We ladies often have a tough time packing light. We want to look fashionable, but we don’t have a lot of space to pack everything. This travel packing list will help you pack only the clothes and accessories that you need — while still looking fashionable. It can be tough, but it isn’t impossible if you follow this packing guide. We don’t only focus on fashion… we also have recommended travel accessories, toiletries, electronics, and other items that will help you get the most out of your vacation! This guide is geared toward travel in Europe, but the principles are universal for all international travel.
HEY DUDES! Check out our new Men’s Packing List for Backpacking Europe — it is a similar guide to this one, but the suggestions are geared toward guys.
WOMEN’S TRAVEL PACKING LIST FOR EUROPE OUTLINE
- Advice About Fashion and Packing Light
- Travel Accessories
- Electronics for Travel
- First Aid Items
- What Not to Bring
ADVICE ABOUT FASHION AND PACKING LIGHT
Packing light isn’t easy for many of my fellow female travelers (I still struggle, myself), but the benefits to traveling light are immense. First, it allows you to travel more freely and easily. You might not realize it now, but you’re going to encounter crowded public transportation (usually with lots of stairs), bustling cobblestone streets, small trains/planes, narrow hallways and staircases, and a wide range of other stressful situations that make traveling with a lot of stuff extremely difficult.
I’ve encountered girls out there that had so much stuff that they needed someone to help them stand up when they put on their backpack. At this point, your bag is just an anchor. To avoid this, I suggest limiting yourself to around 20lbs of gear (including your bag).
TIPS FOR CHOOSING CLOTHING FOR TRAVEL
- Mix & Match Your Colors and Styles — The key to being fashionable and packing light is choosing clothes that are versatile. Everything you bring should look good when paired with any other article of clothing you have. You should be able to blindly pull out any top and bottom from your bag and pair them together. If you can’t do this, you should reconsider what you’ve chosen.
- Choose Low Maintenance Clothing — Make sure the stuff you bring doesn’t have special washing instructions — like dry-clean only.
- Forget the ‘Single Use’ Items — That super cute dress that you’ll probably only wear one night should be left behind. Instead, bring something that can be dressed up or dressed down since it’s more versatile. A good guideline is that if you aren’t going to wear it at least three times, then you shouldn’t bring it.
- Fashion Accessories — A lightweight scarf is an easy way to change up your wardrobe. Plus, European women love scarves, so it’s a great way to look like a local.
- Bring a Smaller Bag/Backpack — You can only bring as much as your bag can hold, so force yourself to bring less by buying a smaller backpack.
- Buy Clothes in Europe — The shopping in Europe is amazing; you can always buy more clothes when you travel.
For more great European fashion tips, visit our guide to dressing like a European.
WOMEN’S TRAVEL PACKING LIST FOR CLOTHING
Remember, versatility is key when choosing what to wear. I suggest sticking to earth tone colors because they hide dirt/stains better, but this is just personal preference. Look for fabrics that are wrinkle-resistant because it is hard to keep your clothes wrinkle-free when traveling. Ideally, these fabrics should also be quick-drying if you need to wash your clothes in the hostel (but it is easy enough to find a laundromat in any major city).
Four or Five Shirts — I recommend a mixture of both short- and long-sleeve tops. Make sure to check the average weather for when you’re traveling since it will dictate which type of top to bring. Long-sleeve shirts are more versatile since the sleeves can be rolled up if it gets warm.
Light Sweater/Cardigan – Even in the summer, it is nice to have a sweater or cardigan if it gets cold. You might want something a little warmer if you’re going to colder climates. These are also good for layering with other tops. Obviously, you probably don’t need one if you’re traveling to really hot climates.
One or Two Dresses — Look for a lightweight dress that can be worn casually during the day, but can also be dressed up if you go out at night.
T-shirts and Tank Tops — Pack a few t-shirts or tank tops for hot days, to use as undershirts, and for wearing in the hostel. I like the ExOfficio Lacy Shelf Bra Cami to use as an undershirt or to sleep in. It is super lightweight and breathable, and it will air-dry overnight, so it’s easy to wash in the sink.
