Packing List for Europe in Winter

Here are my top tips for making a packing list for Europe in Winter and Autumn. As well as being from England, and thus well-versed in London’s Winter weather, I also recently backpacked through The Balkans in the Autumn and early Winter period. The photos are a trip my best friend and I took to Norway.

Check the weather of where you’re going

There’s a huge difference in temperature between Iceland and Italy. These very different climates will drastically change what you need to take. Be sure to check expected temperatures in advance, leaving a little lee-way in your planning for potentially warmer/colder weather.

Depending on how comfortable you are with the cold, these climate variations could be the difference between choosing to visit Edinburgh, drink wine at mulled wine in Freiburg or head towards milder weather in Greece. Or perhaps you’re looking to enjoy a specific Winter activity, such as ticking the northern lights off your bucket list or a visit to one of Europe’s best Christmas markets.

Do you need specialist clothing for activities or extreme cold?

  • Have a rough idea of activities you’re planning on doing – for example, if you’re hiking in the snow or doing lots of outdoors sports, you may need specialist clothing/gear
  • Contact your accommodation or tour companies etc if you’re doing any specialist activities – it’s the best way to find out exactly what you’ll need to take and what equipment is available when you get there (if they haven’t listed this already)
  • Similarly, you can ask your accommodation what clothing they suggest tourists bring during the months you’re going if you’re concerned.

A clothing packing list is the hardest part of any pre-travel checklist. The motivation to overpack is hard to ignore – especially when you have the added worry of being warm enough. Here’s an idea of what to add to your checklist.

WARM LAYERS

OUTER LAYERS

This will really depend on where you’re going – you’ll need something more hi-tech for places like Iceland (preferably an insulated jacket) but a normal Winter coat would be fine for Southern Europe.

Hat, gloves and scarf

A scarf that covers your nose is important is very important for cold climates. When your nose GETS cold, it CATCHES a cold. 🙁

Pick between cute woolly hat combos versus genuine thermal gloves depending on how cold it will be.

THERMALS

You probably won’t need this for Southern Europe, especially in non-mountainous regions.

2x thermal leggings

2x thermal long-sleeved tops

As they go against your skin, I recommend 2 pairs so you can wash one pair as you use the others, though if you won’t need them very often just take one pair. Take one pair if you’ll only need them for a day trip into a colder region (such as a mountain or Fjord tour) or evening activities

NIGHT-TIME

Warm pyjamas (or re-use your thermals) and cosy socks

Personally, I took my old shorts and vest tops as I’m a warm sleeper, with the intention of using my thermals/layers when it’s particularly cold

Modelling different coat options for Europe in Winter packing list

CLOTHES

1 or 2x sweaters or other long-sleeved layers

1 or 2x jeans – weighty for light packers but otherwise a comfy, versatile option for Europe. Skinny jeans are good as they still roll up small in your bag.

1x other long pants or…

1x winter/sweater dress – personally I prefer wearing dresses so it’s nice to have this option even in the cold or…

2x skirts or dresses – these are so light to pack up and particularly useful for regions that don’t get that cold. You can find tights which are quite thick and warm now as well.

FOOTWEAR

Outdoor boots

Mixed destination trip – I chose waterproof hiking boots that would be suitable both for hiking and snowy cities. These are the only shoes I had on my Europe trip.

Proper snow boots – if you’re heading purely to a Wintery destination

City break – you may prefer more stylish faux-leather boots. Just make sure they have good grip if there might be ice and snow (not heels).

Comfy sneakers or flat shoes

I prefer sneakers as I know, even on a city trip, I’ll be on my feet all day. But whatever works for you.

Nothing worse than wet feet that won’t dry – be prepared for the rain and snow by adding warm boots to your packing list

KEEPING ORGANISED

A secure bag to keep valuables in (such as cash and your passport).

While backpackers prefer a bumbag design, I personally use this over the shoulder bag from Khatmandu. It’s particularly handy for transit days (such as going through an airport) as my passport, boarding pass and bank card is always easily at hand without having to reach into my other backpack.

https://www.kathmandu.com.au/travel/transit/rfid-wallets-bags.html

You may prefer a normal over-the-shoulder handbag if you’re taking a European city break to somewhere like London or Paris.

