No need to stress over packing for winter travel. A winter packing list can be hard to draft up as you want to keep your luggage as light as possible, but don’t want to freeze to death in flip-flops and a t-shirt. With winter weather it’s best to make sure your bags are packed well.
The key to packing for winter travel are layers and small accessories. Being comfortable and warm is your number one goal for traveling in the winter.
When you first start packing it may seem impossible to fit all your bulky clothes into your bag, but it is possible to pack light and stay warm. If you’re heading to Canada, the Alps, or even New York City you’ll stay warm with our winter packing list for Europe and beyond.
Europe in Winter Packing List
European Winter Essentials
One Winter Jacket
I have to emphasize one here on this packing list for cold weather. Winter jackets are often heavy and take up a lot of space. As much as you may want to bring a few different winter jackets for options it’s best to settle on just one. Plan to wear the jacket on the plane as a heavy winter coat can easily occupy half your luggage.
A good winter jacket should be waterproof, windproof, warm, and have a hood. A solid shell is important as it’s your first line of defense between you and the cold. You’ll be wearing this winter jacket just about every day so make sure you like it.
If you stick with a neutral color it provides more outfit options. Black goes with anything and everything so whether you’re a boy or a girl it’s a good color option. With mild winter destinations, you will be able to get by with a packable down jacket, as they are warm, lightweight, and weatherproof.
For those on an active ski or snowboard trip, bright colors are a little more acceptable, but once you leave the ski resort you will stand out. I sure do in my bright pink and orange jacket and occasionally I wish I had just picked a neutral color like black, white, or grey.
Your favorite sweater
On every winter holiday packing list, a sweater should be a high priority. We invested in proper wool sweaters, but good quality winter weather sweaters pay off in cold temperatures.
A sweater serves as a mid layer, and a good warm one can be worn day in and day out. At night when your relaxing, or during the day when out on the town. Wool sweaters are my favorite because they are warm, stylish, and high quality.
We both set out to find hand knitted wool sweaters while in Scotland, but you can find some nice ones online too!
Underlayers are what will be the closest to your body. They provide your first stage of warmth and will maintain your body heat. These include camisoles for the ladies, long sleeved thermals, leggings, and technical clothing for both sexes as well.
I travel with a few pairs of camis to wear under my sweater, for days our on the town. When I am doing something active like snowshoeing or snowboarding I need technical layers to keep my body warm while still letting any moisture out. My favorite brand for thermals is Kora. Kora specializes in technical underlayers and most of their products are 100% Yak Wool.
What I love most about Kora is that they buy their wool directly from the nomadic Himalayan people. Yak Wool isn’t cheap, but it is proven to be 40% warmer and 65% more breathable than merino. I also find it much softer and great for lounging as well.
If you’re wondering what shoes to wear in Europe in the winter you really can’t go wrong with a good pair of relatively stylish boots. If you’re traveling around cities you’ll want to look for something that is stylish, waterproof, and warm as it can get slushy with gloomy urban weather.
The great part about a good pair of leather boots is that they go with everything, and could be the only shoes you bring on your winter vacation.
Heavy duty boots
These are only necessary if your vacation involves cold weather snow activities. Things like sledding with the family, skiing or snowboarding, and trekking through the forest are all good reasons to pack a good pair of heavy duty non-slip boots that rise up higher than the ankle – you don’t want a foot full of snow! I just bought my first pair of Sorels since they are the best boots for snowy European winter. They are expensive, but never have my feet felt so warm.
Merino Wool Socks
I recommend packing at least three pairs of heavy-duty socks. It may sound gross, but I wear one pair of socks out for three to four days before a wash. It’s important to remember in cold weather you sweat less so you’ll get more wears out of base layers.
However, it all depends on the individual just don’t assume you need a pair for every day of the week. I recommend buying high-quality merino wool socks. They come with a high price tag, but they’ll keep you warm, resist moisture, and last longer than cheap cotton socks.
It’s understandable if you don’t want to spend a lot on socks. In this case, buy one to two pairs of quality socks and then throw a few synthetic socks in your bag for good measure.
If you’re traveling in the winter you’ll want to make sure to throw at least one hat, one scarf, and one pair of gloves or mittens into your bag. I travel with a hat and ear muffs(for ponytail days), one pair of mittens and one pair of heavy-duty gloves (I prefer Hestra) for winter activities, and a neck gaiter that serves as my scarf. A scarf is stylish, but a neck gaiter or facemask is better for skiing and snowboarding at low temperatures.
