Packing List for Europe in Spring
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So you’re going to Europe this spring. That’s great! Whether you’ve been there before or this is your first time traveling sometimes it’s difficult to decide what to bring with you. Especially if you’re trying to pack light and keep to your carry-on suitcase.
Packing for a European trip can be difficult because you may be going to several different countries which have very different climates. You also might be visiting large metropolitan cities, small villages, and rural countryside. All of these can require different types of clothing, and of course you need to be prepared for different types of weather.
The typical advice for this type of situation really is the best: layers. If you’re in a location that’s warmer you can wear the lightest and breeziest layer and when you’re in the coldest areas you can layer up all the clothing that you brought with you.
Packing for Europe in Spring: Weather
If you’re going to northern Europe in March through May you should expect cold, windy, wet weather. Depending on where you’re going you could have rain or even snow. However, you could also have days in the 70s and 80s with sunshine. Again that’s why you should definitely bring layers.
Late April and early May can also sometimes be very warm so that even jeans would be way too hot. I recommend bringing at least one dress that you can layer with a sweater, tights and jacket if it is cold or wear on its own if it is warm.
I took a two week trip to northern Europe a few years ago. Being from Southern California I thought “oh it’s the end of April it will be warm and sunny”. The first few days of our trip were in the high 80s and sunny and we were sweating in jeans and T-shirts.
However after two days of sunshine it started raining and the temperature dropped 30 degrees. We were freezing. The sundresses went back in the bags and out came five layers of clothing. I even went out and bought a wool hat!
Packing List for Europe in Spring
Here is my typical packing list for Europe in spring. See below for a printable checklist. This list includes what to pack for one or two weeks in Europe.
- Jacket (I will usually bring a down jacket for early spring and a leather or cotton jacket for late spring)
- 2-3 pairs of jeans or pants
- 3-5 tops, one of which is long sleeve and one that is dressy
- 1 or 2 dresses or skirts, plus tights
- 2 sweaters or sweatshirts
- light weight scarf
- 3 to 5 pairs of underwear
- 3 to 5 pairs of socks
- 1 or 2 bras
- workout clothing like leggings and sports bra for hikes or hotel gym
- 2-3 pairs of shoes
- cross-body purse or backpack – check out these 10 anti theft travel purses
- accessories like sunglasses, jewelry
Packing Light for Europe in Spring
As you might be able to tell from the above list, I always try to pack as light as I can. You might think it’s crazy to only bring three to five pairs of underwear and socks but I’ve done this on many trips.
If you want to pack light I would recommend bringing a few items as possible and planning to wash them. I always hand wash my clothing in the sink and hang it to dry overnight. As long as you have at least three pairs of underwear that’s fine. If you feel like bringing more, underwear is small so it shouldn’t take up too much space. However, don’t go crazy – you can always do laundry at the hotel or apartment where you are staying.
Hardcore proponents of packing light recommend merino garments that resist odor and dry quickly. Check out these options for travel friendly undies:
Tip for Americans: the majority of European households do not have clothes dryers. Jeans take a day to air dry in a cooler climate. Lightweight fabrics dry more quickly.
I think the number one mistake that most Americans make when they travel to Europe for a short trip is over packing. It can make your trip annoying and uncomfortable at times. Keep in mind that if you don’t have enough T-shirts you can buy another T-shirt in Europe. Yes, they have them too! 🙂 You don’t need to pack the kitchen sink, just bring what you need and plan to enjoy yourself.
Packing for 2 weeks in Europe: Spring Wardrobe Tips
- Do you prefer Michelin star restaurants or street food – or perhaps something in between? That will dictate your packing wardrobe and style. I would definitely not try to wear sneakers or jeans to a fancy restaurant for dinner.
- Pack an elegant dress, skirt or trousers for fancy places, unless you plan to only eat at casual restaurants. I would recommend to bring at least one dressier outfit just in case. Otherwise you should be fine with nice jeans in most restaurants, bars and cafes in Europe.
- In cities like Barcelona, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and London you will see a lot of people wearing stylish outfits comprised of jeans and sneakers, paired with a leather jacket. The sneakers will be clean and cool, not ratty old trainers from the gym. This is typical spring attire in Europe for many people. As it gets warmer you will see women wearing more sundresses or colorful tops with their jeans, especially in the south.
- The best shoes for Europe in spring are comfortable flats, sneakers or boots. If it is early spring in northern Europe you may want to pack Chelsea boots, and if it is later spring in the south you may want sandals. Check here for 10 shoes perfect for a spring trip to Europe.
