The weather in Europe in the wintertime is fickle. From sunny and mild in southern parts of the continent to downright frigid in others, packing for the winter months can be a challenge depending on where you are going and your length of stay.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be. The key to any good packing job is being able to mix and match, layer to warm up, and peel off to cool down. So, what are the essentials to make sure you’ve got everything you need for a stylish European vacation?
1. Thermal underwear
If you’re planning on spending any time in the colder parts of Europe like the Swiss Alps, packing thermals can be a life-saver. They can easily roll and be stuffed into a day pack, the corners of a backpack or the front of a suitcase. Wear them under clothing to stay extra cozy on the coldest of days.
The best way to jazz up an outfit and stay warm is with a nice cardigan or button-up. Black or another neutral color are best and can be mixed and matched with T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts and more formal attire. Plus, if you get warm, you can take them off.
They may take up a lot of space in luggage, but jeans are a staple and can instantly make even the most budget backpacker look a little more snazzy. Also, if you wear them over thermals, you’ve got super toasty legs.
4. Solid color short-sleeved shirts
Solid colors are the way to go when traveling because of the versatility they allow. Short-sleeved shirts are perfect because they can be layered. Throw a thermal under, a cardigan over, and then drape a scarf and voila: an outfit.
5. For the ladies, a dress; the men, a button-down shirt with a tie
There will be times when dressing up is par for the course. For ladies, the LBD is perfect. On chilly nights, throw that cardigan on over it, or dress it up with a nice necklace or tie. And be sure to pack a pair of tights or (even better) nice leggings to keep your legs warm. For men, you can’t go wrong with a nice shirt and tie. This is a multi-use outfit and can stretch over dinners at upscale restaurants, performances, clubs and more.
6. A few pairs of shoes. And warm socks.
A pair of walking shoes is a necessity, along with a pair of dress shoes. Ladies, keep in mind the streets of Europe are not always going to be smooth surfaces. Walking in heels over cobblestones can prove difficult. Also, toss in a pair of flip flops should you encounter questionable showers, or just need to run somewhere that doesn’t allow bare feet.
7. Thin sweats
Since you’ve got the thermals, you don’t need big, bulky sweats, but you do need something comfortable to lounge and sleep in. Thin sweats or yoga pants are comfortable and casual.
Pack a thick scarf, gloves, a hat (with flaps so you don’t need to also pack ear muffs). A nice-looking, solid print scarf can extend beyond just keeping you warm and also add to outfits to bring them together a bit more.
You never know when you might be pelted with freezing rain or worse. A poncho that can easily fold down is ideal since it doesn’t take up a lot of room and can be easily stashed in day packs and purses.
10. A winter coat
Sure, this may seem like a no-brainer, but you don’t need to go out and get the bulkiest and space-consuming winter coat in the world if you have thermals, sweats and layers.
Depending on how long you are traveling, and the access to laundry facilities, the quantity of certain items may change. However, a good idea is to pack: 1 set of thermals; 2 cardigans/button-ups; 1 nice shirt; 1 more dressy option; 1 pair of nice pants; 1 pair of jeans; and 1 pair of flats, sneakers and flip flops. And don’t forget the essentials – underwear!
Should you arrive and realize you need more warm clothes, head to a department store and hit the sale racks for some cheap options. You can donate them before you head home, or see if you can squeeze a bit more into your luggage.
- Diana Edelman