Dreams of dancing through snowy cobblestone streets while sipping on mulled wine as you explore the infamous Christmas markets that consume Europe in the winter. Chowing down on goulash and basking in Christmas lights while enjoying fewer crowds than the summer months bring. The truth of the matter is that heading to Europe for winter is magical. And no matter how magical it truly is, if you aren’t prepared you can get bogged down by the stress of having to pack for an extended trip. Especially when you want to pack as light as possible which is hard to do in the winter when you’re bringing along heavy winter coats and boots.
If you’re unsure of how to pack for an extended winter trip, worry no more! I traveled across Europe (solo!) from October-January with one backpack and one piece of checked luggage. I traversed the continent moving west to east and north to south. I packed things that were incredibly useful, and things that just took up too much space. I left things behind as I went, only to make space for new purchases. But overall, my packing list for Europe in winter got me through mild to freezing days. And still allowed me to enjoy my time while being able to carry my own luggage from destination to destination.
Packing List for Europe in Winter – What to Keep in Mind…
The first rule to keep in mind when you’re making a packing list for an extended vacation is that you do not want to pack so much that you can’t cart your luggage around yourself. Nor do you want to pack so much that your bag weighs over the limit and you have to pay an extra fee every time you board a flight.
The second thing to keep in mind as you make a travel packing list is that anything you forget… can be bought. My advice? Always go with less and if you miss it on the road… buy it! It’s better than packing too much and being miserable carrying heavy suitcases around for weeks on end.
What’s in My Bag for 10-Weeks Abroad – The Ultimate Packing List for Winter
As far as clothes went, I packed pretty lightly. Knowing that clothes can take up a lot of room I chose to pack minimally and instead go heavy on accessories. Keep in mind that at any point in your trip you can do laundry so it isn’t essential or feasible to bring tons of clothes with you. Especially if your goal is to be able to carry your own bags. This is something I would recommend and do again if I were packing for Europe again in the future. (Tip: When packing clothes make sure to roll instead of fold!)
Four long sleeve shirts
Three pairs of jeans (black, dark blue, light blue)
One pair of leather pants
Lesson learned… If I did this trip again I would have packed fewer shirts and more sweaters. I also would have left the leather at home. They weren’t warm enough and just took up space in my bag. My new travel packing list for Europe would include four sweaters, three long sleeve shirts, three pairs of jeans, and no fancy pants.
One pair of pajamas
Nine pairs of socks + One pair of wool socks
14 pairs of underwear
Three bras – Each different for different types of clothes (strapless, etc)
Lesson learned… If I did this trip again I would have packed more pairs of wool socks. Normal socks weren’t warm enough for the biting winter wind so wearing my wool socks day in and day out got a bit… smelly. Also, I was fine with one pair of pajamas but I wish I had had sweatpants and a sweatshirt to lay around in.
I realize that packing athletic wear takes up a lot of room in one’s bag. However, athletic wear was a necessity for me when I made my travel packing list because there’s no way I could have traveled for as long as I did without getting a work out in here and there. If you aren’t big on working out, then skip this section and move on! This will create more room for the things that you feel are more necessary.
Three complete workout outfits including tops, bottoms, and bras
Lesson learned… These are outfits that I couldn’t have lived without. However, in hindsight, I would have only packed two and worn them multiple times before washing. (I aim to do four workouts/week when traveling).
One coat – Incredibly warm and insulated down to my knees (pictured above)
One leather jacket – To dress my clothes up a bit for a night out
One pullover – In case I needed more layers
Two pairs of gloves
Lesson learned… My heavy coat that took up the most room in my bag was an absolute necessity. I invested in this coat and it paid off. During the coldest days, I was able to bundle up and still enjoy my time outside. As far as the leather jacket goes it was strictly for looks and not for warmth; if I re-packed this would come with me again. I ended up ditching my pullover halfway through my trip seeing as my coat was plenty warm. When it comes to the multiple scarves, hats, and gloves I brought these not only for warmth but also because they don’t take up much room and I wanted to be able to change up my “looks” seeing as I had limited clothes. The outwear accessories ended up being my favorite “travel essentials”.
Pssst… shop my coat here! I got it from North Face and it was an absolute lifesaver in the freezing cold weather!
One pair of flip-flops – My “just in case” shoes
One pair of tennis shoes – For workouts plus long walking days
One pair of rain-boots – Multifunctional as a rain boot but also looks like an “everyday” boot (I received so many compliments on these affordable Sam Edelman rain boots!)
One pair of insulated boots – A necessity
One pair of wedges – For a night out on the town
Lesson learned… I brought five pairs of shoes in total which took up a lot of room. Looking back I would have ditched the wedges and instead packed another pair of comfortable walking shoes such as stylish tennis shoes. As far as the five shoes go I don’t think I could have downsized any further… all of these were necessities.
Multiple pieces of jewelry – including necklaces, earrings, and rings to change “looks” up
Two purses (one small, one big)
Shampoo + Conditioner + Body Wash
Face wash + Face lotion
Toiletries including – Tampons, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, razor, etc
Tip: Before I leave for a big trip I always head to Walgreens to stock up on miniature bottles of toothpaste, deodorant, etc. I also buy mini clear plastic bottles that I can squeeze my own shampoo/conditioner/body wash, etc in which saves room when packing.
iPad (used for books)
European adapter (I’ve had mine for 3+ years and it’s still reliable)
Reusable water bottle (I get mine from S’well and love it! It’s durable, keeps your drink cold, doesn’t “sweat” and you can pick from multiple designs!)
1. Buy miniature Tide packs to wash your clothes!
2. Always brings plastic bags. I use mine for opened Tide packs that I don’t fully use, to pack snacks for on the road, to put dirty clothes in so I don’t confuse them with clean clothes, and to place all of my chargers together so I’m not hunting around for them in my big bag
3. For more space, roll your clothes instead of folding them
4. Be careful when traveling with a backpack especially if you have valuables in your bag. A backpack can be easily opened from behind without you noticing. Whenever I’m walking in a crowded place I wear my backpack in front
5. Weigh your bag before getting to the airport! And know that some European airlines have stricter weight restrictions than American airlines
Figuring out my Europe trip packing list started out as a daunting chore that I had dreaded until the day I left. However, after fine-tuning the list over and over, I was able to pack only the essentials which traveled with me for 10-weeks. Everything listed above fits into a checked suitcase and one backpack. My bag was not overweight and I was able to carry it through cobblestone streets on my way to and from the airport/bus stop/train station in each city I visited. This packing list for Europe in winter will definitely be used again.