packing for winter in europe

Winter Packing List for Europe: Essential Items to Pack

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Winter in Europe can be a magical experience. The snow-capped mountains, the cold weather and the festive events make for an exciting holiday. However, a European winter can also be quite extreme if visiting from somewhere that doesn’t experience such temperature drops. Packing the right gear for winter in Europe will make sure you get to enjoy what this beautiful continent has to offer.

If you’re planning on visiting one of the many European countries this winter, it’s essential to make sure that you have everything you need before leaving home. This winter packing list for Europe will help ensure that all your bases are covered!

packing for winter in europe

Winter Packing List For Europe & Packing Tips

As you are planning your ultimate Europe winter getaway, dreaming of wandering through the best European Christmas markets with a Glühwein in hand or seeing the snow-capped Swiss Alps in person, you want to make sure you’re dressed for the weather!

This is the ultimate guide to what to pack for winter in Europe, preparing you for cold days and potentially for snow, since many European countries do experience snowfall during the winter months.

Remember that European winters are much colder than North American and most other continent winters! Especially compared to our mild Australian winters!

So what should you pack for your upcoming trip? Lucky for you we’ve got you covered with all the essentials you won’t want to leave behind!

But first, here are a few top tips for keeping warm during the cold winter days:

1. Layers Are Everything

women wearing thermals drinking coffee

The key to staying warm during a European winter (or any extreme winter) is with extra layers!

Layering your clothes not only keeps you warmer, but it also means you can pack less and combine clothing items to create different winter outfits!

The reason layers work so well during a European winter is because while you’re outside in the freezing cold and needing lots of warmth, every time you step indoors to a restaurant or store, you will likely want to remove an outer layer or two.

For this reason, layers will be your best friend!

Indoors is almost always heated and without removable layers, you will end up sweating in no time otherwise!

For this reason, choose moisture-wicking base layers if you are someone who is prone to sweating easily.

Here are some of the essential base layer items you will need:

2. A Capsule Wardrobe

You’ve likely heard this term before in relation to minimalism at home, but have you heard of it when it comes to packing for travel?

A capsule wardrobe is perfect for every type of travel and winter travel is no exception.

A capsule wardrobe essentially means having a small winter clothing collection that you can mix and match for different winter outfits.

It’s much easier to pack just 3 winter sweaters than it is to try and fit an entire winter wardrobe into one suitcase!

Instead, you can mix and match your sweaters with different base layers, bottoms and accessories for a new look each day.

travel packing cubes

Use packing cubes to organise your different sets of clothing. For example, one for tops, one for bottoms, one for thermal base layers, one for underwear and so on.

3. Neutral Colours

woman in winter clothing in europe

When packing a capsule wardrobe for travel, it helps to pack mostly neutral coloured clothing.

This makes it easier to mix and match your different layers together without worrying about what colours will go together.

If you love bright colours and want some bold statement items for your winter wardrobe, add a few bold accessories for a splash of personality, such as coloured scarves, hats, and jewellery.

Here are some simple tips for picking neutral colours:

  • Choose single colour items rather than patterns
  • Mix and match your outfits at home before you leave to make sure your items pair well
  • While light coloured neutrals are great, darker colours hide accidental stains easier if you don’t have access to a washing machine during your travels

4. Research Your Destinations

There are some huge variations in average temperature in different parts of Europe.

If you are taking a multi-country trip around different parts of the convenient, it helps to research the average winter temperatures for each of these destinations before you go.

This way you can pack winter clothing accordingly.

Some of the coldest places in Northern Europe include Russia, Poland, Hungary and parts of Austria.

On the other hand though, if your winter trip is going to be focused around Southern Europe such as Spain or Greece where it’s still winter but a lot milder than northern neighbours then this will also change what winter clothing you need to pack

For example, if your winter travel is going to be split between Poland and Spain then it’s likely that some of the clothes you packed for Poland will not even get used in Spain!

This means carrying around some winter items you aren’t using for the whole trip and another great reason for packing light, while still having the right clothing for each location.

