What to wear when traveling in Europe is a key question when you are limited in the amount of luggage you can take as well as the amount that you can reasonably lug around. Stay within your airline guidelines to avoid extra charges. For most leisure trips, I find that the usual 50-pound limit on checked bags is very adequate. In fact, my case rarely would weigh more than 40. This was true on my last trip where I spent two weeks in Europe, one week on a river cruise and one touring in Switzerland. So I had two very different vacations rolled into one trip.I well remember visiting a friend who was getting ready for a tour in Israel. She had laid out cute outfits, a lime green suit with matching lime green shoes, then an outfit in yellow, another in blue. NO! I tried to be gentle as I told her she needed to put these clothes back in the closet and get out those she really could wear.
What you take must reflect where you are going and what you will be doing. My friend above would have been fine if she was attending business meetings in a hotel, but she was going to be out in the hot sun sweating while she toured historic sites and walked long distances on unpaved, rough surfaces and cobblestones. Today, I am addressing what clothes to take for general leisure trips to Europe.
Take clothes you can layer. Weather conditions vary constantly. Consider where you are going. Will the altitude vary, as it is colder in the mountains. Will you visit both colder and warmer areas of Europe? Be prepared with tanks, short sleeves, long sleeves, a sweater, sweatshirt, and a jacket suitable for the weather. A lightweight jacket is fine for summer, and you can combine it with long sleeves and a sweater on cooler days. A heavier jacket will be necessary for winter. I did not use a jacket on our river cruise, but I definitely needed it in the Alps of Switzerland. Don’t forget to take a small umbrella and/or a plastic poncho with a hood in case of rain.
Color coordinate your clothes. Unless you plan to be on the runway in Milan, it’s not a fashion show. You probably won’t see anyone you meet again, so feel free to wear the same clothes more than once. Build your wardrobe around two basic colors that will go with everything. Black and beige, for example, are great for basic pieces. Then add colorful pieces that will go with either of these, so everything will mix and match. Scarves can really dress up an outfit as well.
Good walking shoes are a must. Generally, you will do a lot more walking in Europe than at home. Leave the heels at home. Wear shoes with thick soles that will absorb the shock of walking on cobblestones in historic European areas. Shoes should have a good solid tread that will not let you slip and fall on slick surfaces. I pack one pair of black walking shoes (goes with everything), one pair of athletic shoes for hiking, and one pair of mary-jane-style flats (Sketchers) for dressier occasions like dinners in a nicer restaurant. I wear the walking shoes on the airline, so no need to pack them. Do take plenty of socks so you have a fresh pair every day. Do be sure to break in those shoes before the trip. If not, take a box of band aids!!
Take a sleeveless vest. This is my absolute favorite item to wear in Europe. Why? It layers well with other clothes. If it’s warmer, I use it instead of a jacket. If it’s cold, I can layer it under a jacket or even under a coat if it’s really cold. My vest has secured pockets that provide a reasonable level of security for my cash, passport, and any essential items such as cell phone and lip balm. I can eliminate carrying a purse on a day trip. One with a hidden inside pocket is ideal as well.Dress to blend and not offend. I can’t stress this enough. Avoid becoming a target for thieves by looking like a tourist. Generally, it’s wise to dress in good taste, but conservatively. Shorts are not worn that much and aren’t allowed in many religious sites, so show respect for your surroundings, and within reason, take your cue from the locals. I usually take one pair of longer shorts that I may or may not wear, depending on the weather and the circumstances.
Leave clothing with logos and political messages at home. The stars and stripes are fun here on the 4th of July, but don’t make a target of yourself by wearing the flag in Europe. The same goes with camouflage clothing which some people find offensive when worn casually.
Never wear a fanny pack. This is a really obvious target for any potential thieves. Always keep your money securely hidden. Inside pockets or money belts are a good option. I will address security in another article.
We are happy to advise you specifically on what to wear depending on where you are going, but this article will get you started packing.
At Quinn Travel we do love sending our clients to Europe. We love sharing our travel tips. What would you advise travelers to wear while traveling in Europe? Please share with us!