Ready to head to Europe for a summer? Here’s my insider secrets to easily pack for a six week summer European trip. European weather can be notoriously changeable but being prepared is easier than you think!
First of all, what size bag should you take? The choices are overwhelming. If you’re heading to Europe and are booked into an Airbnb, short term rental or house sit for the duration and have a car rental, take one large suitcase and one carry on. You’ll need the carry on for short weekend trips from your base.
If you’re traveling from hotel to hotel, or by train I recommend you use a medium suitcase with a small shoulder tote bag or backpack.
Got a traveling companion who has hands free to help lift luggage into train compartments or overhead? You can get away with a small to medium suitcase. Long distance trains may have a dedicated luggage space but most city to city trains will only have overhead space which isn’t big enough for larger suitcases. You’ll end up standing so you can hold and watch your bags and that’s no fun!
Use a backpack for those weekend trips and around town. You’ll need a place to store your daily stuff like laptop, passport and phone. When you’re out all day shopping or sight seeing a tote or backpack is handy to stash snacks and small purchases.
When it comes to my main suitcase, I prefer soft sided luggage with pockets inside and out as I think it gives you more flexibility to squish things in. Soft bags can fit into spaces that hard cases can’t. Like train luggage racks.
- Bottom line?
Use a medium size roller bag plus a backpack OR one carry on size roller bag plus a backpack. I actually prefer to check my bags so I’m not lugging a heavy carryon around the airport. Yes you have to wait for the baggage carousel but it’s worth it.
Soft Sided Carry On
Packable Duffel Bag
Let’s start with the Essentials to Pack for Six Weeks in Europe:
- Pillows – small 12 x 16 and preferably down
- Robe or caftan – lightweight
- Slipper or flip flops to walk in room or to pool
- Poncho for warmth on plane or as a quick wrap
I need at least one small down pillow to travel with. Hotels are getting a lot better about providing good linens and pillows. But if you’re a Goldilocks like me, I need my extra little pillows. Store down pillows in space saver bags and they take up no room at all.
I like a very light weight robe or long t shirt to put on after a shower or bath while I’m doing my hair. A pretty caftan can also double as a pool cover up. Get one that packs down to nothing.
Some hotel carpets are just plain sticky. Take a foldable pair of slippers or light flip flops.
A wool or cashmere poncho can be super versatile; both to keep you warm on the plane and to use on spring/summer days that turn suddenly cool.
Wool Cashmere Poncho
Skinny Flip Flop
Most electronics such as laptops and phones are dual voltage, meaning they adapt on demand to using either 110 (US) OR 220 (UK) voltage. With these devices you just need an adapter plug for the country you’re in.
Even Amazon doesn’t state on its product page whether or not the Kindle is dual voltage. I would charge it with a converter or with your laptop USB just to be on the safe side. As much as I prefer reading a book, I rely on my Kindle when traveling. I download e-books from the library or buy from Amazon. Instant gratification.
If you aren’t sure if your device is dual voltage, you’ll need a converter. A converter converts one voltage to another, for example 110v (US) to 220v (UK). You’ll still need the plug adapter. We found this converter worked well for travel in Europe.
An alternative is to charge your device through your laptop USB port once the laptop is plugged in.
iPad 10.2- inch
MAKEUP + HAIR
- Carry on size toiletries
- Gift size makeup
- Travel hairdryer (dual voltage)
- Brush | Comb | Velcro Rollers
- Small travel mirror
Start collecting travel size versions of your daily toiletries like toothpaste, face cream, shampoo etc. Most hotels carry mini shampoos and conditioners but I like to pack my own.
Also take advantage of “gift with purchase” makeup like Clinique or Lancome. Small mascaras, blushes and eye shadows are perfect for travel.
Most hotels supply hairdryers, so unless you’re picky you can skip packing your own. I took this dual voltage small lightweight dryer. I’m glad I did, because most hotel hairdryers don’t have enough juice to style hair.
