How to pack for a trip to Europe

Returning to England on a fairly regular basis is something I love to do. It’s where I was born and my roots lie deep and strong in the old country’s green and pleasant land – despite my new love for Australia, particularly Western Australia which I now call home.

What to pack for a trip to Europe

But it doesn’t matter how many times I go back to England, I always get in a dither about what to take. Generally, I’m travelling back to see my family so there shouldn’t be much stressing about the whole packing thing because they don’t want to see my clothes, they only want to see me.

Vanity though is only one step behind me, so yes, there’s a bit of pressure when I pack for a trip to Europe – and I like to add one or two colourful standout items, and of course some presents too.

Dressing for different weather and occasions

In Europe you need to be suitably dressed for different occasions and also prepared for the variable weather conditions, which for me means that my suitcase always ends up being quite heavy. Before I go, there’s the normal fracas of chucking things out of the suitcase after the frantic scene of myself, the bathroom scales and a bemused husband who has no idea why I need to take so much with me!

What to pack for a trip to Europe

If you’re planning a trip to Europe anytime soon, or during spring or summer then I hope you’ll find these packing tips helpful. NB: This list doesn’t include packing for deepest darkest winter – heaven help you then because your suitcase is sure to tip the scales ;)

What to pack

I’d definitely pack the poppy or tan jacket below (1). The poppy for a nice pop of colour and the tan to go with everything. They are available at W.Lane and priced at $89.99 .

Styling You_Europe 2 3. The hat above is from Sabotage and is priced at $90. Can you see yourself wearing this for a bit of effect on a summer’s day? | 4. If I packed a tote bag it would need to be bright and colourful like this one from Sabotage at $55 | 5. Shoes need to be comfortable and I’m a fan of the Airflex range at Betts Shoes. | 6. These fantastic wedges from Betts Shoes might make it into my suitcase as special going out shoes, if there was a bit of extra space.

Packing list

  • Two pairs of cut off or capri pants – I like to take a white pair and a darker pair
  • One pair of shorts suitable for active walking (If you have room, take another more tailored pair for sightseeing, or perhaps leave out one pair of the cut-offs/Capri pants instead)
  • Two short sleeved t-shirts that can be worn with shorts or cut-offs
  • One long sleeved t-shirt
  • One pair of jeans and one pair of long black pants
  • Two casual lightweight, non-crease blouses that you can wear with the cut offs and jeans
  • One white blouse that you can dress up to go with the black pants to go out in, or dress down to wear with jeans.
  • One non-crease little black dress or a cocktail-type dress for night-time. Pack accessories to either dress this up for night-time or play it down for more formal day-time wear
  • One fun and flirty day dress that’s cool and comfortable
  • One short cardigan/shrug that will match both dresses
  • One lightweight jacket that will match one of the dresses and go with either your jeans or long pants
  • One longer cardigan, possibly a waterfall cardigan that would be flattering with your black pants, jeans and the night-time dress
  • One sweatshirt
  • One cap or sun hat
  • One lightweight rain jacket or poncho
  • One go-anywhere handbag
  • One small night-time clutch
  • Underwear – sports bra that’s comfy for the long plane flights, and if you intend to go walking. A good fitting white bra, and a black bra. One strapless bra (you never know what other clothes you might buy in Europe so be prepared)
  • Two pairs of socks and shoes. One pair of each: trainers, flip flops, sandals in nude or tan that are comfortable to walk in, and one pair of fancy shoes that are comfortable to go out in
  • Makeup and accessories

7 top tips

  1. Going out to restaurants at night can often require quite fairly formal attire.
  2. Pubs provide good (and cheaper) lunch and dinner options, and dress code is casual.
  3. Despite rumours to the contrary, summer in Europe and sometimes England isn’t always rainy and can be hot, so don’t forget to pack sun tan lotion (or if you don’t favour a particular brand then buy some when you get there).
  4. When you’re packing shoes remember that in Europe you may be walking around more than at home; catching trains and buses and sightseeing. So the emphasis is on comfortable go-with-anything rather than go-with-one-thing-tart’s-trotters (I know, we do love them so) that is unless you actually have room to spare for a super-doopa pair of evening shoes that you may or may not wear.
  5. I’d recommend (unless you absolutely must have certain brands) buying face wash, soap, hair shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste when you arrive. If you’re arriving at an ungodly hour then perhaps take an emergency kit of hotel-sized toiletries to keep you going.
  6. You will probably find clothes that you want to buy in Europe, and on the last two trips back to England I’ve found that the type of clothes I would wear are less expensive than in Australia. This obviously depends a lot on the exchange rate too.
  7. Stores and brands that I really like – I have no commercial allegiance to any of them – are: Next, Monsoon, Per Una and Twiggy at Marks and Spencer, New Look, M & Co.