European Winter Clothing
Jeans go with anything, and despite the notion, they are “American” casual you can’t deny that they go with everything. I see jeans everywhere I travel as well, and it’s definitely not just Americans wearing them.
We stick with the classic look in jeans. That means fitted jeans that are a dark color. No fades, light blues, or rips!
There are always pieces of activewear in my suitcase when I travel in the winter or the summertime. This includes leggings, sports bras, tight-fitting shirts, or sweatshirts that I can easily move in.
All these pieces are great for travel because they take up minimal room in my suitcase and are super lightweight. They can also double as thermals in the winter if you can’t want to spend the money on pricey technical thermal pants and shirts.
Truth be told I travel with five pairs of leggings at all times. Five sounds like a lot, but it’s safe to say I wear leggings every day in the winter and fall. Thick leggings like these from Alala are the best in winter and last forever (seriously, I replace them every two years). On really cold days I’ll just double up on leggings. I love all Alala pieces and scour their site almost every month. They make fashionable, yet high-quality yoga and athletic gear.
Vests are a great way to keep your body warm without overheating. A good black or white one goes with any undershirt and also appears stylish when walking around ski villages and other winter destinations.
Flannel shirts are great mid layers for both men and women. They provide warmth and go well with vests. I wouldn’t say a flannel is “city stylish,” but they are definitely fantastic if you are out on an adventure in the mountains.
Patagonia fleeces are what I wear as a mid layer when active. I don’t want to ruin my cute sweaters when I’m playing in the snow or snowboarding so heavy duty, flexible fleeces are what I wear day in and day out.
I have just a few pairs of Patagonia (or Patagucci) fleeces that I rotate when being active. Yes, they are expensive, but they last for years so I usually buy one every once in awhile. A good budget option for these type of fleeces are Columbia Gear. Columbia makes great products at a fraction of the price of Patagonia.
If you plan on having a few nights out or want to dress up occasionally then be sure to pack one dress that can easily be layered with leggings and a scarf.
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t have some style. When it’s cold I like to wear my travel shirts over my underlayers. Because we hang out in the mountains a lot shirts like these are among some of my favorites!
European Winter Extras
I always travel with a pair of lightweight sneakers. Sneakers are great for the hotel gym or just to relax your feet. Seriously, is there anything better than a comfy pair of sneakers? Of course, they aren’t a necessity, but they are light in your luggage.
I have bad feet and no matter how comfortable winter boots are my feet will always hurt after a whole day in them. I have super feet insoles and consistently slip them out of my snowboard boot to my walking boots. They are great!
These three items are my desert island necessities. The winter weather always makes my lips, skin, and hair dry. Many (and I mean many) hotels abroad will not include lotion or hair conditioner. So as a back up I always pack a few travel size bottles of my favorite products in tubes.
Obviously, this depends on what you are doing. I like to snowboard so have to pack a pair of snow pants for the winter activities. If you plan on taking part in adventure winter sports make sure to buy a pair online before you go. They can get really expensive in specialty stores, especially in Europe.
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t go swimming! Many hotels will have pools and saunas, so pack at least one bathing suit and travel towel for your travels.
I really do travel with a pair of slippers and they make lie so much better without adding any weight to my luggage. The sock slippers are great for packing winter clothes in a carry-on. If you have some extra space more indoor shoe like slippers may be what you want.
How to Pack for Winter in Europe
This past winter while fighting through a train station in my boots, thick pants, hat, and big winter jacket I realized just how much I took summer travel for granted. There’s nothing quite like a light suitcase filled with only tank tops and flip-flops.
As a first step, it’s best to determine your luggage where that be a backpack, duffel bag, or suitcase as this will help you decide how to winter clothes in luggage. You also want to determine if you’re going to be packing winter clothes in a carry-on. It’s not 1999 anymore and many airlines will charge you for your first checked bag, so packing carry-on only will help you save on costs.
If you can manage, we recommend traveling with a backpack or duffel bag because they make life easier on snow or ice covered sidewalks. However, a backpack is more likely to become disorganized faster, put a strain on your back, and may not hold as much. So if you aren’t moving much, only staying at one or two hotels, and taking cabs around maybe you will want to consider a suitcase.
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