Real life one bag travel – man’s packing list for Europe

Hi Frugalistas!

Here at frugalfirstclasstravel Central my husband, Mr frugalfirstclass, is definitely the chief baggage handler when we travel together.  So like MissG and I, he appreciates the value of packing just one carry on bag.

Mr frugalfirstclass exploring his family's German roots - with just one carry on bag!

Mr frugalfirstclass exploring his family’s German roots – with just one carry on bag!

Here is Mr frugalfirstclass’ generic packing list for Europe, also guaranteed to fit into just one carry on bag!


Picture credit:  wikepedia commons

Picture credit: wikepedia commons

Mr frugalfirstclass prefers collared T shirts as the mainstay of his travel wardrobe.  They are more versatile than a plain round neck T shirt or singlet top.  The collar can be turned up to keep the sun off exposed necks.  Men who like to take a traditional button down shirt should check out the options at their local outdoor and camping store.  Many of these stores will stock casual shirts in fabrics that can be simply washed in a bathroom basin and then left to drip dry in the bathroom.  Much easier than a traditional polycotton shirt.  Who wants to spend their entire trip washing and ironing shirts?

Three to four tops should be plenty.

Keeping warm

Obviously when and where you are traveling will determine what is needed here.  For a summer Mediterranean trip a light top or jacket is really all that is necessary.  For many destinations or times of the year though, something more substantial is necessary.  If you have traveled in Europe before you will know European men love their jumpers (sweaters).  A light jumper (sweater) in a fabric suitable for the climate will take you most places.  Only the most formal of restaurants will insist on a jacket, so unless it is really “you” or the weather is likely to be cool don’t worry about one.  Go for lighter knits such as cotton, fine wool or cashmere so you can fit in a couple without too much bulk.  Leave the bulky fleeces and thick winter woollies at home – they just take up too much space.

Two to three long sleeved tops and/or jackets should be enough.  Remember to colour coordinate with the tops to maximise the number of different combos available.  Layer longer tops for added warmth in colder weather.

Keeping dry

A lighter canvas jacket did the trick in early autumn in France

A lighter canvas jacket did the trick in early autumn in France

Regardless of how cold the weather may or not be, you will still need some sort of jacket for the rain.  Depending on the weather a light rain jacket may be enough, but for winter go all out with a down coat.  Mr frugalfirstclass’ down coat comes with its own little carry bag, and packs down to be smaller than one of his shoes – great if he doesn’t want to wear it!


While it’s tempting to just pack jeans, I always suggest leaving the denim at home.  They are big and bulky and take ages to dry if they get wet.  Instead go for chinos or similar casual pants in dark colours.  Make sure the pants match tops and jackets.  Again, that will give you more options.  Unless you are on a beach holiday, leave the board shorts at home, and stick to something more conservative that can be worn in sophisticated cities, or out to dinner.

Two to three pairs of pants, including the pair for the plane are enough.


On one level men have it easier with shoes.  For starters, not many men have shoe fetishes!  The problem men have though is that their shoes are just so big!  Sensible packing and having a shoe strategy is therefore key.  Sticking to our family’s two pair of shoes rule (plus flip flops if the trip dictates), Mr frugalfirstclass wears his bulkier pair of shoes on the plane.  The smaller, lighter pair is packed, stuffed with socks and undies to save space.

Leave the gym shoes at home. Photo credit:

Leave the gym shoes at home. Photo credit:

So, what shoes to take?  Obviously sandals in summer.  Personally, I think it is best to leave the heavy white gym shoes at home (although I knew many of you will completely ignore me on this one).  Instead go for casual leather walking shoes, lightweight hiking shoes or boat shoes for those who like them.  If you really have to pack a gym shoe go for something in canvas, like the Vans that seem so popular at the moment.

Remember, two pairs of shoes is plenty.  In summer, one pair of sandals and one covered shoe.

Socks ‘n’ jocks

Three pairs of underwear is enough.  Our family like to take old pairs, then discard them before we leave.

Three pairs of socks in sensible, dark colours that will match the shoes and pants.

We also like to take thermals regardless of the time of year.  In winter they are a necessity.  At other times of the year they add layered warmth without bulk, and take up little room in the bag.  Two sets for winter travel, one set at other times.


For some reason men’s toiletries all seem to come in massive containers, so head to the toiletries aisle in the supermarket for travel size deodorant and shaving cream before you go.  Cologne or aftershave wearers need to visit their favourite brand for some samples.  Stick it all in a small soft sided toiletries bag from a camping and outdoors store – they definitely take up far less bag space!

Odds and ends and keeping it all together

A belt in a plain dark colour to match the shoes and pants.

Don’t bother about a tie unless you know for certain you will need one.  Only the most formal of restaurants will insist on one these days.

Camera/tablet or MP3

Reading material

Chargers and adaptor plug

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Mr frugalfirstclass travels with a small day pack.  On the plane, it holds his camera and reading material, and becomes the family day pack to hold water bottles, picnic lunches etc while we are away.

So, guys, what are your favorite tips for packing light?

Related posts for more tips on real life one bag travel:

My packing list

Packing list for winter

Common packing mistakes and how to avoid them

Why packing light is essential for frugal travel

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9 Comments on “Real life one bag travel – man’s packing list for Europe”

  1. Josh 29/07/2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Hi Jo,

    i’ve been looking forward to this post!! i’m not sure I can do such a small amount travelling, but it’s certainly a challenge I look forward to sharing with you after my September trip this year!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 29/07/2013 at 5:28 pm #

      Please do, Josh. I’d love to hear how you get on. As I always say when people comment and say they can’t do it, just try, then next time try and take a bit less, and so on. I didn’t always pack light, and it took me ages to crack the code and have the confidence to do it.

      Have a great trip!

  2. Anne @ Pretraveller 29/07/2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Jo, thanks for a great article about packing from the men’s perspective. My husband definitely has man packing issues, so we regularly take way too much stuff when we go away…

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 31/07/2013 at 8:41 am #

      Thanks Anne. Mine did too, till I bought him a small suitcase, and pointed out he only wore a third of what he packed anyway……..

  3. Humble Walker 18/08/2013 at 1:24 am #

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m looking forward to following it. I’ve travelled, lived and worked from a 24 litre rucksack for the past year. My secret is to keep the electronics small (MacBook Air), the shoes versatile (black leather trainer style), the trousers convertible (zip off legs) and the tops layered (merino wool).

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 18/08/2013 at 7:59 am #

      Thank you for your feedback. Personally I’m not a fan of the convertible pants, but if I were a hiker, I would probably go with them too.

      Packing light can work for anyone – just adapt the principles to your own personal style and circumstances.

  4. Vanessa 28/03/2014 at 8:46 am #

    Great list! I think “mr Turnipseed” would approve, as he too is a light packer. One thing I would add for me who may encounter business or formal occasions is to pack a very nice, very versatile, silk tie. Takes no space or weight but can polish things up tremendously.


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