Europe in the Winter: packing list for Europe

Hi Frugalistas!

MissG and I enjoying a freezing cold day at Neuschwanstein - snug and warm

MissG and I enjoying a freezing cold day at Neuschwanstein – snug and warm

While my generic packing list is easily adapted for Europe (or anywhere else cold for that matter) if you are struggling with that winter packing list and keeping it to one carry on bag, help is at hand!  Here is my detailed winter packing list for a trip to Europe:

1.  The best quality coat you can afford.  A down coat is going to work best, as it provides great warmth, is comfortable and gives some water resistence in the rain and snow.  Buy the best quality you can afford.  I bought mine from an outdoor shop at an end of season sale – by paying half price I was able to afford a better quality coat.  What to look for:  plenty of length – bypass the waist or hip length in favour of thigh or knee length, cuffed sleeves and a hood.

2.  Shoes.  Sticking to two pairs of course – one pair on and one in the bag.  For me that means a pair of ankle boots and a pair of flats. I wear the ankle boots for everyday use and the keep the flats for going out.

3.  Thermals.  Long sleeved vests and long johns.  I take two sets so always have one pair on and one in the wash.  I prefer a high tech fabric from an outdoor shop rather than a swanky silk mix set.  I think they are warmer and they definitely dry more quickly.  Again I bought mine for half price at an end of season sale, so could buy better quality.

Regardless of what you think they look like you do need thermals.Photo credit:

Regardless of what you think they look like you do need thermals.
Photo credit:

4.  Long sleeved tops.  Personally I like cashmere jumpers (sweaters) because I wear them anyway during the winter.  I appreciate not everyone can afford that luxury though.  Having said that, pick them up cheaply in Europe at chain stores for around USD100-120 if you want to spend the money.  Otherwise, again I haunt the sale racks at the outdoors stores for long sleeved tops in high tech fabrics – light, dry quickly and if you choose carefully are stylish enough to wear anywhere.  I take three tops, so I can layer with a second if need be.  What I avoid are fleeces – to me they are far more limited in where you can wear them, and while they are light they take up an enormous amount of my precious packing space.  With my jumpers and a high tech top I’m ready for anywhere from a wander round a Christmas market, to a walk in the countryside to dinner in Paris or Milan.

5.  Blouses or T shirts.  Ring the changes in your wardrobe with 3 blouses and/or Tshirts.  They also help keep your outer tops fresher for longer.

If your kids are going to play in the snow (and they should) make sure you have fabrics that have some waterproofing or will dry quickly

If your kids are going to play in the snow (and they should) make sure you have fabrics that have some waterproofing or will dry quickly

6.  Bottoms.  I do take a skirt and a pair of thick tights.  It’s nice to be able to get dressed up for a special dinner.  Then two pairs of black pants in a woolmix so I can pop my long johns underneath.

7.  Socks.  If you aren’t familiar with how cold snow and ice will be, don’t underestimate how cold your feet will get if you don’t have the right socks.  Wool cashmere mix are luxurious and will keep your feet warm.  Alternatively (and more cheaply), this is another good opportunity to raid the outdoor shop’s end of season sale and pick up thermal socks.  Buy them nice and long, so they go come up well above the bottom of your long johns.  I carry four pairs – in case it gets really cold, when wearing two pairs becomes a must.

8.  Hats, gloves and scarves.  You need all three.  Woollen, high tech or cashmere doesn’t matter.  Just one of each should be fine assuming your coat will button/zip up to your neck, and your coat has a hood to keep rain and snow off them.

There wasn't alot of snow that day in Nuremburg, but it was FREEZING!!  We all needed two pairs of socks that day!

There wasn’t alot of snow that day in Nuremburg, but it was FREEZING!! We all needed two pairs of socks that day!

9.  A jacket.  If you are planning eating out a lot both men and women may find a jacket handy to wear with a shirt in restaurants etc.  European shops, houses and restaurants can be very hot, so if you are visiting those types of places alot a shirt and jacket is handy.

10.  Ladies should bring some jewelery and scarves to accessorise.

11.  Your choice of underwear and night attire.

12.  A small folding umbrella.  Again mine came from an outdoor shop – incredibly light, and so far, has survived snow, wind and rain admirably.

This will all fit in a carry on bag (assuming you wear the coat), with room for toiletries, reading material, technology etc guaranteed!

If you would like to read more about packing light the frugalfirstclasstravel way, download my free ebook packing guide here.


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27 Comments on “Europe in the Winter: packing list for Europe”

  1. FoundTravel 02/12/2012 at 12:52 am #

    Good list! I have to say that I agree with the idea of LAYERS! Because the heating inside is often nice and cosy and you don’t need to be as thickly dressed! (I find my house back in Southern California was COLDER in the winter than the interiors are in Europe since they are so well heated and insulated!)

    I also like the light weight, down-stuffed, heat-technology jackets from Uniqlo… they are incredibly light and can fold down to size smaller than an iPad! A nice piece to pack if you are coming from different/opposite weather at origin. (Or as a backup!)

    And for me – since I am not used to icy roads and streets, not just 2 pairs of shoes (for sure!) but two pairs with good tread!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 02/12/2012 at 6:44 am #

      Yes, I agree about the shoes with good tread. It is also possible to buy coats that will pack down into a tiny parcel a bit like a miniature sleeping bag.

