6 weeks in Europe: what to pack!

By Caitlin Kelly

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I spent most of my time walking in large European cities, in high temperatures, with four professional meetings at the end in London and Dorset.

I wanted to look elegant when needed, and still be comfortable/stylish when it was — often! — 85 to 90 degrees F.

I did a lot of handwashing!

Here’s what I brought from New York, when I left on June 2:

six dresses; (one super-dressy for my Paris birthday dinner and for meeting editors in London)

black cotton leggings, Capri length

dark gray workout leggings; Capri length

A workout tank top

3 bras; 9 pairs panties

a watch

sunglasses; regular eyeglasses; eyeglass pouch

medications, including those I need for dental work (in case of emergency)

1 pair socks

1 pair purple mesh sneakers; 1 pair flat bronze sandals; 1 pair heeled black sandals, I pair red close-toed flats

1 long-sleeved T-shirt (white), 1 short-sleeved tee; 1 black hooded sweatshirt; 1 pale gray light sweatshirt

several large scarves in cotton and silk

a red leather envelope-style purse

a beige leather envelope; (contains all documents and paperwork — doubles asΒ  purse)

a silver leather pouch; (contains all cords; doubles as a purse)

1 nightie

toiletries; (including medications for diarrhea/upset stomach/painkillers/bandages; make-up; red/pink nail polish/remover for DIY mani/pedi’s, shower gel and mitt, fragrant soap, perfume)

deck of cards


paperback books; (left in hotels when I was finished)

good personal stationery and business cards; (all of which I used)



laptop; power strip; converters



small stuffed bear (for company!)

umbrella (proved most useful in Venice as a parasol!)

shower cap (never used)

two bathing suits (used one)

black crushable hat (used a lot)

floral cotton cap (used once)

leg brace (essential for supporting my arthritic right knee!)

brown satin Lipault backpack

Leica digital camera (birthday present from Jose!)

2 lightweight cardigans


Here’s some of what I bought/added along the way:


a small metal water bottle (Berlin) — incredibly useful, as staying hydrated is key in high temperatures

a vintage sturdy cotton bandana (Paris) — great for mopping sweaty face and neck

sports bra (Berlin)

2 pair cotton sneaker socks (Berlin)

Voltaren cream (topical pain reliever for my knee)

two rings, one costume, one silver (Zagreb)

earrings — multiple pairs, (one gold, Rovinj)

scarves — two cotton, two silk (Berlin, Paris, London)

a necklace (Paris)

a bathing-suit cover-up (Paris)

make-up and perfume (Paris)

two bras, T-shirt, sleepwear (Zagreb)

three paperback books (Berlin, Budapest)

the FT Weekend; my favorite newspaper

a large cotton tote (Paris ) — essential!

a beach towel and goggles (Croatia)

four nice T-shirts (Berlin)

pale pink cotton dress from a street vendor (Budapest)

new sneakers (Berlin; lighter, better-fitting, perfect for swimming in rocky Croatia)





black patent Birkenstocks (Berlin)

gifts for friends and husband


Here’s what I didn’t need or use the whole time, (and some of which I mailed home):


my red shoes, bronze sandals, purple sneakers; (none sufficiently comfortable for so many hours of daily walking)

my black cotton hoodie (too hot)

two dresses and a workout tank top (not using them)

beach towel and goggles, (used only in coastal Croatia)

guide books and maps from places I’d been to already

I spent about $150 in all to mail home packages from Berlin, Zagreb and Rovinj, sometimes lightening my suitcase by as much as five pounds; as I boarded my Venice-London flight my bag was still 3 kilos below the weight limit, *saving me $60 for that flight in excess weight fees.

Yes, that’s a lot of money to spend on postage — but hauling a heavy suitcase alone up many, many stairs in many cities and train stations is seriously no fun.





21 thoughts on “6 weeks in Europe: what to pack!

  1. Whenever I travel, I always forget something. When I went to Massachusetts, I forgot my shaving kit and eyedrops, as well as my notebook for writing down ideas. The first two were easily replaced, while the last one isn’t.

    1. I think that’s pretty normal. As long as you’re not somewhere totally isolated, you can generally find most things. The challenges of finding things like an anti-inflammatory pill or antibiotic cream floored me, though.

  2. it’s clear that you pretty much have this down to a science.just the basics with a few extras and important things thrown in. nice that you reflected on what to keep and what to send part way through the trip. i think it’s worth it to send it back and not lug it around for no reason. this also left room to add in some of the new things you purchased along the way. love that you took banana grams, your stuffed teddy, and the paperbacks which you left behind. a great idea with the books. p.s. i had no idea that there patent birkenstocks even existed )

    1. Thanks!

      More sensible folk would have chosen a Kindle for multiple books/no weight and I never once (!) played those bloody Bananagrams — I left them with friends in London.But teddy was a perfect companion.

      LOVE my Birkenstocks, and all the cool girls in their 20s are now wearing them, so I felt much better. πŸ™‚ I bought them at the retail shrine, KaDeWe in Berlin.

  3. EYEDROPS is my new obsession ever since I crossed that very busy road in London and something flew into my eye. Luckily I was near a Boots drugstore where I purchased some Optrex and rinsed out my eye. But now I carry eyedrops with me all the time in my purse. Those shiny Birkenstocks look great. A selection of scarves, absolutely. You didn’t mention slippers. Slippers and cooling foot cream is a must for me. Paperback books, absolutely, and I recently started doing Sudoku puzzles. A diary and notebook in which to write random thoughts and observations.

    Love the stuffed bear.

    Oh, another important thing – earplugs! However, I just bought a pair of expensive JBL wireless headphones that reduce the noise around you. I’ll try those when I take the train to Holland in 2 weeks. I love train travel but sometimes you’ve got screaming kids.

    And last but not least, my super-comfy REEBOK walking shoes that I’ve raved about on my blog. They’re fantastic.

    1. These are all great suggestions! I did have Visine with me on the flight over and that was comforting. I did make sure to have plenty of great foot cream and used it after long days walking. My notebooks was really my blog….and I took many photos I haven’t posted here.

      I see a lot of people wearing those headphones but haven’t yet bought some. Maybe next trip?

      My Birkenstocks, even for open sandals, were very comfortable. I also snagged a great pair of digital floral print nylon Nikes in Berlin and they were also a good option.

  4. carolineontheglobe

    Every time when I go somewhere the biggest problem is `what to pack’? I always try to take the minimum but as we know we normally pack too much not necessarily what we need. I think one day someone should write a book about successful packing and that would be a bestseller. I enjoyed your post. Heavy suitcase and the lack of lifts in the stations is also a nightmare. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    1. I thought it through pretty carefully — I knew how I wanted to look and feel (esp. in big cities) but would choose differently for a different sort of trip.

      The two biggest challenges were needing new shoes to replace the ones I brought (just too uncomfortable!) and sweating through an entire set of underwear and clothing every single day in the heat. I ended up adding 4 or 5 new T-shirts so I could do laundry but still have 2 fresh changes of clothing.

      My suitcase wasn’t that heavy — but with an injured knee, I was already having enough trouble just getting up three flights of stairs!

      1. carolineontheglobe

        We can`t really plan every single detail because there are always some unexpected changes πŸ˜›

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