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?

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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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Same cotton dress:

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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-wear 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 fugly, I know, but 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 TOMS 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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Jackets

I made sure to pack three jackets – one fleece, one lightweight jacket and one raincoat. Don’t forget the raincoat! It was imperative for the dreary London weather and the texture of the coat also helped with wind resistance.

Bags

I used the exact same purse every single day.

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My Michael Kors cross-body purse (purchase 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 Longchamp bag (great suggestion from Kristen) before we left using some money I received for my birthday and was so glad I had it.

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It was a great travel bag and held everything from my laptop to books, a sweater, my camera, my wallet and more.

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Other Key Items

  • Makeup (I packed only the makeup I wear daily – nothing fun or fancy)
  • Shampoo/ conditioner (if you’re picky like me and have to have your favorite shampoo)
  • Face wash
  • Lotion (I like self-tanning lotion and hotels haven’t hopped on that bangwaggon yet)
  • Converters (you can’t charge anything without a proper converter
  • 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)

Comments

  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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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  11. 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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  12. 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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  13. 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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  14. 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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  15. 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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  16. 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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  17. 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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  18. 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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  19. says

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    exact bite. You can still get a great tray with this method and
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    with the abrasive action of the salt will remove stains effectively.

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  20. 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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  21. 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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  22. 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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  23. 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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  24. 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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