Dark Skinny Jeans or Trousers — Jeans are universal and everyone in Europe wears them. Dark jeans are perfect because they look great during the day and they can be easily dressed up for going out at night. Skinny jeans are in fashion and are probably the safest bet. Additionally, a pair of lightweight trousers is also a nice option since they still look classy and they’re a bit more comfortable in the summer.
Skirts — I like to bring two or three skirts (a mix of short and long) because they’re not only cute, comfortable, and cool, but they’re lightweight so they’re easy to pack.
Shorts — Europeans do wear shorts but I wouldn’t wear them any place fancy. I prefer wearing skirts when it’s warm, but shorts are still a perfectly fine option for exploring the city or having a picnic in the park. If you do wear shorts, I recommend bringing a fashionable and well-fitting pair (definitely nothing sporty). Don’t forget to bring a pair of comfortable casual shorts for sleeping or wearing around the hostel.
UNDERWEAR AND SOCKS
Bras — It is important to bring three or four comfortable bras. I just bring the bras that I already own, but a lot of travelers recommend bringing at least one quick-drying sports bra.
Underwear — I always tend to overpack underwear because I’m lazy and don’t like to do laundry. Typically I bring 6-10 pairs. I really like the ExOfficio Underwear . They aren’t sexy, but they are amazing for traveling because they’re super breathable and they dry very quickly. I just wash these in the sink and then they’re dry the next day. They also have anti-odor properties so you can get away with wearing a pair for more than one day. ExOfficio offers multiple styles. They are a bit expensive, but they are a favorite among experienced travelers. For a more in-depth article about travel underwear, check out our favorite travel underwear!
Thermal Underwear — These are optional, and you’ll only need them in the winter. Amazon has a wide range of thermal underwear for women that will all work well. The main thing you want to avoid is cotton, so you’ll want to buy something that is made out of a synthetic material or Merino wool.
Leggings and Pantyhose — Sheer pantyhose are super fashionable in Europe. They are a great way to add a little sex appeal to an outfit. Leggings are also fashionable and don’t take up any space in your backpack.
Socks — Having high-quality socks is super important. Trust me on this. Nice socks can get a little pricey, but I highly recommend buying a few pairs (and good socks will last a long time so you can wear them after your trip is over). The best socks are made of fine wool — yes, you can wear wool socks in the summer. Lightweight wool will actually keep your feel cool and sweat-free. There are also synthetic blends that perform well.
When buying socks, look for the following criteria:
- Moisture-Wicking – Your feet will sweat a lot (especially since you’ll be doing a lot of walking), so you want a sock that draws moisture away from your feet. Keeping your feet dry helps eliminate odor and stops the formation of painful blisters.
- Quick-Drying – It is pretty easy to wash your socks in the sink, so you want a pair that will dry overnight (about 6 hours).
- Odor-Eliminating – Some synthetic socks have special anti-bacterial features that help eliminate odor. Lightweight wool socks will also do this naturally (lightweight wool can also work well in the summer).
- Avoid Cotton! – Cotton socks soak up moisture and won’t dry well once wet. They will also start to smell very quickly.
A quality pair of socks can be worn 2-3 times before they start to stink (although you’ll want to rotate the days you wear each pair).
Recommended Sock Brands:
- SmartWool Socks – I love my SmartWool socks. I wear them all the time. They have a wide range of socks available (from lightweight to heavyweight). SmartWool also makes Hide and Seek Socks ::__IHACKLOG_REMOTE_IMAGE_AUTODOWN_BLOCK__::7and Secret Sleuth Socks which are great “no show” socks.
- Darn Tough Socks – Made in Vermont, this brand of really nice socks will last for years. They get great reviews.
- Wigwam Socks – Another quality brand that is worth checking out.
- Thorlo – Thorlo makes quality socks that aren’t too expensive.
For a more in-depth article about the wonderful world of socks, check out our favorite socks for travel.
