European winters are known for being beautiful. Think snow-capped mountain tops, serene landscapes, fewer crowds and delicious warm drinks everywhere. During the festive season, the twinkling lights and Christmas markets make everything even more magical. If you’re looking for a true winter wonderland, Europe won’t disappoint! However, when travelling to this magical continent during winter, you need to be prepared for the unpredictable weather. With this in mind, you need to pack for winter accordingly, whilst also ensuring that your wardrobe keeps a certain level of style.
During any moment on an Expat Explore winter tour, rain clouds could burst out, snow could fall or icy winds could start up. With our handy guide, you can pack your bags with peace of mind, knowing you’ll have everything you need right on hand for your Christmas or New Year tour!
Related: Discover the best things about Europe at Christmas time!
Unfortunately, airlines don’t relax their weight limitations just because there’s a little snow falling on the other side of the globe, and you’ll still be limited to 21kg of luggage when you embark on a Christmas holiday. The trick is to be smart when you pack. Here are the suitcase essentials for cold-weather travel:
When you travel in winter, thermals are your friend. Stock up on warm underwear to layer under your day-to-day outfits and choose one really warm, well-made, water-resistant jacket. Choose a neutral colour that goes well with most outfits (black is always a winner!) and pair it with basic leggings, jeans and pants.
Pro tip: Don’t pack the jacket, wear it on the plane as it will likely be one of your heaviest items. If you get warm you can always stash it in the overhead compartment or use it as a pillow.
When you travel to Europe in winter you essentially need one pair of shoes – warm, comfortable, water-resistant boots that dry quickly and you can comfortably walk in for at least 5km. To make the most of your Europe tour, you have to take to the streets to drink in the culture and that requires a lot of walking. Make sure you’re comfortable – sore feet can ruin your experience and stop you from seeing all there is to see!
Pro tip: Bring one extra pair of dress shoes for fancy outings to the theatre for example. As with your jacket, wearing heavy shoes on a plane so as not to weigh down your luggage is advisable!
Just because you’re packing practical basics, it doesn’t mean you have to look drab! Dress up your outfits with fun scarves, hats, gloves and legwarmers. These items can be rolled and stuffed into small spaces in your suitcase and keep you warm while adding a pop of colour to your outfit.
Pro tip: Most of our European destinations have laundry facilities, so you’ll be able to do a load of washing every now and again. Keep this in mind when you pack!
Related: Find out more about what to expect of winter in Western Europe!
Here are 10 essentials for every winter packing list for Europe:
Of course, when touring Europe, you know you’re in for a great deal of walking. There are many beautiful attractions to see, and very often even the charming streets are best explored by foot. This means you need to bring a suitable pair of shoes. During winter, the best pair of shoes you can bring is a pair of sturdy, comfortable boots.
A key part to any Europe packing list for winter is layers. The more warm shirts and pants you have on, the better. Insulation is the very best way to escape the cold, so packing a set of thermal underwear is a must.
Be sure to pack at least 2 pairs of thermal, long sleeve vests and long johns. These thermal undergarments are convenient and comfortable to wear, and they will provide protection from the cold.
Cold weather and dry skin tend to be synonymous. Add a dermatologist-tested skin care cream to your list of travel essentials for Europe.
This way you’ll make sure that your skin stays smooth and moisturized during your winter vacation. To avoid cracked lips, a trusted chapstick is another must.
Packing a few warm accessories is a great way to both do up an outfit, and add extra layers. Some wonderfully cosy and stylish additions onto your travel list are:
Each item provides warmth to parts of your body that even a full winter outfit sometimes misses. Keeping your ears, hands and neck warm is a very important part of keeping yourself comfortable in the cold. This is especially the case in destinations that are notorious for cold weather, like many locations on our Northern Explorer Christmas & New Year tour.
Another layer of clothing you absolutely need to have is a pair of easy-slip, lightweight and warm socks. Woollen socks are the best, as they keep your feet breathing whilst also making sure the heat stays in.
Fluffy socks are easy to pack and really cosy to wear. They’re also fun items to buy as souvenirs!
This is one of the fairly obvious things to pack for winter in Europe, but making sure that you have a good coat will go a long way. Ensure that your coat is extremely warm, can go with all of your outfits and doesn’t take up too much room in your bag. You’re going to want a coat that can easily slip on and off as well, so try to avoid coats with multiple straps or buttons.
Your coat will become your best friend during your travels in Europe, keeping you snug and warm as you venture in the icy weather.
We know how precious memories are, and one of the best ways to keep track of your time in Europe is to keep your camera on hand. But, what if you’ve made your way to somewhere as glorious as the Rhine River in Germany on our European Taste Tour, and you can’t snap a picture because your camera is dead?
Cold weather drains battery life fast, so this could very likely happen to you. To prevent any chances of you losing out on photographing your journey, pack extra sets of batteries with you or a portable phone charger to keep your phone going!
A conveniently sized day bag is a must for any international travel packing list, and it will serve you a great deal during winter in Europe. You can keep all of your moisturizers, phone charger and extra layers in a stylish bag that can easily be swung over your shoulder. Be prepared for everything with a day bag that fits all of the necessities for a day of adventure in the cold.
Valuable items like your phone, camera or iPad will also be much safer and easier to bring along for the ride with a padded bag.
We all know that the change of seasons and the cooler weather often brings about headaches, coughs or sniffles. You don’t want this to stunt your precious time in Europe, so bring some basic medicine with you. This way you can manage your health and easily treat common symptoms brought on by the cold.
You can also purchase medicines in the country of your choice, but you never know if they will sell what you’re used to at home. Everyone’s packing list for Europe should have at least a headache treatment included on it!
Last, but not least, on our winter Europe trip packing list is a pair of versatile, comfortable and elegant black trousers (these could be jeans, slacks, chinos, or ‘pants’ as they are known outside the UK). These will go with everything, giving you the freedom to accessorize with colour whilst keeping your base outfit minimalist. Black trousers suit every occasion and easily fit over your underlayers.
A great go-to for when considering European fashion trends, they’re a classic. A pair of simple black trousers will save you a great deal of time when choosing your outfit, whilst also keeping you warm.
Excited yet? Here is some more pro packing advice to ensure that your winter coach tour of Europe goes off without a hitch. Discover our range of Christmas and New Year tours to make your winter in Europe extra memorable!
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