What to Pack for a Trip to Europe

Planning a trip to Europe? If you’re wondering what to pack for a trip to Europe, this blog post dives into what I packed for our trip that somehow managed to fit into a carryon suitcase! Below you will find little tips and tricks I used to streamline packing and bring only what I truly needed for our trip to Europe.

What To Pack For A Trip To Europe

What To Pack For A Trip To Europe

When I began to think about packing for a nearly two-week trip to Europe with my family a couple of weeks ago, I felt instantly overwhelmed. What was the weather like? Were my shoes comfortable enough for all that walking? And, more importantly, how was I going to cram everything into the required carry-on size suitcase?

What To Pack For a Trip To Europe

Advice from former travelers told me one thing… depend on cardigans, layering and accessories to change an outfit to avoid packing tons of different clothes.

In the end, I repeated several clothing items, but felt like my outfits looked different enough every day.

Same black dress:

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rome florence 205

lugano to lucerne 075

Same cotton dress:

Cotton Dress for Europe: Two Ways

Cardigans, belts, scarves and jewelry were the key to my outfit “changes.”

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For our trip, I packed four different cardigans (one extra-long to be worn with leggings for travel), two colorful scarves and three different belts. I wore every single cardigan (often multiple times) and found them not only comfortable but also important to have on hand, as many of the churches and historical sights in Europe require that your shoulders be covered.

I kept my jewelry relatively simple and packed bangles, three bracelets, two watches, two delicate necklaces and one long gold necklace (unpictured). I was also lucky in that I could borrow some accessories from my sister’s stash which helped me change things up a bit as well.

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Cotton Dresses

Cotton dresses were my go-to outfit on our vacation because they allowed for easy layering, were comfortable and didn’t have a waist band, which made them ideal for copious gelato consumption.

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I packed two cotton dresses and bought one from H&M in Switzerland. I also packed one “dressier dress” that I never wore.

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(Note the use of the same pink wrap cardigan from the second picture with the black dress.)

Pants

Though Italy and (surprisingly) Switzerland were quite warm, Paris and London were significantly colder, making me very happy I packed some warmer clothes.

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For pants, I packed a pair of comfy skinny jeans that were short enough to be worn with flats, a pair of leggings for travel and a pair of army green ankle pants.

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This worked well for me, but I was ready to burn those jeans when I got home from wearing them so often. Had it been colder in Italy, I definitely would’ve wanted another pair of pants on this trip.

Shorts and Skirts

Now for warmer weather bottoms! I packed one knee-length pink skirt, a high-waisted black skirt (that I never wore) and a pair of orange shorts.

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Though the knee-length skirt was a great decision, I wouldn’t pack the shorts again. My sister and I wore shorts on the same day and we both felt like that was the only time we felt like we looked like tourists and a bit out of place. It felt like people were looking at our legs (not in a good way) and we just felt a bit uncomfortable.

Shoes

I packed two pairs of sandals (one gold and one brown), figuring I could wear the strappy gold sandals to a nicer restaurant if need be. I also packed a pair of TOMS (SO comfy!) and a pair of black flats that I borrowed from my sister (I replaced them with a pair of my flats for the sake of the picture).

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I was advised not to pack gym shoes because no one in Europe walks around wearing Nikes, and that was very true! Since I didn’t plan on working out on my trip, I didn’t pack sneakers at all and was completely happy with that decision.

Before leaving, I tested out my on a 3-mile walk to make sure they really would be comfortable for miles of walking. They definitely passed the test and I was glad to have them along on the trip.

Tops

I packed three solid and neutral-colored tank tops which were fantastic for layering.

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I also packed a comfortable long button-up blue shirt for traveling and a white shirt that could be worn two different ways for alternate looks.

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Same white shirt, two ways:

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lugano to lucerne 133

Jackets

I made sure to pack three jackets – one fleece (you can’t go wrong with a quality North Face fleece), one lightweight jacket and one raincoat. Don’t forget the ! It was imperative for the dreary London weather and the material of a quality raincoat will also help with wind resistance.

Bags

I used the exact same purse every single day.

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My crossbody bag (purchased on sale through RueLaLa) came in handy because it allowed me to have free hands and kept my belongings close to my body and in front of me which made me feel safe from the all-too-prominent pick-pocketers.

I also bought a large Longchamp bag before we left using some money I received for my birthday and was so glad I had it.

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The size was perfect and it ended up being an ideal travel bag. It held everything from my laptop and books to a sweater, wallet, camera and more. I highly recommend it!

