Okay, here we go – packing!  I’m guessing for most of you that this is THE most hated part of the travel process.  I get it.  I don’t like to pack either.  But…I’ve developed some guidelines, strategies and downright hacks that make it easier to make decisions, keep it efficient and allow you to have everything that you truly need.  There’s a lot to cover about packing.  I’ll be constantly sharing on this topic, so you can get every nugget of useful information.  Consider this a broad overview kicking things off  – packing can be something you conquer and master instead of dread!


Luggagecarry on suitcase luggage

Let’s start with what we’re putting everything in – luggage.  Yep, I’m going to say it, the word you may dread hearing, “carry on.”  Unplug your ears.  It’s okay.  It’s the best decision you will every make.  We have easily traveled for 6 weeks in only a carry on.  We get the 21″ size and actually still check it, so I don’t have to deal with the liquids situation.  I’m very particular about the characteristics of my carry on and why it’s important – more on that later.  Let’s just say, for starters, the smaller your luggage, the less you have to lug around on all modes of transportation or try to stow away in your hotel room.

Backpack – I do prefer a backpack.  I carry this on the plane and it holds all of my in-cabin necessities – book, compression socks, eye mask, neck pillow, computer, etc.  I am partial to a backpack because it is one less thing I have to carry.  It just seems easier to deal with because it’s already strapped to me.

Purse – cross body, for sure!  I like it big enough for a water bottle and umbrella if necessary, but small enough that it’s not weighing me down.  Guys, Dan carries a “man bag,” “man purse,” whatever you want to call it.  Seriously, it is a life saver.  And so many men carry these in Europe.


clothes for Europe packing listClothes 

What to bring, what to bring.  Well, we’re there to run, so let’s start there.  Your shoes!  The most important thing, don’t forget those darn running shoes.

  • 2 workout bottoms
  • 2 workout tops – maybe an extra if you want a long sleeve
  • 1 sports bra
  • Socks can make or break it.  They don’t take up much space, so bring what you need – especially for your race!  *Tech gear dries quickly, so you can wash your running gear in the sink with shampoo or suck it up and run in some stinky gear for a day to give you a break on laundry duty.


For the rest of the trip, my general rule of thumb is neutrals, with a pop of color here and there.  Scarves and jewelry can always up the visual interest on your outfit and they don’t take up much space.  (You can use those scarves to stay warm on the plane too.  Usually I have one around my neck and use a warmer one as a blanket as those dang plane blankets aren’t exactly cozy.)  Mix & match is key!  My personal hack is that if I had to get dressed in the dark, 85% of the time, my pants, shirt and sweater would match.  My go to fabric is merino wool because it keeps you very warm even if the sweater is thin, so you don’t need to compromise room for souvenirs or Belgian and Swiss chocolate because you brought too many bulky sweaters!  For a more comprehensive list of what we pack when we travel, check out our packing lists for women and men.

Shoes…yikes, this is a beast of a subject that can really stump people.  3 pairs – max!  That’s it.

  • Running shoes
  • Sneakers/Comfortable walking shoes – go with everything and you can last in them all day
  • Dressier shoe (definitely optional here) – flat, bootie, loafer, leather lace up


So, I hope this has been a helpful start to tackling the packing situation!  There is so much more to come on this topic.  I’ll get into the nitty gritty on all categories of packing in deeper detail, so stay tuned!

Check out our reasons why you should take a carry-on to Europe, and then check our video of how we pack for six weeks in Europe in only a carry-on.  (Or, check out the men’s version of this list!)

Here’s the list!

  •  3-4 pairs of pants

  • 1-2 skirts/dresses (weather dependent, of course)

  • 1 long sleeve tee

  • 5 -6 sweaters/long shirts (I always do a button down or cardigan for nearly all of them as it makes for easier layering.)

  • 2-3 tank tops

  • 4 tee shirts

  • pajama pants

  • pajama tank

  • 3-4 pairs of shoes (This includes my running shoes and foldable flats that don’t take up much room.)

  • easily packable jewelry

  • 5 pairs of underwear

  • 4-5 pairs of merino wool socks (I use already worn socks for my running socks.)

  • 2 pairs of running pants

  • 2 running tanks

  • 1 long sleeve running shirt

  • 1 sports bra

  • 1 coat

  • 2 scarves

  • 1 running hat

  • 1 umbrella

This list varies slightly considering the time of year, but for the most part, it remains the same as far as functionality.  I would just adjust the thickness of some sweaters and the material of some dresses/skirts.  In the fall, I take a pair of tall boots and in the spring I only bring 3 shoes total or a pair of easily packable sandals.

We have already posted about why we think everyone should travel to Europe with a carry-on.  But, here’s a quick recap:

  • Planes, trains & automobiles!  When you are traveling around Europe, don’t make your transportation more difficult by bringing a huge suitcase.
  • “Old-World” hotels. The rooms are smaller over in Europe, and sometimes there may not even be an elevator – so, make your life easier!

Just like the Women’s European Packing Tips, for us men, we focus on getting the maximum versatility and options. I choose nice quality t-shirts over a button-down or polo-style short-sleeved shirts. It is easy to use the t-shirt as an undershirt in cooler weather, but I’m still able to wear it separately in warmer weather. And, when touring a city there have been many instances where I am cool at the beginning and end of the day, so I wear a sweater or long-sleeved shirt, but in the middle of the I’m warm, so I remove the outer layer and just wear the t-shirt.

