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The NewSLU

How to Pack the Perfect Carry On

To see Europe in one semester, study abroad students try to travel light
Anna Godlewski
A well-packed carry on ready for a weekend adventure in Rome.

Traveling on a budget can come with some sacrifices. Study abroad students are acutely aware to the struggle of being limited to the one free carry on bag that comes with a discount airline or train ticket. However, with some intentionality and creativity, this approximately 40 x 20 x 25 cm bag can fit everything you need.

Backpack Vs. Luggage

First, you need to pick the bag thats right for you. Roller bags tend to only have one large compartment. This makes them much harder to efficiently pack than a multi-pocket backpack. Additionally, odds are that your budget flight will be in the early morning and your hostel or AirBnb check-in time won’t be until later that afternoon. Backpacks give you more freedom to explore the walkable streets of Europe without being constrained to a bag on wheels.

If you are worried your bag may not fit the size requirements, Upgraded Points has a helpful chart of carry-on dimensions for 64 major airlines..

Maximizing Your Space

Efficient packing can help you avoid fashion emergencies: Study abroad student Mary Schaefer once took the metro home from the airport in a flannel pajama set and Doc Marten boots because she couldn’t fit everything in her bag.

What Goes Inside?

Now that you know HOW to pack, you still may be asking WHAT to pack. Basic clothes and layers are your best friend. Try and create a capsule wardrobe for your trip. In a smaller front pocket, pack your portable chargers, deodorant, snacks, and other non clothing items. Putting your phone, passport, wallet, and other necessities in a fanny pack around your chest helps to keep you from zipping and unzipping your strategically packed main bag too often throughout your travel day. Study abroad student Emily Timm said “a neck pillow is an absolute need.” Her roommate Nora Sullivan countered that headphones may be even more important.


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