A reusable tote bag

Useful for buying snacks from the supermarket, picking up souvenirs and laundry.

Packing cubes for clothing

I use these from Khatmandu which are made from recycled plastic bottles. – https://www.kathmandu.com.au/catalogsearch/result/?q=packing+cubes

Honestly, I swear by them. Otherwise, everything would be a giant mess in my bag and they also help to keep clothes clean after you accidentally spill snacks in your backpack… 🙂
I DON’T have any affiliate link with Khatmandu or Osprey – these are all just the products I use. 🙂

Collapsible day bag or Daypack

I initially travelled with a collapsible rucksack. They’re a great idea as they pack up so small and you just take them out on days out.

However, since I ended up basically keeping it out at all times, I eventually switched to a normal day backpack which I consistently kept my day time essentials in. I found it to be much more appropriate and sturdy for hiking as well.

My 18L daypack – https://www.kathmandu.com.au/packs-bags/packs/day-packs/gluon-beyond-18l-pack.html

A waterproof backpack cover

Necessary for anyone not taking a waterproof suitcase.

My Backpack: The Osprey Fairpoint 40L (Carry-On)

I’m a tiny woman who intended to go hiking, something lightweight was integral. I also preferred a carry on as it means it will fit in overhead storage compartments in planes/buses etc, lowering the risk of my belongings getting lost or stolen.

For short trips, personally, I’m a huge carry-on advocate. It’s very freeing to carry all your belongings on your back (as I did for many months).

My 40L Carry-On

My Other Backpack: Khatmandu 70L (Wheelie Bag)

As a full-time nomad, I’ve upgraded to a bigger backpack for all of my belongings (including my Winter coat and things I need for work). I used this bag for 4 months while travelling through Europe in Autumn and Winter, before moving to Thailand and eventually landing in New Zealand. It was great to not have to worry about carrying my bag and getting sore shoulders. It would be suitable for holiday-makers who don’t want to downsize their luggage to carry-on size.

My 70L Trolley Bag – https://www.kathmandu.com.au/packs-bags/packs/travel-packs/hybrid-70l-trolley.html

Visiting a snowy region?

Take a hard, waterproof suitcase that can’t be damaged by the weather. It’s not worth ruining your European winter holiday with soggy clothes!

My best mate and I when we were still young. Probs should grow that fringe back in to cover up my wrinkles, sigh

BEAUTY & MEDICAL KIT

I pack these in two small material bags.

When it comes to medicine I try not to overpack. If I’m going off-grid, I’d top up supplies beforehand put there’s no need carrying everything with you full-time when you can still easily access a pharmacy. That’s particularly the case if you’re travelling as a couple. However, it is always worth being prepared.

I do take: Anti-allergy, Imodium, paracetamol/ibuprofen, throat sweets, plasters,

Some people take: disinfectant spray, bandages, and of course any personal prescriptions. It’s also worth taking some form of antibacterial liquid for cuts and scrapes.

  • Toothpaste and bamboo toothbrush (plus toothbrush protector if you’re backpacking)
  • Sunscreen or moisturiser with SPF if travelling to Southern Europe in Autumn
  • Razor, nail scissors and tweezers
  • Shampoo, conditioner and body wash (personally I just used whatever soap was in the accommodation haha)
  • Hairbrush, grips and hairties
  • Depending on the person you will need birth control/condoms
  • Tampons/moon cup etc.

Other personal items you’ll use on your trips, such as lotion or make-up.

ECO TIP: Try and avoid buying travel minis as they are worse for the environment

OTHER TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Umbrella

Multi-plug adaptor

TIP: If you’re a backpacker, take one with multi USB ports. This way, if you’re stuck in a hostel dorm with only one plug, you can share it with other travellers rather than having to wait your turn.

This is the sort of multi-USB travel plug adaptor I use

Reading glasses and contact lenses

Sunglasses (bright sun bouncing off snow still creates a glare)

A flask or coffee keep-cup & reusable water bottle

Travel towel

They dry quick and pack up small – perfect for those staying in hostels. Take a large one for the Winter months,

The microfibre travel towel I use

Eye mask and earplugs

Essential for those staying in hostels but also handy on long flights and travel days.

