Are you and your family planning a winter trip to Europe but aren’t sure where to start with the packing process? We know how overwhelming it can seem, especially if you have multiple children!
Our family recently spent almost a month travelling Europe by rail, and we learned quite a bit along the way about how to pack for Europe in winter and more.
If you’d like to learn more from our experiences, check out our guide to Europe winter travel as part of our Discover Europe with kids series.
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We’ve also included a helpful printable packing list for Europe to help you check items off as you organise and pack them. Let’s get started!
Practical Pointers On How To Dress For The Cold
If there’s one thing we learned from travelling Europe with our kids, it’s the importance of dressing in layers! We quickly discovered the wide range of daily temperatures and the necessity for waterproof footwear during European winters.
The type of weather you encounter will vary widely depending on where in Europe you’re visiting, so here’s how we recommend that you prepare for the trip:
Three Layers is Key
You’ll find that you will forever adjust the number of layers you wear as the day goes on! The best advice out there is to dress in three layers for maximum warmth and comfort:
- Base Layer: The right long underwear is key for a warm and comfortable day of travel. Choose synthetic fabrics like polyester or merino wool for a natural option. Your base layer should be snug (but not too tight) and of midweight thickness.
- Middle Layer: Your middle layer’s job is to keep you warm – think puffy down jackets and heavyweight fleece. Considering the amount of rain, sleet, and snow you’ll likely encounter, we suggest a puffy coat with synthetic filling – it’s better for damp conditions. And don’t forget your legs! Fleece or insulated pants will keep your lower half warm while sightseeing.
- Your outer layer needs to protect you from the elements and keep you as dry as possible. Choose a shell jacket that’s waterproof, not merely water-resistant! A breathable waterproof shell jacket is the best choice. You’ll also want a pair of shell pants to keep your legs dry and warm.
Cover Your Extremities
Protecting your head, hands, and feet is essential for staying warm in cold weather. Choose hats, gloves, and boots that do the same thing as your layers – keep moisture away, insulate, and protect you from wind and rain.
Merino wool or synthetic beanies, scarves, waterproof insulated mittens, and waterproof boots should all be on your Europe winter packing list.
Avoid Cotton Fabrics
We don’t have anything against a good cotton shirt, but we don’t recommend wearing cotton layers when packing for Europe in December. This type of fabric tends to soak up moisture (a no-no for layers!) and takes a long time to dry out. The last thing you want is to get wet early in the day and shiver your way until dinnertime. Not only will you be cold and miserable, but you’re also more likely to become ill.
Europe Clothing Packing List for Men, Women, Kids
What to Wear in Europe for Winter
Here’s what we recommend you include on your winter packing list for Europe:
Base Layer Set
Pack several sets of base layers for each person. This option is great for kids because they can choose many colors and patterns. A merino wool top and pants like these are excellent options for women and have corresponding sets for men.
I also packed a few pairs of fleece-lined tights for our trip so that I could wear them with slightly dressier outfits. For example, these work nicely with a sweater dress for a night out to dinner.
Depending on how long your European winter trip is, pack 4-5 light long-sleeved shirts and sweaters. There are many cute sweater options out there for women, and we love these warm fleece pullovers for kids.
It’s always a good idea to pack a pair of jeans or two, and make sure to include some dress pants or slacks if you plan on going somewhere fancier while on your vacation.
Waterproof pants, or rain pants, are essential for hiking, exploring Christmas markets, and walking in the city. They keep your underlayers nice and dry and don’t add much weight to your suitcase. These Mountain Warehouse rain pants work for both boys and girls, and they’re very affordable.
We can’t emphasize enough how essential warm socks are to your family packing list for Europe! You can find very affordable packs of merino wool socks for women and men, and you can find options for kids in fun prints and colors.
Warm mittens definitely make our list of essentials for European travel in cold weather! Our children loved these convertible fingerless gloves because they had mitten covers that they could slip on and off. In hindsight, however, we would have chosen something a bit more waterproof. These waterproof gloves keep your hands toasty warm and you can still use your phone to take pictures, so that’s a plus.
There’s nothing more miserable than being forced to walk for hours with wet, cold feet. That’s why we recommend a quality pair of waterproof boots you can wear comfortably for extended periods of time. Timberland boots have always worked well for us because they aren’t as bulky
Warm Winter Coat
A waterproof winter jacket is essential to include on your winter packing list for Europe. Choose one that’s breathable and filled with synthetic down if possible. This lightweight puffer coat compresses well for packing, and the Helly-Hansen Men’s Dubliner is also an excellent choice.
Aside from your winter jacket, we also suggest packing a waterproof jacket for rainy days that don’t necessarily warrant a heavy winter coat. We love this reversible waterproof windbreaker as an option for kids!
Keeping your head warm in frigid weather is incredibly important, so pack a few merino wool beanies for each family member. We also acknowledge how hard it can be to keep a winter hat on a small child or baby, so we recommend this waterproof aviator option for kids.
