One of the dilemmas that many of us face before going away on holidays, particularly for an extended time, is knowing how much and what to pack. On previous trips to Europe there always seems to have been something in my suitcase that never sees the light of day so these days I make a concerted effort to make sure that what I pack will definitely be worn.
I’ve read lots of blogs that advocate taking carry on luggage only, ie a bag that’s small enough to take onboard the plane with you. Whilst this is a great idea in theory, most of my trips to Europe tend to be of at least six weeks in duration and for this reason I really don’t think I can limit myself to 7 kilograms of luggage. Shoes and toiletries alone weigh a few kilo's and I need to allow room (and weight capacity) for bringing home anything I purchase whilst away.
UPDATE: Prior to my 2017 European summer vacation I published a new packing list. You can read it here.
My next European trip will mainly involve getting around by car so, apart from two shortish train rides, we won’t need to lug suitcases on and off trains very often. We’ll still need to carry them up and down stairs at our accommodation but given that we have never gone over the 20 kilo limit before, I’m confident we’ll be able to manage one suitcase each plus a small carry-on bag or backpack.
Some travellers happily promote the fact that they take their old clothes on holidays and then discard before coming home. Personally, I’d rather take clothes that I like and feel comfortable in and bring them back with me.
For me, the number one thing when packing for a trip to Europe is to be conscious of packing clothes that mix and match so that I can get numerous outfits from a limited number of items. Most days on my upcoming trip will be fairly relaxed, taking in the sights so I’ll need smart casual outfits but we also plan to do some (gentle) mountain walks and a couple of bike rides, so sturdy walking shoes and shorts are a must.
Added to that, towards the end of the trip my husband will be attending a conference/training workshop in Paris and whilst I get the days free to explore Paris (yay!!) while he’s learning, I will be joining him at night for some formal dinners and functions. This means that I’ll need to pack a couple of smarter outfits for evenings. Of course whilst I'm in Paris and Europe's other major cities, I'd like to try and blend in with the locals and not have my outfits scream 'tourist', so this is where skirts and a casual dress can work well.
On previous trips to Europe in summer we have enjoyed fantastic weather - last year it reached 39C in Austria - so whilst I’m hoping it isn't that hot this time, I am expecting the days to be lovely and warm. You can never be sure, though, so I’ll be including a couple of cardigans in my suitcase.
I always struggle with what to wear on the plane. Comfort has to play a big part when you’re going to be stuck on a plane for the 24 hour flight to Europe and I also tend to get cold on planes so I need to have clothing I can layer. Whilst I might need a cardigan or jacket onboard the plane, I’m certainly not going to need it during the brief stopover in Asia or the Middle East, so layering is the way to go.
I’ve decided I’ll wear my heaviest items for the flight this time. This means I’ll be wearing jeans and my walking shoes with a t-shirt and cardigan and I’ll throw a scarf in my carry on bag for additional warmth if I need it. Jeans definitely aren’t the comfiest pants to sit in (especially when cramped on a plane) for 24 hours so I’ll carry a pair of loose fitting yoga pants in my hand luggage and I can change into those before trying to grab some sleep during the flight. The yoga pants will also come in handy during the trip for lounging around the apartment/hotel room at night.
Whilst my suitcase isn't packed yet, I have been through my wardrobe and decided what I'll be taking. Below is a list of the items that will be going in my suitcase.
One thing I don't plan on spending much time doing whilst on holidays is ironing. Apart from the pants and one shirt, none of the clothes I'm packing need ironing. The fabric from which the dresses, skirts and most shirts are made means that these items won't crease - perfect for travelling!
Packing list for an extended summer holiday in Europe
- Plain white x 2 (one short sleeved and one 3/4 sleeved)
- Red x 3
- Grey x 1
- Navy x 2
Shorts/Cargo pants/Capris (I'll choose two in total)
- Navy (goes with white x 2 / red x 3 / grey for casual)
- White (goes with red x 3 / navy by 2)
- Black (formal - goes with red patterned & red layered)
- Black/white print (goes with white)
- Navy patterned (goes with white / navy x 2)
Jeans (go with all tops)
Yoga pants (to change into on the plane and for lounging around in the hotel room/apartment)
- Casual print for day wear
- Red patterned
Cardigans (these three colours allow enough options for each outfit including the formal outfits)
- Merrell walking shoes
- Black sandals
- Neutral sandals
- I will buy a more formal pair of heels in Europe to wear with the dresses/skirt I intend to wear to the formal dinners and functions in Paris. As the formal part of the trip is right near the end, I'd rather buy these shoes closer to needing them rather than lug them around for the majority of the trip when they never make it out of my case.
A couple of scarves and some costume jewellery to dress up outfits.
I don’t go overboard here. Anything I forget or decide not to take I can buy in Europe if I find I need it.
Laptop/iPad/chargers/European power adapter and of course my Travel Money Card.
What I’m not packing
- Hairdryer - every hotel and apartment has one these days
- Big bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc - for the first couple of days I’ll use what’s provided in the hotel room, and then I’ll buy some locally at a supermarket to last me for the trip.
During the January sales in Australia, I bought a set of Kathmandu packing cubes which I’ll be using for the first time on this trip, so hopefully my suitcase will remain neat and orderly throughout the holiday. Update: Now that I'm home, I wrote about the joys of packing cubes.
Adding a couple of new items to my wardrobe is always something I enjoy when visiting Europe so I’m bound to come home with more clothes than I started with. I rationalise my shopping by saying that the summer clothes I buy in Europe will serve me well when summer hits Australia six months later! Plus, it’s fairly unlikely that any of the clothes I buy in Europe will be available in Australia if I stick to brands/department stores that haven’t made it Down Under yet.
You can find more great packing tips for your travels at Her Packing List and Travel Fashion Girl.
Ladies, I hope this list gives you the confidence to pack a comfortable and versatile, yet smart, outfit for your summer European travels. Once I've helped my husband get his suitcase in order, I'll follow up with a man's packing list, too.
Footnote: You'll be pleased to know that I wore absolutely everything I took with me on this trip. Yes, the formal outfits did only get worn once each but they were a necessity for this trip. I did manage to add a couple of new items to my wardrobe, too - two more skirts (I can never seem to find any I like in Australia), a t-shirt and a couple more scarves - can you ever have too many scarves?!
I recently interviewed Alex from Travel Fashion Girl and asked her tips for one-bag packing. She also critiqued my summer packing list. To find out what she had to say, read the interview with Alex from Travel Fashion Girl.
What is your must-have item when packing for a summer holiday in Europe? Please share in the comments below.
You might also like these posts:
- What's in my carry-on bag?
- What to wear on a long haul flight
- What to pack for a month in Europe in summer (2017 packing list)