How to Pack for A Year in Europe: Part 2

How We Packed for a Year in Europe: Our packing strategy for a whole year traveling in Europe and Africa.. photos and explanations!

This one’s for the girls… about twenty-five, in a little apartment, just trying to get by, living on dreams and spaghetti-o’s, wondering where your life is gonna go.. THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS! Man, what a great karaoke song (; But seriously, this post is geared towards the ladies. And I do hope you ladies find this post on how to pack for a year in Europe to be helpful should you ever want to pack just a carry-on (!!) for a year of traveling. Check out detailed descriptions beneath the photo map.

How to Pack for a Year in Europe: Our packing strategy for a whole year traveling in Europe and Africa.. photos and explanations!

As you saw in part one of this post, our take on how to pack for a year in Europe was mostly organization, simplicity, and more organization. I don’t have my pack pictured above– or various little things like toiletries and electronics– but besides that you’re getting the full picture. If you’re curious how I didn’t go crazy… the answer is packing cubes!! Links to those at the end of this post. But without further ado:

First Row

I started out packing a cream and a black colored cami, but I decided one would really do. I picked black because, obviously, that’s more highly represented in my clothing. I then chose one plain stretch tank that I really love, in my favorite color, dark grey. This may sound funny, but I really waffled on bringing my fave shirts/jeans/etc because I knew a solid year of wear would probably mean retiring the article after this year. However, in the end, packing what you feel most confident in will bring you the most satisfaction when you’re getting dressed in the same handful of outfits week after week.

Packing what you feel most confident in will bring you the most satisfaction when you’re getting dressed in the same handful of outfits week after week.

I purchased the second tank at my favorite second-hand store in Anchorage just before I left. It’s an embroidered hi-lo tank, but it’s a solid color, so it toes the line between bohemian and versatile quite well. This is one that I have stored at my family’s house right now, but I can’t wait to get it out with the rest of my warm weather things this summer! However, if I didn’t have the ability to store things, this would still be a good choice as it’s quite thin and packs small and light. As for the t-shirts, I brought one striped short sleeve— a must for Parisian style (lol)– and one solid black short sleeve with a slight hi-lo shape. I’m a big fan of the longer backs on shirts because I find them to be more versatile for wearing with tights or tube skirts. A flowy grey long sleeve rounds out the group, another favorite of mine. This is easy to layer over a tank or short sleeve, or under a chunky sweater, but I also love it all on its own.

Second Row

I have one lighter weight black sweater that I just purchased before leaving as well. It was a gamble since I don’t like counting on an article of clothing that hasn’t been tested before, but this has turned out to be a packing win. Black is my favorite everyday color for travel as it hides everything from city grime to puppy paw marks. And this one is so light and lays so well that I can layer it up or wear it alone. The second sweater is an old favorite of mine. Again, the stripes– which I don’t even care for normally but are a classic step up from solids– and a chunky knit which provides a little more warmth. A cardigan which is actually stored with my summer things as I personally wear this more with tights and/or my tube skirt in warmer weather. A faux fur vest that I actually MADE MYSELF last winter and have worn literally every other day here in England. You’ll notice a coat is missing from the above packing list, so this vest is a crucial part of my layering regime. It keeps me toasty warm! Finally, a sweatshirt that is truly tried and tested as I have photos of me sitting in the Alps wearing this in the fourth grade. Cuuute..

Third Row

I’m convinced this trio of pants are all anyone could need at home or abroad. A pair of dark wash jeans and a pair of black jeans can cover any situation or outfit. The skinny fit is my go-to, although I did I think about bringing a flared dark wash instead of the skinny. In the end, the versatility of skinny won out as I feel they go under more tops and match with more shoes. It’s really up to your style though! Even I sometimes deviate from my plain ways, which is why the distressed boyfriend jeans came along. And honestly, they have been my most comfortable pair. In my summer stash, I also have a pair of high waisted, flowy black shorts. I wanted something a little classier than my regular favorite corduroy or jean [short] shorts, so I also bought these right before leaving. They have elastic at the back so they are even more versatile as they can be worn high-waisted as intended, but also pulled down on the hips to lengthen if more appropriate for the social context or outfit. The tube skirt is an old closet staple of mine; I wear it under long tops that aren’t quite long enough to stand alone, with or without tights underneath. I originally planned to bring an additional color with me, but again decided simplicity rules and black is enough.

Simplicity rules and black is enough.

The dress is (yet again) another new item!! I really didn’t mean to go on a shopping spree right before traveling for a year, but I found that there were some very basic basics that were just missing from my closet. I had a lot of cute dresses, and even a couple LBDs that I loved, but none of them fit my vision for what I needed to pack. Namely: easy-care fabric, solid dark color, suitable for fancy or casual events. This simple shift fits the bill, and I’ve worn it in PA in 90+ degree weather as an easy Sunday church and picnic outfit, as well as in CH with a cardigan over it for a nice dinner out with family.

