How to Pack Light When Traveling to Europe

Wednesday, 5 September 2012
stuff
I didn't include photos of my passport or undergarments. I'll leave that to your imagination.

I've had family and friends come over to the UK for a visit and were caught in a dilemma when they're stuck with huge suitcases and unsuitable clothes. Traveling within Europe is dissimilar to the U.S (with the exception of NY), New Zealand, Asia or Australia because over here, you're relying on mostly public transportation where escalators or lifts are rarer than the sighting of a Kiwi bird. You're also dealing with literally four seasons in a day, narrow sidewalks (forget about dragging a large suitcase unless you are prepared to run over plenty of feet and being cursed), crowds and cobbled lanes. I've seen tourists trying to lug large trolley suitcases up the train only to find out that there was simply no storage space for them.

Unless you're traveling with children, it is actually very easy to survive with a medium sized carryall or tote for a 2 to 4 day trip if you pack carefully. I've had men, namely hotel receptionists and immigration officers who looked at my handbag with a dumbstruck expression when they realized that that was my "suitcase". The trick is to bring thin and preferably non-crease clothes that you can wash and dry quickly. They can also be rolled up easily and take minimum space in your handbag. Wear the bulkiest clothes to avoid taking up precious space in your handbag. I prefer to travel with a pair of versatile and most importantly, comfortable shoes so that I don't have to pack another.


toiletry bag
cosmetics

I use these inexpensive oilskin pouches from Cath Kidston (available here). They're waterproof, light and cost $10-$20. I've used mine for years and all they require is a quick wipe down and they look like new again. I also keep samples for my trips so I don't have to carry full sized bottles. Every gram counts because they add up especially when you're traveling with one bag.




collage2


All of the above items can be easily packed into a Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandouliere 35cm or Longchamp Le Pliage Large Shopper Tote (available here for $145 or here for £72). They're both incredibly lightweight and can be folded flat for storage. It's important not to fill it to the brim as you may need the space for storing your jacket or shopping.




collage
Outfit: Etoile Isabel Marant broderie anglaise top (similar here), Uniqlo jeans, Sam Edelman Trina sandals (available here or here in UK), Karen Walker silk dress (similar here), Hermes belt and Banana Republic blazer (similar here)



I can't stress the importance of layering particularly when you're traveling in Europe. There are exceptions to the rule because Spain, Portugal and South of France can be insanely hot during the summer months. I always bring a jacket and shawl because it's usually freezing in the morning but the temperature starts to increase exponentially and by afternoon, it's boiling hot and the reverse happens when the sun sets. Secondly, nothing makes you look smarter with less effort than a tailored blazer or a well constructed jacket. The shawl also doubles as a blanket on the plane or train.

The typical caricature of a tourist is a person with a sun hat, psychedelic bermuda shorts, trainers, tattered looking t-shirt and a backpack. Unfortunately, first impression counts so if you come across as well dressed, you get treated a lot better too. Most of Europe have cobbled lanes so be sure you wear shoes with wide heels or risk a sprained ankle. Personally, I avoid tight-fitting clothes during the summer months particularly when I'm expected to spend the entire day outside. I like silk or cotton tops and dresses that are easy to wash and quick to dry overnight.






layering1
Outfit: Petit Bateau vest, Alexander Wang t-shirt and Zadig & Voltaire jumper

Winter2

Outfit: Zadig & Voltaire jumper (similar here or here), Etoile Isabel Marant Kady leather jacket (similar here), James Jeans Twiggy, Stuart Weitzman riding boots (similar here), Hermes Ex Libris cashmere shawl (similar here), Zadig & Voltaire sweater dress (similar here or here).

The concept of layering was foreign to me prior to moving to the UK. The winters are mild in Auckland and the temperature doesn't swing like a pendulum from day to night. It can get horribly uncomfortable when you're stuck in the subway with a thick coat and sweater. I've found it easier to travel with light woolen pieces that I can pile on or remove.