A scarf is always a good idea. It doesn’t have to be a warm scarf, it can be a long but thin cotton gauze scarf. These come in handy for so many things. Of course you can wear to keep warm by looping around your neck several times, and you can also use it to cover your shoulders if you’re a little bit chilly but not cold enough for your jacket. You can wear it to dress up a boring T-shirt or plain sweater. And you can sit on it in the park when you’re having a picnic. My favorite is using it to cover my head and face when I’m sleeping on an airplane so that people aren’t staring at me while I snooze.
Best shoes for Europe in spring: I definitely recommend bringing comfortable shoes for trip to Europe in any season. Even if the places you are visiting do not have a lot of cobblestones, you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking and standing. In general, for a day of sightseeing you can get away with fashionable sneakers in most cities in Europe. Of course it’s also a matter of personal taste and the types of places you like to frequent. Click here for 10 of the best comfortable shoes for Europe in spring. Prefer sandals? Check out these 15 best walking shoes for summer.
The best jacket for Europe in spring is either a leather jacket (fake or real) or a down shell. If you will be traveling mostly in southern Europe you may not need such a warm coat and can bring a cotton or waterproof shell instead that can be layered with a sweater if need be. Here are 7 options for the best jacket for Europe in spring.
Travel clothes for Europe in spring: the standard advice is to wear your heaviest and bulkiest items on the plane to keep your luggage lightweight. I usually do this and use my jacket and scarf as a blanket on the plane. I also try to wear layers and comfortable stretchy clothing.
Packing List for Europe in Spring: Printable Checklist
Here is a printable checklist for your packing list for Europe in spring. Click here to download the file and print or save it to your phone.
Packing for Europe: Toiletries, Cosmetics, Medicines & Accessories
Hairdryers and other electronic tools: Unless you desperately need them I would leave behind electronics like hairdryers and curling irons just because they take up so much room in your luggage. If you will be staying at hotels they should have hairdryers for your use. If you’ll be staying at Airbnbs or apartments then you can email ahead and ask if they have one.
In any case, due to the different voltage your hairdryer probably won’t work even with a plug adapter, so I definitely would leave it at home. A curling iron or flat iron will probably work with European voltage but if you can do without it, leave it behind. You don’t want to spend all your time doing your hair when you could be out sightseeing and enjoying the world.
Medications: If you take certain medications you should bring them with you and a few extras just in case. Make sure that they’re in the original bottles with labels if there any questions. I recommend to bring them in your purse or carry-on so that there is no chance you will lose them in your luggage. (see below) If you ever have seasonal allergies I highly recommend that you bringing your allergy medicine with you. Why? It can be really hard to find antihistamines in some countries in Europe, and in some places you need a prescription for that type of medicine. I don’t have allergies but I bring a few Nyquil with me in case I get a horrible cold. If you are susceptible to tummy issues you might also want to have antacids, nausea or diarrhea medicines. You don’t need to bring the whole medicine cabinet, maybe just a few pills in case of emergency. Medications like aspirin and acetaminophen are easy to find, but I usually carry these with me at all times.
Sanitary supplies: You will also be able to find sanitary supplies but I always carry them with me just in case I suddenly need them when the stores are closed for a holiday or on a Sunday. Murphy’s Law, amirite?
Jewelry: Do you wear a lot of expensive jewelry? Leave it at home. There’s no reason to bring it on a trip to Europe unless you’re going to a fancy ball where you need to show that you’re a royal princess. If you want to dress up you can bring costume jewelry, but I would leave the diamonds, Cartier and Rolex at home. The last thing you need is to freak out because you left your diamond earrings on the sink at the hotel and then moved on to a different city. Just leave them at home. Costume jewelry can be an excellent way to dress up an outfit though.
Here’s a story for you. One time I was in Amsterdam locking my bicycle near a canal on a cold and rainy day. I went to reach for the lock chain and my ring slid off my finger, flew through the air and into the water. Luckily it was just some junk jewelry and after getting over the surprise I laughed. So leave your expensive nice stuff at home and don’t ruin your vacation.
Cosmetics: In most European cities the women wear far less makeup than Americans typically do. Bring your most minimal kit with you. Plus you’ll take a lot less time and effort to get ready and will have more time for sightseeing.
Checking your Luggage?
I always say if you’re going to check your bag, plan to lose your luggage at least for a few days. That way if it does happen you will be prepared. Did you know about five out of 1000 bags are misplaced, lost or delayed? Around 50% of those occur when trips include connecting flights. Luckily 98% of bags are only mishandled or delayed and will be reunited with the owner within one to five days.