Fourth Row

Here is my collection of athletic wear. For someone who thinks and talks (and pins!) a lot more about working out than actually doing the working out, one might think this was a waste of pack space. However, like I explained in my first post on how to pack for a year in Europe, these clothes have a three-fold purpose: exercise, sleep, travel. The short sleeve isn’t as plain a color as I’d like, but I love the loose fit and it’s soo lightweight that I brought it instead of searching– and paying– for a replacement. My actual long sleeve varies from the one pictured as it doesn’t zip but pulls over the head, and it is one that I actually would replace with a solid color if I came across the right alternative. For now, I have only worn it as a sleep layer when we’ve stayed in some chilly houses, but I do think it will come in handy if we ever do any hiking. A pair of running shorts for running (obviously) or hiking. A pair of spandex shorts for wearing under the tube skirt or flowy shorts, or my favorite occassion.. to bed. A pair of running tights for lounging around the house or running errands. Even in super classy Europe, you’ll see women out in sneakers and tights. But a proper sweater or coat over them so they don’t look too shabby. Then a sports bra, sports socks, and a swimsuit. I debated on one-piece versus bikini for awhile, but decided that if I’m in a setting that is more conservative, I can always wear my cami as a swim cover, but if I’m in a setting where I feel comfortable getting my tan on, only a two-piece will do.

Fifth Row

These are the unmentionables… but I can’t not mention them! These are some of the most important to think of when packing. You want to be sure to have a comfortable and clean base for all your travel adventures. So, starting with the underclothes. A black bra and a nude bra, a bralette with regular straps (no buckle) to layer under tanks in summer, a colored bra because with all these plain black and grey clothes, you need a little party on you somewhere. Likewise, I have three pairs of fun socks along with my three pairs of plain black socks. And for the cold weather, I can’t do without my three pairs of wool socks. Ten pairs of underwear work for me; I can imagine some people would do with more, some with less. I have found this to be a good amount to get me between wash cycles, and someday I plan to get a few tips up on the blog about how to stretch those days between washing– hygienically of course (;

Sixth Row

Shoes! Even girls– like me!– who don’t fit the stereotype of shoe hoard have plenty of pairs at home and there seems to be a high threshold of “necessary” shoes for every possible occasion. I’ll admit it… it was hard to pack the footwear. In the end, I chose a comfortable wedge sandal that can be dressed up or down, and most importantly, I can walk in all. day. long. A pair of flats with an equally cushy sole– my tip: buy the old lady brands– in a black and cream woven design will match most things, and the small bit of pattern and natural fibers can once again liven up a standard black or grey outfit. Two pairs of boots, one flat leather and one heeled suede, are fairly comfortable for walking in and can be quite warm if needed. The sneakers have yet to come in handy for running, but they are suuuper comfortable for travel days or running errands. Even with my practically orthotic flats and sandals, a supportive midsole in a running shoe can still be like taking a break to walk on clouds.

Seventh Row

At last, the final row. Here you find the accessories. A raincoat which I haven’t used and I honestly don’t think I will that often here in Europe. Mine is not plain and grey (like the one pictured), which makes it stand out terribly and really a last resort thing. I would recommend choosing one that is like the coat pictured, and make sure it can be packed nice and small to minimize space. Another option is bringing a water repellent regular coat. I cart my stuff around in two bags, a huge leather tote and a small leather satchel. Both have magic powers where they seem to hold an endless amount of things, expanding further each time you add an item. (Although, we did find my tote’s max capacity on our latest grocery haul.) I am really happy about the leather tote and not so sure about the satchel. While I love the latter, I think a chic backpack is a much better choice for walking miles around European cities. Not to mention they’re in style now. I’m actually so convinced of this, I ordered one and I’ll update you all once it’s arrived and I’ve taken it out! And then, the warm weather gear. A hat, a pair of gloves, and a wide scarf. No explanation needed really, except that I’d recommend bringing a colorful, fun scarf if your clothing is on the plain side. It’s likely to be around your neck every other day– layering is key when traveling!– and you’ll want something that makes you feel cheery on those cold, cloudy, dreary days in the dead of European winter.

So. If you’ve gotten all the way through this post… bravo!! Thanks for taking all that in. But really, I hope you got something from the exchange too. My purpose in sharing all those fascinating details is to give you a better packing guide based on how to pack for a year in Europe. I dug through tons of pins telling you how to fit clothing for “a week in Europe” in a carry-on, but not many for how they packed for a year in Europe. Also in a carry-on. So on that note.. if you did find this helpful, please consider sharing it! Gleaning info from those who’d gone ahead was instrumental in our planning and I hope we can provide the same for others.

