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Packing Light for a European Summer: What Every Mom Needs to Know

Packing Light for a European Summer: What Every Mom Needs to Know

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Are you planning a summer vacation to Europe but are worried about how to pack smartly? You won’t want to miss this list of tips for packing light this summer!
This list of what to pack for Europe in Summer was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Are you planning a summer getaway to Europe with the family?

As a mom, you know the challenge of packing not just for yourself but for the kids too.

Imagine walking through the picturesque streets of Paris or enjoying a sunny day by the Italian coast—all without lugging around heavy suitcases.

Sounds impossible? Not at all!

We travel to Europe almost every summer with our kids and we’ve learned a LOT about what to pack and what to leave at home.

Here’s your ultimate guide to packing light for a European summer. Say goodbye to overpacking and hello to a carefree, stylish vacation!

I’m really glad we packed layers for Amsterdam! Photo credit: Steven with Flytographer

What to Pack for Europe in Summer for Your Family

1. Start with a Smart Suitcase

First things first, choose the right suitcase. A lightweight, durable suitcase with multiple compartments is ideal.

Consider an expandable suitcase so you can bring home souvenirs without needing an extra bag.

I really like my BEIS suitcase because it’s hard-shell but also has a place to expand. I also always travel with a foldable duffel bag so I don’t have to stress about bringing home all the stuff we buy on our trips.

2. Choose Versatile Clothing

When packing clothes, think versatile. Choose items that can mix and match easily, creating multiple outfits from a few key pieces.

But keep in mind that the weather can/will fluctuate from country to country. We did a trip where we were HOT all across Italy but then chilly when we go to Amsterdam. I was really glad we had layers!

Here’s what to focus on:

Neutral Colors

Stick to a color scheme of neutrals like black, white, beige, and navy. These colors can be easily mixed and matched.

But if you enjoy brighter colors like me, you can totally make it work. I end up packing a lot of pink clothing that I can wear in several ways.

Image of a family during a Venice Photography session
Button down shirts are great layering pieces! Photo credit: Marta with Flytographer

Layering Pieces

European weather can be unpredictable in the summer. Pack lightweight cardigans, a linen shirt, a breathable rain jacket, and a stylish scarf.

I’ve also gotten into wool items. So, I usually have a few wool t-shirts and tank tops that I can layer under other items. What’s great about wool is that it’s antimicrobial, and you can wear it a few times without it smelling.

Multi-use Items

Bring clothes that can serve dual purposes. A beach cover-up that doubles as a dress for dinner or a sarong that can be a picnic blanket.

Mom’s Packing List Example:

  • 4 shirts (mix of short and long sleeves)
  • 2 pairs of shorts or skirts
  • 2 pairs of lightweight pants
  • 2-3 dresses (can be dressed up or down)
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • Undergarments and socks
  • 1 scarf
  • Swimwear

3. Packing for the Kids

Kids need comfort and versatility just as much as adults. Pack clothes that are breathable, comfortable, and easy to clean.

I usually pack laundry sheets so I can handwash my kids’ clothes in the hotel rooms.

Image of two boys jumping off stairs in front of a Roman church
I think I washed these outfits twice during our trip to Italy! Photo credit: Guido with Flytographer

Kids’ Packing List Example:

  • 5 shirts
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 light jacket
  • 1 pair of sturdy shoes
  • Undergarments and socks
  • 1 nice outfit for special occasions
  • Swimwear and a sunhat

4. Essential Gear for Mom and Kids

Don’t forget the essential gear that can make or break your travel experience.

A Foldable Backpack

Great for day trips where you need to carry water, snacks, and sunscreen. I have this one and this one and they come in handy a lot! I can even get my boys to carry them!

A Compact First Aid Kit

Include band-aids, antiseptic wipes, Neosporin, and any medications you or the kids might need. This is the one we have.

Refillable Water Bottles

Stay hydrated without constantly buying plastic water bottles. We really like our Hydroflasks.

Portable Charger

Keep your phone and camera charged for those perfect family photos. I like our Anker power banks because we can charge our phones a few times. We also have these ones for our kids’ iPads.

5. Travel-size Toiletries and Medicine

Pack travel-size toiletries to save space. You can always buy more in Europe if you run out. Also, bring essential medications in their original containers, along with prescriptions if necessary.

Pro tip: I’m obsessed with picking up beauty products and medications at Boots in the UK and Monoprix in France.

6. Pack Smart with Packing Cubes

Use packing cubes to organize outfits by day or person, which helps keep things organized and saves space. This makes unpacking and repacking easier, especially when moving from one place to another.

If you’re doing carry on only, you’ll probably want to get these compression packing cubes. They are great for maximizing space.

But use them carefully if you have a checked bag because it’s really easy to overpack and go over your weight limit!

7. Entertainment and Snacks

Bring small toys, books, and games to keep the kids entertained during flights and train rides.

Healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruits, and granola bars can also be a lifesaver when meals are delayed or while exploring. Just try to pack items that can’t be easily squished.

8. Travel Documents

Ensure all your travel documents are in order. Keep passports, travel insurance information, and booking confirmations handy. A travel document organizer can be a lifesaver or you can create a file on your phone for digital copies.

I also have this handy digital planner for Europe where you can put in your complete itinerary including your flight, hotel, and tour information.

9. Last-Minute Checks

Before you zip up that suitcase, do a last-minute check:

  • Weather check for any last-minute changes in the forecast.
  • Double-check the weight of your luggage to avoid airport fees.
  • Ensure you have chargers for all devices.

The Joy of Traveling Light Wrap-Up

Traveling light doesn’t just ease the physical burden—it also simplifies your trip, allowing you to focus on enjoying the experience rather than managing stuff.

With these tips, you’ll navigate airports, train stations, and busy streets with ease, making the most of your European adventure. Happy travels, super mom!

Looking for more Europe travel tips? Check out How to Enjoy Europe’s Top Sights in Summer Without the Massive Crowds, Why Summer Is the Worst Time to Visit Europe (And How to Make It Work Anyway), 25 Helpful Tips for Traveling to Europe for the First Time, and How to Plan a Trip to Europe with Kids: Step-by-Step Guide!

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