Packing for an European Spring Vacation

by - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Inquiring minds wanted to know (hi Yesenia and Anon!) what I packed for my 2.5 week European spring vacation, so maybe others would find this helpful as well.

What I had in mind was to be practical and pack as efficiently as possible, while being somewhat-stylish.

1) I packed light because dragging our luggage in and around 4 different cities is not fun. We didn't rely on cabs because most of the hotels we stayed in were within walking distance/easily accessible from transportation hubs. I was able to fit everything into one carry-on sized suitcase (rolled items to reduce wrinkles and save space) and a Longchamp Le Pliage large tote. I also stored a folded tote in one of the pocket compartments of my suitcase, just in case I needed extra storage on my return flight home. My one suitcase worked out for the best because we often had to go up and down flights of stairs (no elevators/escalators around.)

2) To dress appropriately for the weather. I learned my lesson the last time I went to Japan in December and had only packed a leather jacket and a sweatshirt as the heaviest layers (face palms.) From my research, I was prepared for colder weather in England and France, but warmer weather in Italy. Expected May temperatures ranged from 55-80 degrees Fahrenheit across those three countries. There was also a high probability for rainy days.

- Cold weather days: sweaters, sweatshirt, long-sleeve tops, jeans, scarf. I avoided packing duplicate items in the same colors (ie: didn't pack two pairs of blue jeans), figuring I wouldn't have a problem re-wearing items.

- Warm weather days: t-shirts, shorts, skirt, dress, flip-flops. As much as I love light-colored bottoms, I knew it would be hard for me to keep them clean for a long duration, so I stuck to dark colors. One pair of shorts and one skirt ended up being sufficient. I packed three t-shirts because they're great layering pieces under long-sleeves or would work as standalone tops on warmer days.

- Rainy days: small-sized umbrella, water-resistant jacket with a hood. I chose a lightweight jacket because I didn't mind layering sweaters and long-sleeves underneath for extra warmth. The thin jacket could also be easily rolled up and tucked away in my tote when I don't need it. The most important thing for me was choosing a jacket with a hood because I don't like getting my hair wet.

Of the 24 items* I packed, I ended up wearing every single piece at least once; many I wore several times by either repeating outfits or by slightly changing an item here or there. The key was to pick basics from a color scheme that are easy to layer and mix-and-match. Along with "neutrals" (denim, white, gray, black), I stuck to variations of reds/yellows/blues -- any combination of the three are colors I could create outfits around.

European spring vacation - 24 items - 1 carry-on suitcase
Items from left to right, top to bottom:
bag: Longchamp / umbrella: Coach (similar)
jacket: Burberry (similar) / sweater: Banana Republic (similar) / sweatshirt: Clu Too
gray tee: LOFT / white tee: Everlane / yellow tee: LOFT
shirt: J.Crew Factory / wrap top: lucy (similar)
blue jeans: LOFT (similar) / black jeans: LOFT (similar)
shorts: J.Crew Factory / skirt: J.Crew Factory (similar)
dress: J.Crew (similar; similar)
blue scarf: C. Wonder (similar) / floral scarf: J.Crew (similar)
necklace: Ann Taylor (similar) / ring: Elizabeth and James / necklace: J.Crew Factory
flip flops: Old Navy / wedges: Loeffler Randall / flats: Sam Edelman / loafers: Gap (similar)

*Didn't include tanks/camis and undergarments

I ended up wearing more outfits on vacation, but didn't take full-length photos of them all. Of the 12 outfit photos below, some are only "different" because I added a jacket... so technically there's only 9 outfits.
European spring vacation - 12 outfits
1st row, 1st outfit was what I called my "travel outfit" because I wore this every time we moved on to a new city. I chose all black because I didn't want to deal with dirt, grime, and whatever else I'd encounter while traveling. 2nd row, 4th outfit was also another repeat offender. It's a little bit preppy and a whole lot of comfortable. 3rd row, 1st outfit was one that I felt very "European" in -- probably due to the scarf, haha.

One last topic I want to touch upon is how I packed my camera for vacation. I normally carry my camera around in a triangular camera bag, which has plenty of padding, is bulky (though doesn't have enough room to store an extra lens), and has a zippered opening. I was looking for something smaller that can fit inside my purse and with easy access -- kind of like a purse organizer for cameras, if you will.