I swear by the Mizzen+Main long-sleeved, button-down shirts. The “tech” fabric is wrinkle-resistant and moisture-wicking, but it really looks nice — not like the “slouchy” tech shirts I usually see.  I like the Spinnaker shirt for travel days because the 4-way stretch is unbelievably comfortable. The Leeward shirt is great for times when you want a slightly more “crisp” look, but still, retain the comfort of a casual, wrinkle-resistant shirt with a slight bit of stretch to it.

My other go-to item is a lightweight, merino wool sweater. The merino wool is soft and comfortable (not your grandmother’s itchy wool!). It wicks moisture away from your skin, keeping you cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather. Merino wool is naturally anti-microbial and that means no stink! (Even after multiple wearings!)

I also like a light zip sweater.  On travel days, I may be standing on a cold train platform, or stuck in a hot airplane.  So, it’s very important for me to be able to quickly add a layer or shed a layer.  The light zip sweater does exactly that for me.

For all t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and sweaters, I strive to have everything match everything else. It’s not 100% possible, but I try to get as close as I can. Almost every t-shirt looks good under almost every long-sleeved shirt or sweater. It makes getting ready in the morning that much easier and quicker, and I should never have a day where the only clean clothes left in my bag don’t match.

The great features of Merino wool are why I also only bring Merino wool socks. They keep my feet cool and dry (or, warm and dry!) and, again, no stink! They also dry very quickly, so I can easily wash them in the hotel room sink, and they are ready to go the next morning.

Shoes take up a lot of space in carry-on sized luggage, so I try to find that balance of comfort and style to allow me to take only one pair of shoes (in addition to my running shoes, of course!) I am currently wearing Cole Haan. It has just enough support for long days of walking around Europe, but it also looks nicer than an athletic shoe. (We always strive to look like a local, and not a tourist!) I am also very interested in trying Allbirds. Allbirds meet all the specifications of my current shoes, but they have the added benefit of being made of Merino Wool. (and, you know how I love Merino wool!)

For pants, I usually bring two pairs of jeans and one pair of khakis. I have a pair of jeans with a bit of lycra, and the slight stretch makes for a much more comfortable plane and train rides!

Don’t forget a scarf!  When you are packing light, it’s a great way to add the warmth you need, but without a lot of bulk in your luggage.  It’s amazing how a scarf can make the difference on what would normally be a bone-chilling day of touring.  (Plus, you will look very “European!”)

Finally, get a “man bag” — ok, call it a purse if you like!  🙂  Everyone over here has one, and they are so functional.  Keep your money, phone, passport, plane tickets, a small umbrella, a bottle of water, and snacks with you and easily accessible.  Plus, I think it greatly reduces the chances of becoming a victim of a pickpocket!  You can rest your hand on your bag in busy & crowded spots, and there is almost no chance of a pickpocket swiping your wallet.  I think diligence is the best way to combat crime — if you look like you are paying attention to your surroundings and your “stuff,” the pickpocket is going to look for a more distracted victim.

Yes, everyone is always talking about how you need to pare down and just use a carry-on sized piece of luggage for your next trip, whether it’s 3 days or 6 weeks.  We’ve done it for 4 weeks and we’re about to do it for 6.  Here’s the why and how.  And not only why you need to use a carry-on, but why you want to use one.

Carry-On Rules

First things first, when we say carry-on, we don’t mean a backpack.  We mean an actual suitcase with these dimensions – up to 22” by 14” by 9,” for a total of 45” linear inches – that we will inevitably check anyway.  Keep in mind that European carry-on dimensions are smaller, so be prepared to check your carry-on if flying within the EU.

Our Favorite Carry-On

TravelPro MaxLite 4We love the TravelPro MaxLite 4.  We love it because it is lightweight, durable and has good balance when fully loaded.  We like having the 4 wheel spinner version because in tight quarters you can easily push it in front of you or roll it next to you, so you don’t wear our your back dragging it behind you.

Here’s a good article with user reviews of a handful of carry-on rollers.

Why a Carry-On?

We use a carry-on because there are trains, planes and automobiles involved in travel.  You do not want to be hauling a lot when trying to hail a taxi or make your way through a train station and onto a train.  Train stations don’t always have escalators – and the ones that do always seem to be out of service.  We’re talking stairs people.  You don’t want to be panicking to get the very few spots in the train car reserved for large luggage.  And, if you have smaller luggage, then you can easily lift it up into the overhead bin.  Now, with Finish Line Travel, we will be taking private cars to most locations, so train travel won’t be an issue, but if you intend to start your trip early before hooking up with us or plan to extend it, you may still run into these issues.

Some hotels don’t have elevators…even the really nice ones where you’ll be staying with us.  Europe is old and the stairs in many hotels are steep and narrow.  And while we’re talking about hotels, again Europe is different than the U.S.  Their hotel rooms are often smaller and there’s no need to break an ankle because you had to perform a Ninja Warrior move just to get around your suitcase because it was taking up valuable real estate on the floor.

Packing in a carry-on for any period of time may sound daunting.  It is not.  It is liberating.  In the next few weeks, we will be showing you how to pack for an extended period of time while not being bored of your clothes or having to wash them every night down by the river.

So, trusting that you’ll jump on board with our packing lists, consider all these reasons to go with the carry-on!

Oh, while you’re checking out luggage options, no we didn’t forget about souvenirs!  Parisian scarves…check, Belgian chocolate…check, Berliner beer stein…check.  We use this Eagle Creek tote to bring back our souvenirs.  It doesn’t take up much space in your carry-on as it folds into a little square until you need to fill it up!