We spend several weeks a year abroad, for about 10 days per visit. While not going over-the-top, I like to look nice during the day, and often we have a few nights per trip where we need to dress up. Doing laundry isn't my idea of a good vacation (and I don't love paying the exorbitant fees that hotels charge for basic laundry), so what do I recommend packing for a 10 day trip to Europe?
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1. Use your airplane outfit smartly
Also remember that you won’t have much overhead space - bringing your winter coat feels like a great idea, but it’s a giant pain, especially if you’re in economy (if you’re in First, go for it!). You may have to put it under the seat in front of you, and holding it through all of the customs lines is a massive bother.
2. Put an entire outfit (that you'd actually want to wear) into your carry-on
You know this. But, losing your luggage is always stressful, and it’s that much worse when you’ve just arrived in a foreign country, crazy sweaty, and have to show up at the up-market hotel you’ve been looking forward to for 6 months and ask them where you can buy undergarments. The way I approach the carry-on packing is to ensure that, should I lose my bag, I can shower and put on a reasonable outfit, and then backfill for anything else I need until my bag shows up (which could be a while). With knowledge of packing restrictions for liquids, sharp objects, etc., to me, this translates into: shirt, pants, underwear, socks that work with the shoes I wore on the plane, some form of jacket that's suitable for rain (if I didn't bring one onto the plane). I figure I can look icky/have no make- up/put body lotion on my face, if need be, and get on with touring! Remember when packing your carry-on for your return that various countries have different allowances for what can be included in a carry-on, so be sure to check!
3. Focus on outerwear
We tend to travel in Fall/Spring, so often all anyone sees of me on a daily basis are my shoes and my coat. One of my biggest regrets on my first few trips was spending a huge amount of time, money, and suitcase space on frilly blouses that were too sheer for the Highlands of Scotland and stayed packed while I sported turtlenecks. In the U.K., you can’t go wrong with a Barbour (casual, yet makes a statement - and has giant pockets for all of those pound coins!).
Additionally, if there’s one thing you don’t want to skimp on, it’s shoes. My personal approach: two pairs of knee-high riding boots (one black, one brown - one of these two must be appropriate for rain. I like Blondo because they're waterproof, but look like leather); two pairs of flats (one fancy- I generally bring Ferragamo's- and one for walking to dinner, pub after a long day of wearing said riding boots - I like Sam Edelman); tennis shoes if there’s hiking or sports specifically on the docket (you’ll walk so much that you won’t need the gym unless you’re super fit. Don’t waste space with them unless you’ll use them and bring corresponding workout gear).
4. Leave room to buy clothes in the city that the locals are wearing
There’s nothing better than getting to a city, seeing that all the young cool people are wearing something, and running straight to a store and buying it (I am obsessed with these shoes I bought after seeing everyone wearing them in Montreal). I also love clothes and purses as souvenirs (of course my husband doesn’t get the same amount of enjoyment out of those souvenirs!)
5. Bring things that don’t need to come home with you
I learned this one from my mother-in-law, who is a seasoned traveler. We all have some clothes that are ready to ride into the sunset (worn-out boots, undershirts that are getting replaced, end-of-season attire that you don’t want for next year). Generally, I do this with shoes - I bring an old pair of boots and then, when we leave the hotel, I leave them behind to make room for my new treasures. Essential piece of this approach - leave a note behind for the cleaners that you left these items intentionally and that, depending on what the item was, they can have them if they want them (that said, if you forget something, they’ll surely apply the same approach, so check carefully for pieces that do need to come home with you). Same applies to cosmetics - If possible, I try to bring cosmetics that are running out, so that I can recycle the containers and leave them behind (sometimes this means that I weirdly stop using face lotion a week before the trip and buy a new one so I can take the almost empty one), but it’s worth it in the end.
If you're looking for the perfect luggage for your trip, check out my article before you shop: How to Pick Luggage for a Trip to Europe