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Packing for Europe in the shoulder season can be challenging. Should you pack for cold or warm weather? Start by reading this packing guide for trips with different weather and find out how to avoid overpacking with these tips downsizing one reader’s travel wardrobe!
Packing for Europe: Downsizing Your List
Travel Fashion help! Reader asks:
I’m traveling to Amsterdam, Germany, Hungary, and London the first 3 weeks of May. Do you suggest a pair of Capri pants and trench coat? I’m thinking about bringing a pair of jeans, black straight leg pants, a maxi skirt, and tops to match everything.
I will be gone for 24 days (my longest trip yet). I’ve checked the weather and it looks like a range between 50°F-70°F. Any helpful suggestions on packing for Europe would be appreciated.
(Below you will find the traveler’s full packing list along with my suggestions on what to keep and remove.)
Start by reviewing these articles:
For Amsterdam, Germany, Hungary, and London the first 3 weeks of May, you’ll most likely encounter colder weather than warmer weather.
Always, always, always check the weather forecast before your trip for each country you are visiting. Once you’ve researched the weather, you can focus on creating a capsule travel wardrobe, which should easily fit in a carryon suitcase with the help of packing cubes to compress your clothing.
Remember, the trick to traveling for long periods of time is to re-wear clothing and to do laundry once a week or as needed. On my first trip to Europe in March 2007, I packed a large suitcase plus carryon and almost all the clothing I packed went unworn.
Here are some general principles to keep in mind when packing for Europe in cold weather:
- If it’s cold, no one will see what you’re wearing underneath your sweater or coat, so you can rewear items.
- If you’re in a new city every few days, no one will notice you wore a similar outfit a few days prior.
- You can make 21 days worth of outfits with just 10 pieces of clothing: 3 bottoms multiplied by 7 tops equals 21 unique outfits. This is Travel Fashion Math.
- People have the tendency to gravitate towards the same few pieces of clothing, the ones they would normally wear at home and feel most comfortable with. I can almost guarantee you would only wear half of the clothing listed on your trip.
Follow these guidelines when packing for Europe in May (or during a trip with different weather):
Sleeveless | Tee | Blouse | Blouse | Long Sleeve
You currently have 12 tops listed in your packing list:
- 3 colored sleeveless tops in coral, mint green, and black/white.
- 3 short sleeve tees (white, black and grey stripe)
- chambray long sleeve blouse
- white long sleeve blouse
- long sleeve black/teal blouse
- white long sleeve v-neck knit top
- black long sleeve v-neck knit top
- teal blue and grey long sleeve crew neck knit top
It would be great if you could pare your list down to seven pieces. Since you don’t have any dresses, plan to pack enough tops so you have one for every day of the week. You have six long sleeve tops and six short sleeve/sleeveless tops.
Because of the weather, I would pack less sleeveless and short sleeve tops when packing for Europe.
- For the 3 colored sleeveless tops, I suggest removing 1-2 and choose the one that’s most versatile.
- I suggest removing the white tee and possibly the striped tee from the 3 short sleeve tees. Take only 1-2 tees. If you only choose one, go with black, because it’s classic, looks dressier yet comfortable, and will mask stains easier than the white tee.
- For the long sleeve tops, in total take no more than 4-5 blouses. If it’s cold, your outerwear (below) will be showing the majority of the time, not what you’re wearing underneath. If you only remove one, make it the white blouse; if you remove two, I recommend the knit top.
Leggings | Crop Linen Pants | Silk Skirt
In total, you currently have six bottoms listed.
- One dark denim ankle jeans (can be rolled up to be capris)
- one medium color denim skinny jeans
- black ankle pants
- black legging type pants
- khaki colored ankle pant/capris
- a maxi skirt in either black or black/cream
When packing for Europe, remember that pants, jeans, and trousers are easily reworn without being washed. They’re also least likely to show up in pictures since they’re on the lower half of your body, which people tend to notice less than the top half. Pack 3-4 total bottoms and focus on cold weather versus warm weather.
- Dark denim is a great choice for Europe! But, take only one pair of jeans and go with the darkest pair.
- Choose either the black ankle pants or leggings, not both.
- For the khaki colored ankle pant/capris, either choose these or the black ankle pants but, not both. They serve the same purpose.
- For the maxi skirt in either black or black/cream: because you have so many longer bottoms, perhaps a shorter skirt or dress would be better? If you don’t like to show your legs, a maxi would be great on warmer days.
