Packing for a European Vacation

It’s been over a year since my husband and I got married and traveled to Poland and Italy for our honeymoon.  This was originally written as a guest post, but I figured it would be a good time to share my packing tips for traveling abroad.

I’ve actually been abroad three times – the first trip was to France and Spain in 2002, and the second was to Italy in 2004.  I fell in love with Italy and was more than happy to go back a second time! 

I don’t know about you, but the most stressful part of any trip for me is packing.  I’m a chronic over-packer, and I can’t follow the “pack everything you need and then take half of it out” advice.  Just not my style!  Here are some basic tips before you fill your suitcase.

First, do your homework!

  • Research the airlines you’ll be using – find out exactly what their regulations are in terms of size and weight, and make sure you leave extra space for bringing home souvenirs!
  • Research the areas you’ll be visiting and find out what the typical high and low temperatures are so you can pack appropriate clothing.

Clothes & Shoes

  • Think layers – tops and bottoms that you’re able to mix and match, along with a few cardigans or jackets in super neutral colors – I took one black and one beige.
  • Think versatility – I took mostly dresses, just because they’re one piece and were easy to pair with the cardigans at night.  Most Churches don’t allow bare shoulders or jeans, so it’s always good to be well covered and slightly dressed up.
  • Think COMFORT – I took three pairs of shoes for 2 weeks – two pairs of flats (again, black and beige) and one pair of heels.  I only wore the heels for the wedding we attended, but could have gotten away with the flats.  In hindsight, I would have taken a “dressy” looking pair of slip on sneakers – like these Puma flats - because I almost wore through both pairs of flats! 


  • Be minimal – I took one silver jewelry set (watch, earrings, necklace) and one pair of gold earrings.  The jewelry doesn’t take up much space in your luggage, but I didn’t want to bother carrying too much around.
  • One large, light bag – a Longchamp was perfect for the travel days to keep everything I wanted with me.  They’re great because they are almost weightless until you fill them up.  JPK Paris makes some more affordable bags that are a similar style, and are constantly on sale at RueLaLa
  • One “fancy” small bag and one “every day” small bag.  I used a swingpack that was just big enough for my Rick Steves book, our hotel keys, money, and my sunglasses.  I used the clutch I brought just for the wedding and not a second time.


  • Extra batteries for your camera.  You don’t want it dying after waiting in line to see one of the big tourist sights!
  • Basic medications/first aid: ibuprofen, Benadryl, and a few band aids – just in case!
  • Converters – so you don’t fry your straightener or camera charger.
  • A tiny notebook – it’s fun to keep a journal so that you don’t forget a single second of your trip.  If you’re a scrapbooker, it’s fun to get a map of the city you’re staying in and highlight how much you walk each day – we did 9 miles on our first day in Rome!

Those are my few packing tips in a nutshell – most of all, be flexible and enjoy yourself!  We ran in to plenty of hiccups in our travel plans, but you have to make the most of it and enjoy the madness! 

Have you been abroad?  What packing tips would you add?

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