One of the biggest hurdles when gearing up for a vacation abroad is undoubtedly narrowing down your packing list. The trick is to pare it down + stick to the essentials.


Last fall I was fortunate to have to opportunity to spend three weeks in various countries in Europe. I was travelling during the shoulder season so I knew that I needed to pack for all different types of weather but I had also lined up a few connecting flights that had very strict baggage compliance rules. With a bit of planning, I was able to pack all three weeks into a carry-on with room to spare! The big trick for accommodating your wardrobe is to bring a few staple items and learn to coordinate your outfits by layering.

Here are the six most essential items I packed for my extended time abroad.


#1 –  Black pants

Outside of my office job, I’m generally a jeans kind of girl. I thought packing a great pair of jeans might have been all I needed for my trip and I ended up packing a black pair of pants just as a backup. I’m very thankful for that decision because I definitely wore the black slacks more often.

Basics are key and in Europe and I found that black was worn consistently in each place I visited. When I visited Copenhagen, everyone wore 50 shades of black and some form of white sneaker. I maintained my own style but certainly felt a little more hip in black pants than my jeans. You know that old phrase, “When in Copenhagen…”

Item #2 – Scarf

I’m one of those annoying people who is always cold. Everyone wants the windows down and I just want a blanket. I knew that I wanted to stay warm during the trip so I ended up taking one of those huge trendy blanket scarves. It was a great addition to my wardrobe because I could layer it with my outfits and take it off and on as necessary. As a bonus, you can take it with you to the park and use as an impromptu picnic blanket.

Item #3 -Cardigan

Similar to the function the scarf, a nice plain cardigan allows you to warm up or cool down without defining your entire outfit the way wearing a sweater would. I wear cardigans frequently so this addition was a no-brainer.

Item #4 – Boots

By far the hardest decisions made on my packing list involved the footwear selection. I ended up taking a pair of flats, loafers, tennis shoes and boots. Spoiler alert – I did not need that many shoes.

The boots, however, became one of the most vital choices of the trip. Boots are great for rainy days and a nice pair will look just as classy as a nice pair of flats. Since the boots were the largest item I was bringing with me I needed to wear them every day I was boarding a plane. Keep this in mind and make sure you get a very comfortable pair that can be easily removed (mine were designed for walking and could be pulled on and off via zipper.)

Item #5 – Black dress

In general, I don’t wear dresses terribly often. Not because I don’t like them but it’s usually easier to run around with my dog in jeans. But I had planned a few upscale dinners for the trip that I wanted to dress up for.

I opted for a versatile little black dress that worked perfectly. With a basic dress, you can choose to wear different shoes or accessories and completely change your look. I wore my LBD out with a pair of black tights all day when I was in Paris, walking and biking with no problem at all.

Item #6 – Trench coat

In addition to the walking-friendly boots, the big clothing item I purchased for my trip was a trench coat. I knew I wanted a trench because I love the look but deciding on one proved to be more difficult than I anticipated.

Eventually, I decided on a two key criteria – the color & the inclusion of a hood. In addition to the hood, the coat itself was waterproof which is perfect for unexpected showers that spring up without warning. The material was not too heavy which made it easy to layer over my other clothes. I was so happy that I decided on a trench coat and would highly recommend it.

If you are heading abroad just remember to layer and choose your essential pieces carefully.

Of course you might not need a scarf or boots if you are travelling in the summer but it’s good to prepare for the various climates you might encounter on your trip. Pack smart and have fun.


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