Given how much you’ll need to pack for a winter trip to Europe, we recommend packing neck warmers instead of scarves. They take up less room in your suitcase and travel pack, and it’s easier to keep track of them.
Yes, we know you’re traveling to Europe in winter, but hear us out! If you plan on staying at any hotels with indoor pools, your kids will love the opportunity to splash around after a day of excursions. Even better if there’s a hot tub for you to soak in!
A pair or two of cozy pajamas should be on every European winter packing checklist! This is especially true if you’re traveling with children, as there are bound to be a few “accidents” along the way. On that note, it’s also wise to check whether your accommodations will have a washing machine.
If you enjoy wearing dresses, pack a few long-sleeved options to layer with leggings and boots. They’re nice for a night out to dinner or a concert while you’re on vacation.
Winter Packing Especially for Babies & Toddlers
- Travel Stroller w/Rain Guard: If you’re traveling with a toddler or baby in tow, a travel stroller is a must for your family packing list for Europe. We’ve researched several excellent lightweight and compact travel strollers to suit your family’s needs.
- Travel-Friendly Baby Carrier: If you want to keep your bub close for warmth and protection, add a travel-friendly baby carrier to your list. Many soft structured baby carriers and wraps break down nicely for travel and packing.
- Travel Diaper Bag: You might want to avoid bringing your regular diaper back on your winter trip to Europe, so a travel diaper bag is always an option. Or you can put diapers, wipes, and other essentials in your travel day pack.
- Portable Bottle Warmer: Mums everywhere know the importance of having warm breastmilk and formula on hand, and this can get somewhat tricky when traveling with your bub. A portable bottle warmer doesn’t take up much room in your travel bag, and many options just need hot water to work.
- Portable Monitor: A portable baby monitor might not be necessary if you and your family plan to stay in one hotel room. However, it does come in handy if you’re renting an Airbnb or similar accommodations and want to keep tabs on your bub while they’re sleeping in another room.
- Travel Toys: Anyone who’s been on an airplane filled with fussy toddlers can verify that a bored and tired bub is a cranky one. Packing a few entertaining travel toys can both entertain and soothe your child during flights and train rides to and from your destinations.
Diaper Changing Kit
Becoming stranded on a day trip or excursion without a diaper-changing kit was always our worst parenting nightmare! This portable diaper changing pad has all you need to keep everything dry and mess-free on your trip.
If you’re concerned about your bub staying warm enough on your European winter trip, consider bringing along a wearable blanket. They’re a great additional layer in cold weather and double as an extra blanket during naptimes.
Keep your baby soft and snuggly warm while out and about with a bunting or snowsuit. We suggest a baby snowsuit with built-in mittens and footies, as it just makes everything that much easier!
If you’re traveling to Europe with a baby, then fleece rompers are an essential item on your winter packing list. They do the job of a shirt, pants, and socks and take up less room!
Babies can’t easily regulate their own body temperature, so keeping their extremities warm is incredibly important. A few pairs of warm baby booties will help protect your bub’s little toes from the cold weather.
Another option to protect your little one from rain, sleet, and snow is a stroller footmuff. Several universal stroller footmuff options easily slip over your stroller and have a fleece interior to keep baby snug and warm against the elements
Toiletries and Hygiene
- Sunscreen – yes, for many, this is still necessary even in winter!
- Lip Balm – dry lips can be particularly troublesome in the cold
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Shaving Products
- Contacts/Glasses, Contact Solution
- Body Lotion (for dry skin)
- Nail Clippers
- Multivitamins/Vitamin C
- Your Usual Prescription Medications
You can find our complete guide to family toiletries, medicines, and first aid items you should consider packing over here
Other Essentials You Will Need For Winter Travel In Europe
- Passports/ID card
- Bookings/reservations printed out
- Lift Tickets/Passes
- Travel Insurance
Printable Packing List for Europe in Winter
We hope you’ve found some helpful tips in here packing for your European adventure with kids.
All subscribers to Globetrotter news can receive our ultimate family packing list completely FREE! All we will ask for is a signup email, and you may receive some occasional inspirational newsletters from us during the year.
If you’ve found this winter packing list guide for Europe helpful, you may also want to check out next:
- All our top tips for European travel in winter – from keeping track of your kids in the crowds to tackling the Christmas markets
- We share with you here our complete Europe rail itinerary with kids, plus more inspiring European destinations to visit in December with family
- Skiing in your Europe plans? There are a few more essentials you’ll want to pack, check out our family ski packing list and the best family-friendly ski resorts in Europe.
- If seeking out the winter sun is more your thing, we have you covered there, too with the warmest destinations to visit in Europe over winter.
- Looking at a sunny escape instead? You’ll want our complete guide to packing for a vacation at the beach – with a printable checklist
- Feeling brave enough to try winter camping? All our top tips for camping in the winter months, plus our guide to camping in the desert and what to pack – the perfect outdoor winter escape in the Middle East if cold and snow is not your thing!
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