How to pack for Europe for 2 weeks- what worked, what didn’t and things I learned.
Do you start to stress after your travel plans are made because …
- You tend to overpack,
- Pay or have paid overweight baggage fees,
- Don’t wear half of what you pack, and/or
- You pack five pairs of shoes for every trip you take?
Then this post is for you.
It’s taken a lot of trial and error and the process is not perfect, but it was time to share how to pack for Europe for 2 weeks with one suitcase. While I do take more than one bag, but I only check one suitcase and it is a carry on size (making it small and easy to navigate). Since that first trip (see photo above) I have been to Europe a number of times for business and pleasure. The formula I use has been tried and tested, it works, and I want to share with you.
How to pack for Europe for 2 weeks – the process
- Know how you travel and what you will be doing each day. When my husband and I travel, we visit a lot of sites that require us to be on our feet. We walk and use mass transit. We don’t rent cars and don’t plan on using taxis. So when traveling abroad I know what I will be doing each day, want to dress as stylishly as I can, pack light and bring comfortable shoes. Your daily activities may be completely different, but I advise that you know what you are doing (more or less) each day of your vacation or trip.
- Plan on doing laundry. This is key for any trip that is more than 7 days. We always plan to do laundry during our trip (sometimes trips to the laundromat are adventures unto themselves!). Plan to do laundry at least once during your vacation – it is the only way to pack light and for it to work.
- Check the weather. I think this goes without saying, but I will say it. Check the weather before you go. I tend to check about 3 days before packing and again the day before for any drastic changes. Once you have completed steps 1-3, it’s time to pack.
- Start with the shoes. As I mentioned above, I walk A LOT (my Fitbit registered 8 to 10 miles each day). However, even if you do not walk a lot, still start with the shoes. Why? Because when you start with the shoes, it automatically limits and refines what you will take with you. The shoes will dictate the style and color of the clothing you pack. You don’t want your entire closet to be available for packing. You have to narrow down the selection somehow. Start with the shoes. Also, when you start with the shoes, it helps limit the color palette. For this trip I planned on wearing primarily warmer colors (or earth tones). This helped to limit my options for packing.
What I packed for Europe for 2 weeks
- 2 pairs shoes – black wedge sandals and tan Danskos (closed toe, open back and more below on these)
- 4 tank tops
- 2 skirts
- 1 pair jeans
- 1 pair ankle pants (added these after I recorded video)
- 1 pair culottes
- 1 maxi dress
- 2 short sleeve tops
- 1 three-quarter sleeve top (added this after I recorded video)
- 2 jackets
- 1 short sleeve sweater
- 1 wrap
- 1 outfit for lounging in the hotel/apartment (leggings, tank top, long sleeve wrap)
This was absolutely the lightest I have packed for a trip. By the end I found that I had worn my clothes two to three times already. I found an Eco-Popup shop in Florence (see below for more info on that store) and purchased a new bamboo top that I wore a number of times during the rest of the trip. I am glad I packed so lightly because we traveled by train three times, and there were countless stairs and hills (especially in the Cinque Terre) that we had to navigate with our luggage. I also was really happy with the color palette and fabric of the items I brought. I am trying to move to more natural fabrics because they are self cleaning and packed a number of those fabric types. I did laundry once halfway through the vacation and routinely let my clothes hang outside to refresh overnight.
What didn’t work
So as I mentioned the importance of shoes, this was a #shoefail!! I bought new Danskos due to their durability, found them secondhand for $10 and thought they would be perfect. The problem was that they were a European size 38 and even though they fit my foot, they were the wrong size. I “always” wear a European size 39, and I thought that these would work but they absolutely did not. By the middle of my trip, I had blisters everywhere on my feet. Unfortunately, I had intended on wearing the Danskos for the majority of the time. My plan was to wear my black wedges for dinner or just to alternate on light walking days. Because the Danskos hurt my feet, I relied way too much on the black wedges. So while the black wedges are one of my favorite pairs of shoes and are very comfortable – they are not meant for 8 miles of walking.
Solving the problem
I found a shop in Florence that sells Tevas. Teva is one of my favorite brands because their shoes are so comfortable. I have a pair of boots that I take for European trips during colder months, and they have served me well (and they have been the only pair of shoes I pack for those trips). Because I was hiking in the Cinque Terre, it was time for Tevas. The nice thing about shoe shopping in Italy is that you get personalized service. Even though the salesgirl’s English was limited (but it was still good) she was able to find me the right pair of shoes. I told her I was hiking and she recommended the pair I ended up purchasing (me below in my new shoes). Are they the most stylish? Nope, but did they answer the mail? Absolutely. The footbed of those shoes was incredible and soft. I hiked quite a few trails in the Cinque Terre and these shoes held up beautifully. They are now my new travel sandals and will be kept with my boots for years of use.
What I learned
Even though the shoes I bought “fit” I didn’t test drive them enough before the trip to realize that they were too small. So lesson one – make sure you vet your shoes first!! I was happy to “underpack.” This enabled me to buy a new shirt and have room as well as stash other souvenirs we purchased. By the end of the trip with endless navigation of stairs, I was so happy to have only one suitcase weighing approximately 30 pounds.
How to plan outfits for travel anywhere made easy!!
Warm Weather Vacation Outfit Planner to help make planning and packing for that next vacation easier. This includes a worksheet you can print and use to create your list of what you are doing each day and what outfits you will take. Get your Warm Weather Vacation Outfit Planner.