Hi Frugalistas! I’m planning a trip to Europe this summer. It’s an unusual time of the year for me to be going, so I’m giving some thought to what should be on my packing list. If you are planning a trip, here is an idea of what will be on my packing list for summer in Europe. And of course, it is guaranteed to fit in just one carry on bag.
Basics for a packing list for summer in Europe
Of course, summer means warm weather and for most of us, that means Tshirts. I do prefer Tshirts over blouses or shirts because they do pack better and don’t require ironing most of the time. But don’t just pack any old Tshirt. That round necked tee with the witty logo on the front may be cute for the supermarket or a walk around the park at home, but when you are planning a packing list for a trip, you do need to think of Tshirts that multitask. That means a slightly dressier Tshirt that you can wear out and about during the day, or dressed up for an evening function. Remember too that in some countries (particularly in Italy and Spain) you cannot enter churches or other religious sites with bare shoulders, so leave the spaghetti straps and sleeveless tees at home. I recommend four Tshirts in a variety of colours and styles that will go with all your bottoms.
Now, what bottoms should you pack? Most of you will immediately rush to your shorts. But consider this. In many European countries shorts are not city wear – they are strictly reserved for the beach or other resort style location.
Before you rush to pack every pair of shorts you own, think about your itinerary. If you are focussing on city stays, leave the shorts at home.
Obviously if you are hiking, or visiting more resort or beach type areas a pair of shorts is very handy, so do pack one or two pairs if that is what you are doing. But if like me, you often spend more time in big cities you need options. I do like a light skirt that I can dress up or down. Rather than capris I also prefer a pair of light casual slim pants – mainly because I think they are a little more stylish and are therefore far more versatile. In addition to the “no shoulders rule” the “no knee” rule also applied in some places, so make sure you have at least one bottom that will cover your knees. Regardless of your personal preferences, you need three bottoms that match with every single one of your Tshirts, and that can be dressed up and down.
Because the weather (and air conditioning) can be quite variable do take at least one cotton or light wool cardigan or sweater. If you are travelling to the UK or Northern Europe a light jacket or coat is also necessary. Choose colours and styles carefully so you can layer your Tshirt, cardigan and light jacket if need be. For the UK or Northern Europe one thing you may not have thought of is to take a thermal top. Yes, a thermal top. Just like you would in winter. If the weather turns really cold, pop it under your cardigan with your jacket and you have plenty of extra warmth.
A dress is also an option if you want to go out to a lot of fancy restaurants, or just like dressing up. Make it a simple style in a cool and light fabric. Just make sure your cardigan and jacket will go with it!
Shoes for a packing list for summer in Europe
The obvious thing to pack for your feet is a pair of sandals. But they do need to be a particular sandal. Forget hard soled fashion sandals. You need a walking sandal with a thick rubber sole that will be forgiving of cobblestones and feet that may swell a bit in the heat. I particularly like Merrell and Ecco for their range and style options.
Personally, I don’t pack a pair of sandals for summer in Europe. My go to shoe for hot weather, regardless of my destination is a pair of flat, thick soled espadrilles. I find them great for walking all day, and because they don’t have lots of straps across the foot they don’t rub if my feet get hot and swollen. I do also wear mine for casual dining.
For your second pair of shoes I am suggesting a ballet flat. I look for ballet flats with a thicker rubber sole that are soft in the uppers. They will work well with most skirts, long pants and dresses. Because I don’t take shorts or capris a pair of espadrilles and a pair of ballet flats will mean both my shoes will go with all my other clothes.
Toiletries for a summer packing list for Europe
In addition to your usual toiletries you do need sunscreen. While you can certainly buy sunscreen easily once you arrive I have sometimes found it difficult to buy high SPF sunscreen (such as 15 or 30) in Europe. While they are available, they can also be very expensive. If you have fair skin you definitely need a sunscreen with a high SPF (yes, I have been sunburnt in London). Depending on how long you will be away, pop one or two 100ml (3.3oz) containers of sunscreen into your ziplock bag to either give you plenty of time to find what you need, or save time having to shop.
The other particular toiletry I like to pack is a tinted moisturiser with SPF. It does triple duty in one little bottle or tube. My favorite is Laura Mercier, although there are plenty of cheaper options available.
Sundry items to pack for a trip to Europe
If water is part of your itinerary, you will definitely want a swimsuit. If you are swimming in public beaches or lakes, you will need a towel. My suggestion is to either buy a cheap towel from a chain store when you arrive, or take a microfiber towel with you.
You will need a folding travel umbrella. And if you are heading to UK or other parts of Northern Europe you may find a light trench coat useful.
A light silk scarf is helpful for chilly evenings, and is essential to cover your head to visit mosques in Turkey and the Balkans.
If you are in southern Europe make sure you pack a hat – seek out soft types that pack easily, or buy something on arrival.
I’ll be talking about where I am heading to Europe this summer in upcoming posts. (Suffice to say I’m very exciting to be visiting somewhere I haven’t been for over 25 years!) Regardless of where you are traveling in Europe this summer, I wish you safe and happy travels – in just one carry on bag.