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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**Post updated, May, 2019
I find packing to be one of the best ways to get excited for a trip (that, and of course reading blogs about what I'll be seeing once I get there!) I pack long in advance and greatly enjoy making lovely little piles of clothes everywhere. Wondering about the best packing strategy for a lengthy trip?
Use your airplane outfit smartly
I find that a lot of people just throw on clothes and run to the airport. Really, this is missing an opportunity to help out your packing approach!
Your airplane outfit should:
It should NOT include:
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 lucky enough to in First, go for it! They'll even hang it up for you). 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. Unless you're going somewhere terribly frigid where you'll 100% need it upon arrival, just pack it in your checked bag.
Put an entire outfit 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, super 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 a tooth brush.
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 arrives, 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 usually opt for some of that Eileen Fisher in the bag - then I just shake it out and hang it up at the hotel. I generally 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!
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 waxed jacket. Relaxed and casual, but definitely makes a statement! And, of course, those lovely, giant pockets that mean you don't have to carry a purse!
Have the right shoes
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 these knee-high boots from 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).
Leave room for new purchases
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!)
Brings things that don't need to come home
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.
The best packing cubes for a trip to Europe
Finally, my most recent discovery was these handy packing cubes, to keep my luggage more organized over a long trip. Once I've finally figured out what to bring with me, I load these up based on item (sweater, socks, undergarments, etc.). It makes it so much easier to unpack at the hotel as well - just plop them into the drawers! Or, if you do have to leave them in your suitcase because of space restraints, you can easily find what you need in the mornings. Finally, I use the larger ones to start to hold dirty clothes as the trip carries on!
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. And, if you're worried about that long haul flight, check out How to Enjoy a Long Haul Flight.
Happy Travels! xx
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