Over Christmas Holidays, I got to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams: to go on a backpacking adventure in Europe. I have been fortunate enough to have gone to Europe with my family a couple years prior to this adventure, but this time was different. This time it was just my cousin and I taking on the European world. And all we had were the (small)bags on our backs. Now let me tell you, for someone who is terrible at packing light, fitting everything I wanted into a backpack was no easy feat! Oh and as an added twist, we traveled over winter break which means a lot of bulky items. Plus, I’m older now and my hand-me-down GAP pullover that was a staple when I was 12 was not going to cut it. This time, I wanted to look like I was at least trying to keep up with European fashion as well as staying warm AND packing light. Whew, it’s as if you have to have super human powers for such a task.
There is only a limited amount of space in that backpack, trust me, and you want to make the most out of every outfit. The key is to pack light and practical. Layering is going to be your best friend. Pack clothing that you can mix and match in order to spice up your wardrobe. Because otherwise you’re going to get tired of the same 7 outfits really quickly.
And another fact I can’t stress enough: if you don’t love it when you’re at home you’re not going to love wearing it in Europe. Don’t pack that shirt that looks cute on the hanger in the closet but doesn’t fit right when you put it on. You have to love every piece of clothing in your backpack, because that’s all you’re going to be wearing for days on end.
I am proud to say I was successful in my packing light endeavors and I managed to sort of keep up with the stylish European fashion that surrounded me all the while staying warm. And I didn’t need super human powers to do so. I’ve decided to compile a list of the clothes I packed in case it is useful to anyone else embarking on a winter European adventure.
Where we traveled:
- Rouen, France
- Paris, France
- Amsterdam, Holland
- Berlin, Germany
- Prague, Czech
We traveled during the months of December and January. Though we didn’t experience any snow, it was still quite cold. The number one priority is to stay warm. It’s pretty hard to enjoy every experience to the fullest if you’re shivering the entire time. The weather we experienced was mostly windy and some rain. But for two Canadians, we were prepared for the temperatures!
This was the first time I’ve traveled to Europe during the off-season, but despite the cooler temperatures, it was a wonderful experience. There are less crowds and things are usually cheaper, which everyone is a fan of, right!?
I tired to keep my clothing choices to rather neutral colours. It’s better to have a neutral wardrobe with a few pops of colour if you’re going for a classic look. Plus, I tend to wear a lot of blacks, whites, and browns as it is so it wasn’t hard! As an important note to keep in mind, leave space in your bag for shopping and souvenirs. You will accumulate a lot of stuff along your travels and you’ll want to have space in your backpack for it!
2 pairs of jeans – one blue and one black (make sure they are your most comfortable pair of jeans!)
2 pairs of leggings – one black pair and one print pair for those days when I wanted to spice things up
1 skirt – I brought a black high waist skirt to wear with leggings for those days I wanted to be a little fancier
1 dress – I brought a floral print dress that could be dressed up or dressed down depending on the day!
1 pair of shorts – even though it was winter, I brought along a pair of dark denim high waist shorts just in case. But they can also be paired with tights which is what I did most of the time!
2 pairs of black tights – I wore tights often, plus they look super fashionable!
1 pair of long johns – long underwear, thermal pants, whatever you choose to call them! They came in handy for adding a second layer of clothing underneath to stay warm!
1 fleece zip up – I can’t stress how happy I was with myself for bringing a fleece sweater. I wore it with my jacket every day and it helped keep the heat in. Plus it can be easily taken off when you’re indoors so you can reveal your amazing wardrobe underneath
1 flannel plaid button down shirt – having a button down shirt is a staple because it can be worn on it’s own, or layered with other items of clothing. Also it’s good for adding a bit of colour to your wardrobe
1 jean button down shirt – this was one of my favorite items I packed. It’s perfect for casual days, but can be dressed up if need too (just please promise me you’ll wear it with leggings, don’t do the Canadian tuxedo thing where you wear jean on jean!!)
2 tshirts – I brought one black v-neck and a white scoop neck. These shirts are good for warmer days, but mostly I used them as the base for layering upon
2 tanks – I brought one black tank and a graphic tank (a Harry Potter one just in case you were wondering!) I mostly wore these under my button down shirts
1 nicer shirt – I brought 1 of my nicer shirts for going out. It could be paired with my skirt for extra fancy times.
3 sweaters – keep in mind, it’s winter so sweaters are you’re best friend on this trip! I brought a blue button down sweater (good for taking off if you’re too warm), an “ugly Christmas sweater” for those hipster days and a classic black sweater. I also bought a fourth sweater while I was there. These sweaters were wool and pretty bulky, but they saved me for sure.
2 long sleeved shirts – the shirts I brought were thin, but could be layered under anything for warmth. I brought a striped shirt, which is a staple to your wardrobe because stripes instantly freshen up any wardrobe, and a grey shirt.