Normal earphones will do, but these noise-cancelling headphones are ideal for anyone who is noise sensitive or staying is hostels.

Reusable water bottle

To avoid using plastic bottles in Southeast Asia, I used a Water To Go bottle.

The filters used in their BPA free water bottles are created based on technology originally developed for the NASA space programme. These provide safe water from any non-salt water source in the world.

Read more about reusable filter water bottles on the Water to go website and use the code HAG15 if you like what you see to get 15% off.

ELECTRONICS

Phone and charger

Honestly, this should be the only camera most people need to take. Certainly, most of the photos on this blog were taken on a phone. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a portable phone charger can be a lifesaver on long travel days.

However, small GoPros are increasingly popular for active travellers since they’re good quality and incredibly lightweight and small.

Tep Wireless (travel wifi)

If you’re going to a remote area or need WiFi for work, you might want to try TepWireless where you can preorder all the WiFi you need on their nifty gadget. Currently, TepWireless appears to be the leading pocket WiFi for travellers with largely near 5* reviews. Check out TepWireless here.

If you’re sticking to touristy areas, just buy a prepaid sim when you arrive in the country.

You might also want to take a headphone splitter if you’re travelling with someone.

Long-term travellers and digital nomads may also take:

  • Camera in its bag with charger, SD cards, and battery
  • Tripod and wireless remote
  • Camera card reader that plugs into both phone and laptop
  • Laptop and charger
  • Other necessary gear and equipment

A kindle (or download the kindle app)

I’m currently using the kindle app but I’m desperate to get a real kindle for my next trip! (Update I just bought this one – also good for downtime during lockdown!)

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HOLIDAY DOCUMENT CHECKLIST

  • Passport
  • Bank cards (I always travel with an extra just in case)
  • A Travel Card if you have one
  • Flight tickets
  • Small amount of currency if possible (honestly, I never get money out in advance… I get it from an ATM when I arrive)

Documents to email yourself:

You can print documents off and keep them in a waterproof wallet OR email them to yourself as appropriate. I recommend both or at least email them so they are never fully lost in an emergency

  • ID / Visas as necessary
  • Proof of onward travel
  • Proof of vaccines (to remind yourself in case of emergency)
  • Emergency contacts
  • Insurance policy info
  • International driving permit if you’re roadtripping
  • Copy of degree/TEFL etc if working abroad

HINT: before arriving in a new country…

  • I always screenshot the address for my first accommodation and how to get there from the airport – in English and the native language – so I have essential info handy even if there’s no wifi when arriving into a new country
  • I also screenshot travel information of the cheapest way to reach my accommodation from the airport. If it looks tricky, I message the accommodation in advance to ask for the best/cheapest way.

Cosy cardies and jumpers – British fashun in Wintertime

USEFUL APPS TO DOWNLOAD

App Essentials:

  • XE Currency Converter (check the prices of items in your own currency)
  • GoogleTranslate
  • HappyCow – essential app for vegetarians and vegans to check for the nearest meat-free restaurants
  • TripIt – forward all your bookings (accommodation, trains and flights etc) to this app, and they will store all your booking info on one handy app
  • TrailWallet – if you want to track your expenses

For Travel and Transit:

  • The airline app you’re using (to check-in and download boarding passes etc)
  • Uber for many countries in Western Europe
  • GoogleMaps
  • Rome2Rio – for checking the different transport options between any 2 destinations
  • Omio for checking train times

Personally, I don’t use the booking.com and Skyscanner apps – I just use WiFi.

For personal-use

  • Spotify
  • Audible or the Kindle app
  • Netflix – good for solo travellers if you will be spending time alone after dark
  • Calm app – practise mindfulness and stay mentally healthy on your trip. This is particularly good if you’re a nervous flier as it has flight-specific meditations to listen to.

The Definitive Mental Health Guide for Travellers

Planning a trip to Europe? Check out more posts here:

Backpacking the Balkans in Off Season

2 days in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

One Week Montenegro Itinerary

11 Things to do in Ohrid, North Macedonia

How to spend one or two days in Sarajevo

One Week Transylvania Itinerary

WINTER IN EUROPE PACKING LIST

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