Here's the thing for those who are unused to the winter months in Europe. It rains. A LOT. Sneakers with "breathable" holes on either side don't cut it nor thin soled flats unless you prefer to spend the day with cold and wet feet. Been there done that. So did my mom and a number of friends. An inexpensive alternative is Converse sneakers which can be relatively waterproof thanks to the thick rubber sole and toe. It was a revelation when I bought a pair of skinny jeans and flat riding boots.

I like to stick to natural fibers like merino wool (softer) or cashmere because they breathe and do not have an odor even if they're worn for several days in a row. All you have to do is hang the sweaters up and air them.

34 comments:

  1. Excellent tips, and such classy outfits. You'd never be mistaken for a tourist.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are an amazing packer!
    When it comes to rains in India, Converse really don't cut it - I had to work in Bhopal through monsoon two years back and my socks were drenched every day. Not good. I would recommend Nike sneakers or leather brogues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've forgotten about the crazy monsoon season in Asia. Can't say I miss the heavy downpours! Thanks for the recommendation, Ammu.

      Delete
  3. I wish you had come up with this two years back, when I went to Europe! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is a great, GREAT post, not only are the pieces you chose classics but I think you really managed packing light for a short trip! I have been downsizing in the past years and now always travel with a carry-on only for up to... say 2 weeks, I could do even more, just need to wash a little more. But since I love weekend trips to various destinations here in Europe I will bookmark this post for future reference!

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a fantastic post! It's so informative and well written. I love the images that go alongside too, I can tell how much work has gone into this. Pinning it right now so I can refer back in the event that I ever travel to Europe again.

    xx Jenee C.
    http://camomeetscouture.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your tips came in so handy. I will be going to Paris and London this Sunday, and coming from a tropical country, am so confused by the weather forecast.

    However, this is a shopping trip...so I hope my luggage bags are not going to be a problem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have a wonderful trip, Cecilia! Glad I could of some help.

      Delete
  7. Brilliant! We travel in Europe for 2 or more weeks at a time and each have only one carry on 22" suitcase and one tote like a large Longchamp. Each of us (including the kids) can lift the bags onto a train quickly. As long as we can do laundry, we're set. I adore every piece of clothing you featured here!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don't know how to pack lightly. I pack four bags when I am leaving for two days.


    http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

    ReplyDelete
  9. love love love the tips! i have the same lv bag, but also i do the same thing i bring items that can be used for more than one outfit usually layering and shoes hehe. I love all of your photos- you are so meticulous and organized!!!! xO!
    www.thehautecookie.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Excellent post and so well thought out. I don't travel much and it shows from the way I pack .... but I'm getting better ... or the luggage allowance is getting smaller. I think the Longchamp shopper would be a worthwhile investment though. But which colour???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Admittedly, I tend to go for the darker colors. I was silly enough to buy a light colored shopper tote and it has been a nightmare to get rid of the marks ever since.

      Delete
  11. This is such a fun and useful post! Thanks so much for sharing and I totally agree with you. I also always try to travel as light as possible and use a lot of samples and mini sized bottles and layer clothes.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your tips are so awesome and I definitely need to put them to use next time I travel to Europe. I have the tendency to pack way too much and I never wear a fraction of what I brought. Awesome post!!

    xxTheresa

    ReplyDelete
  13. Layering is totally key here in the Bay Area in California. Its foggy UGG weather in the morning and t-shirts for the afternoon. I am a fiend for cashmere cardies when I travel. Having said that after all these years I end up with a mess of a bags full of clothes and no proper outfits.

    ReplyDelete
  14. ahhh i love packing posts. great advice. going to adapt some of this for my trip next week :)

    steph / absolutely-fuzzy.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. THANK YOU! for this post.
    I'm visiting Europe this winter, and coming from a one-season-only country (summer all year round!), I've been wondering how best to pack and layer my clothes to ensure I stay warm.