2 bras – 1 black, and 1 sports bra for travel days where you couldn’t care less about what you were wearing
7 pairs of underwear – one for every day of the week! There are usually laundry facilities at hostels, or a laundromat nearby
7 pairs of socks – I brought four pairs of ankle socks and 3 pairs of wool socks (not only are they warm, but they look cute with boots too!)
1 pair of pj’s – I brought the long pants and long sleeve shirt kind of pj’s. It’s better to bring warm pj’s just in case
Jewelry – I tend to wear a lot of jewelry. For this trip I only brought jewelry that I don’t have to take off so I could sleep with it on and not have to worry about losing it. Also I suggest that you leave your favorite/most valuable pieces at home, you don’t want to lose them
It is important to have warm outerwear that you love, because most of the time this is what you’re going to be seen in. Below is a photo of what I wore pretty much every day when we were outside!
1 Headband – I brought a wool headband to keep my ears warm on those days that I had my hair up in a bun (which was pretty much every day in case you’re wondering)
1 Wool scarf – I wore my wool infinity scarf almost every day. It blocked out wind and kept me extra toasty
1 Warm jacket – in Canada my jacket would have been considered a fall jacket but it was just right for the weather we experienced. No need for your 40 below parkas, however make sure it’s a warm enough jacket that blocks out wind.
1 pair of wool mitts – I wore my mitts almost every day. I was so glad I brought a pair to keep my fingers warm. They could be easily taken off and stored in my bag if needed.
1 leather or jean jacket – though it was winter, there were some milder days and you don’t always want to be walking around in a bulky jacket. I had a leather jacket because it was better for rainy days
Shoes can make or break your trip. Most days are spent walking around and taking all of the sights in and the last thing you want is sore feet! So make sure the shoes you bring are well worn in and comfortable for long days of walking. The shoes I brought had good support in them, but it’s a good idea to think about bringing insoles if you want extra support. Oh and if you’re a shoe person, keep in mind you will be in shoe heaven when you are in Europe and will most likely buy several pairs of shoes!!
1 pair of boots – I brought my favorite pair of boots from Soft Moc. They were so comfortable and warm. Make sure they are also waterproof, because wet feet equal unhappy times
1 pair of black flats – to wear with tights or on a night out
1 pair of sneakers – I am a big converse fan so I brought a pair of my low top chucks. Just make sure that whatever you bring are comfortable!
1 pair of flip flops – you will thank me for this when it comes to showering in the hostels :)
When packing your makeup bag, keep in mind that you don’t need to bring the biggest bottles! I went to the dollar store and bought a variety of small plastic bottles to make my own travel sized things. I packed all of these things beforehand, but you can always replace them during your travels if you run out. Here are some essentials:
Shampoo and conditioner
Body wash - it’s probably a good idea to smell semi good while you are traveling!
Scented perfume bars or perfume lotion - while we are on the subject of smelling good
Straightener (most hostels come with a hair dryer or you can usually rent one. Check the hostel websites if you are pre-booking to see what they offer)
Hair bands and bobby pins
Makeup and remover
Medication - Tylenol, Advil, Gravol, Pepto are the basics (and any other medications you may need)
Travel towel/face towel (not all hostels have towels, check online beforehand)
Purse or small backpack – for day use. I made sure the bag I brought was big enough to carry a lot of things.
Camera – it’s better to bring a good quality camera than regret those grainy photos after the trip. That being said, iphones are good for those quick snaps, but I strongly suggest a good camera for the majority of the photos you’ll take.
iphone/ipod – music is the number one saviour for those travel days. Also, if you are gone for a long time, you can talk with your phone provider for getting a special plan while overseas. I switched my phone plan so I could text/call home a few times. It’s also a good idea to have access to a phone for emergencies, just in case!
Earphones – don’t forget to bring these babies!
Chargers – for you phone, camera etc
Converter – buy an electrical converter beforehand in order to plug things in!
Water bottle – I bought a plastic bottle that could easily be folded and stored
Money belt – you can choose to bring one or not. I found the money belt useful for keeping emergency money and my passport close by.
Deck of cards – we made many friends along the way with our deck of cards. They’re good for long train rides and airport days
Journal/pen – even though there seems like there’s no time for journaling, it’s always a good idea to keep a record of your travels. It’s a good keepsake to have when you get home.
Official documents/tickets – passport, ID, airplane tickets, traveler’s insurance etc.
And don’t forget to send postcards home! It’s always fun to write postcards to everyone back home when you stop for a break at a coffee shop.
I hope this list helped you with your packing endeavors. If you have any questions or stories to share feel free to comment :) Happy travels all x.
This was inspired by another packing list I came across on the internet. Check it out to get even more ideas for your travels: http://herpackinglist.com/2013/03/fashionista-packing-list-backpacking-europe/