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Packing For Europe: Winter Travel Edition

Recently I’ve had several former students ask me for advice on how to pack for a trip to Europe in the winter. It’s a little funny, the Floridian giving advice on what to wear in cold climates, but I have actually done quite a bit of winter travel in Europe — England in November (cold and wet), Germany, Italy, and Turkey in December, and Greece in January.

I really like visiting Europe in the winter. Flights are cheaper and there are less tourists. But packing for a European winter can be challenging. It is not like living in cold climates, where you spend most of the day in doors at work or school. When you travel and sightsee in the winter, you are out in the elements! Also winter clothes weigh more and take up a lot more space in your suitcase.

My general rule of thumb for packing is you need enough outfits for half the length of your trip. So if you are going for 10 days, you need 5 complete outfits. However, for anything longer than 2 months, you should attempt to pack at least 4 weeks of complete outfits. The key to this system is to select a color, or color scheme, that every piece works with. That way you can mix and match all of these pieces to double your travel wardrobe.

The Essentials:

  1. Boots/Wellies – Boots are a must, but I highly recommend wellies if you are traveling to wet or snowy locations like England. Plus Hunter makes a packable welly now!
  2. Scarves, Hats, Gloves – I suggest wool accessories and gloves with smartphone tips! You will most likely be wearing these accessories in all your photos, so pick a vibrant and flattering color!
  3. Tights – Tights are a must because they can be layered under jeans/pants on really cold days or with skirts on warmer days. They can also add interest to an outfit. Since they are lightweight, I pack a lot of tights!
  4. A Good Coat – Not only is it necessary to keep you warm, but let’s be honest, your coat is all you will see in most of your pictures, along with your hat, scarf, and maybe gloves. So select a well-fitting classic shape that will look great in all your photos!
  5. Raincoat – Rainy days shouldn’t stop you from sightseeing! Be prepared with water proof jacket.
  6. Mini Umbrella – A mini umbrella is perfect tucked away in your bag for unexpected weather.
  7. Tall Socks – When layered with tights or under jeans, good socks go a long way in keeping you warm and dry!

I also suggest a nylon purse like Longchamp. Nylon can resist the elements, keeping your electronics safe, and it is also lightweight (easier to carry all day while sightseeing).

Image Map

When selecting items to pack (after the essentials), I first select my basics. These are usually comfy and flattering pieces that would go with anything — jeans, navy leggings, cream colored sweater, grey long sleeve tee, etc. Then, I select a couple of more interesting pieces/jewelry that will add color, texture, pattern, and shine, making my outfits more versatile and interesting.

The more you can mix and match what you bring, the less you need to pack (50 pounds does not go far when it comes to winter clothes!) I could make over 30 outfits with the items shown above!

And of course, remember to wear your boots and coat on the plane to maximize luggage space.

Happy (Winter) Travels!