European bathrooms don’t have electric outlets but they may have a hairdryer built in. If you take your own dryer you’ll need to find a mirror with an outlet nearby to dry your hair. (Don’t forget the adapter). A small travel mirror means while your travel partner is steaming up the bathroom mirror, you can be putting on your makeup somewhere else!
Travel Makeup Mirror
Dual Volt Hairdryer
To Pack for Six Weeks in Europe:
- Hose | No show socks or liners | Socks
- Bras | Panties
- Robe or Cover Up
- Ponte or stretch pants
- Skirt | Bermuda Shorts
- PJ’s or T Shirt
- Rain or trench coat
How to Choose What to Pack for Six Weeks in Europe:
- Pull everything out of your closet you’d like to take
- For each bottom -pants or skirt- see if you have at least three tops.
- Take enough pieces to give you three versions of each outfit. If you take three pants, pack 9 tops. Three of those tops should work with your skirt or shorts.
- If a pair of pants or a skirt doesn’t make a least 3 outfits leave it at home.
- Create outfits from two or three of your favorite pieces in your wardrobe right now. Do this in daylight so you can really see if colors are working together.
- The secret to easily packing a great travel wardrobe for six weeks is color. Make sure everything goes together so you can mix and match without a lot of fuss.
My winter travel colors ended up being gray, navy and olive green.
Sounds dull, but with a pop of white here and a blue and white scarf there, it was uber easy to pull together outfits on the go. A dark green down jacket from Eddie Bauer that was already in my closet helped make up my mind. I ended up buying a pair of olive green athletic shoes which worked with everything. Blue and green!
You can do the same with summer colors. Pick three.
Trust me you’ll wear the most comfortable and most flattering outfits over and over so don’t take it if it doesn’t fit and isn’t comfortable for long plane or train rides.
Remember hardly anyone sees you twice, so don’t worry about repeating a look!
Be realistic about what activities you need to pack for.
No need to take heels unless you’re going to the opera or attending a wedding. If you’re addicted to your heels, I’d suggest not taking any with you. Wait until you get to your destination. If you find you absolutely must have some heels, buy some locally.
Hiking or walking requires a supportive comfortable sandal or shoe. I switch between a low heel and a sneaker or trainer.
European cities have become more Americanized and casual. Everyone wears sneakers, trainers or athletic shoes. With so many styles to choose from, find a pair that’s stylish and comfortable. Buy your “go to” walking shoes before you go and wear them as often as you can “pre trip” to break in. I bought two pairs of these Pumas, they are uber comfortable for walking in all day.
Although athletic shoes are trendy, it doesn’t mean sweat pants or workout wear are for European travel. You still want to look chic right? Athleta brand is my go to brand for comfort and style. Eddie Bauer, J Crew and Banana Republic are other good sources of stylish travel basics.
When everything is pulled out of your closet, your goal is to create at least 9 different outfits with three pair pants and one to two skirts.
Pack a lightweight dress or two in a pretty color. One of your sweaters should be a cardigan or open style you can wear over your dress if it gets chilly at night.
- Take 2-3 lightweight scarves to pull your outfits together.
- Pick up a summer weight straw fedora for sun protection.
- Pack shoes to work with all your outfits. Take one pair of comfy but stylish athletic shoes and one pair of pretty but comfy sandals with a bit of heel. Get some cotton or wool “no show” shoe liners and some flesh colored bandaids just in case.
- Take a lightweight trench or rain coat for cool nights or chilly wet days. Wear it on the plane.
Your summer packing list:
Nine outfits plus one or two dresses, two pairs of shoes, one lightweight coat, a poncho to pack in your backpack. Add one weeks worth of socks and undies that can be washed. If you wear one pair of shoes and your coat, everything should fit in a carryon or middle size suit case with a little room for bringing home something.
Packing light but want room to bring home European goodies like clothing and shoes? Pack a collapsible bag inside your carryon. I found one at Eddie Bauer that folds almost flat.
For more of my favorite travel and outfit resources get it here. Until next time, bon voyage!