I will be in Europe for two weeks in June and I’m already planning what clothes I’ll bring this trip. A great question landed in my inbox last week. Cheryl J. wrote:
Hey Kate, I am going to Paris in July. I noted that you went in 2016 and I am making notes from that post. Have your ever posted a ‘What I wore in Paris in July’? Maybe you could share some helpful travel packing tips and what worked really well for you? Just curious. Thank you, Cheryl J.
Thanks for asking Cheryl! I fully embrace the philosophy that one should travel as light as possible. Maximum comfort is key for me, so is limiting the amount of clothing I bring, and I’ve mastered the art of strategically packing all the clothes I need for 2 to 3 weeks in a single carry-on suitcase.
I follow a lot of travelers on Instagram and many of them are posed in beautiful outfits with their back turned, hair flowing, and they’re staring out into some amazing vista. Those are great images, they look beautiful, but I’m just not fancy like that. I travel on a budget and I’m there for the experience, so my priority is comfort, but I still do want to look cute when I’m out and about in a new city.
Here’s my philosophy: it’s stupid to pack clothes for the sole purpose of looking cute if they’re totally uncomfortable. Be smarter than that, bring what looks nice but also what you’ll feel good wearing all day. Here’s what I consider essential:
Packable Travel Hat
This explorer is always concerned about skincare during travel, so I make sure to pack a hat, usually two. I don’t like the sun in my eyes or on my face when I’m outdoors all day. Most days I’m walking several miles visiting historical sites, meandering streets, and relaxing in cafes or biergartens and in summer, that’s a lot of sun exposure.
For me, hats are essential, they don’t take up a lot of space but they’re a little tricky to pack so here’s how I do it. I stuff the crown with socks or undergarments and strategically wedge the hats into the middle of my carry-on suitcase, using other clothing to support and protect the brims. I recommend bringing at least one hat not only for sun protection but also because every lady looks cute in a hat and sunglasses!
Comfortable Knit Dresses
I pack a few soft stretchy dresses, ones that are stylish and comfortable, for when I’m spending my days walking around town, standing in art galleries, or popping into shops. When you add jewelry, a great travel dress transitions nicely for dinner in the evening at a cafe. Knit dresses roll up really small so I’ll bring three or four for that reason.
I recommend shopping the athletic wear sites like Athleta or Pategonia, they have advanced technology fabrics that are super comfortable. Bring travel dresses that don’t cling to you in weird places or will rub against your skin and cause irritation.
European weather is unpredictable in summer. It’s sunny one day and then cloud cover the next, and a light summer rain is common too. If there is a chance of rain, I find I’ve never really needed more than a lightweight sweater (and small umbrella). I pack for my trip two lightweight sweaters, or one sweater and one lightweight jacket, and I’ll usually wear one of them on the plane since I often get cold during a flight.
Great Walking Shoes
We ladies love our cute shoes, and I realize it’s hard to live without access to your collection, but you’ve got to do it. I do my best to pack only three pairs of shoes, and no more than four if two pairs are sandals. I bring one (maybe two) pairs of walking sandals, one pair of cute closed toe sneakers (you could substitute ballet flats), and a low heel for evening (which I only wear once or twice to dinner and could probably live without.)
Comfort is the most important thing to keep in mind, but you don’t need to sacrifice style. Invest in a pair of great walking sandals and cute comfortable sneakers, they will be what you wear 90% of the time! I wrote about my favorite travel shoes, and just ordered another pair of the white ones since I wore out my first pair.
– For your entire wardrobe, stick with limited palette so you can mix pieces. I typically pack black and white and gray separates, with an accent color thrown in, like red or pink.
– Consider carrying a small backpack instead of a purse for daily excursions. I noticed that a lot of Europeans carry backpacks too, so I feel like I blend in more when I carry one too.
– Resist the urge to bring more than the pared down essentials. Don’t over pack. Chances are you’ll be walking with your suitcase down cobblestone streets or carrying it up flights of stairs or squeezing into a small elevator so take only what you absolutely need.
– Consider staying in an apartment instead of hotel. One of the reasons I choose Airbnb apartments is because I can do laundry halfway through the trip, this allows me to fit everything in one carry on bag and wear it twice.
– In addition to clothing and toiletries, I always have these items with me when I travel to Europe: international adaptor with USB, portable charger, travel camera, fold up tote (for trips to market, souvenirs, or separating dirty clothes), foam earplugs, headphones, umbrella, eye mask, ziplock bags for toiletries, ibuprofin & antacid, protein bars, sunscreen, digital copy of passport.
Let me know if you have any more questions! I’d love to hear about your travel essentials too, feel free to share!