Other Key Items

  • Makeup (I packed only the makeup I wear daily – nothing fun or fancy)
  • Shampoo/Conditioner (Dry shampoo is also a life saver! I LOVE Living Proof dry shampoo!)
  • Face wash
  • Lotion
  • Converter/Power Adapter 
  • Hair straightener I didn’t care about (many U.S. straighteners have been ruined in Europe due to the converters)
  • Sunglassespacking for europe 025
  • Book(s)
  • Camera, charger
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Kleenex
  • Passport + a photocopy of your passport (just in case)

More Travel Tips

Looking for more travel tips? This post might be of interest: Tips For Packing Everything In A Carryon Suitcase

Comments

  1. says

    Great post! I just got back from 8 days in Ireland and it was really hard to pack for becuase it was constantly cold. Fitting cold weather clothing and shoes in a carry on is even harder!
    Looks like you did a great job and I loved all your outfits!

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  2. says

    I just got back from London and it was STILL cold- I had to buy a coat while there!! I totally agree about the shorts thing, though. Most Europeans just don’t wear them, and it’s the surest way to look out of place- although women can get away with them way more than men can!

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  3. says

    Here’s a reason I adore you: not packing sneakers! Nobody does walk around like that hardly anywhere but the States! And wearing shorts does feel like a tourist giveaway, right. My roommate and I can always spot the embarrassing American tourists here in the DR with their tshirts and sneakers! Haha. You looked really beautiful on the trip. Excellent packing job!

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  4. says

    Did you have the chance to wash anything while there? I am a total slob and would have spilled something on myself everyday and looked like a bum by the second week?? Looks like you had a great time!

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  5. says

    Great post! I’m going on a 5 week trip to Europe in 3 weeks, which consists of 8 different countries. About the straightener thing– Do you really think it’s likely to be ruined? I have wavy/frizzy hair that I have to straighten because otherwise I’d have a fro 😉 .. seriously. And did you have to use different converters for the different countries?

    Also, did you wash your clothes or just re-wear them?

    Haha, sorry for all the questions.. I’m freaking out about packing like you did! 🙂

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    • says

      Yes, you definitely need converters. I’ve talked to at least 5 ppl who have ruined expensive straighteners, so I would just be very cautious. We didn’t wash anything but ppl in our tour group paid to have things drycleaned.

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    • SaraRM says

      They very easily can be ruined definitely! Depending on how long your there etc, another idea is just to buy an inexpensive straightner while your there. My sister and I were there for 10 days and was worth it so we didnt ruin ours plus it saves space win, win. Most places have a hair dryer so we didnt have to worry about that.

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  6. Meghan N says

    Awesome tips, your outfits always did look so different! Now I just need to go back to Europe to utilize all you taught me 🙂
    What kind of self tanning lotion do you use? I never like the smell of any of the ones that i’ve tried.

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  7. says

    Such a helpful post! I’m heading to Prague and London next week and I need to limit what I take. I dint want to pay any excess luggage fee and hey, o gotta make room for shopping right?? 😉

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  8. says

    Awesome post, Julie!
    In addition to having an amazing sense of style you also have amazing ways to switch outfits without really switching outfits. Heck, if you hadn’t told us that you wore the same dress in two pictures, I would have never noticed! 😛

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  9. Holly @ The Runny Egg says

    Great tips Julie — I like how you can easily switch up the look of your outfits with things like scarves and belts. I honestly wish I put more effort into details like that because it does make a difference!

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  10. says

    This post is really helpful, thanks! 🙂

    I’m off to Barclona, Spain in 5 weeks for my honeymoon (excited!!) and have no idea what to pack! I’ll be referring back to this post a lot I think!

    I love your cotton sundresses, and as Holly commented above, I too need to put more effort into details like scarves and belts – they make such a difference but I never really know what to do with them!

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  11. Melanie @ Trial By Trail says

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post. Really great packing tips! The Longchamp bag is really cute! Which one is it? I’m perusing their website but haven’t found it yet. I could use a cute bag that size for summer travel.

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  12. SaraRM says

    Very helpful post! Ive traveled abroad twice and always always over pack and never wear everything. I really need to come back to this post next time :).

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  13. says

    I am super impressed with how much you changed up you outfits. I’m going to have to try that when I go to Hawaii in a few weeks for 10 days. I have a feeling I’m going to refer back to this a lot!

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  14. says

    I would be so out of place in Europe! I can’t do long bouts of walking without tennis shoes. Otherwise my feet get rubbed raw in various places. Tennis shoes saved my feet in Vegas! It is a bummer that they take up so much room though.

