What to Pack for Europe in September

Venice

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I’m a reformed overpacker.

There was a day when I believed a weekend getaway required a mid-sized rolling suitcase with half a dozen pairs of shoes and everything from a parka to a swimsuit to a pair of ski goggles “just in case.”

For weeklong trips I practically needed U-haul and a forklift.

But with airlines’ crackdown on luggage allotments and my desire to avoid looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame by the time I’m 40, I’ve since reworked my packing strategy.

For Sam’s and my 16-day trip through Spain, France, and Italy in September, my goal was to pack as minimally as possible (without sacrificing style).

I managed to pack everything I needed into my Osprey Porter 46 backpack, which weighed just 13lbs and fit within the free carry-on allotment on Europe’s strictest budget airlines: Ryanair, Vueling, and easyJet.

Further Reading: 7 Things You Need to Know Before Flying Europe’s Budget Airlines

Packing GuidelinesWhat to Wear in Europe

Burano, Italy

  1. Pack versatile basics. Ideally, all your tops should go with all your bottoms. At a minimum you should be able to wear each item you pack with two or more outfits. One key to choosing versatile outfits is to stick primarily with neutrals. I packed mostly black, navy, and grey.
  1. Layer. Europe in September is generally comfortably warm. But temperatures can become cool in the mornings and evenings. I packed a light cardigan and a light windbreaker to layer over my t-shirts and dresses when it got chilly. A cardigan or scarf is also ideal for visiting religious sites with stricter dress codes.
  1. Wear comfortable shoes. Europe’s quaint historic streets might look lovely, but the cobblestone will ruin your feet. And if your feet hurt, you won’t enjoy yourself. I underestimated how much we would walk on our trip (an average of 30,000 steps a day!) and paid for it dearly with sore, blistered feet.
  1. Don’t pack for every eventuality. Sometimes it’s tempting to throw loads of useless extras into your suitcase at the last minute “just in case” there is a blizzard or a volcano eruption or you get invited to tea with the Queen. But that stuff just takes up extra space and weight. Instead, cover the basics (windbreaker, cardigan, sunglasses, sunscreen etc.), and decide that if you really need something else, you can buy it at your destination. Odds are good you won’t miss it.
  1. Plan to do laundry. Instead of packing enough clothing for two weeks, we packed enough for one and did laundry in our apartment halfway through our trip.

What I Packed

Saint Peter's Basilica

Versailles

Rome

With those guidelines in mind, here is the list of everything I took on a 16-day-trip to Europe in September:

Clothing

  • 1 set of pajamas
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 2 plain t-shirts (1 navy and 1 black)
  • 1 striped t-shirt
  • 1 chiffon blouse
  • 2 dresses (1 dressier, 1 casual. The casual dress doubled as a swimsuit cover-up)
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of pants (olive green)
  • 1 pair of jean shorts
  • 1 grey cardigan
  • 1 light windbreaker
  • 1 swimsuit

Accessories

  • 1 pair of slip-on shoes
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 floppy hat
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 1 purse
  • 2 necklaces
  • 1 bracelet

Toiletries

  • 1 miniature hairbrush (I use this one)
  • 1 travel blow dryer (I use this one)
  • 1 curling wand
  • makeup
  • medication (nausea, pain, sleep aids)
  • blister band-aids
  • travel-sized sunscreen
  • travel-sized toothbrush/toothpaste
  • travel-sized face wash
  • disposable razor (I have never had trouble taking one of these through airport security)

Electronics/Extras

  • passport
  • Lonely Planet Pocket Guidebooks (Paris, Barcelona, Italy)
  • wallet/credit cards
  • 1 iPod
  • 1 iPhone (and charger)
  • outlet converter (it’s a bit bulky but we use this one)
  • 1 book
  • 1 magazine
  • sleep mask/earplugs

Take a quick look inside my backpack:

Do you have any packing tips to add?

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 What to pack for europe in september

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9 comments

  1. Can I ask why you decided to bring a travel hair dryer when most places will provide one? It’s my first travel to Europe, so curious.

    1. Hi, Ashley! The reason I took a hair dryer was because we were staying mostly at apartment rentals and budget hotels which can be hit or miss when it comes to hair dryers. Most places provide one, but we’ve also stayed at a number of places that didn’t. I hope you have a great time in Europe! 🙂

      1. Great thanks so much! I am a habitual overpacker, exactly as you said you used to be! So, I’m really trying to stick to minimum. If I do a good job on that, I can most likely fit a hairdryer just in case.

  2. That bag is the bomb. It’s the only one we use and about to use it for a 3-month long trip! I also bought a travel blow dryer… but threw it away after the second week of my back packing trip through Europe as it was too weak so it was basically useless haha ~Gina

    1. Hi Gina! Glad you love the bag! Haha yeah, I’ve definitely had that same problem using hair dryers in Europe. But the one I have now works quite well as long as I use a voltage converter. I hope you have a great time on your trip! 🙂

    1. Absolutely! I didn’t pack any because I only wore sandals and slip-on shoes, but Sam took 7 pairs of socks which we washed halfway through our trip 🙂

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