I thought it would be fun to put together a few mix and match separates to show what you could expect if you went shopping for clothes when you arrived in England.

Nikki UK_1_560 1. River Ink Shirt – Primark £12 | 2. Super Skinny Jeans – Fat Face £49.00 | 3. Twiggy Blue Long Sleeved Top – Marks and Spencer £37.50

All prices are shown in British Pounds. I included the River Ink Shirt from Primark in both collages, because it’s great value for money and I think could be mixed and matched to good effect.

Nikki UK_2_560

1. River Ink Shirt – Primark £12 | 2. Gallery Print Dress – Dunnes Stores  £45.00 | 3. Super Soft Skinny Scarlet trousers – Marks and Spencer £29.50

Jo Castro is a veteran travel writer turned blogger who lives in Western Australia. You can find her at Lifestyle Fifty (where she writes for fun feisty women over fifty) and at ZigaZag (her Western Australian travel blog). If you’d like to connect on Twitter she’d love to follow you too: @johannaAcastro

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  • GetawayGuru

    I am a massive Metalicus fan and especially love it when I travel. Great for layering, comfortable on the flight and never wrinkles. Win all the way. I just spent 4 weeks in Italy (autumn trip) and lived in my Metalicus combinations which, with just a few key pieces, gave me so many looks and helped me feel like a stylish traveller (when you’re spending time in Venice and Milan who doesn’t want to look stylish!)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      perfect combination for autumn, Leanne … I’m a huge fan too!

  • Ali

    My next travel pant ? Gecko from TS14 plus soft, pyjama like and stylish pants super comfortable and on trend! over them

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      They sound just the ‘ticket’ Ali for a long haul flight :)

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  • Andrea

    Great packing list! Another tip is to make sure you roll your clothes – you actually fit way more in the case that way! I have tested it and it is true – probably more handy for coming home after you have been shopping in London (or wherever you may be!).
    I noted below that someone mentioned leggings for travelling in – remember ladies that leggings are not pants! If wearing leggings, a longer (and I do mean longer!) top should be worn with them! There are some great silky type loung style pants around at the moment – great for wearing on the plane and can be dressed up or down for when you arrive! Very versatile, comfortable and look great!

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      Thanks Andrea :) Rolling your clothes is a great tip, and it also means they crease less (unless you plonk a heavy present on top of them!) I like your thoughts about the leggings – and agree with the idea of wearing a loooooong top! … Definitely long enough to cover tum and bum.

  • Jill

    great tips Jo. I am a hopeless packer. I always dither for ages over what to pack and always arrive thinking “I wish I had packed such and such”, and arrive back home with things I didn’t wear.

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      Oh Jill, I am often the same, especially for short trips. I totally relate to your thinking and dithering :)

  • Ali

    Just thought I would add these versatile extras to your list
    1) Leggings either full length or 3/4 style – comfy for the plane and a spare pair is easy to carry for long haul changes
    2) Tunic tops
    3) white camisole -wear under shirts in a heat wave
    4) black T-shirt – wear alone or under shirts or cardigans
    5) Long sleeved shirts in different colour pops – can be worn over neutrals and sleeves can be rolled up if hot and used under cardigans if it is cooler weather

    One other tip if visiting family is to leave some of the bulkier items there e.g trench coat, jumper, nightie, house shoes, scarf,mittens etc this is a space saver if you visit regularly and your family member has space to sore them.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      My parents leave the bulky stuff over there too as they’re always going at least every Christmas. Very much agree with your additions Ali, thanks!

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      What some fantastic additions, thanks Ali. I especially like the idea of comfy leggings for the plane with a spare pair to change into on long hauls. Yes, leaving stuff with family is such a good plan – and then they feel as if we’ve never really left!

  • 26 Years & Counting

    I don’t know about hot haha…I remember last time I lived in London and the big ‘danger’ red circle on the weather was 25 degrees or over :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I think they’ve been having some highly unusual summers of late … a bit like our weird weather here!

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      Ha Ha! They are not geared up for the heat in London, at all. Neither in Devon where my folks live! 25 degrees is definitely a heatwave by English standards!