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  15. Shelby says

    This post was extremely helpful! I leave in a week to study abroad in Paris for a month and I feel much better about the packing situation after hearing from someone who has been to Europe! I was thinking about bringing shorts…but dresses and skinny jeans it is 🙂

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  16. Stephanie says

    We are planning a 2 week trip to Europe next summer and this is SUPER helpful! Thanks for taking the time to document everything! I do have 1 question… What size Longchamp bag did you buy?

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  17. says

    Love this post Julie! I have become so much better at packing for trips, since traveling to Italy for work a few times last year and learning to fit everything in a carry-on! It’s so interesting what you said about the “looks” when you guys were wearing shorts. I’ll keep that in mind as I pack for a summer time European adventure. Now I need tips on convincing my husband that this trip NEEDS to happen next summer!

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  18. ellalinea says

    Julie! I love love love this post! I will be making a journey the other way around ( Belgium –> west coast USA) and I’m so gonna use your tips!! Keeping in mind ofcourse that it’s much warmer in Vegas/yosemite/deathvalley/grandcanyon/yellowstone but it will be a bit colder in LA and San fran..

    thanx girl!

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  19. Mary says

    Did you wear ankle socks with your TOMS or go au natural? I’m afraid not wearing short socks will blister up my feet from all the walking. Thanks for the helpful tips!

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  20. says

    I am going to Ireland/Manchester for 10 days next week and aside from looking for something interesting to do in Manchester for the day that I’m there by myself, I need to figure out what kinds of clothes I need to pack for myself. I hear Ireland is rainy but I wonder how cold.

    It’s hard knowing what to pack for a country you’re not familiar with.

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  21. says

    I just can’t travel light, I don’t know how to do it! Always taking too much stuff and struggling to clos the suitcase (and to carry it) ^^

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  22. says

    Love this post- very informative! I seriously loved all of your outfits.

    I also love your sunglasses…where are they from??

    Thanks again for sharing with us!

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  23. says

    This post literally came at the exact right tim! I m about to start packing for my trip to Europe; I’m leaving tomorrow evening. One big difference though: I have to pack for two months, not two weeks, and it’s all gotta fit in one giant rolling duffel. Holy crap this is gonna be fun….

    This post was definitely helpful, especially the bit about shorts.

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  24. says

    Holy wow, girl… this post is a GOLDMINE! Thank you so much for detailing what all you took! I will for sure be referencing this post when I go on my future non-existing trip to Europe (well, i guess it exists…but only in my head!)

    As for the Toms, do you recommend them? Do they run true to size? Or do they stretch out… I’ve heard about them turning, stinky, too…but i think that’s inevitable

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  25. says

    I’m saving this post somewhere, because I feel like you answered all the questions I was asking about two months ago! I’ve never traveled with just a carry-on until recently and whether it’s three days or three weeks, it’s a daunting task. The shoes are the hardest part for me! You did a great job and looked wonderful in every picture!

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  26. krista says

    I’m curious – you said no one wears tennies walking around there. But why do Americans have to do what the locals do? I mean, why does it matter if some tourists want to wear their Nikes? Are they treated differently?

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    • says

      people warned me that if someone knows right away that you’re a tourist, they’re less likely to help you and you’re also more of a target for pick-pocketing. not sure if this is true! also, i don’t really care about people knowing i’m an american, but i really did feel awkward in my shorts b/c of all the nasty looks i got.

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      • krista says

        I guess they didn’t notice that yall were travelling with a tourist group then?

        I had no clue shorts were a no-no! That is odd, since dresses seem OK.

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  27. Sarah Elizabeth says

    I love your cotton dresses! They’re so cute and so versatile. What brand are they?/Where did you purchase them?

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  28. says

    I’m headed to Europe in a couple weeks and this page is super helpful!

    Thank you so much!! 🙂

    P.S. We’re debating whether or not to make a stop in London…what did you think of this city? Would you go again?

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  29. Jordan says

    Loved all your tips! I travel all the time but somehow manage to ALWAYS overpack and be like 40 pounds over the weight limit! Lol. Your photos really helped to see the outfits change and how they can all work with less items. Loved the details too about what you did not like and did not end up using. SO HELPFUL! This is such a great post and I wlll be reading more of your posts! 🙂

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  30. Lara says

    thank you for posting this 🙂 I am going on a Mediterranean cruise in a couple of weeks. Everyone in my group has been to europe before except me. and NO one can give me straight answers on what to pack! I have been trying to decide on shoes.. TOMS were one thing I wanted to buy but I didn’t know if they would be comfortable enough. Anyway.. Thanks for this post. So helpful!