P.S. I’ve gotten lots of questions on gear so here is my absolute biggest recommendation: PACKING CUBES! They are a must!

Below are affiliate links to the ones we use and love. Thanks for supporting the brands we love & helping to keep us on the road at the same time! (:


You can check out other products we have and love, or would love to have, in our shop. New products added every week!

  • I had to pack for a year in Southeast Asia last summer. I think most of the same items that you chose apply for there too. Though I used my raincoat a lot!

    • Wow I wouldn’t have expected that all those would work there as well.. but good to know, since Asia is the plan for year three of travel for us! 🙂 I just visited your blog and saw you taught English in Laos. Did you go through a particular program?

  • This really makes me wanna plan a year-long trip haha. Loved your list … looks like it could pass for a fall capsule wardrobe too!

    • Thanks! And yes.. it’s basically what my daily uniform would have looked like at home too, so it could easily pass as my fall capsule!

  • I am really impressed! My husband and I packed for a year in China–but we took a carry-on AND 1 50 lb. suitcase each. Of course we were working so we needed professional clothes, and we pretty much didn’t buy anything for the whole year we were there, so it worked out good. Traveling would be a different story, and I can see why minimizing the stuff you carry is really important!

    • Yes! I would have had to take an entirely different approach if we were also working in a business setting all year. I had to do that when I student taught abroad, (and I actually packed in the same pack that I brought on this trip!), but that was only for a couple months so it was much easier than a year. What were you guys doing in China?

  • I’m so impressed. I can totally understand the concern of wearing out favorite pieces but they are favorites for a reason!

    • Thanks! In the future, I think I might become one of those weirdos who buys two of all their favorite things.. just for “when the first one wears out” 😉 I know that’s so not the minimalist mantra, but you gotta make it work for you, right??

  • marlayoung

    This is a great guide for packing. I find it challenging to pack for international trips especially during cold and rainy weather.

    • Me too! My husband and I did lots of research and everyone recommended skipping the bulky coats and just bringing layers. However, we found with our kind of travel (much slower and more urban) that we really wanted winter coats. Thankfully, there are so many great shopping options here, we both found what we wanted pretty quickly. I’m planning a post with “things we wish we’d brought” for next week!

  • This is SERIOUSLY impressive. My brother-in-law and his wife and kids are moving to Sweden next month for about 6 months. I’m going to send this to her!

    • Aw thanks for sharing this post!! I hope it helps her! And I definitely had my challenges packing… but it has so paid off. It’s liberating for me to live with less 🙂

  • Jess Cross

    Thank you for this! I am studying abroad for an year in Ireland starting next Fall and intend on living there for at least three more! Essentials for the first trek of the trip!

    • Jess, thanks so much for your kind words! I’m so glad this is helpful. My sister is actually doing graduate studies in Dublin this year and we’ve visited her twice this fall and winter. So, some Ireland specific advice: a great raincoat and some comfy/stylish rain boots or shoes! It gets a bit chilly there but nothing like other parts of Europe. Mostly it’s the rain that will get you. But don’t worry.. we’ve had sunny days each time we’ve visited too! 🙂

  • How often do you do laundry with this list? I’m currently living in Paris and the cost to do laundry is high here – I can’t imagine how much money you would have to spend each month to have regularly washed clothes in more expensive cities!

    • Hey Sarah! Thanks for commenting. So far (in about four months of travel) we actually have never paid for laundry, and the longest we’ve gone without washing our clothes is about two weeks. This is because we house sit, stay with friends and family, and rent airbnb’s. Almost every single one of these options has their own laundry. The perks of traveling like we do! I can imagine going to the laundromat could be expensive… We would probably resort to wearing our clothes a long time and hand-washing undergarments if it became a real financial problem. Haha. But we’ve found most modern homes, even of very moderate size and circumstance, have a washing machine. No dryer, which shocks our American friends, but at least a washer! 🙂

  • Laura

    Thank you for putting together such a great list! What were the dimensions of the bag which you brought with you to Europe?

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Laura! My pack is about 3 feet long x 1.5 feet wide. And it can be cinched down, or expand to about a foot if packed super full. It’s not a tiny bag! haha. If you are familiar with backpacking packs, I would guess it’s about a 60-70L pack. But when it’s full, it only weighs about 12 kilos, and I could easily fit more or take some out. Hope that helps!

      • Laura

        Awesome, thanks for the info. I’m planning to use this as a guide for a big trip this summer. Will write to you how it goes!

        • Yes, please do!! And whether or not you use the affiliate links above, the packing cubes are seriously game changers. Let me know if you have any other questions!

