Insider Secrets to a Women’s European Packing List

european packing list

A lightweight wool poncho is SO versatile. This one’s Italian cashmere and it makes me feel like I can go anywhere in it!

What’s the secret to a perfect European packing list for a visit of up to 6 weeks? Preparation and planning!

With baggage claim delays at airports in the US and Europe you may be wondering if it makes sense to just take a carry on and try to squeeze everything in.

I feel you’re the only one who can answer this question. I personally feel more comfortable traveling with options and packing to fit everything into a carry on limits my options. Can you get away with a carry on for a long weekend or perhaps a week trip? Perhaps, but that’s the limit in my opinion.

If you’re staying in an Airbnb with laundry facilities for example you may be able to get away with packing light. But again it’s up to you. What I can advise is how to make the most of your packing space by only taking what you’ll wear and what you need!

The Steps to a European Packing List that Works

Packing Step 1: Deciding what size bag you need

  • Staying in one location and renting a car: If you’re booked into an Airbnb, short term rental or house sit and have a car rental, take one large suitcase and one carry on. You can use the carry on for short weekend trips from your rental.
  • Traveling between multiple hotels or by train:  I recommend you use a medium suitcase with a small shoulder tote bag or backpack.
  • Traveling by train: Use a small to medium suitcase like a soft sided luggage with pockets. Long distance trains have dedicated luggage space but city to city trains may only have overhead space which doesn’t accommodate larger suitcases. You’ll end up standing, holding or watching your bags and that’s no fun!
  • All options: Take a backpack for easy access to daily stuff like laptop, passport and phone on weekend and day trips.

For most trips I suggest using a medium size roller bag plus a backpack. I prefer to check all my bags so I’m not lugging a heavy carry on around the airport. Yes, you have to wait for the baggage carousel but it’s worth it!

Packing Step 2: Deciding What to Wear

  1. Pull everything out of your closet that you’re thinking of packing
  2. Decide on three main coordinating colors such as blue, green and white for example
  3. For each bottom, such as pants or skirt, pick three coordinating tops
  4. The goal is to make three outfits from each bottom piece. 
  5. If you can’t make a least 3 outfits from a pair of pants or a skirt, leave it at home.
  6. Do this in daylight to see if colors work together!

I’m targeting summer travel so you won’t see me mention coats or boots. Summer means you’ll pack more shorts and skirts than jeans or pants. Have a few warmer pieces in case the weather turns chilly.

You’ll wear your most comfortable and most flattering outfits over and over. If it isn’t comfortable on long plane or train rides, leave it at home!

Keep in mind no one will see you more than once (except your travel partner), so don’t worry about repeating a look.

Packing Step 3: What to Pack

Once you’ve gone through your closet you should ideally have

  • 9 color coordinated outfits (4-6 tops and 3-4 bottoms) 

Now add 

  • 1 or 2 dresses
  • 2 -3 pairs of shoes
  • 1 lightweight coat
  • a lightweight poncho
  • 1-2 sweaters or hoodies
  • 7 days of undies | bra | hose
  • 3-4 pair socks

Optional extras

  • 1-2 lightweight scarves
  • summer weight straw fedora
  • baseball hat for bad hair or windy days

Love this Mango trench coat – SO versatile and dresses up a t-shirt & jeans

Packing Step 4: Makeup & Hair

Collect 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. Take advantage of “gift with purchase” makeup like Clinique or Lancome. Small mascaras, blushes and eye shadows are perfect for travel.

Most hotels also supply hairdryers, so unless you’re picky you can skip packing one. However I’m glad I took this dual voltage small lightweight dryer because in my opinion hotel hairdryers don’t have enough juice to style hair well. You won’t find electric outlets in the bathroom but a hairdryer may be built in. 

Packing a small travel mirror means you can put on your makeup or styling your hair while your travel partner is steaming up the bathroom mirror!

Packing Step 5: Comfort

Pillow: I like a small down pillow when I travel. Hotels are getting better about providing good linens and pillows, but if you’re a Goldilocks like me, you want to be sure you have at least one that’s comfy.

Robe: A very light weight robe or long t shirt to put on after a shower or bath is my preference. A pretty caftan can double as a pool cover up too. It’s a small luxury but so important!

Slippers: Some hotel carpets are just plain sticky. A pair of travel slippers or flip flops will come in handy.

Poncho: A wool or cashmere poncho keeps you warm on the plane and can easily be thrown on when days/nights turn suddenly chilly!

Packing Step 6: Technology

I don’t usually travel with a laptop but I do like a tablet for email and researching online. Most electronics such as laptops and phones are dual voltage, meaning they adapt on demand to using either 110 (US) OR 220 (UK) voltage. But to charge electronics you’ll need an adapter plug – this adapts your US plug to the UK wall socket. The UK and Europe use different size plugs, so you’ll need both a UK and EU adapter depending on where you’re traveling.

You can also charge most electronics that come with USB connectors at wall mounted USB ports found in some hotels, on trains or buses.

Amazon doesn’t state on its product page whether Kindle is dual voltage. I charge mine using a USB port and haven’t had any problem.

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. This converter worked well for travel in Europe although it’s a little bulky to pack.


Take what you need to make your trip comfortable. Clothes are easy (and fun) to buy once you’ve reached your destination, but technology is harder to replace. Only take what you NEED and you’ll be able to have room for what you WANT to bring home!

For more of my favorite travel and outfit resources get them here.

Until next time, bon voyage!