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  31. Krista says

    Just found this on Pinterest and it has been very helpful! Thank you!
    My husband and I are traveling to Europe in two weeks and I’m nervous about packing light! After reading your article, I’m eliminating my shorts and tennis shoes and adding a few more cardigans.
    Thanks again.
    Krista

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  32. Poma says

    Hi there – I stumbled across your blog just before leaving for Romania and Budapest for 2 weeks and you advice and pictures were invaluable! Thank you so much for the detailed descriptions and guidance you provide here – I definitely had a range of outfits perfect for 45 degF – 95deg F weather that fit in my backpack < 33 pounds! So thanks a bunch!

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  33. Ana says

    I know this blog isn’t too recent, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it! I’m going to germany/france in two weeks, and I will definitely be utilizing your advice! Especially about the tennis shoes part, i’d rather not be pick pocketed just for looking like a tourist. Thanks!

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  34. Jan says

    I am so happy to have found this! I’m headed to Europe for the first time this summer! I’m definitely using your list as a guide. Thank you!

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  35. Anne says

    Thank you so much for the post! I’m going to Italy and France for two weeks this summer and feel much better about packing. I was wondering about your footwear. Were your sandals comfortable? I’ve been researching sandals to wear but a lot of sightseeing, but they are all bulky (and well, pretty ugly). Any thoughts would be wonderful. Thanks!

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  36. Julie says

    I’m so glad you linked to this post in today’s post! I’m going to Europe in July for a month and needed some good tips! I want to still look cute & fashionable but be practical. You definitely seemed to achieve that 🙂

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  37. Julie Miller says

    Oh my gosh, thanks for writing this. My husband and I are going to Europe for two weeks and I’ve been totally been stressing about packing. I am a horrible packer. So I was absolutely thrilled to read this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  38. Shelley says

    I have the same pair of Toms that you do, and I wore them throughout a 21 day journey through Europe (including Greece). I found they were so comfortable even on cobblestone streets! I switched up between those and my Converse tennis shoes. I liked the Toms better!

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  39. Megan says

    Where did you get your brown studded sandals? I had a pair like them a few years ago but I haven’t been able to find that style since!

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  40. katie butler says

    i will be visiting europe at the end of may and early june, but ofcourse northern europe like Germany, london, Belguim, etc. And im visiting for 2 weeks. This was very helpful! i appreciate you making this page!

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  41. Deb says

    THANK YOU for this post! Your ideas are perfect – casual, elegant, and completely sensible. I’ve been scouring the web trying to figure out what to pack for my upcoming 2 week trip to Europe and I am so glad I found your site!

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  42. Gwendolin says

    Hihi this is funny. I’m dutch. Holland is not on top list for US tourist but in my country loads of people walk on nikes, adidas, puma or simalairr sport shoes. I wear my black pumas almost daily, even to work. But offcourse were not very fashionable 🙂
    You have a great style and good advice. Europe weather is changeable. The south is warm, hot in summer and the north rainy and cloudy but also therefor very green :). Hope you liked your trip. Good luck traveling.

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  43. Maggie says

    So glad I stumbled upon this on Pinterest! I’m getting ready to study abroad in Spain for 5 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of independent travel around France and Italy. Your list is great because it’s specific and has pictures of the different stylings!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  44. Katie says

    I am so glad that I found your blog! My daughter is traveling to Europe in two weeks and I have been searching the internet for useful advice about what to pack for YOUNG people. The pictures are terrific and this is by far, the MOST helpful method for conveying information I have seen so far! Thanks and keep up the great blog!

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  45. Danielle says

    Hello, in two weeks I’m off to Europe and I’m super excited but I was wondering if sandals are still comfy after 3+ miles of walking? I’m not too into the idea of wearing sneakers the entire time, so would sandals be a viable option?

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    • Deb says

      Hi Danielle,

      I was just in Europe for 2.5 weeks and would have been lost without my Merrell Barefoot Mary Janes. Kind of a cross between a sandal and sneaker. Absolutely comfortable, breathable, and even washable! Plus, they’re really cute. I have two pairs that I purchased at DSW on the clearance rack (!), but I also found them on this website just now in case you want to take a look: http://www.qvc.com/.product.A215756.html.

      I wouldn’t suggest sandals for the days when you’re walking 3+ miles 🙂

      Have a great trip!

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  46. Jen says

    Thank you Danielle for your trip ideas! I leave for Europe soon and found your information really useful. i think i will plan to bring more cardigans for those cooler days.

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  47. Donna says

    I think we are doing the identical trip as your family. Your website is going to help me in a big way!! Did you do any hiking in Switzerland? If so, what shoes did you wear, assuming Toms, and were they adequate?

