Hi Frugalistas! My daughter, MissG has just turned 15. She’s about to take her first trip to Europe without us – a school trip to Italy, Belgium and France for 14 days. Her school rules and trip itinerary create two packing inefficiencies. The girls are required to wear their sport uniform (school track suit and Tshirt) on the plane, and then there is a formal function at Yprès in Belgium where full winter school uniform is required (including school shoes). Despite MissG being an excellent one bag packer, we’ve therefore made the decision that this teenager’s winter packing list for Europe will not be fitting in one carry on bag. Being on an organised trip without Mum and Dad, we’ve taken care to plan a wardrobe and packing list that gives her maximum independence, and also plenty of warm clothes and little extras she may need. While this is a packing list for a teenager, it would also work well as a packing list for a young woman for Europe in winter.
How to pack for a school trip to Europe
While we’ve decided that trying to do this trip to Europe with just one carry on bag is not an option, it doesn’t mean that MissG and I can’t use some of the principles we both use for one bag packing. This is especially important as the airline baggage limit for her group is strictly 20kg. It’s also important as there is no porterage included in the trip costs. The girls must therefore be able to get their bags off the bus and around the hotel. They also need to be able to manage their own bags at the airport in Sydney plus for an internal flight from Italy to Paris.
We’ve bought a new suitcase. It’s a 72cm (28inch) suitcase, which is just one size up from an international carry on. We’ve bought the lightest one we could find that was within our budget. The other thing I like about the case we’ve bought is that it has a zip to expand it in case shopping gets the better of her. I always choose a coloured suitcase rather than black – it is easier to see on the carousel.
The other things we are doing are using packing cubes, and a light weight toilet bag to minimise space and weight. I think packing cubes are an excellent idea for young travellers without Mum or Dad as they help keep everything together. I particularly like using both packing cubes and toilet bags in bright colours as they are easy to see in the hotel room, and therefore are not so easy to miss when leaving.
A toilet bag with a hanger makes sharing a bathroom much easier – you know what teenage girls are like in the bathroom.
What to include in a teenager’s packing list for Europe
Her school has provided MissG with a detailed packing list, so we are largely being guided by that. There is no requirement for dressing up apart from the formal function in Yprès, so jeans and jumpers can easily form the basis of MissG’s wardrobe for Europe.
A good coat is, of course, essential. We’ve gone for a down coat, that is long enough to come down to mid thigh.
Thermals are a given, as are thermal socks.
I normally suggest cashmere for winter packing, but my cashmere jumpers and cardigans just aren’t going to cut it for a teenager. We are therefore using layers to keep MissG warm. A mixture of shirts, jumpers and hoodies can be layered to keep her warm. We are packing three of each, making sure that every item matches every other item she is taking. Because she doesn’t want to wear a hat, her hoodies can be worn with the hood up instead (as can the hood on the down coat). We’ve also gone for a slim fitting zip up fleece. This can be worn over the top of shirts, or under her looser jumpers and hoodies.
The fashion dilemma as I write is what to do about jeans. Not whether we should pack them, because as a teenager, packing jeans is a given, but rather how we get around the current fashion for jeans full of holes. We’ve decided they are not a good look with thermals showing underneath. And MissG has decided she is not going to freeze for fashion.
So we are packing two pairs of leggings (that can be worn with thermals underneath) and also two pairs of black jeans. One pair are quite light weight denim, so will dry quickly if they are rained on. The other pair are thicker and do look a little dressier. Both are stretch denim so MissG will remain comfy on long bus trips, and in case there’s too much spaghetti consumed at dinner.
I always recommend good walking shoes for Europe. In winter this means boots. We’ve elected for a walking boot with a good thick sole. These will be her go to, wear every day shoe.
Because she needs to take school shoes for the function in Yprès, there really is only room for one other pair of shoes in her suitcase. We are therefore packing leather look sneakers. They are fashionable, and because they are not canvas will be better in wet weather. MissG will wear these mainly for dinner at night or for indoor sightseeing days.