        • Hi Laura! Hope your plans for your summer trip are going well! Just wanted to pop in and let you know I’ve linked to a couple of packs in our shop that might give you a better idea of our pack sizes. Also, if you’re planning to travel in Europe, just want to let you know my pack does not work as carry-on on budget flights 😉

          • Laura

            Hi Linda! You are the best! I’m actually already traveling and your list helped me so much with my packing!

            I’ve been in Korea, Australia and Japan so far and am going to Europe next. Thank you so much for suggesting packing cubes and wool socks. People had suggested wool socks for a while but I was hesitant to get them before you had it on your list. They have been wonderful!

            Thank you so much again!

          • That’s so awesome, Laura! SO glad the list helped. I never thought so many people would see it but knowing girls, we love to research our packing 😉
            Your travels sound amazing btw. We’re thinking of trying expat life in Korea next year so I’d love to hear your impressions. And any packing suggestions that are specific to there! Where are you headed in Europe now?

          • Laura

            I studied abroad in Korea a few years ago, its an incredible and underrated country.

            Two major packing suggestions that come from cultural things in Korea. People generally cover their chest and shoulders in Korea, so mostly bringing tshirts and blouses tends to work out better. I have found that I can wear tanktops that come up to the neck, but otherwise I personally prefer not to wear tank tops although foreigners get some leeway on this.

            The second is to bring shoes that are easy to take on and off. At homes, many restaurants and shops you will be asked to take your shoes off. Having slip on and off shoes (or shoes otherwise easy to remove and put back on) makes life so much easier!

            I hope those were helpful. I’m based in the UK for the next few weeks (mostly London) but am also taking trips to Hamburg and Holland. Its been a blast!

          • Thanks Laura! Sounds really similar to Malaysia. On a sort of strange and slightly related note 🙂 I recently watched some mini-documentaries on youtube about beauty culture in Korea and they were super fascinating! The obsession with plastic surgery and the aversion to tattoos are just so interesting to me.

  • Thank you so much for your lovely comment on my travel capsule wardrobe post and for sharing this post with me! I’ve been loving your blog for a while, but never read this post before. Anyway, thanks for saying hi and for your encouragement and advice and I look forward reading about your adventures in the future!

    • Cassandra, I don’t know how I never responded to this lovely comment before! So sorry!! I’ve been a bit MIA in the blogworld due to a busy travel schedule, and trying to get a redesign/rebrand underway. Hope you like the new look 🙂 I’m excited to jump back into blogging and catch up on all my fave bloggers too!

  • Esther

    I’m surprised you haven’t needed a raincoat at all in Europe! I’ve been living near Munich, Germany for almost exactly a year (I go home next week) and I’ve basically only worn rainy weather clothes and such. One thing about Germany that I love is people aren’t so concerned with wearing new/always clean clothes or hardly ever repeating outfits. It doesn’t bother me to wear clothes repeatedly (with no visible stains or bad smells) and I fit right in here. And it makes traveling light SO much easier.

    • Hi Esther! Sorry I missed your comment a couple weeks ago. I totally agree on the European standard of “cleanliness”… much less strict than American, which I feel is a bit needless picky. While we’ve been traveling, we have definitely reworn clothes many times over! haha. Also, about the raincoat… we were lucky with a very mild fall and winter, with excellent weather overall. And if you read our blog you’ll know of course that we ended up going to Asia during the European spring, so we missed any rain there. I still included a rain coat in my packing list though because I know it’s usually necessary!!
      Hope you enjoyed your year in Germany! We loved that country so much 🙂

  • Floriane Millecamps

    Hey ! That was a nice post, which gives me an idea about what to pack for my internship in Ireland, so very useful ! I do have to combine “work” clothes and “regular” clothes but it really gives me an idea of what I should or should not pack so thanks ! 🙂

    • Great! So glad it was helpful 🙂 Have a wonderful time in Ireland… we loved that country!

  • Great post! I’m moving to Warsaw next month and I’ve been looking for packing inspiration.

    • Awesome Brittany! Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back with you. How was your transition to Warsaw? Enjoying your new city?

  • T i København

    I realize this comment comes really late, but please please please note that “Europe” stretches from polar regions and down to the border of Africa. While you may be fine through a winter in Southern Italy or a summer in Ireland like this, don’t try the hotter or colder climates.

    • Thanks for the comment! I’ve traveled around most of Europe and am aware of the extent of the continent. For the ease of this post, I just used the word “Europe” instead of listing all the countries we covered on this trip, but that info is readily available on this blog. We spent time in every season in various parts of Europe using these clothes, but I did purchase a coat as well once we arrived to avoid packing it for the initial trip over. I planned to write up an additional post about extra things we purchased, but I never got around to it. While the clothes I packed would be fine for any kind of hot weather (I spent summertime in SE Asia with these clothes as well) I do agree the addition of a coat is essential for winter in certain parts of Europe!