Fall is one of the best times to visit Europe - slightly cheaper prices as local visitors head home after summer holidays, more manageable temperatures and gorgeous landscapes as the leaves begin to change. However, this time of year can be difficult to pack for! Southern Italy in September will be a completely different story than Stockholm in November. With that in mind, here's my guide to ensuring you're packing exactly what you need to make the most of the beautiful autumn months in Europe, no matter where you're headed. And be sure to scroll down to save my free packing checklist for your trip :)
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Fall in Europe can be tricky - depending when you're visiting and what countries (or even cities) are on your list, you can be facing a whole bunch of different climates. On my most recent trip in September, I had 32°C weather in Tuscany but snow in the Dolomites - all in Italy! Your best bet is to pack items that you can easily layer, and that can be mixed and matched (think neutral colour palettes - beiges, blacks and whites).
t-shirts & tank-tops: Neutral t-shirts and tank tops (cropped or full length) are my key to efficient packing. These can be dressed up for a dinner out, or dressed down for a hike, and work regardless of the weather. A favourite t-shirt of mine is the cropped 100% cotton Weekend T-Shirt from Aritzia. I also have the Zara Stretch Top with Wide Straps in a few different colours - it's comfy and super versatile.
sweatshirts: Especially if I'll be doing any more physical activities like hiking or bike-riding, I like to have a couple crew-neck sweatshirts with me to layer up on a cooler day. I think a crew-neck looks a little more pulled together than your traditional hoodie and can be worn on a coffee run or to a casual lunch. Because I was headed to Switzerland on my most recent trip and knew I'd be in the snow at the top of the mountains, I brought along my Patagonia fleece as well. This is pretty bulky so only bring something so big and warm along if you will be in negative temperatures!
leggings: To wear on active days, during travel or even as sleepwear, I always pack a couple pairs of leggings with me. I'm a die-hard fan of the Lululemon Align ones. If your trip is going to be particularly active and you won't have access to somewhere for laundry, I'd suggest bringing 1 pair for every 2 days of activity. These are super lightweight so won't add much bulk or weight to your luggage anyways.
jeans: Super versatile, so these are a must for me! I'll usually pack 1-2 pairs - maybe a more casual boyfriend cut and a more slim-fitting skinny jean.
other neutral bottoms: You may not want to wear jeans everyday, so think of a few other neutral bottoms you can bring. I have a black crinkled skirt that hits just below the knee and cropped, stretchy, swingy black pants that work with everything and that I love wearing (and that can be dressed up or down, and made cooler with a tank top or warmer with a sweater). I highly recommend those types of pieces, but think of the other slightly longer bottoms you have in your wardrobe that are versatile and that you just adore. Keep things below the knee if you're travelling later in November/December or are visiting Northern Europe anytime in the fall (it does get chilly!)
cardigan: Key to layering with those t-shirts on a cooler day! I love a chunky cardigan, but make sure you pack one that doesn't end up lumpy under the jacket(s) you bring along with you. I suggest packing a single cardigan, and bumping up your "cool weather" options with some cute sweaters.
sweaters: A couple nice sweaters in neutral colours will see you through daytime strolls to evening dinners. Ensure they work with the different types of jeans and other bottoms you're bringing along - you'd ideally pack sweaters that work with everything! If your bottoms are all neutral, you can bring along one more colourful or statement sweater to add a bit of colour to your travel wardrobe.
underwear, pyjamas & socks: A bit of "duh" items but you don't want to forget these! Normal sports socks/low-cut socks to wear with sneakers should do the trick, and I normally bring along lightweight pyjamas wherever I go. If your accommodation is a little chilly you can always wear a sweatshirt to bed as well.
jacket & scarf: If you're headed to Northern Europe or the mountains, you will likely need a jacket as early as September. A leather jacket is ideal (paired with a scarf later in the season), or a puffer jacket would work well for sportier destinations. Your jacket will be featured in 100% of the pictures you take outside, so if you have space, bring a second along to help mix up the shots - I love a good teddy style jacket as well, or a suede jacket for earlier in the autumn months.
I dress relatively casually, so you won't catch me packing heels or even flats on my trips to Europe. Of course, if you're someone who prefers to dress up, feel free to bring along dressier shoe options - but keep in mind you'll be doing a lot of walking and Europe is known for its cobblestoned streets :)
running shoes: You'll need one pair of sporty running shoes, especially if you're planning on doing sportier activities. I like black Nikes as I think these are cute enough to wear when walking around the city as well. If you are going on a hike-focused trip, you might want to bring along a pair of hiking boots instead (or as well).
white sneakers: I think these are the perfect shoes for sight-seeing! Minimal white sneakers work well with most outfits, from dresses to jeans, and are comfy for long days out and about.
booties: Later in the Fall or in cooler countries (Northern European countries or anywhere near the mountains), it might be smart to bring along a pair of booties on top of your sneakers.
cross-body bag: A cross-body bag should be big enough to carry your essentials (money, credit cards, sunglasses, phone) but small enough to spend the day walking around with. Plus the fact that it sits across your body makes it safer against pick-pocketers than a traditional handbag.
sunglasses: Absolutely essential in my opinion, no matter where in Europe you're travelling! Not only will they protect your eyes from the sun, a cute pair looks great in pictures as well (and will cover up any bags from jetlag). I wear my round Ray Bans everywhere I go - they work with nice outfits but also when you're in sport-mode.