Tip: You can layer the legging style pants under a shorter skirt or dress and wear this in the cold in addition to warm weather.
Long Jacket | Cardigan | Long Sleeve
In total, you currently have seven pieces of outerwear listed.
- 3 sweaters (orange and white stripe, black and white stripe and one black merino wool)
- black/winter white cardigan
- oatmeal colored cardigan that ties in the front
- minty green knit vest
- black side zip knit jacket
- army green jacket
- black North Face trench coat with a hood
Outerwear includes some of the most re-wearable clothing items as they don’t sit next to your skin and won’t get as dirty as other pieces. When packing for Europe, this is the best place to save space and find pieces that you can layer together as needed (so these must mix and match) or be worn alone based on the weather.
- For the sweaters, are these closed or open? if they’re closed, then take no more than two. If they’re open, take no more than one since you also are taking a cardigan.
- Take only one cardigan that can be worn over all tops, especially if you’re packing more than one sweater.
- Remove the minty green knit vest as it’s not an essential item (or keep and remove one more top or sweater).
- Can you remove the black side-zip knit jacket? Do you need the knit if you take sweaters and cardigans?
- Could the army green jacket replace the North Face trench coat or vice versa?
Walking Shoes | Ballet Flats | Ankle Booties
All great choices! When packing for Europe, it’s great to pack:
- black tennis (walking) shoes
- black flats (black is always classic or you can also try one of these versatile colors for shoes)
- black ankle booties (considering choosing tan instead of black – it goes with everything. see this post!)
Printed Scarf | Infinity Scarf | Belt | Crossbody
All great choices when packing for Europe!
- 2 printed scarves
- black belt
- small black cross body purse
Tip: Worried about theft, add items like a money belt or Secret Bra Pocket to your packing list.
Here are a few articles on how to layer your clothing so you don’t have to take as many pieces:
The absolute best way to avoid packing more than two sweaters and/or cardigans is by using thermals underneath. Merino wool, in particular, is the best choice because you can rewear it for days (even weeks if needed) and it won’t absorb scents.
Read this article on the best thermal underwear for women to find out how they work.
Travel Fashion Tip: Even though you’re not traveling in the middle of winter, this sample cold weather capsule wardrobe shows you how to pack with a total of fifteen clothing pieces!
Do you have anything to add to these tips on packing for Europe? Please comment below!
For more Europe packing lists, please read:
- 10 Step Packing Guide for Europe
- 10 Step Packing Guide for Italy
- 10 Step Packing Guide for Paris
- What to Wear in Europe: Packing Lists for Every Destination!
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Thank you so much for the tips! Can’t wait to figure out what to take…
This was super helpful with the actual packing list examples!! Going to channel this energy while packing for my trip to Barcelona – wish me luck!!
Great blogs …mahalo
I love reading your packing suggestions. Thanks for sharing your experience. Using it to pack for my 4-week trip to Europe leaving at the end of Sept.
Thank you for your words of wisdom! Hoping not to overpack on our upcoming European vacation with your helpful list and capsule wardrobes!
This type of interactive post is very helpful!
Love the specifics this article provides! They have become my packing template for long trips.
This is great info. Used it to travel in eastern Europe for three weeks in early spring
Great if/then suggestions for cutting out the extras
Everyone says what to pack, but how do you travel without a shirt every day? Wear a dirty shirt the second day? Wash your clothes? There’s not really time to wash clothes. How does this get accomplished w/o an entire suitcase ending up all smelly?
Hi Becky, take a look TFG’s signature packing lists for ideas for a capsule wardrobe and how many clothing items you can pack for any trip: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/functional-and-fashion-packing-list/
No matter the length of your trip you can pack for one week and have everything you need. We have more tips here:
I plan to follow the basic list, and use a tip: spray bottle with water/vodka to mist worn clothes that could be used another day… also, wash clothes in the sink every other day. I have been practicing at home, just to see how they fare, and it’s working well. Considering folding hangers/corded hanging line to make it easier, as finding the right place to lay out or hang has been a concern. The extra hassle will be worth less weight to lug around on our 17 stop/25 day best of Europe trip (leaving in 28 days)! Carry-on & a backpack only!
Thanks! Although ” no one will see what you’re wearing underneath your sweater or coat, so you can rewear items.” – who cares? 😉
Alex, this was a great post. Definitely helpful for me to look at the clothing I’ve laid out and downsize. I’m heading to Italy for 5 weeks. Biggest problem is, in addition to site seeing in Italy, I have a cruise.