Camaroo camera inserts were exactly what I was looking for. These inserts are available in five sizes, which should be suitable for most cameras out in the current market: compact, micro four third/mirrorless, DSLR 1.0 (what I bought), DSLR 2.0, and DSLR 3.0. I just measured my camera's dimensions and chose the insert that is slightly larger.
Sony NEX 3 and Camaroo camera insert
I really like how the various parts (lid, cylindrical-shaped compartment for the lens) can be removed and/or adjusted using velcro. For sightseeing days, I generally left the lid off and only placed it back during heavy travel. I felt the insert had sufficient padding, but don't really know how well it would protect the camera if had I dropped it. I loved how I can adjust the positioning of the lens protector compartment to make room for an extra lens and battery charger on the sides.
Sony NEX 3 and Camaroo camera insert
The insert took up about half the space in my Longchamp large Le Pliage tote. However, I was still able to fit the usual essentials (wallet, sunglasses, passport, etc) my red jacket in the remaining space.
Camaroo camera insert inside Longchamp large Le Pliage

Additional electronic items that I also stuffed into my suitcase include: different types of adapters (one for England, one for France/Italy) and a power strip (many hotel rooms only had one available outlet.)

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  1. Such a great post - it's amazing how many different looks you got from packing a few items...mixing & matching at its best! Will definitely pin this post for future packing inspiration - thanks for putting it together :-)

    1. Thanks you, Zeba! I tried to wear a different outfit every day... but was often too rushed in the mornings, haha. So repeating outfits will have to do!

  2. This post is so timely for me, as I am going on a 3 week vacation to Rome, The Riviera, Provence, and Paris in October, and the weather is likely to be all over the place. Thanks so much for sharing your packing list and outfits. It will make my packing so much easier.

    1. Your trip sounds amazing. I've heard fall is a great time to travel through Europe, so I hope you have a fabulous time! Crossing my fingers for ya for nice weather :)

  3. Great post! Could you possibly do a secondary post and discuss what you packed as far as toiletries? I'm especially curious because you used a carry on and wonder how you dealt with the restrictions as far as liquids and the like for carry on luggage.

    1. Hey Rachel! I don't think US airports are strict on toiletries anymore, if I remember correctly. I took out my quart-sized bag containing liquids at security, but I don't recall many others doing so? I'd check the FAA website to see if there are any updated regulations. I also don't remember international airports wanting to see my toiletries either.

      Letsee if I can remember everything I brought...
      - travel-sized body lotion from Bath & Body Works (skipped on soap, shampoo because I figured hotels would provide them, and they did)
      - small container of contact lens solution
      - contact lens case
      - small containers of day and night cream (I bought a handful of small empty jars from CVS)
      - 2 small bottles of facial oil
      - small bottle of sunscreen
      - travel-sized toothpaste
      - travel-sized toothbrush
      - retainer
      - face towel

      The one thing I forgot to bring was a comb! So I just bought one in London.

      I rarely wear makeup, but I actually brought mascara and an eyeliner pencil with me... which I never ended up using, haha. (I can see how makeup would take up valuable space in a quart-sized bag though).

      Hope that helps!

  4. Finally! Someone that knows how to pack!! I'm always floored at how much luggage people cart around on trips.

    I pride myself on being an expert packer. It actually takes me a *really* long time to pack because I try to narrow down how many items I take and I want to be able to mix and match everything. I think the only thing I would've done differently from you is that I try to limit myself to only 3 pairs of shoes since they take up so much room in a suitcase. But at least the shoes you brought weren't bulky.

    I have traveled carry-on for as long as I can remember. Honestly, I think the only time I have checked a bag at the airport in the last 25 years was when I was moving across country. I have traveled extensively....sometimes traveling for 2 months but I still go carry-on even then. I'm with you....who wants to cart around a bunch of luggage. And I never have to worry that the airline has lost my luggage. Plus, I'm much quicker out of the airport because I don't have to wait for my bag.

    1. I can be silly at times, but really think I'm the most practical person I know (in real life). I hope one day I can be at your level of packing expertise! Need to travel more to gain packing experience :)

      I really didn't want to pack that pair of wedges (you're right, took up so much room!) but we were worried about not being dressed appropriately for afternoon tea, so I figured it's better to be safe rather than turned away. We saw other people dressed more casually than us, so if I had known, I would've left the wedges at home.


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