Hi Frugalistas! I’m heading to Europe very soon, and I’ve got a dilemma. I’m travelling alone so only want to take my tiny little Rick Steves suitcase rather than my international carry on. And I have to pack for both Copenhagen and Paris. And to add even more complexity, I’ve got business meetings in Copenhagen and it’s sightseeing in Paris. So I not only need to pack for two completely different climates, but also for two different purposes. My packing list needs to be flexible and an ultra light spring packing list for Europe.
Ultra light spring packing list for Europe principles
My Europe packing list for spring is based around navy. I always like to choose one neutral colour and then play with different combinations that go with it. I’m choosing navy because I prefer it over black for slightly warmer weather, while still being serviceable. I wear a lot of navy at home, so know exactly what I have in the wardrobe that goes with it. If you don’t wear navy, choose another neutral that you already know you have options for. As always,
the best clothes to pack for Europe are probably already in your wardrobe
How to plan a one bag packing list for Europe? After I’ve decided on a neutral, I always start with shoes. Then I choose specific clothes that go with my shoes. I was going to pack a pair of sneakers and then espadrilles, as I did for summer last year. But the weather is looking decidedly chilly, so I’m going for white sneakers and then a pair of rubber soled patent leather loafers. I bought the loafers last year (in Paris), knowing they would be an excellent travel option – they are stylish, but soft and will pack down to nothing. My loafers are Repetto, but these are quite similar:
If you travel anywhere regularly, it is worth considering how garments and shoes will work for a travel wardrobe whenever you buy something new – then you know you will always have the best clothes for one bag travel.
If you are going to be in southern France or other destinations further south, espadrilles or sandals would be the better choice than my loafers. For this summer I’m loving these sandals with an espadrille vibe:
Best women’s pants for one bag travel in spring
I’m going for three bottoms for this one bag packing list for spring:
- a pair of navy front pleated flared pants in a very light woollen fabric;
- a pair of navy slim pants in a cotton blend that have a bit of stretch;
- a pair of straight legged white jeans.
The white jeans are a bit of a gamble I’ll admit – if the weather is particularly wet then I’ll obviously have a problem, but there’s a reason why I’m going with them. White jeans are a little dressier so give me a bit more flexibility – especially if I pair them with the patent loafers. They are straight legged and full length. I have two pairs of blue jeans at home: a pair of flares, which will be very bulky to pack, and a pair of 7/8 length which are not so great in colder weather.
Best tops for one bag travel in spring
Because of the variability of spring weather and the fact that I’ll be in two different climates the best tops to pack for Europe in spring are garments that work well in layers. For a two week trip for Europe I normally pack four tops. My choices for spring this year are:
- long sleeved blue & white striped Tshirt;
- a short sleeved blue & white striped Tshirt;
- a short sleeved navy T shirt;
- a blue & white floral silk blouse.
I don’t often pack silk blouses, but because I’m forced to pack warmer layering choices a silk blouse takes up slightly less space than another Tshirt. I can also handwash it myself if need be.
To keep my tops fresher for longer I’m also packing a thermal top. Thermal tops are my spring secret weapons – they take up little room in a suitcase, and provide warmth without bulk. They rinse out in a hotel room basin easily and dry quickly. I’m hoping I won’t need one in Paris, so one to wear in Copenhagen will suffice.
Best jackets for Europe in spring
I’m cheating a bit with my jackets and taking two true jackets and two cashmere cardigans so I can layer the cardigans under the jackets if need be. I know not everyone owns cashmere, but you can buy it reasonably priced on Amazon and it’s a good option for regular travellers. It’s very warm, very light and usually very durable. If you don’t want cashmere, a light merino wool is a good option. What you don’t want are thick, chunky sweaters (yes, I know they are popular at present) or fleeces.
Because they are so durable, if you have followed my packing posts previously, you will know my cashmere garments. They are the staples of my spring travel wardrobes. This trip I’m taking purple and turquoise.
I’m taking two true jackets: a denim jacket and a linen jacket. My denim jacket was a risky item I packed for Europe last summer because I’d never taken it to Europe. It was the absolute hit of my packing list. I wore it a lot and was pleased with how flexible it was. I own a second denim jacket, which I’ve been tempted to pack – it’s lighter and more fashion forward. It’s probably also dressier. But it’s slimmer fitting and a bit shorter so not so great for a one bag packing list for Europe when I need to be able to layer. It’s one of those items that should be a good choice for packing for Europe, but it’s actually not. You can find other items that aren’t the right clothes to pack for Europe here.
I always like to pack something unexpected when I travel to Europe – otherwise my Europe travel wardrobe gets a bit boring over time. Last year it was the denim jacket, so I’m hopeful this year’s choice is just as successful. This time round I’m going for a fuchsia pink blazer. It works excellently with navy and is an easy way to inject colour into what is otherwise a pretty classic wardrobe. What I think this also shows is that carefully chosen, an injection of colour doesn’t need to be just a scarf. If you want to go more classic, then a navy, black or check jacket will work just as well.
I’m also taking my mid length navy trench coat. It’s a good choice for such a small packing list because it’s short enough to wear as an extra jacket, as I’ve shown here:
If it doesn’t fit inside my suitcase I normally fold it carefully and strap it to the top.
Are you travelling to France anytime soon? My France Travel Planning Facebook group has 25000 friendly members all ready to help with your France packing and travel planning questions. You can join here.
Dresses to pack for Europe in Spring
I’m going for a wrap dress. The same one I packed for Europe last summer. I can wear it with my denim jacket or with the fuchsia jacket. It won’t crush and packs down to nothing. Depending on the weather I will wear it for the afternoon tea I am planning or for dining out. Because it only has to go with your jackets, you can be a bit more adventurous with colour, although mine is blue, black and white.
Best accessories for one bag travel to Europe
I’m going very basic with accessories – two simple scarves. A fine cashmere in red to wear when it’s cold – it therefore won’t need to be worn when I wear the fuchsia jacket, hence the clashing colours. Then a silk one in pink and blue which is a real favourite and very easy to travel with.
In spring I usually pack an old pair of airline pyjamas. They are thin and suitable for wearing on the plane as well as for sleeping and lounging in my hotel. I appreciate not everyone has airline pyjamas but a light tracksuit will serve the same purpose.
What to wear on the plane to travel to Europe
Because I pack so light I always try and wear my bulkier items onto the plane. This trip I’ll be wearing what I wore last summer – denim jacket, navy Tshirt and blue pleated pants. With my sneakers. I’ll change into old airline pyjamas on the plane.
Because I pack my liquids in a ziplock bag for the plane, I only need a small toilet bag. Choose something that is squishy and not structured, so it takes up less space in your suitcase. Extra points if it has a hanger, like this one, which is great for small hotel bathrooms.
The best things to pop your liquids in are silicone bottles in a range of sizes. Go Toobs are very good quality but other brands are available.
Because plugs and chargers can take up so much space, I’ve gone to USB chargers, which take up less space and keep all my plugs and chargers in one place. Just don’t forget to include an adapter plug.
You can follow along on my trip to Europe this spring on the frugal first class travel Instagram account here.