Hi Mary, so happy to hear that we’ve been able to help you with your packing. ?
If you’re worried about over packing, a good place to start is to take a look TFG’s signature packing lists for ideas for a capsule wardrobe and how many clothing items you could pack for your trip: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/functional-and-fashion-packing-list/ The packing lists show you how to pack light and have the right clothes no matter the destination or the length of the journey!
Then check out this 10 step guide for Italy which takes you through every stage of your packing so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/10-step-packing-guides/10-step-packing-guide-italy/
Hope this helps. Have the most incredible time! ?
By putting so many clothes into the packing cube, don’t they get wrinkled?
Hi Laura, one of our favorite ways to avoid wrinkles inside packing cubes is to use the bundle wrapping method inside the packing cube! You can find more tips here: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/how-to-pack-clothes-without-wrinkles/ Hope this helps! ?
I put a whole outfit including undies socks & bra and belt into a roll or packing. cube:prevents rifling through for the socks. Two complete outfits is enough for 3 weeks. Mix tops and add scarf. Put gloves and hat into coat pockets with a safety pin. Two pair of shoes. Bring twice as much money and half as much stuff. Bring ready printed address labels for post cards, social cards with your name and e mail & cell, and a small diary. You’ll refer to it for years to come. Wear a smile.
My husband and I went to a Europe several times. I always stressed and over packed, but getting better at it. We are going to Croatia and Greece end September October for 3 weeks,I will definitely follow your guides as it make sense.
Yay, so pleased you found the guide useful Jackie! You may also find our 10 step guide to packing for Europe helpful: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/10-step-packing-guide-europe/ Have the most phenomenal trip in October!! 🙂
My husband & I are traveling to Germany, Netherland, Belgium, Vienna, France & Italy this coming September for 3 weeks. Could you recommend us your tips on what outfit for us to bring along? Btw, this our 1st trip to Europe & we have no clue at all on what to wear & carry. Thanks a lot! ?
Hi Jenny, thank you for reaching out! For the best place to start planning your packing, have a look at TFG’s 10 step guide to packing for Europe: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/10-step-packing-guide-europe/ You may also find this article helpful: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/10-step-packing-guide-for-a-trip-to-paris-and-italy/ Hope this helps! Have an amazing time on your first trip to Europe! 🙂
I’m in northern Italy right now for a month. If I had to pack again, I would bring, (including what I’m wearing) 2 jeans and 3 underarmour type shirts, a nightie and a nice raincoat, no extra shoes. It’s ridiculous dragging around clothes. All I brought was (including what I’m wearing) 5 dresses, 4 leggings, 2 pr shoes, a sweater and a raincoat, pjs, it’s too much. By the time you get electronics and face wash etc, it’s all too heavy. A couple scarves would enough change up for me. Too much fun to be had and you can shop here if you like.
Thanks for the feedback Nancy!
I’m going for 3 weeks to france, germany, england and spain.
Do you think bringing light wash jeans are a good choice? I’m not sure what’s in fashion in these countries. i wanna bring a light wash and dark wash pair of jeans.
Also, I have palazzo pants similar to ones here (http://wheretoget.it/look/1243562).
These are my favorite pants and I wear them often. It says to where your favorite clothes.
Should I bring these things?
Hey Deeva, as the article says try and only bring one pair of jeans and make them your darkest pair! However if you’re not planning on taking any other bottoms then you have more flexibility of choice 🙂 Those pants are super cute as well! If you wear them all the time then that’s great as you don’t want to bring something you never really wear! Check out the 10 step guide to packing for Europe for some more tips – http://bit.ly/1rJAy3y
Yah I’m not going to bring any shorts. So it would just be 2 jeans and the pants for my bottoms.
I really like this article because it reminds me that I don’t need to pack everything. I am planning on going to Europe for a month in July and I want to travel with just a carry-on and a backpack. This is good information to remind me that I can make many outfits out of some choice items and accessories. Thanks.
Yay I love this 🙂 You really don’t need to pack everything! Enjoy Europe and good luck with your packing!
That is a great choise of outerwear and shoes shown above. I always get confused when I have to pack these things. For traveling in Germany in Mai you definitely need clothes for warm and cold weather. We have had temperatures between 4 °C at night time and 26 °C during the day this month. Right now it is getting warmer, but rain is expected the next days. So maybe an umbrella can be helpful 🙂
Thanks Chrissy that’s really helpful 🙂 Glad you like the choices too!