Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Vienna… so many of our travel wishlists are packed with European cities. While they all have their own unique atmospheres, you can still come up with an ideal packing list that covers all your bases. This can be particularly useful when embarking on that iconic holiday plan: the European Tour.
Let’s start with some honesty. Going to a new city, especially one that is known for its culture, usually means that we want to look our best. European cities are some of the most intimidating in that regard. We picture women in smart, stylish outfits that look both elegant and effortless, perhaps sitting poised in a cafe window sipping from the world’s smallest cup. We then picture ourselves shuffling past in neon sneakers, ill-fitting jeans and a rumpled blouse, looking like a total tourist.
Now, I have already written about why I think dressing to feel good about yourself is important while traveling. And maybe you really don’t care about your clothing – but the likelihood is that you do, and you love the idea of dressing your best in your dream city.
But there’s a reason we suspect that we’re going to look less than our best. One suitcase/carry on/backpack to take everything? And what about staying comfortable? Can we have it both ways?
So: throughout this article, I am going to be looking at how you can pack practically, but also with the goal of presenting your personal style in the ideal way. Let’s see how we do.
Europe in summer tends to be mild, generally speaking. Generally. If you are planning on visiting multiple cities in multiple countries, such as with our For the Love of History, London to the Mediterranean, and Madrid to Rome tours, you’ll have to be ready for some change of weather.
The weather is temperate in the northern cities; the further south you go, the hotter it gets. Layers are a great bet here. However, you need to make sure that you like each of the layers individually. T-shirts that you only like to wear under a jacket won’t be any good to you once you hit the heat down south.
Rain is a possibility. At least one pair of completely closed shoes is a must. A light, splashproof jacket would also be a good idea, as would a portable umbrella – I’ll be talking about accessories further down.
Cities mean walking, in my experience. Sure, you could get taxis everywhere, but part of the reason we visit a historical city is to walk through it. Old streets and buildings, stately parks, followed by treks through museums and art galleries… Prepare to be on your feet for a good part of the day.
This does not mean, however, that you have to fall victim to the neon sneakers I mentioned earlier (Unless neon sneakers are part of your look, in which case, hooray!). It might take some searching, but you can almost always find a comfort version of any style of shoe.
Sandals, slip-on flats, ankle boots… get a pair that you know you could walk for miles in with no problem, and you won’t have to worry about squeaky gym shoes in the louvre (Again, unless that’s your thing. I really have nothing against sports shoes. Unless they squeak, in which case I have a whole lot against them).
You could also try adding a pair of orthopaedic insoles to a pair of flats or something similar. Take a few long test walks before you commit, though. Nothing ruins a museum trip quicker than aching feet.
Accessories can be one of the easiest ways to make sure that you consistently nail your style while traveling. You can change a simple tshirt and jeans combo into something glamorous, blingy, boho, punk, or rustic with the simple addition of the right accessories.
Accessories have the added bonus of not taking up a lot of space, unless you’re into really big hats. And you can wear them over and over again without feeling too much like you’re repeating an outfit.
Co-ordinating your accessories can be a great shortcut to feeling stylish. Even if you don’t normally commit to one particular “look”, doing so for the duration of your trip can really help with the packing. Say you decided that you were going to dress in a glamorous bohemian style… a selection of light scarves, dangling earrings and a few decorative belts, and you’re set.
Packing for Space
In terms of streamlining your clothing choices, making sure they mix and match; and working out your item-to-outfit ratio, I could write a whole other article just dedicated to that.
…Which I already did. If you’re having trouble getting from fifty items to twenty, give it a read!
Type of Bag
Roll, baby, roll. As I said, you’re likely to be walking through these cities, and you’re going to want a suitcase that you don’t have to lug around. I am a big fan of those , that you can walk alongside. I find the two-wheeled cases you have to drag to be a bit difficult to manouvre through crowds. But if you’re more used to the two-wheeled ones, then go for it. Just make sure you’re not going to have to pick it up to move it. No duffle bags.
You will need a day bag, for all the walking around… something for your camera, umbrella, travel journal, etc. Once you’ve set your holiday style, you should make sure that your day bag fits in with it. You can get very stylish backpacks which can take the place of a daypack. Perhaps you want a sparkly satchel, or a linen shoulder bag. Just make sure it’s comfortable to carry.
Once you find your balancing point between comfort and style, you’ll be ready to go. Happy packing!