When the weather’s warm, packing couldn’t be easier. You can easily fit all of the flimsy summer dresses or shorts and t-shirts you need either into your hand luggage for a quick getaway or a reasonable-sized backpack for a big trip.
In winter, however, things aren’t quite so easy, especially when you’re sticking to carry-on. When space is limited but you still want to stay warm and look good, packing can suddenly seem impossible.
So, what’s the solution? Put your passport away until next summer rolls around? Never! No one can be expected to get through winter without an escape. Us travel addicts need to feed our habit.
Fear not, though. Winter packing does take a bit more forward planning and needs to be done strategically, but it’s very much doable. Let’s get packing.
Cramming It In
This is my packing list for a short winter trip, on which you can only take a carry-on bag. What with budget airlines racking up their charges for checked baggage by the day and slimming down their carry-on allowance, fitting the things you’ll need for a few days into a tiny bag is tough.
This packing list takes all the drama out of it. It’s perfect for a long weekend in a snowy European city.
If you’re lucky enough to be going for longer and splashing out on cabin baggage, then this is still a great basic guide for the key things you should take with you. You’ll just be able to fit more of your favourite winter wardrobe in!
Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
- Winter Socks
- Winter Boots
- Winter Coat
- Skirt and Tights
- Woolley Jumpers
Some things never change, you’re always going to need fresh underwear and socks for every day you’re there. You’ll need some warm winter socks to keep those toes cosy, but make sure you go for lightweight ones so they don’t take up all the rooms in your bag. Ladies can go for long socks to keep their calves toasty warm too.
Tip: Roll your underwear up small and tuck it into little gaps between your clothes, in your shoes… you get the idea. If you can’t fit it in, don’t be afraid of handwashing your underwear with soap whilst in the shower and letting it dry while you’re off having fun.
When the temperature really dips, you’ll need to break out the thermals. Just one pair of jeans isn’t going to be enough in the depths of winter, and wearing a regular pair of tights under your jeans doesn’t actually do anything to insulate you, contrary to popular belief.
Invest in a thermal top and leggings that can go under your stylish jeans and jumper combo with no one being any the wiser.
A pair of warm pyjamas is always wise, as depending on where you’re staying the nights could get very cold indeed, and if you’re doing the hostel thing then dorms are never particularly well heated. However, your thermals could also double up as your pyjamas, as could the top you wear on the journey out there, so if you’re short on space this is something you could lose.
One good pair of winter boots is a necessity for getting through any winter, holiday or not, and they definitely need to come with you on your trip. Stylish enough to pair with a nice outfit in the evening, and comfortable enough for traipsing the city streets all day. Be sure to spray them with extra waterproofing before you go so you don’t end up with cold wet feet.
Tip: Wear everything bulky. You’ve probably heard this one before, but you need to be wearing your bulkiest clothing on the journey. Your winter boots will take up a huge amount of space if you try and put them in your luggage, so they need to be on your feet.
The same goes for the coat, hat, gloves and scarf you’re going to need to protect you from the icy winds. If need be, wear two tops, two jumpers… this isn’t a fashion show, and they normally air condition aeroplanes to within an inch of their lives anyway, so you don’t need to worry about being too hot.
Hat, Scarf and Gloves
You’ll definitely be needing these, especially if you’re heading for the chilliest parts of Europe. Make sure they’re nice and cosy and match each other and your coat nicely! You’ll also want the hat to suit you nicely so you look good in all those wintery selfies that you’ll be posting on Instagram for weeks.
Bring your favourite winter coat along, just be sure to make sure it’s warm as well as stylish, as you won’t look good in those trip snaps if you’re shivering. If it’s waterproof can’t hurt either, as most of Europe can be a bit wet during winter. If you’re lucky, you might even need it to keep the snow out! It’s always best to go for a coat that’s slightly oversized and long so that you can fit a thick jumper and plenty of layers underneath it. Also having packing cubes help keep the damp clothing separate from the rest!
As well as your favourite coat, make sure you pack your favourite pair of jeans. Pick a pair that are flattering and that you feel comfortable walking around in, and one that looks good with the tops you’ve decided to bring with you.
These might be another two pairs of jeans or trousers, or you might decide to go down the skirt and leggings or tights route, or both. I always find that black trousers are a good option for dressing up in the evenings.
Whatever you choose, make sure you pack at least two tops that match it, as things you wear on your bottom half can always be recycled at least once.
For your top half, layers are the way to go. A thermal undershirt is a good idea, as I mentioned above, but if you don’t have one then be sure to pack an extra vest top or two to wear underneath your tops or jumpers. I always wear a vest top underneath and take a zip hoody as an extra layer underneath my coat.
Now’s the time to rock your favourite winter jumper! I normally try and take two of these with me. You might have to sacrifice a couple of the tops you’d normally pack to go on holiday in order to squeeze these in.
Chances are you’ve got a night out or two planned as part of your trip, so you’ll need something a bit more special for your evening wear. Pack two pretty tops that go well with the jeans or skirts you’ll be wearing during the day too.
This tip is for the women out there, who all know that there’s nothing a tube of red lipstick can’t fix. If you can’t fit a pair of heels and a dress in your bag, you can still dress up any outfit with a bit of lipstick. Leave any non-essential make up you normally carry around in your make up bag at home to save on space.
As you’ll be well aware, you can’t take any liquids above 100 ml on a plane. If you’re traveling with friends, a great way to go about things is to share. One of you brings the toothpaste, another the deodorant, etc.
Another way to do it is to buy your shampoo once you’re there and share it among yourselves. Otherwise, invest in some travel-sized containers or a large enough toiletry bag so you can decant your favorite products into to take with you.
Tip: You can also streamline things a bit by embracing mother nature. Did you know that coconut oil is an amazing makeup remover, as well as a fantastic moisturizer and lip balm? Take a small pot and you’ve got three products in one.
Check the Forecast
This list has been more towards what you might need for a long weekend in the colder parts of Northern Europe, where you really feel the cold and so need to be prepared.
If you’re headed somewhere Mediterranean, you can, of course, expect slightly more clement weather. It will probably still get cold at night, but the sun should come out and warm you during the days, so pack accordingly, and throw in your sunglasses.
Check the average temperatures for the time of year you’re going and then keep an eye on the temperature in the days leading up for your trip, so you can get your packing just right for the weather in store!