But one to five days without a change of clothing or your contact lens solution could be very annoying. That means bringing with you on the plane your medications, contact lens solution, an extra pair of glasses, a toothbrush, a pair of underwear… you get the idea. I also wouldn’t pack anything valuable in your luggage like your laptop, camera or anything with emotional value. Always bring that on board in your carry-on if you can.
Also keep in mind that many airlines are starting to charge extra for checked baggage even on long haul flights. And many of the lower cost airlines that you might take between cities in Europe charge for checked baggage and have strict rules about the size and weight of your carry-on. Be sure to double check the rules of any airlines you will use before you start packing.
To me one of the biggest reasons to bring only a carry on when possible is that inevitably I have to drag my bag on and off crowded trains, up and down stairs and over cobblestone streets. I curse all my possessions every time I see a long staircase ahead.
Another reason to travel light! Take a look here at some of the best lightweight carry on luggage for your travels.
Packing for Europe: Electronics
We can’t live without our electronics these days can we? We need our smartphones to get around and stay in touch.
Depending on your phone plan you may be able to use it in Europe for free or a small charge. Check with your provider. You also might be able to insert a local SIM card. Even if you won’t be using your phone’s cellular data you will find free WIFI at many cafes, restaurants, museums and other locations in Europe. And of course now many people use their phones as their camera. So, you will definitely want to bring an external battery to keep your phone functioning. This one from Yoobao will charge a phone as well as a camera or other device.
Here are a few external batteries I like:
I also recommend bringing earbuds or headphones to listen to music, podcasts or museum audio tours. Here’s a pair of noise canceling headphones that are conveniently small.
I’m sure you’ve already thought of bringing a travel adapter for your electronics. Bear in mind you may need a multi-use one if you’re traveling to let’s say both London and Amsterdam, as they each use a different type of plug. Here is a colorful one that has four different plug options or here is another one that includes USB plugs.
If you are a shutterbug of course you will be bringing your camera. Don’t forget extra batteries, the charger and extra data cards. You might also want an external drive like this one to store photos.
Another option is to add a small removable external lens to your smartphone to snap creative and cool images.
Will you be bringing your laptop? Unless you need to work on the road, you might want to leave it behind for a one or two week trip to Europe. You will be sightseeing and out and about most of the time anyway. Consider bringing a tablet or ipad instead if you want to play online or watch movies on the plane.
Packing for Europe: Documents, Money and Credit Cards
Passports: Of course, don’t forget your identification! Make sure your passport is up-to-date and that it’s not going to expire soon. Most countries require that your passport is still valid for at least three to six months. Protect your passport from getting damaged with this snazzy cover!
Credit and debit cards: Don’t forget to call your credit card companies and let them know you’ll be traveling so that they don’t put a block on your credit card. This has happened to me multiple times and it can be a pain! Also it’s becoming quite standard now but if your card has a four digit pin and a chip you’ll be able to use it more places in Europe. If you don’t have this yet, check with your card provider.
Changing money: Depending on the fees from your bank, it is easiest and least expensive to simply access ATM machines at your destination rather than changing money before or during your trip. You may want a few Euros, Pounds or Kroner when you arrive at your destination to get a taxi or transit from the airport. But check ahead, Uber is popular in many European countries now. Most airports have ATM machines. Anyway, it is usually smart not to carry too much cash in case of loss or theft.
Always carry a photocopy of your passport in a separate location from your original. And actually more useful in case of an emergency is to have access to scans of your documents. I email them to myself so they are accessible in my inbox. That way if somehow you managed to lose all your possessions you would still be able to access a copy of your credit cards and identification as long as you could find internet.
Packing for Europe: Travel Goodies & Luggage
Here are a few goodies that might make your travel more convenient and comfortable.
Luggage lock: Will you be taking long train rides? Then this cable lock might come in handy. I wouldn’t leave your bag completely unattended but if you put it up above you on the shelf it’s nice to know that it’s locked there and no one can just walk by and grab it. Most of the trains are pretty safe but this could give you a little extra peace of mind. Just don’t forget to unlock it before you’re ready to get off the train, otherwise you could miss your stop while fiddling with it. 🙂 You might also like these 10 anti theft travel purses.
Travel pillow: On long flights and long train rides a travel pillow can really help you sleep. This convertible neck pillow from Samsonite can also be used as lower back support or foot rest! Great for shorties like me who never fit properly in seats.
Packing cubes: A packing system can help you travel more efficiently. I like these compression packing cubes as they allow me to fit a bit more in my luggage and keep my items organized.
Foldable bags: Do you love shopping when you’re traveling? Bring along foldable tote bags or bags that expand to fit your purchases. Checkout this adorable croissant tote bag from Baggu.
Have fun on your trip!
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