Travel Thursday: Packing for Europe

It's beginning to be that time of the year when people are starting to get ready for their adventures to Europe.  I must say, I'm quite jealous of anyone who is traveling the next few months.  I was just helping a friend pack for her vacation to Hawaii.  I normally help a lot of friends pack for things.  I'm an excellent packer.  So since travel season is right around the corner, I figured I would share some tips!

I recently stumbled across this great article in the New York Times on how a flight attendant packs for 10 days all in a carry-on.  It's a fantastic tool that features a slideshow on the best way to fold and roll all your clothes to get the most use out of your suitcase.  However, I do have her beat.  I only used a carry-on suitcase for my month long trip to Europe!  It was definitely a great accomplishment.

Okay, here we go.  The most important tip that you need to remember is that you must plan out your outfits.  I started thinking about what I was going to wear months in advance.  Do some online research about the sort of weather you might experience at each place you're visiting.  Since we visited in April and May, I brought a heavy coat, a wind breaker, and 2 sweaters.  The trick with the heavy coat is to wear it onto the plane, that way you don't have to worry about trying to shove it into your suit case.  You also wear your bulkiest shoes to save room in your suitcase.  We did bring some space bags once the weather started to be too warm for us to wear our heavy coats onto planes.  The space bags helped us fit everything into our bags much easier.

Outside of Dublin in my gray peacoat and sparkly scarf
When planning out your outfits, you must think of what will go with what.  My friend and I wrote a blog post on our Europe Travel Blog that showcases how to come up with different outfits using the same shirt, jeans, bag, and shoes.  Basically we packed a lot of different black shirts.  When I go back to Europe, I will probably experiment a little more and bring different kinds of neutrals.  But you really can't go wrong with black.  It also lasts longer between washes.

Wearing black shirts in Rome.  The guy who took our photo said "You two look great in black." We got a kick out of that because we had been wearing black the entire trip!
For the restrictions of carry-on liquids...this was a fun one for us to do.  I really wish I took a picture of our bag.  We literally STUFFED the quart size bag to full capacity.  Definitely stock up on travel size items.  You really don't need that much shampoo to make your hair look and feel clean.  It was helpful traveling with someone because we shared a lot.  We shared sunscreen, eye makeup remover, etc, etc.  Also, Tide makes little laundry detergent packets that you can use in the sink while traveling.  Bring a few of these so you can wash everything once a week.  This helps limit what you need to pack.

So here's a break down of the clothes I packed in a carry-on for our April-May Europe Trip:
  • 5 shirts- I did 3 black shirts, 1 grey one, and 1 bright blue one that I could also use to go out at night in.
  • 2 or 3 pairs of jeans.  I'm pretty sure I only packed 2 since I don't usually sweat a lot or smell.  You might want to pack an extra in case your jeans get dirty easily.
  • 2 sweaters- you can use colors for these to add a little something over your neatural shirts
  • 1 heavy jacket like a peacoat
  • 1 light jacket
  • A weeks worth of underwear and socks, and then we washed them in our hotel room for the cities we would be in for a while so they have time to air dry.  We also took advantage of washing machines for when our hostels had them.
  • 1 pair of black lounge pants for sleeping in and hiking in and 1 shirt for sleeping in
  • 2 cotton sundresses for warmer days, going to a nice dinner, and using as a beach coverup.  You could also subsitute a dress for a skirt or shorts.  I'm not a big skirt or short wearer so I just stuck with 2 dresses.
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 pairs of shoes.  This is really important because if you don't switch your shoes every couple of days you will get HORRIBLE blisters.  I packed a pair of broken in black tennis shoes and a pair of black flats.
  • 1 pair of sandals for beach days and walking around your hotel.
  • Accessories!  I brought 2 scarves (and I bought another one in Paris), lots of earrings, few necklaces...anything you want.  The accessories are key to not getting bored wearing the same thing all the time while traveling!
Brittany wearing the same black shirt in Paris (left) and in London (right), but using different accessories.
  • Hair ties.  I didn't bring any styling tools.  I'm lucky in that my hair air dries really well.  But for those bad hair days or when it got hot, I could just put my hair up into a pony tail.
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • A good size black purse that works with everything you're bringing and can hold maps, water bottles, and anything else you need with you while traveling around town.  You can also use it to put your carry-on liquids in so it's easier to get them out when you go through security.  I also used it while we were on the go to store my mini umbrella (that I purchased at Old Navy) and my mini laptop that we used for blogging and skyping with our friends and family.  This why it's important to get a bag that's pretty large but still easy to carry around.
I really hope this was helpful!  It's important to play around with your packing list and figure out what works best for you and what would make you the most comfortable while traveling.  Bon Voyage!

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