My Minimalist Packing List For Traveling Europe in Winter

Connie Riet
by Connie Riet

Traveling light for a long trip in winter can seem almost impossible. Come pack with me for a long trip to Europe in winter, using my minimalist packing list as a guide. Traveling light is so much easier. It minimizes my stress, saves me money on paying for luggage, and it also adds flexibility to my travel that if I'm carrying a lot of luggage I don't have.

Pre-packing questions

1. Pre-packing questions

Packing can feel very overwhelming. Taking a step back and looking at the trip from an overview point helps me create a plan for the things that I need to bring. Each trip is different, and so I begin by asking myself a few questions to help me outline what my trip is going to look like. 

What is the climate? What will a typical day look like for me? Are there any special events that I will be attending? What kind of activities do I plan on doing? What documents do I need to bring, and will I be working on the trip, or is it vacation only? 

Essential items for traveling

2. List essential items

First, I make a list of the essential items I don't want to forget. Because each trip is unique, creating a checklist for myself ensures that I'm not going to leave anything behind.

When we travel for a long period, it's tempting to overpack, but that can be very expensive and also can weigh us down by consolidating items more efficiently. This ensures that I can bring everything I need without adding a lot of weight or bulk.

I use my iPad to consolidate a lot of bulky, heavy items. This also allows me to put everything I need into one place. I download ebooks, audiobooks, podcasts, music, and movies all onto my iPad. 

3. Use travel-size toiletries

Toiletries are where most of us tend to over-pack. Because I'm traveling with only a carry-on, I keep all of my toiletries down to three-ounce travel sizes, knowing that when I get to my final destination, I can just buy a full size of everything I need. 

Travel pill organizer

4. Travel pill organizer instead of bottles

I have a travel-sized hair dryer and a travel-sized Neti pot. Medication bottles take up a lot of space. Instead of taking several pill bottles, we use this travel pill organizer. It has become our family's favorite traveling hack because the bottles take up so much space, but the medicine doesn't.

We only take what we need and just empty the pills into these little pouches. It all fits perfectly, nice and neat. I save a ton of space, and I'm able to bring everything I need. 

5. Yoga pods instead of a mat

Taking my yoga mat is out of the question, but because I do practice yoga daily, I found these yoga pods to be a fantastic travel tool. They're little mittens and booties that go onto my palms and feet. They are made out of a yoga material that prevents slipping. 

Laying out outfits

6. Lay out outfits

Next, I lay out all of my outfit options to get the most outfits. It's nice to stick with a particular color scheme because I already have a wardrobe capsule. It makes it easy for me to mix and match my outfits. Because it's wintertime, my color scheme is going to be gray, black, and burgundy. 

7. Pack less bulky items

I love oversized chunky sweaters and cardigans. They're so cozy. However, if I were to try to pack some of my big chunky sweaters, they would end up taking up a ton of space. Just one of my oversized chunky sweaters takes up as much as three thinner sweaters.

The key is I try to get wool sweaters that are much thinner so that I can use them as a layering set, as a base layer.

I make sure to bring my thermals, hats, and gloves because northern Europe in winter is cold, along with socks, undergarments, pajamas, and anything else that I may need for a special event. I'm going to the ballet for my daughter's show Cinderella, and so I'm going to need a dress that's a little bit more formal, some tights and heels.  

Shoes are a little tricky to pack because they are very bulky and heavy. I only pack the shoes that I need. Munich is a walkable city, so I'll be walking most of the time and there's going to be snow so a boot is a must, and of course, my heels that go with my dress.

How to pack like a minimalist

8. Lay bulky items on the bottom

Fold bulky items and lay them as flat as possible on the bottom of your luggage. Tight-roll the smaller, thinner items and you can put them in line with one another and even put them into the little corners of the bag. Make use of every inch of space.

I like to put my socks inside my shoes and line the outside of my bag with my belt. Take advantage of all of the side pockets, internal pockets, and external pockets. 

Minimalist packing list for Europe in winter

9. Packing a backpack

In addition to my carry-on, I also take one personal item. I use my backpack and I put my laptop, my iPad, my camera, pill organizer, and my wallet along with my passport, important documents, and my phone. 

10. Wear your heavy, bulky items

Keeping your luggage underweight is really tricky and very important. One of the best ways to remove weight from your luggage is to wear all of your heavy, bulky items. I will be wearing my wool bottoms, sweater, boots, and coat. What's nice about the coat is that it will double as my pillow or blanket on the flight. 

Minimalist packing list for Europe in winter

Thanks so much for going over my minimalist packing list with me today for my Europe trip in winter. It's kind of fun to see how someone else packs their bag.

If you have any travel tips or how to travel light or things that have worked for you, please leave a comment below. 

Join the conversation
2 of 9 comments
  • Maria Maria on Oct 07, 2023

    Good article for the ones that like to bring everything...

    Most of the time i travel/fly with a carry on duffel bag type on wheels and a medium shoulder bag for my documents, medications, wallet, cell and charger, travel size toiletries, hair dryer/curler. I also keep a thin nylon sting back pack that I can fit my hand bag into in the event I have to rush to a connection.

    Last summer I went to France and Italy for a month and traveled with only my carry on and my medium hand bag. I had plenty of clothes, and also packed for a wedding in Positano.

    For my yearly trip to France, there is not much time between the landing of the plane and taking the TGV to Avignon, so checking a suitcase would make me miss the only direct CDG airport to Avignon , my whole family lives there.

  • Patty Kake Patty Kake on Dec 06, 2023

    Watch Rick Steve's online for excellent packing tips and philosophy on traveling light.