The Ultimate Europe Winter Packing List

So, now that we’ve got these packing tips under your belt, here are the winter packing essentials for Europe:

Essential Clothing To Pack For Winter In Europe

Pack all the winter clothing you need to stay warm and dry during your European adventures.

thermal under wear
red winter coat
thermal under vest
  • Thermal leggings (long underwear) – Essential base layer to keep your legs warm.
  • Thermal singlet/shirts – A thermal singlet or tank top is usually the best option so you don’t end up too hot, unless you are spending a lot of time in the outdoors in extreme cold.
  • Fleece vest – A fleece or down vest is one of the best mid-layer clothing items for keeping your chest and back warm.
  • Long-sleeve shirts – Long sleeve shirts are great for layering over your base layer and light enough to wear when indoors.
  • Long pants – You will want to bring several pairs of pants for layering over your thermal leggings. This can be a few pairs of jeans, everyday wear pants or speciality waterproof pants if spending time outdoors, such as when doing winter sports.
  • Waterproof jacket – A waterproof jacket is the best option as it will stop snow soaking through your clothing. If you do not have a waterproof jacket, pack a raincoat or a plastic poncho you can wear over the top. You likely only have room for one heavy coat so make sure it is one that you can wear for a variety of situations.
  • Sweaters – One or two lightweight sweaters are good for really cold days when you are spending more time outdoors and need the extra thick layer beneath your jacket. A blend of merino wool is a perfect choice for colder winters.
  • Warm winter hat – A beanie or a fleecy hat will help keep your head and ears warm and dry.
  • Gloves – Make sure they are waterproof and have a tight fit around the wrists so that snow doesn’t get in. You could also use gloves with the fingers cut off if you want warmth without impacting on using your hands for tasks such as operating a touch phone.
  • Scarf/neck warmer – Either of a scarf or a neck warmer are fine. Scarfs can be wrapped around a few times for extra layers of warmth while a neck warmer is perfect for when you are doing active outdoor activities, without worrying about it unravelling.
  • Waterproof boots (with good grip) – Waterproof boots will not only keep your feet warm when paired with warm socks but also stop them from getting wet if it is snowing or raining. Cold feet is one of the fastest ways to end up spending your trip sick so make sure you invest in good quality snow boots.
  • Wool socks – You will need several pairs of socks, depending on your length of stay. Wool or cashmere socks are good for staying warm during winter in Europe.
  • Extra pair of shoes – For the days that aren’t as cold, a pair of comfortable walking shoes such as sneakers are a good option as they will still keep your feet warm on the days you don’t need your heavy boots.
  • Sunglasses – Even in the cold weather, you still need to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun.
  • Underwear and bras – Bring enough pairs of underwear for your trip if you aren’t sure if you will be able to wash. Your everyday underwear you wear at home is fine under your warm layers or women may choose the comfort of a sports bra or crop top while travelling.
  • Pyjamas – Don’t forget some warm pjs for night time. Most accommodation will have central heating so you don’t have to bring anything too heavy.

If you are planning to do any winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding or mountain hiking in the snow, you can hire specialty clothing for these activities, along with your equipment.

Otherwise, if you want to take your own, a waterproof jacket and pants will be essential along with waterproof gloves to keep you warm over your base layers.

Non-Clothing Travel Essentials For Your Europe Packing List

You’ve worked out what winter clothing you need for your trip but what about the rest of the items for your packing list?

Many of these items are relevant all year round when visiting Europe, ensuring you have all the things you need for a great vacation.

