I, friends, am going to Europe.
One of my most favorite people, Emiglia, is getting married to her country boy in the French countryside at a chateau. A CHATEAU! Not only was I thrilled for the happy couple, but going to a wedding in a castle has been solidly on my bucket list for years. So faced with the opportunity to see my friend get married and hang out in a castle, I was a quick and easy "yes" on the RSVP. But it doesn't end there.
I figured that if I was going to fly all the way to Europe, I might as well make a full trip out of it, so I will be going to France (bien sur), as well as England and Scandinavia.
And I thought I might give you a little peek into what I'm planning on taking in my suitcase.
I wanted to take a small bag that could easily fit into small spaces and that I could also carry on my back when the time came. So I'll be taking an REI duffel, which converts into a backpack.
In that suitcase, I need to fit clothes that will work for interactions with respectable British people, casual hangouts, walking far distances, are layerable, will work for hiking and biking, can be worn to wedding festivities and can work for both cold Nordic climates and the hot French summer.
So, that'll be easy.
Just kidding. I've been trying to figure out what to bring for months that will apply to all of the above-stated requirements and also will be minimalist, cute and fit into the duffel. No easy feat, but I think I've managed to get somewhere close.
Here is a more detailed list of what I plan to take with me. These aren't the exact items, but a very close approximation, so that you can get a better idea of what the heck is in there!
Some might say that this list is not minimalist, and they might be right, but I feel that this is a reasonable and functional list considering all the things I plan do. I also think that this list is highly honest, where other European packing lists seem unrealistically small, or just plain silly (you know the lists where they want you to wear your dress as a top and stick it into you pants? Um, yeah, that's not happening). Also, when I put all of these items in the suitcase, along with my toiletries, the whole bag came to just over 30 lbs., which I think is a really reasonable size to carry.
A few notable items that I think should be in every suitcase going to Europe:
1. Denim Button-down Shirt - also called a chambray shirt, this is such a staple item that my mom used to simply call it a "travel shirt" and thought everyone should have one on vacation. I tend to agree, because this top is a workhorse. It can be worn as a shirt and as a jacket, it doesn't look dirty and is absolutely timeless.
2. Basic Black Dress - I'm taking two. A black dress can be casual with flats or dressy with heels and jewelry. A basic black dress works for any occasion.
3. Dark Wash Jeans - I've chosen to take skinnies this time around, but a classic dark wash jean will save you any day and any time. Only in the most formal of circumstances are they wrong, but wear them with a dark shirt and heels and you can comfortably walk into any bar or club and feel just fine. Likewise, jeans are the end-all of casual wear, so just don't fight it. Also, yes, Europeans wear blue jeans, so don't worry, you won't look like you're wearing a sign that says "American Here" in these pants.
4. Comfortable Walking Shoes - THE most important thing you will need, comfortable walking shoes can make the difference between happiness and suffering during your European vacation. Stick with something almost entirely black and not too chunky or risk looking frumpy. Europeans wear black tennis shoes, but mostly ones like the Nikes shown above, or retro-style new balance (black). Shop accordingly.
So, after all that, this is what the list looks like in real life:
At this point, I can sight the items on my bed and have a good estimate of whether it will fit in the bag I've chosen. But that's a skill that comes with time. After looking at my bed full of clothes and miscellany, I was pretty sure everything was going to fit.
I'm a big fan of packing cubes because they keep like-items with other like-items and help immensely with keeping organized as I go from one city to another. I typically roll most of my clothes when I'm filling the cubes.
So just for fun, and to see that everything really does fit (and how it fits), I made a tasty-inspired video of me packing the bag. The video is illustrative, but pretty much exactly how I go about packing any suitcase. I hope it helps!
I also feel I should note that I do not typically bring a curling iron - that is in there solely because of the wedding. I strongly suggest curling irons be left at home!
I hope I've brought the right things with me, and I hope that it helps you in your future packing endeavors! Let me know in the comments if you have any more questions about what I'm bringing with me.