How to Pack (Fashionably) Light for Cold Weather Travel

Air, Europe, France, Italy, Packing & Wardrobe, Planning — By on April 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm

No one wants to stick out like a sore thumb in a yellow windbreaker in Europe, where style is as essential as a morning espresso, but what’s a budget traveler to do in the middle of winter? LG Asia-Pacific Editor Mary Tan shares some of her flash-packing tips.


Before my 2-month trip to France/Italy in December, I was having absolute packing nightmares. Figuring out what not to bring with me was my biggest problem!

Normally, I would recommend the ‘thermals-and-windbreaker’ option, but if you’re a bit of a (frugal) fashionista who doesn’t want to be slopping around the fashion capitals of the world in bright red polyester and stick out like a sore thumb along Champs-Elysees, you may want to read on!

The Best Laid Plans…

First, find out what the weather will be like. Snow, rain, humid, dry, hot in the day, freezing by night?

Next,  make a list! Have any idea of the activities you will be doing — hiking and cocktail parties don’t really match. Try to have the list with you so that whenever you think of something else, you can scribble it down.

Next step? Edit ruthlessly. If you find yourself thinking just in case… don’t bring it! Similarly, forget things that are too avant-garde or edgy — stick with classic and versatile pieces that go with each other and can be used for night and day. If any of your items will only be used once, don’t bring it; find a versatile substitute instead.

What Should You Invest In?

Basic tops like sweaters, cardigans and thermals are easy to find anywhere, and are usually quite cheap, so throw a couple in your luggage (in primary colors) and don’t worry too much. The same goes for jeans, tights, sneakers and even little things like socks. There are other items that are worth investing a little more money in for that extra mileage.

A Little Black Dress (LBD) in a jersey/knit fabric will be your best friend in the evening. Just change it up with different accessories that you could purchase while traveling. Avoid anything made from hard-to-manage fabric or is too fragile.

Invest in at least one good coat , in a bright color, interesting style and warm fabric. This is the fastest and best way to dress up a simple sweater-and-jeans combo without much effort.

Sturdy, comfortable leather boots are a must-have and a good pair will last through multiple travels.

One seriously reliable bag that is just big enough for daily necessities, yet small enough that you won’t be knocking people over in a bus.
Find one you can carry comfortably for hours and has pockets so you can compartmentalize and find things easily.

Two-in-one products may not optimize your skin and hair, but basic hygiene is more convenient than luxury. Find products that you can use for body and face, body and hair, etc.

And Away We Go!

Figuring out what to take with you is one thing; getting it all in your bag is quite another.So what’s the trick? Roll it up! I swear by this technique. Do it right and your luggage capacity will double before your eyes. Stuff socks, tights and other ‘small’ fabrics down your shoes and boots to save space as well as maintain the shape of your footwear.

(And there isn’t a rule against sitting on your suitcase. Do it if you need to!)

Another pack-smart tip? Pack by ‘look’ instead of item. For instance, pack a tank top, long sweater, tights and scarf together, or a turtleneck and jeans. Pair the right underwear with them. This makes it easier to grab out of your bag without having to sift through all your clothes!

When you arrive at your destination, just have fun! Remember that ultimately, no one really cares what you wear as long as you have the right attitude and spirit. You will quickly realize that you are far more resourceful than you had ever imagined.

Happy travels!


Read more of Mary’s travels at


  • Laura J says:

    I love the coat idea… bonus is, they can be taken on a plane separately to carry on.

  • Hey Mary,

    I will take your all the ideas on little investment, going to buy Boots and Coats shortly for my upcoming trip to Nepal.

    Thanks 🙂

  • Anne Mayer says:

    I second the coat idea. Jackets can make almost anything look formal – whether it’s a pair of jeans or a skirt. If it’s your heaviest piece of clothing, you should absolutely carry it on board with you rather than pack it in a suitcase, where it’s bound to hog a lot of space. If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, it makes sense to invest in a good pair of walking shoes and a backpack. I find them infinitely more convenient than shoulder bags/totes that keep slipping off my shoulders. For our Disney adventure, my husband and I have decided to get an extra rugged backpack from Briggs & Riley’s adventure luggage line BRX. It’s an out and out space master and he loves the fact that it has a laptop compartment. Now he doesn’t have to carry another bag for his laptop.

  • Al Svensen says:

    Ah, this is great. Exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

  • Nikki says:

    I’ve heard of rolling clothes before but I never thought to organize my clothes by outfit that’s a really smart idea.

  • I’m a very light packer,even when I spend three months in Asia,like I did last year. I even weigh my clothes before I pack.
    I NEVER bring jeans or electronics – too heavy and jeans take forever to dry.I use a convertible bag and I always bring books that I leave wherever I am when I finish them.
    I pile on layers as needed according to the weather, Everything is fairly loose, long and dark. It takes me from the theater in London to a temple in Laos. I’ve been asked for directions by locals in Paris, Florence and Israel so I suppose I must blend in fairly well…
    Packing however is subjective. Some people like to travel heavy…Take what you like and wear at home. It’s easier if you pack light because you can carry your things further and longer.If you pack light, you also have to do laundry more often… Anonymous

  • Amy says:

    I found a cute yet practical coat was really important on my trip. I found a nice peacoat that was warm enough in mild weather, but I could also put a sweater under and (bit plus here!) it has a hood!

    I use packing cubes for everything and they act like drawers. I have one for underwear and socks, one for tops, one for bottoms and one for big toiletries stuff (shower and clothes washing) and a small one to tote to the mirror and sink with my contacts, glasses, toothbrush and paste, earrings, mascara and face wipes. It really helps me to compartmentalize everything so I can look at my red cube and know my towel is in it and grab my black one with the red tab if I want a top. It makes it super easy and I don’t think I’ll ever travel for more than a week without my beautiful packing cubes!!! 🙂

  • Wow! The Lazy Travelers posted this on their site today, and I am so glad they did! Thanks for the tips, I know I’ll be using them for Paris in winter!

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