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Europe packing list

What to Wear for a Two-Week Vacation in Europe

Including a definitive packing list of items that all fit in a carry-on.

By Emma Steinbergs

Disclaimer: Despite the title of this story, I was actually away from my NYC apartment for three weeks. On May 11th, I kicked my trip off by flying to Madison, Wisconsin for my little brother’s college graduation and did not return to the Big Apple until May 31st. In the span of those 20 days, I spent time on a university campus, worked from my mom’s house in Minneapolis, strolled the streets of Paris, and luxuriated on the Mediterranean. I took 24 hours’ worth of flights, walked over 120 miles, ate who-knows-how-many pounds of fish and olive oil, and drove nearly the entire coast of Croatia. Long story short: I had to pack for a wide range of settings that varied in climate, terrain, culture, and formality—and I fit it all in a carry-on suitcase.

How did I do it? It’s simple, really. I laid out everything I thought I might want to wear and then eliminated items until I was left with the contents of this checklist (in addition to necessities like underwear and toiletries):

Europe packing checklist

Between working at M.M. and being raised by a mother who starts plotting the contents of her suitcase months ahead of any trip, I’ve learned a lot about packing over the years. From my experience, the above assortment is ideal for a two-week summer vacation and reliably fits in a standard carry-on. Gone for longer? Take advantage of your hotel’s laundry service (or hand wash items) as needed. Rinse and repeat, if you will.

When it comes to making your specific selections, remember a couple of rules of thumb: 1) Neutrals are king. It sounds obvious, but the more pairing options each piece has, the more outfits you can create. 2) Layers, layers, layers. No matter how vigilantly you check the forecast, you can’t predict the weather. Prioritize lightweight pieces you can layer according to the temperature, and hope for the best. Here are the pieces I settled on:

Ready for a little show and tell? While I could regale you with tales of visiting my brother’s favorite dive bar or lounging on the couch with our family cat, Pearl, I’ll skip ahead to a few highlights from my two weeks in Europe.

flight outfit idea

The Flight

Of course, we couldn’t get to Europe without taking a nice, long flight. The real point of this family trip was to visit Croatia, the birthplace of my great-grandparents, but considering there are no direct flights from Minneapolis, we simply had to stop in Paris for a couple of days. (Rough, I know.) Our redeye’s ETA was 7:30am, and my mom had scheduled a tour guide to pick us up from the airport, so there was zero time to change clothes post-flight.

I chose to follow this foolproof formula: versatile layer + breathable top + stretchy pant + flat shoe.

This meant I had to practice what I preach and go full Power Travel. I chose to follow this foolproof formula: versatile layer + breathable top + stretchy pant + flat shoe. Whatever jacket I wore would be the one I relied on for the next 14 days, so I wanted something that worked with daytime and evening outfits alike. I landed on the OrigamiTech Nia jacket and paired it with the matching Colby pants to form a lightweight, wrinkle-resistant set and completed the look with a soft pima cotton T-shirt and sneakers I could rely on throughout the trip. As I hoped, this combination kept me comfortable on the flight and made me feel stylish while walking around Paris.

Walking Tour

Our first stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik, the small, magical walled city that came into consciousness for many Americans when it served as the setting for King’s Landing on Game of Thrones. More importantly, Dubrovnik has a rich history that dates back to the 7th century, which is why we decided to take a two-hour walking tour around the city. Like many of our days on the Croatian coast, the sun was strong, but the air was not humid—like L.A. without the traffic or Erewhon. I decided to go with one of my most-worn tops, the Paige tank, and my fresh new pair of Milo jeans in tusk. As you can see, I wore sandals, but after about an hour, I wished I’d worn my sneakers instead. A word to the wise: Learn from my mistake!

Europe walking tour outfit | Europe packing list
Europe boat day outfit | Europe packing list

Boat Day

Fun fact: Croatia has over 1,000 islands. And supposedly, a quarter of all sailboats are in the Adriatic Sea each summer. In other words, it’s hard to resist partaking in the country’s world-renowned maritime culture. For a dreamy day of island hopping off the coast of Split, I debuted a sunny one-piece made by our friends at Andie Swim and wore my crisp Mila button-down and buttery Adina shorts in place of a swimsuit coverup. These breezy separates felt laid back in context of the boat but looked plenty put-together when we stopped at a seaside café for lunch.

Dinner al Fresco

Our final night called for pasta (a variety called fuži). And bread. And wine. And gelato. Thankfully, I wore the Estela dress, which not only looked chic while dining al fresco but also felt surprisingly forgiving at the waist, thanks to the back wrap detail. In fact, I unfastened the button after dinner—an action I successfully concealed by layering on my Cookie cardigan. While jewelry certainly wasn’t necessary, I was glad I brought some of my go-to gold pieces like lightweight hoops and layerable necklaces, which add a touch of luster to any outfit.

Europe dinner outfit | Europe packing list

Written By

Emma Steinbergs

Emma is M.M.LaFleur's Senior Brand Associate. She previously worked as an M.M. stylist and Customer Communications Associate, and she still loves thinking through styling challenges and solutions for customers.

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