backpack or duffel bag: Swap out your traditional suitcase-style carry-on for a backpack or duffel bag - these are much more practical for toting around Europe and can be used throughout your trip. A backpack is ideal for hiking trips, whereas a duffel bag is practical if you're on a road trip (you can take out just what you need for a given stop instead of lugging all your stuff in for a single night). I'm super loyal to my Herschel duffel.
jewellery: I'm not a huge jewellery gal, but a couple pairs of cute earrings and a watch can go a long way when dressing up a more plain outfit.
hats: If you're headed to Europe later in the fall, you might want to bring a cute beanie with you (I love mine from Carhartt). For Southern Europe, a cute hat can help add oomph to your outfits, and a cap is handy for sportier trips.
reusable water bottle: Staying hydrated is not always top of mind when travelling, but keeping a reusable water bottle on you will make it easier to do so. Plus, many European cities offer super accessible water fountains and good quality tap water. I love that this one is foldable / collapsible so you can easily stash it in your bag and keep going once you're done.
umbrella: Pretty self-explanatory, but Northern Europe and the UK are known for being rainy, so make sure you come prepared. You can get a compact travel umbrella for less than $20 on Amazon.
headphones & a book: To keep you company on flights and trains, bring along your headphones and a book - I will often download an e-book on my iPhone to avoid lugging a heavy book around with me.
eye mask & earplugs: Even the cutest hotels will sometimes come with thin walls or curtains that just don't block out that annoying streetlight outside.. and noise and light are inevitable on flights. Stash these in your carry-on just in case.
medicine: Coming across North American staples like Tylenol and Pepto Bismol are not so easy on the other side of the pond. Bring your medicine cabinet staples with you just in case a headache strikes or that heavy German schnitzel doesn't end up sitting right with you..
2020 must-have's - hand sanitizer, a mask & your health / travel insurance card: With all that 2020 has brought us, a lot of things have changed around the world and Europe is no exception. In many European countries, wearing a mask in public spaces is now mandatory - in some tourist hotspots, you must also wear a mask outdoors (!!) Get a few reusable black ones so that you always have one on-hand (and black goes with everything). Be sure to carry your insurance cards with you so you can get quick help should you run into any problems.
toothbrush, travel toothpaste & floss: I normally use an electric toothbrush at home, but swap it out for a bamboo toothbrush when travelling. Don't forget toothpaste and floss as well!
skincare products: Travelling can wreak havoc on your skin, so bring a couple essentials along. I pare back my normal skincare routine when on-the-go, but like to have at least my daytime moisturizer, eye gel & squalane oil for at night with me. And don't forget SPF, both for your body (if the weather where you're headed allows) and for your face! I also hang on to the beauty samples I get when shopping at Sephora (or anywhere that gives away samples) while double as travel-ready formats - if I like the product and end up purchasing it, I simplify refill the sample size with product from the regular packaging once the sample is empty (see the Fresh rose face mask and Rituals cleansing foam).
hairbrush & elastics: To keep your hair looking optimal for pictures, don't forget a hairbrush. I love my Tangle Teezer, a super portable, compact hairbrush. I'm also a big fan of those spiral hair ties, ideal for quickly tying up your hair if you're out being active, if the rain hits or if you're trying to squeeze in an extra day between washes.
blow-dryer & flat iron: I always bring one hot hair tool along with me when travelling, opting between a curling iron and a flat iron. These are easily converted to the European outlets with a simple travel adapter so the one you already own should be enough. On the other hand, blow dryers are much more difficult to convert, and I have not found an adapter that's been able to support the voltage of a blow-dryer, which will end up shorting it (RIP to the many blow dryers I've ruined throughout the years). If you travel to the EU relatively often, it may be worth purchasing a European blow dryer. I bought the EU version of the Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer and have not looked back since. If you'd prefer not to invest, hotels normally have blow dryers available for use.
makeup: You'll want to keep things minimal for the sake of travelling, but bring along your everyday staples plus a cute lipstick & eyeshadow palette. When on-the-go, I stick to a cc cream, concealer, liquid eyeliner, blush and bronzer. And don't forget your brushes!
optional: haircare products: This goes and beyond the essentials so if you're tight on space or are low-maintenance with your hair, you can skip these. However, if you are travelling for a over a week, you'll want to avoid doing any damage to your hair over time. If that's the case, I suggest bringing along a heat protectant product for styling, good shampoo and conditioner and if you're a hair salon blonde like me, IGK's blonding drops to add to your heat protectant or a blue shampoo.
rollerball perfume: These are so underrated! Inexpensive and compact (so great for travelling), pick up a rollerball scent at Sephora to save on the weight that a standard bottle of perfume would add to your luggage.
nail clipper, razor, tweezer & nail file: Essential for on-the-go grooming!
adapter: Don't forget your adapter to convert your electronics to the EU plugs! Keep in mind that the plugs in Ireland and the UK are different than those in mainland Europe.
power bank: I can't recommend a power bank highly enough! If you're snapping pics throughout the day, using Google Maps, etc.. your battery is likely to fail you. Get one that's slim enough to fit into your cross-body purse, and lightweight enough that you won't mind bringing it with you. All you need is for it to give you one charge while you're out! I own a couple of the Belkin one below and love it.
chargers: Phone charger, laptop charger, camera charger... don't forget them! And bring spares just in case, at least for your phone.
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