Packing List for Europe in Summer
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Hooray! You’re taking a trip to Europe this summer. Whether you’ve traveled there before or this is your first time sometimes it’s difficult to decide what to bring with you. And packing light can often be a challenge as well. My packing guide for Europe in summer will give you tips for all of this.
Sometimes packing for a European summer holiday can be extra difficult because you may be going to several different countries with 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 from sweltering hot to cool and breezy.
The most common packing and outfit advice for this type of situation really is the best: layers. If you’re in a location that’s hot and sunny you can wear the lightest and breeziest layer and when you’re in the coolest areas you can layer up all the clothing that you brought with you.
Packing Guide for Europe in Summer: Weather
If you’re going to northern Europe in June through September you can expect variable weather. Depending on where you’re going you could have beautiful sunshine every day or rain and wind. That’s why you should definitely bring layers.
If you are traveling to southern Europe like Spain, Italy and Portugal you can look forward to lots of sunshine. But even so you will still need a jacket for windy days and chilly nights.
Of course in summer something to keep in mind is air conditioning. Air conditioning is definitely not as common in Europe as it is in the USA. If you are going somewhere with hot weather you might be lucky if your lodging has a fan. (This is something to check into if you are sensitive to heat.) The good news is that you probably won’t have to deal with the problem of the indoors being much colder than outside. Occasionally though, you might find a bus or museum is quite chilly. For this reason I often carry a light jacket or scarf.
Packing List for Europe in Summer
Here is my typical women’s packing list for Europe in summer. This list includes what to pack for three weeks in Europe in summer, but also works for one week or up to six weeks. After about six weeks the weather might be a bit more variable and you’ll need a few warmer layers.
- Jacket (I will usually bring a light shell or cotton jacket for summertime)
- 2 pairs of jeans or pants
- 3-5 tops, one of which is long sleeve and one that is dressy
- 2-3 dresses or skirts, plus a pair of tights
- a sweater or sweatshirt
- light weight scarf
- 3 to 5 pairs of underwear
- 3 pairs of socks
- 1 or 2 bras
- workout clothing like leggings and sports bra for hikes or hotel gym
- 2-3 pairs of shoes – check out these 15 summer shoes for your trip to Europe
- cross-body purse or backpack – check out these 10 anti theft travel purses
- accessories like sunglasses, jewelry
Packing Light for Europe in Summer
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. Lightweight fabrics dry more quickly. In the heat of the summer most clothes will dry in just a few hours if you hang them in a breezy, sunny spot.
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. You can always buy an extra top or pair of underwear if you need it. Some people even enjoy shopping for clothes while on holiday!
Packing for 2 weeks in Europe: What to wear in Europe in Summer 2018
- 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, jeans or shorts 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.
- You may read lots of blogs that say Europeans don’t wear shorts. This is not really the case. It definitely depends on the location, the style of the shorts and other factors. On a warm, sunny day you might see lots of people cycling around Amsterdam in shorts if it is their day off. However, women will typically wear a dress or skirt instead of shorts, while men more often choose long pants. If you are very stylish and have fashionable shorts then they will be suitable in many more scenarios. My rule of thumb is if you would wear it at the beach it is not the optimal city attire. Don’t be that tourist I saw in Lisbon walking around the city without a shirt when it wasn’t even that warm.
- In cities like Barcelona, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and London you will see a lot of people wearing stylish outfits comprised of jeans and sneakers or sandals in the summer. The sneakers will be clean and cool, not ratty old trainers from the gym. This is typical spring and summer attire in Europe for many people. As it gets warmer you will see women wearing more colorful sundresses and skirts.
- For a summer trip in Europe I always bring at least 3 dresses. I wear them daily and find they are the perfect summer wardrobe that allows me to pack light. I make sure one is dressier to wear out to dinner or dancing. If the weather turns cool I top the dress with a cardigan or light jacket, and if it gets really cold I might wear tights. Perhaps you prefer a skirt or jeans and a top.
- What to wear in Europe in summer 2018? Do you love fashion and wearing the latest styles? My best advice is to scroll through Instagram for the cities you will visit, looking for local fashion bloggers and instagrammers. See what they are wearing. That will help you figure out the trends for the European cities you will visit. Styles do change quite a bit between London and Barcelona for example.
- The best shoes for Europe in summer are comfortable flats, sneakers or sandals. The key word is comfort. Check here for 10 walking shoes perfect for a summer trip to Europe.
A scarf is always a good idea. I always pack a thin cotton gauze scarf. These come in handy for so many things. Of course you can wear it to keep warm on cool evenings by looping around your neck several times or to cover your shoulders in an air conditioned building. Sometimes I sit on it in the park to have a picnic, or use it as a towel at the beach. A scarf is also useful for modesty when sightseeing in religious buildings. Here are a few fun options.
Best shoes for Europe in summer: 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. If you will be traveling in southern Europe you will definitely want to bring sandals. Check out these 15 best walking shoes for summer.
The best jacket for Europe in summer is a light shell you can layer over dresses or jeans. Here are some of my favorite summertime jackets. If you will be traveling in Great Britain or Scandinavia you might want something warmer like a light down shell or a leather jacket (fake or real). Check here for some good warmer options. You can also layer any thin jacket with a sweater or sweatshirt if the temperature drops.
Packing Essentials for Europe: Toiletries, Cosmetics, Medicines & Accessories
Hairdryers and other electronic tools: I would leave behind electronics like hairdryers and curling irons just because they take up so much room in your luggage and require voltage adapters. 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.
Sunscreen: If you are traveling with only a carry-on bag you might not be able to pack enough sunscreen for a two week trip. Bring a small tube and purchase a larger bottle when you arrive. You can always share it with your traveling companions. Supermarkets or grocery shops might not carry sunscreen, you might need to look for a pharmacy or druggist to purchase it, but these are easy to spot. Or just ask at your accommodations for the nearest one.
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 have 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 take 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. 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 female 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: Costume jewelry can be an excellent way to dress up a simple outfit! And it can be fun to shop for trinkets like earrings while on holiday. Do you wear expensive jewelry at home? Leave it behind. The last thing you need is to panic 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.
Cosmetics: Bring your most minimal makeup kit with you. There is no need for heavy makeup, especially in the summer when you might be sweating in the sun. Plus you’ll take a lot less time and effort to get ready and will have more time for sightseeing and having fun.
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.
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.
I hope these packing tips for Europe in summer helps you with your travel preparations. Have fun on your trip!
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