A friend recently asked me what she should pack for an upcoming trip to Europe. Her goal is to pack as few items as possible because she wants to travel with a (large) backpack instead of a traditional suitcase. The challenge is that she’s traveling for two weeks and through countries with differing climates (i.e., Spain and Germany & Austria). I think the following set of items accomplishes her goal of packing light in Europe while also fitting in and looking casual-chic.
I would pack three t-shirts (or maybe two t-shirts and one tank) in neutral colors, which gives you six different outfits with the addition of two bottoms. An over-sized cashmere sweater and a denim jacket give you options for layering depending on the daily temperature. If I was concerned about wet weather, I would swap the denim jacket for a waxed cotton jacket like this one from Barbour.
As a woman in her 30s, I can’t believe I’m highlighting clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch, but I own both of these pairs of denim and they are ahh-mazing. Super stretchy and high-waisted = on-trend, flattering, and comfortable. You could also swap out the dark rinse jeans in favor of a pair of denim cutoffs.
I like packing dresses because they work for day-to-night and represent a full day’s outfit. Dresses are also great for warmer weather climates like Spain and this red dress is perfect for any restaurants that require polished attire. (I may need to pick it up myself for Maui and Madrid!)
As for footwear, for a trip to Europe in the summer, and with only a backpack, I’d limit myself to just two pairs of shoes: comfortable sneakers like these New Balances and a pair of Birkenstocks. If you really wanted to, you could also pack a pair of ballet flats – these Tieks fold into themselves for easy packing. I’d also recommend traveling with a foldable tote bag, like a Longchamp Le Pliage for extra space and easy transport of toiletries, a cross-body bag, and any souvenirs.
The ultimate trick to packing light, besides careful planning, is to wear your heaviest items on the plane. This keeps you comfortable temperature-wise and it frees up space in your luggage. With these items, I would layer the denim jacket over the cashmere sweater and a t-shirt. Since sneakers are bulky, I’d keep those out of my luggage and wear them on the flight, too. These jeans are ridiculously comfortable thanks to a heavy dose of Spandex so they’ll be comfortable even during an overnight flight.