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What To Pack for a Spring Vacation In Europe

by - Thursday, March 09, 2023

We are at the tail end of winter which means many of us are thinking about our next vacation. With little to no travel for most of the world over the last three years, it's understandable to want to get out of your house, hop on a plane, and land in a foreign destination.

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Packing List For Europe In Spring

We have a European vacation coming up very soon and I was surprised at how rusty I was at vacation planning. The way we travel has changed so much in just the last few years. Gone are the days of packing multiple suitcases and checking in your bags. You're packing lighter and more efficiently, with outfits you can mix and match and just the essentials in your carry-on bag or travel backpack. You're also no longer bringing printed maps or the bulky DSLR camera - your smartphone and a good roaming plan are an easy substitution for both.

Europe is the perfect destination for a spring vacation, with plenty of attractions, fewer crowds at this time of year, and a mix of climates. If you're planning a trip to any European cities in the next few months - or a trip to any cooler destination - here’s a travel packing list for a spring vacation.

Shop all of these travel ideas in my LTK shop.

Must-Have Clothing Items

For any spring vacation, one of the most important considerations is the weather. You'll want to be prepared so taking a look at the upcoming weather forecast is a good place to start when planning out your vacation wardrobe. Spring in the northern hemisphere will be cool to cold, so having options for layers of clothes will cover you for all sorts of situations without compromising your travel style. 

My general approach to packing for Europe is "dressed up casual wear" or being slightly more stylish than you normally would be at home. I find that in North America we tend to dress for comfort over style and Europeans do the opposite. As you get ready for your trip, it's important to pack smart to make sure you're both comfortable and stylish. 

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Sightseeing Outfits

For sightseeing and outdoor activities, dress in layers that you can add or remove as you go. A light sweater is always a good choice, as are t-shirts and a lined rain jacket or lighter winter coat. Choose one that is water repellant so that you'll be ready for the brisk wind or rain that comes with the season. Any lightweight windproof and waterproof jacket will work well for travel. 

My choice for jackets are ultra light down puffy jackets. They're easy to pack, comfortable to wear, and keep you warm without added bulk. The newer silhouettes are more tailored so you'll still look stylish while keeping warm on colder days. 

When you're out and about exploring, you want to be comfy. A pair of sneakers or comfortable shoes are a must for days when you'll be doing a lot of walking. You'll want to pack footwear that can handle a variety of terrain. Many European countries have cobblestone streets so consider leaving the heels at home and opt for comfortable sneakers, flats, or ankle boots. The weather can be unpredictable and you might be walking outdoors all day so waterproof footwear is a good choice too. 

Dining Out

When it comes to dining out at night, the dress code can be a bit more formal depending on the location and type of restaurant. You don't need to dress formal, but do dress 'smart'. Skirts with a sweater, a sweater dress with tights, or a nice top with dark denim jeans will all work. 

You can even dress up your outfit with a pretty scarf or fabulous earrings - I always pack a pair or two to make whatever I'm wearing feel a bit more special. For footwear, try out low heels or loafers for comfort and style.

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Travel Accessories

Aside from clothes, there are a few essential travel accessories you'll want to bring with you. Here's the items I always take on vacation:
  • A crossbody bag, belt bag, or small day pack that keeps your arms free for photo taking and keeps your valuables and travel documents secure
  • A packable small backpack or tote bag that you can easily take out for carrying your sweater if gets too hot or purchases while you're out exploring.
  • A small wallet to hold just a few credit cards or debit card and local currency
  • A lightweight scarf that can be used as a blanket, head covering, or fashion accessory
  • A good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the bright spring sun
  • A compact umbrella to protect you from occasional showers
  • A sleeping mask and travel pillow
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Electronics and Tech

Do you remember when you'd go to the bookstore and pick up the Fodor's or Lonely Planet travel guides for your next destination vacation? Now we have so much information on the internet and our electronic devices to guide us that planning on paper is no longer necessary.

What is necessary is making sure you have all of your tech (and the right adapters!) for your journey. I like to keep my cords and accessories in a travel organizer case. No more searching for the cell phone charger or the headphones; you can keep them all in one accessible spot.

And call me basic, but I do carry a selfie-stick with a built in tripod and remote with me. It's compact enough to carry in your purse and makes it easy to get everyone in the travel photos. 

Another must-have item is a portable power bank for your smartphone. This one has a built-in lightening connection, has a display screen which how much power is left, and has a large charge capacity (it can charge my iPhone 11 Pro three times before its drained). This keeps your phone charged and ready for all of those travel photos, videos and map directions.

If you'll be checking your luggage, you might consider placing an Apple AirTag inside. We've all heard the horror stories of airlines losing luggage for days and weeks. Being able to track your bags with the AirTag can give you peace of mind.

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Makeup and Toiletries

Apart from shoes, the toiletry and makeup bag always seems to be the heaviest thing on my travel packing list. It goes without saying that you should bring only what you absolutely need and switch to the small travel size containers for toiletries. I also minimize my skincare and makeup routine for a one-week trip and stick to a basic serum and moisturizer daily plus multi-use makeup palettes.

Here's what you'll find in my toiletry kit:
  • travel size shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel
  • round hair brush (so I can style my hair without having to bring a curling iron)
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • hand cream and hand sanitizer
  • deodorant
  • lip balm and lipstick
  • face moisturizer and serum
  • compact makeup brushes
  • foundation
  • single eyeliner, lipliner, mascara and eyebrow liner 
  • eyeshadow and cheek palette
  • Tylenol and Pepto Bismol or Imodium
  • Melatonin gummies for jet lag
  • prescription medication
  • copies of important documents (e.g. passport and credit card), just in case they get lost
Note that some of these items will be considered "liquids" and are subject to certain limits as determined by the transportation authority so be aware of the quantities you're traveling with.

With the right planning, a spring vacation in Europe can be a magical experience. Remember to bring the essential clothing, toiletries and electronics but otherwise pack light and leave room for souvenirs. With these items in tow, you'll be all set to take on any adventure that comes your way. 

Are you planning any upcoming vacations? Tell me where you're headed!

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