      The coming from the opposite climate is an issue (happens for me everytime I travel to Europe). I travel in what I will be comfortable in, put some warmer layers on the top of my bag, then change before I leave the airport.

      Thanks for dropping by and adding your experience. I love learning things from people who read my posts!

  2. Pretraveller 17/02/2013 at 2:20 pm #

    Wow, this article brings back memories of my first big trip to Europe over the Christmas period.

    I recall I started the trip with multiple layers and a scarf and gloves, but did not buy a beanie until I arrived in Budapest and my ears nearly froze off. That day I found a lovely hand knitted cream woolen beanie at a tiny market stall which I still use to this day!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 17/02/2013 at 5:28 pm #

      My husband lasted about a week in Europe in December before he had to admit defeat and do the same. I think Aussies seriously underestimate just how cold Europe is in winter and what you need have with you to rug up.

      Thanks for sharing your memories!

  3. Emma 23/05/2013 at 11:40 am #

    We are taking our three children to Europe in October for 3 months. Our first overseas adventure. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and advice. I have printed out your list and will be off to some outdoor stores in their sale season very soon.I was wondering if you had any further advice regarding packing clothing for children particularly about warm pants? We will definitely have thermals but my kids are used to living in jeans and i’d love to take something else that would be warm and quick to dry. Any thoughts?

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 23/05/2013 at 12:07 pm #

      Hi Emma, thanks for dropping by and for your kind thanks. I must admit we did take jeans for our daughter in winter. It’s almost impossible to buy any other alternative apart from ski pants or other waterproof outdoor pants. The good thing with kids is that their clothes take up far less room, so you can actually pack a little extra in case of wet accidents. The other extra things you might like to consider would be taking is an extra pair of shoes and socks (because they do get wet), and extra mittens (because they get lost). One thing we found was that it was difficult to buy kids’ down coats in outdoor shops in Sydney. We ended up going to a chain store when we arrived in Europe and buying her one there – which was very cheap and did the job admirably. Unlike in Australia the European chain stores have a fantastic range of winter weather clothing for children at reasonably prices, so if you get caught short it is easy to pick something up for them without having to search out specialised stores or spend a bomb.

  4. Keith Kellett (@NomadKeith) 08/09/2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Another thing you might consider is, if you don’t want to enter into the realms of excess baggage and you have time, when you get here, hit the charity shops. There’s usually some surprisingly good stuff there, & when you’ve finished with it, you can either parcel it up and post it home, donate it to the shop again, or just throw it away.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 09/09/2013 at 6:40 am #

      For those of us from warmer climes, that is a brilliant idea, Keith! Would work brilliantly for warm coats, and waterproof shoes for kids I would imagine.

      Thanks for such a great idea!

  5. blisstravelsnews 09/09/2013 at 9:25 pm #

    We really believe in light, efficient packing. I am always telling Bliss Travels clients that a rolling carryon is enough and they will have everything they need. Don’t overpack. It just means more hassle, not more choice.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 09/09/2013 at 9:34 pm #

      Agree. I post regularly on this topic. Winter is no different, as long as you plan and pack appropriately.

  6. clbcz 10/10/2013 at 8:24 am #

    A good list. I am heading up to Estonia and Finland at the end of October and it will be cold, so I am taking layers. Trip Advisor posts says that the hotel will be hot, and that has been my experience with Baltic hotels in the past, so I have packed 2 stretch cotton tees, some light trousers and a pair of old tennis shoes for inside the hotel. I can dress the tees up with a scarf and matching sweater for evening wear. For sightseeing I have packed a flannel shirt, a spare pair of stretch jeans.a pair of thermal long johns and two camisole vests. I have a five day supply of underwear, jimjams and three pairs of wool/silk mix socks. I also have a small quantity of washing liquid, so I can keep clothes fresh. I will wear a flannel shirt, thick sweater, stretch jeans, Timberland boots, a fleece jacket, a waterproof jacket, scarf, hat and gloves. From past experience these are more than enough clothes. I have also managed to get a large camera, an iPad, a keyboard, an eReader, several cables, a cup and water heater in there as well. We now have size restrictions on hand luggage so I am sure my 41 38 x 24 cm wheelie bag will go in the cabin. I also packed a tiny rucksack, which I can carry my passport etc in at the airports and on the plane. It will go into the wheelie bag through check in.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 10/10/2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Good list, but I’d ditch the jeans and half the underwear! European interiors are always very warm, so layering is essential.

  7. Ron 19/12/2013 at 6:21 am #

    Great list. My key to winter dressing is to always layer and bring plenty of layers. It’s okay to overdress; you can always take clothes off but it’s hard to put more on when you don’t have them on hand! 😉

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 19/12/2013 at 1:40 pm #

      I agree. I find European buildings and houses just so over headed that layering is a survival strategy!

  8. Lea 21/01/2014 at 7:09 am #

    My feet really feel the cold and my husband said NO UGGS allowed. So I found some thick wool lined flat leather ankle boots at a local market here – ideal!! Also I plan on taking some throw aways – jumpers from an op shop that I can discard there. And cheap undies at 50c a pair I am happy to wear once too and leave.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 21/01/2014 at 10:07 am #

      You’ve got yourself sorted out well, Lea. Cheap undies is a good generic strategy regardless of the time of year. Personally I like to take old ones, wash them as I go, then ditch them at the end.

      Enjoy your trip!


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