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  48. Samantha says

    Hi there! Thank you for this post! I’m going to France in September of this year and this has helped me pack tremendously! My only question is should I bring more summer clothing, or more fall clothing? I’m not sure when you went, but you mentioned that it was colder in Paris. So should I bring more skirts and dresses or more capris and pants? Thanks! (:

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    • Teri Warner says

      My husband & I are going for 10th Anniversary to Paris in Sept. After reading your blog , I know I’m taking my tan long cashmere cardi (especially for travel) and a cute black. Silk Maggaschoni cardi with ruffles down the front. I’m thinking of taking my black patent fleece lined rain shoes and steel gray Stewart Weitzman snake print ballet flats. I also have a couple of pairs of Cole Haan mules w/Nike technology. I can walk forever in them.

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  49. says

    These processes usually involve the use of a mouth tray that is sometimes formed to fit your
    exact bite. You can still get a great tray with this method and
    there are no extra shipping times involved. The acid content of the lemon juice together
    with the abrasive action of the salt will remove stains effectively.

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  50. kristen says

    I LOVE that white shirt – am I correct that you also put it over the dress in the first couple of pics? remember where you got it from? I can’t quite read the tag. Thanks!

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  51. Jenny says

    Thanks for the great list! I think I’m sorted for a 3 week trip around Italy and France. I’m trying to find tips on what men should pack on a European holiday. I’m worried my husband will always look like he’s going to the gym.

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  52. Emily says

    So i know i am a few years late.. haha but, i have a question about outlet converters. Did you use the same converter for each country? I’ve looked online and apparently there are different outlets in different countries. Can you link me a picture of the one you used, or one similar?

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  53. Carol Cas-Miller says

    What month/date did you travel to Europe? I appreciate your attention to detail in this post, but would like to see how it lines up with the time I will be traveling so I can decide if I need to change anything for warmer or colder temps. We are traveling the end of May and early June to Venice, Rome and Lake Como. Thanks!

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  54. Kim M says

    Hi! Found this post via pinterest a bit later but so glad! I just love all your Vera Bradley I keep finding on various posts.
    I have one, possibly odd question…hopefully the first time you’ve heard it! What material are your leggings?
    I have various types and none seem comfortable enough to rock in the warmer climates. we are about to travel in a multi-climate area where we will need to be fast and functional in the changes from the beginning of one day to the end. So far all my leggings make me want to itch my legs to pieces in 70 degree weather!
    Tips on materials are greatly appreciated!
    Best,
    A Fort Wayne Girl (home of VERA!!!)

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    • Katie says

      I really like JCrew signature leggings, great all weather/year round leggings. Thick enough to cover yet breathable in summer. Wash well too. They go on sale pretty often. I try to stock up when they run a 20%-30% off code at the same time.

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  55. Krysten says

    I love how you paired the white shirt over the black dress!! I am currently planning a trip to Europe for this upcoming fall, so these outfit ideas are super helpful to look at again.

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  56. Vicki says

    I recently returned from a 3 plus week spring trip to Europe that included The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, southern France and Paris. I fully agree with your jeans comment. I also wanted to burn my jeans once I returned home, as I had worn them SO many times.
    For people following your advice, I fully agree with your travel list. I would also leave the shorts home. I would wear a pair of jeans on the plane and pack another pair. I wore mine regularly. I would also not worry about athletic shoes, if they are your comfort shoes, take/wear them. Many days we walked up to 6-8 miles. Your feet need to be pampered.
    Also, much of the information out there indicates that Europe is more dressy than North America, and indicates that you should take dressier clothes and shoes. I disagree. Our experience didn’t prove this theory. Take your favourite clothes, those that make you feel great. That’s the right approach. You will see many women in a nice shirt, jeans and a scarf – accessorized by statement jewellery. Great look for anywhere in the world.
    Don’t overpack, but take what you need. And YES!!!! take your own shampoo and conditioner. The hotels often only supply a two in one. Not OK.
    All that aside, my one hint for travellers, if you want to share your adventures with those at home…think about a wifi capable camera. Great for direct posting to Facebook! Have fun.

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  57. Melissa says

    This post was INCREDIBLY helpful, as I am panicking about what to pack for a 10 day trip to Switzerland, Paris and wherever my husband wants to venture. SO, so helpful, especially with all of the pictures! Thank you!!

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  58. Lindsay says

    Best blog I have read on packing only a carry on bag! Well done. I now feel prepared to pack for my 2 week trip to the USA!!!

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