    Would you happen to have any recommendations for winter-worthy boots that you'd like to share?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've forgotten what it's like to have warm weather after being in the cold for so long. How exciting about your upcoming trip. Personally, I'd recommend Stuart Weitzman (click the link next to SW under the "Packing for Fall/Winter" photo) 50/50. Mine's very similar to the 50/50 but there are no longer available. The boots have thick rubber soles so that you don't slip easily on icy/snow surfaces. They're really comfortable, classy looking and keep you warm. The leather is buttery soft and supple. I've worn mine to death for the past 2 years and they still look new.

      Timberland also makes really fantastic boots but they're slightly more rugged looking. They're more affordable and just as comfortable. Hope this helps! Feel free to email me if you have anymore questions.

      Delete
  16. Hello Marlene! Such a helpful and visual post. I love the fact that you always wear what you love and you are so creative in mixing and matching them. It really takes a skillful eye to do that. Love that Karen Walker silk dress and the IM balck anglaise blouse! I managed to score one recently too:)

    I need to checkout Z&V jumpers too!

    ReplyDelete
  17. What a great, informative post! We're heading off to Paris at the beginning of next year so these tips will really come in handy!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Fantastic packing advice Marlene. I'm shocking at packing and this was so insightful for me. I need to be told these things!

    xx Mandi
    www.findmeamuse.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love posts like this! Thanks for the packing tips! I think layering is key when travelling in generally but it's a must for Europe.

    Thanks for your sweet support! My vertigo bouts are getting much less frequent now which is a big relief.

    I'm so glad you found the Korean movies on youtube and enjoyed them :) I watched Seducing Mr. Perfect with Daniel Henney too. It was a fun one. His acting had gotten better by then. He was a little stiff in his debut but always handsome lol. You can also watch Asian movies on viki.com and dramafever.com

    Rowena @ rolala loves

    ReplyDelete
  20. This is such a great post! I do the same Le Pliage trick too, it's my favorite carry on to take on a plane.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This post is so well thought out and the layouts are so clear cut! Really cool, and thanks for the Basil plant info!
    - Aliya :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love these great tips! Layering is always a great idea when travelling. Love your Cath Kidson pouches

    ReplyDelete
  23. Love love love the travel tips and pictures....!

    ReplyDelete
  24. GREAT post Marlene, thank you for sharing! I had a lot of practise being a Brit, living and working in London where because my flat was in the West End, I was never too far from home or an underground station when it rained very heavily. From those days came my love and collection of leather knee boots including a pair of black biker boots that saved me every freezing cold, sleety and icy winter. Personally I take either a wool lined trench or short wool coat during the winter months because a leather jacket costs more to dry clean. The worst was dealing with being literally squashed in stuffy tube trains and having to emerge crisp and client ready for work the other end lol! I really can't wear jeans when travelling maybe at a push during the winter months but I rarely travel then in any case. I have this phobia of making the butt sag if I wear trousers while seated during travel for long periods of time - lol! I know the same can happen to dresses but it's less obvious.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'm in awe! I've never managed to make a dress work as a top, but it would be such a space saver if I manage it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Great post! Am going to bookmark this for future reference :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. That's such a great post Marlene! Richard and I have a competition over who can pack the least when we go away. we try to do hand luggage only whenever we can. I love just having a tote and walking past all the people with wheely suitcases. Why do people take so much away with them????

    ReplyDelete
  28. I thought I had traveling light down pat, but you take it to another level entirely. Fantastic tips, thank you!

    ps. is it bad that I immediately decided I should buy myself either a bandouliere or a le pliage so that I have incentive to pack as savvy as you do? Am pretty sure my husband would tell me I'd picked up the wrong lesson from this post :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! You can tell your husband that at least both bags are under £1K or in the case of Le Pliage, it's only £72 ;)

      Delete
  29. Such an amazing packer you are! I miss how easy traveling is in Europe- that's definitely the best thing about living there.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...