easy, breezy top you'll wear time and time again (photos via Everlane & author).
An easy, breezy top you'll wear time and time again (photos via Everlane & author).

Everlane The Linen Relaxed Shirt

  • 100 per cent linen

  • Classic relaxed shirt silhouette

  • 4.6-star average rating

It's a fact of life that everyone needs a white button-down shirt. Timeless, versatile and practical for most weather situations, a white button-down can live several lives as a swimsuit coverup, an office staple, and in my case, a goes-with-everything travel item. This one from Everlane is made from 100 per cent linen (perfect for sweaty afternoons) and comes backed by a 4.6-star average rating. P.S. If you think my necklace is cute, it's from this brand.

The Linen Relaxed Shirt in white.

$139 at Everlane

Want to see what else I packed? Scroll below to shop my European outfit mood board.

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