She needs both a scarf and gloves. We have found some thermal gloves quite easily. I think they will be good for her, as they are light and not so thick. With her scarf, she is packing two. One is a thick ultra warm possum and wool scarf that I bought in New Zealand. It’s not very trendy and not to her taste, so we are packing a trendier option, that won’t be so warm, but can be worn over the top of the “sensible” warm scarf for the slightly edgier look she prefers.
Rather than packing her own pyjamas I’m giving MissG a pair of my Qatar Airways Business Class pyjamas. She will pack them in her hand luggage, so she can change into them on the plane as well as wear them as pyjamas while she is away.
Toiletries for a teenager packing list for winter in Europe
We are going light for toiletries even though she is checking luggage.
Like most teenagers MissG is picky about her hair, so she is packing her own shampoo and conditioner in some Go Toobs.
She’s also packing a travel sized kit of her preferred pimple management system.
Toothpaste and toothbrush and a travel size deodorant complete her toiletries. She’s decided against packing make up as there are no evening functions where make up is necessary.
The school’s packing list suggested packing travel laundry wash so they can wash underwear and clothes while travelling. We have decided she will not pack this. Instead, MissG will use my preferred one bag strategy for washing while travelling – she will use the hotel shampoo to wash her underwear and shirts in the shower. I’ve managed to persuade her to pack a microfiber towel though. Sharing a bathroom with other girls I think towels for drying hair will be at a premium, and I also use them to dry excess water from washing. They dry very quickly and take up almost no space, so are an easy addition. Again, a bright colour that coordinates with her toilet bag and packing cubes makes ensuring she has all her things easy as pie in a shared room.
Extra items a teenager needs to pack for a solo trip to Europe
I must admit when I travel to Europe, or when we take family holidays I am a little lazy about packing “extras”. I take the view that we can always find a shop or pharmacy and buy any extras. But on an organised group trip, this isn’t necessarily the case, and being young it can be a bit intimidating, even with a teacher to help. So I’m making sure MissG has all the little extras we can think of that she may need.
A do it yourself first aid kit for travel in Europe
I’ve put together a ziplock bag of things that may come in handy in the event of minor illness. As well as headache tablets and ibuprofen for period pain, I’ve packed some anti-diarrhoea medication and some electrolyte sachets she can make up in the event of a bout of gastro. She also has some bandaids and safety pins. A ziplock bag takes up far less space than a full first aid kit, but also means she (or a teacher if she’s really unwell) can easily see what she has.
The little extras
For a cost effective data option for her phone and other devices we are going with a Solis portable wifi as we don’t want her accessing free portable wifi while she is out and about. You can purchase or hire a Solis by clicking here.
The itinerary is full of outdoor activities. The school has advised that they will be proceeding with the itinerary regardless of the weather, so a travel umbrella is a must pack. I’ve also bought a cheap rain poncho to keep the worst of the wet off her coat.
Because teenagers can be a little careless with belongings, I’m making sure MissG packs some products from the Clever Travel Companion. I particularly like their leggings with secret pockets for teenagers. In addition to her backpack (which she is using as her carry on bag), MissG is taking a small cross body bag to use as her day bag rather than her backpack. This is far more secure (she can wear it under her down coat) on the street, and is perfect for visiting museums such as the Louvre, where backpacks are now banned.
These security products are not cheap, but I feel they are a good investment for young travellers on their first overseas trip without Mum or Dad. As a parent, you want to give your child every chance to stay safe when you are not there, and also make it easy for them to do the right thing. Spending a little on some clever security gear can save you and your young one a lot in tears and anxiety if thieves or pick pockets are about.
I’m making sure MissG has sufficient sanitary pads for her trip. Young girls don’t need to have to trouble themselves with trying to find the right pads or tampons on a short trip like this.
MissG still prefers hardcopy books rather than reading on her iPad or phone, so we’ve chosen a couple of books for the plane.
MissG is all set to go. I think she’s going to have an amazing trip. I know she’s got plenty of clothes that she will want to wear, and that will keep her warm. She’s also got a few little extras to help her be independent and well organised in the event of minor illness.
For Australian and New Zealand readers we found the best choice of winter weather gear, such as down coats, thermals as well as a good choice of light weight toilet bags and umbrellas at Kathmandu. You can click on the blue links to check them out.