What to Pack for a European Vacation

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Last time we took a family vacation to Europe, Lola was 4 and Eva was 2. After months of planning and preparation, we arrived, ready for everything. Except international travel with a toddler. At one point, I made this desperate plea on Facebook: “I’m never going anywhere with Eva again. Ever. Please send our stuff.”

Two year olds can be tricky when you’re home. Two year olds in Paris can result in tantrums. From mom. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. There is nothing like traveling the world to broaden a child’s horizons, and we have embarked on many trips since then.

When we return to Europe (soon?!), I’ll be more prepared, style-wise. This chic, Europe-friendly travel capsule incorporates versatile pieces in a subtle-chic palette of black, white and blush. Round out the capsule with chic shoes (that are cobblestone-friendly) and bags! These pieces pack well, are hand washable, and many can serve multiple purposes (the reversible skirt, for example). And since you probably have some of these hanging in your closet already, you don’t have to start from scratch. (Sorry!)

And while this post focuses on packing for Europe, it’s really suitable for any urban location, here or overseas. There are enough clothes here to get you through a 3 week jaunt, so this list can be scaled back for shorter trips.

  1. Trench or light hooded jacket

Why don’t guidebooks and travel blogs ever mention how cold Europe can be. And wet, too, on occasion. A chic, lightweight hooded jacket means you are ready for anything!

Main Image - Hawke & Co. Hooded Anorak

Hawke & Co. Hooded Anorak, $79.50, Nordstrom

2. Dressy shorts

A sleek pair of shorts in a dark neutral fabric can be dressed up or down and makes a nice alternative to denim.

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Elevenses “Belicia” shorts, $68, Anthropologie

3. Chic shoes

Choosing shoes for a trip is often the hardest part for me. It’s like asking me to choose just one child. Or five, as is the case here. I feel a physical ache leaving some of my favorites behind. The shoes shown here, however, cover most of the bases, style-wise. There’s a fashion sneaker, a street-friendly bootie, two pairs of flats and a pair of strappy sandals.

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Kaanas Polka Dot Tatacoa Sneakers, $168, Anthropologie

Thelma Leopard Print Ankle Boot, $69.99, UrbanOutfitters.com

Tieks ballet flat in Obsidian Black, $195, Tieks.com

Scalloped sandal in Rose Gold, $88, Boden

“Norah” slipper shoes, $96, Boden

4. Sleek skinny jeans

Save the distressed, destructed mom or boyfriend jeans for home. This trip calls for your sleekest, darkest denim. They’re so versatile and so chic!

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AG The Farrah high waist skinny jeans, $168, Nordstrom

5. A wardrobe of tops

In summer, try 2-3 short sleeve tops, 2-3 sleeveless tops, and 1-2 long sleeve tops. Combine basics with a couple of dressier pieces.

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Whisper cotton v-neck pocket tee, $19.50, Madewell.com

“Merci Beaucoup” tee, $36.50, J. Crew

 

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Free People Ruffle Me Up top, $28, Revolve.com

 

Melissa tee, $168, Anatomie.com

Evolve top, $98, Encircled.co

Main Image - Sanctuary Off the Shoulder Blouse (Regular & Petite)

Sanctuary Off the Shoulder Blouse (Regular & Petite) in Barely Pink, $79, Nordstrom

 

Main Image - Caslon® Long Sleeve Scoop Neck Cotton Tee (Regular & Petite)

Caslon® Long Sleeve Scoop Neck Cotton Tee (Regular & Petite), $25, Nordstrom

6. Go-anywhere dresses

A simple style that can be dressed up or down is essential. Choose 2-3 styles in these street-friendly silhouettes.

The Japanese GoWeave Zip Tee Dress, $110, Everlane.com

The Japanese GoWeave Sleeveless V-Neck Dress, $98, Everlane.com

7. Completer pieces

You’ll want to bring along a jacket and possibly a vest for outfit possibilities as well as warmth. I chose a vest and a jacket that are both designed specifically for travel, but that will work equally well at home.

“Felicity” leather and lycra vest, $295, Anatomie.com

Campbell Traveler blazer in Italian wool, $288, J. Crew

8. Beautiful bags

A leather tote or crossbody is an absolute must. Choose one of those styles based on the amount of stuff you tend to carry around. I’ve also included a pretty clutch that doubles as a wallet for nights out or quick excursions.

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Perforated clutch, $49.50, Loft

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Rebecca Minkoff medium unlined tote, $176.98 (sale), Nordstrom

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The Foldover Crossbody, $150, Everlane

9. A bathing suit

Even if you don’t plan on swimming or sunbathing, I consider a swimsuit an essential. You never know what opportunities await you on a trip, and a swimsuit is so portable there’s no reason not to bring it. And of course it doubles as underwear when your laundry pile looms high.

Main Image - J.Crew French Cross Back Bikini Top

French Cross Back Bikini top, $44, and bottom, $40, Nordstrom

10. Skirts and pants

I’ve chosen two versatile styles here, a denim skirt and a reversible pencil skirt, as well as two options of black pants, both super-comfortable and wrinkle resistant. Choose from black crepe joggers, an upgrade on your knit pair, or a stretchy black ponte skinny pants.

Reversible pencil skirt (black to blue), $124, Encircle.com

Main Image - Two by Vince Camuto Skinny Ponte Pants (Regular & Petite)

Two by Vince Camuto Skinny Ponte Pants (Regular & Petite), $89, Nordstrom

Main Image - Trouvé Zip Detail Jogger Pants

Trouvé Zip Detail Jogger Pants, $79, Nordstrom

Main Image - J.Crew Raw Hem Denim Miniskirt (Regular & Petite)

J.Crew Raw Hem Denim Miniskirt (Regular & Petite), $69.50, Nordstrom

 

I hope that you found this packing list helpful. The key is to start with a simple color palette, and to choose versatile pieces that travel well. And as hard as it is not to overpack, remind yourself that packing less means more room for fun purchases.

 

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