woman visiting europe in winter
  • Smartphone & charger -Don’t forget your phone and charging cables so you can stay connected and snap photographs from your trip. It’s worth investing in an international SIM card too so you don’t spend a fortune on roaming data while abroad.
  • Purse or wallet – Don’t forget to bring your purse or wallet with all your essential ID, bank and credit cards and any other important items you need while travelling. You may want to use a travel wallet instead of your everyday one, otherwise remove anything you don’t need before you leave home to lighten the load.
  • Passport – This one is obvious but just in case you need the extra reminder, triple check that you’ve got your passport and any VISA and travel documents you might require.
  • Portable battery charger – A portable charger or power bank will ensure your phone and other devices stay charged while on the go, since taking photos and using maps will drain the battery faster.
  • Camera – While many people opt to use their smart phones these days, if you still love traditional camera photography, make sure you bring your camera and all the essential accessories such as charger and spare memory cards.
  • European plug adapter kit – Make sure you can use your electronics while you travel by bringing a travel adapter kit for charging. You can get one specifically just for Europe or get a universal adaptor that you can use no matter where you travel around the world.
  • Baby wipes – It doesn’t matter where we are going or when, a pack of baby wipes is always useful for wiping up spills, cleaning sticky hands when there isn’t a tap and cleaning tables. And even when we travel without our kids, we still bring a packet!
  • Santiser – Make sure you have a compact hand santiser bottle in your day bags so you can easily protect yourselves from harmful germs. Same goes for having a face mask these days and in many countries this is now mandatory in public places.
  • An umbrella – Depending on where you are in Europe, an umbrella may not always be necessary. However, if it is raining then having one will make sure that your clothes stay dry.
  • Backpack or day bag – Bring a small backpack or a sling bag for use during the day. Ensure it is big enough to hold your daily items, including purse or wallet, phone, power bank, water bottle and any extras you want with you such as camera or snacks.
  • Plastic bag and ziplock bags – Always pack a few bags into your luggage since you never know when you might need to store damp shoes or clothing while transitting between different cities or if one of your toiletries busts open and needs to be sealed to keep your other items protected.

Toiletries To Pack For Europe

This list of travel toiletries is helpful for packing to go anywhere and includes the times you won’t want to visit Europe without. Pack these items into your toiletry bag before you go:

  • Suncream – It is important to keep your skin protected from the winter sun. The cold weather may trick you into thinking you aren’t at risk of sunburn but that’s not the case. While most of you may be covered, bringing a facial moisturiser with SPF coverage will help keep your face protected in winter.
  • Face cream – If you don’t plan on using a combined sunscreen and moisturiser, make sure you pack a hydrating face cream for day wear. The cold weather and moist air can dry out your skin quickly so keep it hydrated.
  • Lip balm – I always find myself reaching for lip balm during winter, and this is an essential item in every Europe packing list!
  • Deoderant – Even if it’s cold you still sweat so do your travel companions a favour!
  • Perfume/cologne – For smelling even better while you travel!
  • Hairbrush/comb – Keep your hair tidy and controllable since moist winter air will have it prone to frizziness.
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste – Travel size toothpaste tubes are a great option when you’re on the move.
  • Make up – If you want to wear make up while you travel, make sure you bring all your essentials, ideally in compact sizes.
  • Sanitary products – If you’re likely to need these products during your trip, bring them from home so you don’t have to stress about finding the type you prefer using locally.
  • Birth control – Bring enough for your entire trip and a few extra days just in case.
  • Medication – Make sure you bring enough plus a little extra for the length of your trip as well as scripts and a letter from your doctor to confirm these medications are prescribed and essential for your health.

What To Pack For Europe With Kids

child in the snow

If you are taking kids with you on your winter trip to Europe then packing these items will make life easier, whether it’s for a day visit or long term family travel.

For clothing, pack similar to what you would pack for yourself, but with a few extra sets since kids are more likely to spill food or drink on themselves.

For babies, bring warm rompers with long and short sleeves that can be layered and a special baby snowsuit to keep them warm.

Seriously, is there anything cuter than a baby in a snowsuit!

You may also need to bring nursing or baby feeding items, nappies, nappy rash cream, a pram or stroller, car seat or baby carrier as well as a few toys to keep them entertained while you travel.

Making your own age-appropriate activity kit for travel is great for kids of all ages.

Travel Insurance: Make sure you don’t leave home without travel insurance. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to skip, especially when travelling with kids. We recommend World Nomads.

If you are heading to Europe this winter, this winter packing list for Europe is the ultimate guide on winter essentials to make sure you don’t forget a thing! We hope our top packing tips for European winter vacations will help you plan the most wonderful chilly weather adventure ever!

winter packing list for europe