  • Carolyn @ Holidays to Europe

    Great tips, Jo. Your suitcase would look much like mine – mix and match is definitely the way to go. And a scarf or two is a great accessory to change and outfit or dress it up as needed.
    Love the look of the jackets you mentioned from W. Lane – I’ll have to go and check them out.

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      Yes, scarfs are a great accessory, thanks Carolyn. I think you’ll like those jackets too, theyr’e a great addition. Thanks for your comments :)

  • sydneyshopgirl

    Thanks Jo! I order online from NextDirect quite regularly.

    You’ve made me want to plan another trip to London right now!

    SSG xxx

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      Oh that’s awesome. I love Next too – I’m going to check out their directory right now :)

  • Soan

    This reads out like my own packing list. I tend to wear sneakers/walking shoes on plane along with jacket on arm, to save space in the bag.

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      That’s so cool Soan – I’m glad you related :) And I agree with your tip too – a real space saver.

  • http://www.petitpixeldesign.com/blog Tania @ Petit Pixel Design

    I’m about to face the dilemma of packing for a New York Winter…I know, first world probs…a proper winter coat takes up far too many kg so I might just have to freeze on arrival and buy there…and people tell me I should leave my case half empty for shopping…I’m so not a minimalist packer! :)

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      Ohh, I feel for you Tania! I so often buy clothes that I think will be great for taking away with me on holidays and then never have the space in my case for them anyway. I reckon your best bet it to buy when you get there – Hey you’re going to New York!!

  • mary_j_j

    You and I would find ourselves in the same stores in England!! We go back to visit my husband’s mob once a year, and then have the added packing issue of stopping in the tropics on the way home for the r & r part of the holiday! We also try to get it all into 2 cases for the 4 of us as it then has to get into a car when we get there. Your hints are great! We find we always need a warm jacket – snow in April when we were in London this year!!

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      Hi Mary_j_j , well I wonder if we’ll ever bump into each other! Or perhaps see one or the other in the same item of clothing in Australia? That’s the beauty of buying clothes on holiday though isn’t it, you can get a cheap and chearful chain store item, and pass it off as designer when you get home because probably you won’t see anyone else wearing it ;) Glad you enjoyed my tips – but you could give me a few I reckon – 2 cases instead of 4? Impressive!

  • Mindy Roestenburg

    I really don’t do well on planes. It doesn’t take long at all for the cabin fever to start kicking in so to be honest the idea of a long haul flight kind of freaks me out a little bit. Maybe one day I will work up the courage but for now we are planning to explore New Zealand next year in September and December/January. One island each time as we run our own business and we can’t really get away for more than a couple of weeks at a time. There will be days packed with sight seeing and a little souvenir/gift shopping. I have been busily planning our itinerary and how we can fit as much as possible into our time but have given zero thought to what to pack so far. I think your packing list could give me a good guideline also because as much as it will be spring and summer I still need to be prepared for a variety of weather.

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      So glad, Mindy, that you think my packing list will help guide you for your trip to New Zealand. I know, it’s a horrible moment looking at a suitcase and thinking, “Now what?”, and realising that what you decide to put in will have to do you for the trip. I’m no good at throwing things in and hoping for the best ;) Have a wonderful holiday and here’s hoping you do work up to being able to travel on long haul flights – they are always worth it when you arrive!

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    That is the only reason I won’t go to Europe the walking involved as much as I would love too,I just can’t walk for too long (I have a bad knee problem) I like your packing tips Jo and I am sure I would love to go shopping there,thankyou for this post it will be very helpful to a lot of people.

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      I’m sorry that you have a bad knee problem that’s preventing you from getting to Europe, Lisa. Yes, you would probably enjoy the shopping, then again, so many of the stores have online versions – as long as you know the names and brands to look for. Maybe that’s a bit of a solution for you :)

      • Lisa Mckenzie

        Yes I can do all over the world shopping Thankyou:)

  • Cheekie

    Yes to all of this, brilliant post!
    I go black/navy and white travelling with pops of colour in accessories/shoes/toenails!
    I have that poppy jacket too, the best, for casual cool nights.
    Hedgren bags all the way , seen me through Europe and Asia and US…great security and style,
    Also travelling in winter overseas, buy a new coat there and sling it on your arm when boarding, chuck it in a garbage bag and into overhead locker!

    • http://www.lifestylefifty.com/ Johanna

      Brilliant idea about the winter overcoat, Cheekie! Result! Love your ideas about keeping the colour scheme simple with pops of colour and Hedgren bags … hmm something I’m going to look out for now too. Thanks for your comments :)