SHOES FOR TRAVEL
Ohh shoes… why must you be so difficult? I struggle with knowing what type of shoes to bring and I know this is very common amongst all travelers. If you think you can, I say to only bring one pair of shoes. They should be something comfortable since you’re going to be doing a ton of walking. If you can’t comfortably walk in your shoes for over three hours, you shouldn’t bring them. But I think the maximum pairs of shoes you should pack is two.
For your main pair, I suggest comfortable flats that can be either dressed up or dressed down. Additionally, I also think a pair of fashionable (and comfortable) sneakers is fine — but leave the running shoes at home (unless you’re not worried about being fashionable).
If you’re less concerned about fashion, then waterproof hiking shoes are a good option. These are nice because they’re comfortable and you don’t have to worry about wet feet. They probably aren’t necessary during the summer when rain is infrequent, but you might consider them for travel during the spring/fall/winter since rain is common during these seasons.
A cute pair of comfortable sandals is also a good option if you travel in the summer. Sandals are also nice because they are generally lightweight and easy to pack. Gladiator sandals are popular among Europeans.
Bring a cheap pair of rubber sandals for hostel showers (who knows what goes on in there…). They are also nice if you visit the beach.
But what about that sexy pair of high heels? Honestly, I’d leave them at home. You really don’t need them, but if you do bring them, make sure they are comfortable enough to walk in. A wedge shoe will make it easier to walk on cobblestone, but they are heavy. I brought a pair on my first trip and I think I only wore them one night.
For a more in-depth guide to finding the best shoes, check out our guide to cute and comfortable travel shoes.
JACKETS AND RAIN GEAR
If you’re traveling during the summer, you probably don’t need a jacket or rain gear (although, summer nights can still get a bit chilly the farther north you go). Additionally, if you plan on traveling during the spring, fall, and/or winter, you’ll probably have a few rainy days (it will still rain during the summer but not as much as the other three seasons). Therefore, having a normal jacket or a rainproof jacket can be nice. I’ve listed a few options below for ideas of what type might meet your travel needs.
Fleece Jacket – Fleece is a good material because it provides a lot of warmth but it isn’t too bulky. If you’re going to buy one, I suggest getting a black jacket because it is the most versatile. Check out these fleece jackets.
Rain Jacket – A rain jacket is an item that takes up a lot of space and is rarely used, so unless you’re going to visit notoriously rainy destinations, I would classify this as optional. You probably don’t need one if you’re only visiting cities (just bring an umbrella and duck into a shop/café if it really starts to rain). Additionally, most 100% waterproof rain jackets are not very breathable, so you end up feeling damp and sweaty. Check out these rain jackets.
Softshell Jacket – A softshell jacket is basically a nice compromise between a fleece and a rain jacket. A softshell isn’t completely waterproof, but it will repel 98% of the rain you come across. Unlike a true “rain jacket”, a softshell is breathable, so it will let moisture (i.e., sweat) escape. This is much more comfortable than a balmy rain jacket. A softshell jacket isn’t quite as warm as a fleece, but it will still provide a lot of warmth. Check out these softshell jackets.
I recommend REI for the best selection of jackets.
Sunglasses — Try to find something fashionable, but I wouldn’t bring an expensive pair because glasses are easy to break/lose — especially when traveling. During my last trip, I used cheap $15 “designer-inspired” glasses you find at those kiosks at the mall. If you do bring sunglasses, make sure you bring a hard case for them so you can just throw your glasses in your bag.
Scarf — A scarf is a staple of any European wardrobe. These make great souvenirs, so you can always buy one or two during your travels.
Sarong — A sarong is a versatile accessory that can be used as a wrap, shawl, scarf, light blanket, and a picnic blanket.
Purse or Day Bag Backpack — You’ll want a bag or purse that isn’t too big, but it should be large enough to carry the essentials (camera, notebook, light sweater, etc). If you bring a purse, it should have a zipper, and the backpack should ideally have lockable zippers.