Location: Baggage check, Frankfurt airport.           Total time to check bag: 1 hour

Number of people in line: 5                                      Stress level: Red Zone

My stupid suitcase had been a burden the entire trip. I barely fit it into the taxi, I sat on top of it to fit it in the elevator, and I looked like a fool hauling the beast around. I was in Germany for a week. One week. And I had packed my entire closet. “Why’d I bring all this crap?” I muttered to myself, envying my colleague who was already on the plane. He had packed everything in a carry-on to avoid the hassle of checking a bag. After waiting in the baggage check-in line for an hour and nearly missing my flight, I learned my lesson: I’ll never check a bag again.

How to Choose the Right Bag

Generally a carry-on should be 45 inches total when you add the length, width, and height together. But always call your airline to check the carry-on regulations.

Use a bag with wheels; it’s easier to wheel one bag and carry your personal item than it is to carry both bags.

Use a backpack or an oversized tote bag as your one personal item; this will give you a little extra space for souvenirs.

How to Pack Your Toiletries

Replace your liquids with solids: soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and sunblock all come in solid or powder versions. Walgreens.com has solid shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, and hawaiiantropic.com has solid sunblock.

If you can buy it when you get there, don’t pack it. However, do pack a travel-size tube of toothpaste just in case you get stuck somewhere.

Go low maintenance; leave your hair product, blow dryer, and flat iron at home.

How to Pack Your Clothes

Pack clothes that reflect the forecast. Sunny? Short sleeves. Rainy? Long sleeves and a jacket.

Color-coordinate all of your clothes; everything should match everything else.

Pack clothes that you can layer.

Wear your bulkiest layers to the airport.

Leave your jewelry at home. If you don’t wear it to the airport, don’t take it. (Ladies, check out
auttiedottiewatches.blogspot.com for cute watches that double as bracelets.)

If you might need something, leave it home. Take only what you will need.

Wear comfortable shoes that match every outfit, and take one extra pair of shoes.

Plan to do laundry when you’re there. Travel-size detergent packs make washing items in your hotel sink a breeze.

After reading these tips, you may feel a little overwhelmed. Take a look at our general packing list to help you get started. You may need to modify our list to better fit your needs.

Packing List:

5 shirts (wear one or two to airport)

2 or 3 undershirts

1 sweater

2 pairs of pants (wear one to airport)

2 pairs of shoes (wear one to airport)

5 pairs of socks

5 pairs of underwear

1 jacket

Brush or comb


Travel-size toothpaste

Travel-size hand sanitizer




 —Amanda Reschke

Not convinced of the benefit of leaving that extra pair of shoes behind? Let Diana tell you all about lightening that load.

Backpacking through Europe can be miserable with a heavy bag. Get the best tips for your next trip here.