When we planned our first trip to Europe, it quickly became clear that we wanted to restrict our luggage to carry-ons.
Once we arrived in Rome, we would be traveling by train to Florence, Venice, and the Cinque Terre. Our accommodations were often then via bus or foot from the train station. We probably could have figured out how to haul giant luggage around with us, but frankly, it just didn't seem worth the trouble. So, instead, I figured out how to pack for 10 days into a small carry-on bag.
**We always travel in shoulder season (spring and fall) so the weather may be chilly or rainy, but not extremely hot or cold.**
What I've learned is this: you really only need 10 basic pieces of clothing, all in black and gray so they always match with everything else.
Long, stretchy tank tops for layers over leggings, under sweaters
Don't forget your socks and undies (bathing suit, too, just in case). Tuck in some accessories like scarves, hats, and headwraps to brighten it up, and you're ready to go!
The athleisure trend is the best thing that ever happened to travelers, because FABRICS MATTER! If you buy good performance pieces that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, you can wear them over and over and no one's the wiser. They stay dry, they don't stink, they pack down well and don't wrinkle. They're practically magic.
UnderArmour is my favorite for all base pieces: leggings, long sleeve base, flowy tanks.
I recently fell in love at first sight with the Prana clothing line for skirts and dresses. Perfect for wearing absolutely anywhere. Add the Prana Diva skirt over your leggings and go to the opera. Throw a pretty scarf over the Prana Cali dress, and go out to dinner. They're beautiful, classic silhouettes, AND most pieces are manufactured using recycled fabrics.
To show you what this looks like on the hoof, here are a couple of photos from Ireland. I'm wearing leggings, a long tank, a sweater, a jacket, and waterproof trail shoes during the day. In the evening, I added a skirt (a Gap skirt I've had for ages), changed out my trail shoes for boots, and added a scarf for color. Done!
You'll see in the first picture that I've got on a blue shirt, because when you put these 10 pieces into your carry-on, you'll have extra room to add whatever else you want. The funny thing is, though, that I often come home with unworn "extras," having worn the 10 pieces over and over again.