When packing for your trip to Europe, the old rule of packing light certainly applies. You may want to blend in with the fashionable Europeans, particularly the ultra-chic French and Italians, but practicality pays when you are travelling. Pack clothes that you can layer and that mix and match, and always remember to leave some room in your suitcase or backpack as you're bound to bring home more than you take!
Take a pair of good walking shoes – they are certainly worth the investment. Even if you're not planning to go hiking, sturdy, comfortable walking shoes are a must. Many of the 'old towns' in Europe still have cobblestone streets, and churches and towers require lots of stair climbing, and these don't suit high heels at all!
Obviously, clothes that dry quickly and don't crease or wrinkle are best. If you can't make it to the nearest laundromat, at least you can wash your underwear or light clothes in the bathtub or sink of your hotel and hang them to dry overnight on a travel clothesline. And let's face it - who wants to be ironing whilst on holiday? Certainly not me!
Layering is definitely the way to go - pack mostly neutral colours so that you can mix and match your tops with pants and skirts. Having a few different tops that can be worn with the same pair of pants or skirts gives you variety and saves space in your suitcase. That way, you'll feel like you're wearing a new outfit each day even if you've been travelling for a few weeks. Brighten up your wardrobe with a scarf or pashmina, which also comes in handy as a wrap if the weather turns cool. Even in warm destinations you may need a light jacket or cardigan so throw one in as a precaution - again, a neutral colour is best.
I find the temperature on aeroplanes fluctuates to the extreme - I'm either freezing cold (even with the airline-supplied blanket) or boiling hot. With this in mind I always wear pants on the flight (pants with a loose-fitting waist are best) and carry a jacket or cardigan with me. Wearing a couple of the bulkier items of clothing has the added benefit of saving room in my suitcase, too. (You can check out the outfit on wore for my last long-haul flight here.)
Below is a basic (and not necessarily, complete) list of non-clothing items you may like to pack. Some things may not apply to you and others you may decide to 'buy it if I need it', but they're worth considering just the same. Remember, though, the airlines are very strict on weight limits and excess baggage fees can be expensive. Check with your airline in advance what the weight and size restrictions are so you don't get a nasty surprise when you check in at the airport.
You can also read my top 5 hand luggage essentials >>
Basic first aid kit
- Antiseptic cream
- Headache tablets
- Chap stick
- Tweezers / nail scissors / clippers
- General toiletries
*Remember the regulations about taking liquids on flights.
- Mini alarm clock
- Calculator/foreign exchange converter
- Camera with spare batteries, card, etc
- Credit Card/s
- Debit/ATM cards
- International Drivers Licence
- Electrical adapter plugs
- Inflatable coathangers
- Travel clothesline
- Maps/guide books (or better still, download the app on your smart phone)
- Travel diary/journal
- Passport, airline tickets, vouchers, etc.
- Playing cards, books, etc
- Safety pins (see note below)
- Sewing kit
- Pocket knife
- Inflatable neck pillow
- Money belt
- iPod & car adapter/charger
- Mobile phone and charger
If self-catering, you may also find the following useful:
- Zip-lock bags (see note below)
- Dirty washing bag
- Face washer/flannel
- Hand towel
- Tea towel
Travelling with children
If travelling with children, some additional items you may like to pack include:
- Your child's favourite toy
- Childrens books, colouring pencils, etc
- An exercise book for your child to use as their own travel diary or journal
- Children's medication
To see what clothing I pack for a summer holiday in Europe, click here
TIP: Safety pins are useful for temporary repairs to clothing, back packs, etc.
TIP: Zip-lock sandwich bags are great for travellers and are very light and easy to pack. They can be used for storing everything from lollies to loose change, spare batteries to cosmetics, and much more.
The above list is by no means a complete list and is provided as a general guide only.
If you'd like to travel light and only take carry-on luggage, read my interview with Alex Jimenez of Travel Fashion Girl and get all her tips for one-bag travel.