How to pack for winter travel in fashionable cities {London + Paris}


You guys, Paris and London were a dream.

Call me crazy, but I think January was a perfect time to visit. Off-season rates (that’s a big one!), less crowds (there were streets we walked down that we had all to ourselves) and the lack of leaves on the trees makes for more complete views of the architecture, even from afar.

But, there is one drawback of cold season travel; it’s a bit harder to pack for.

Harder because winter clothes take up way more space than summer clothes.

Harder because in winter, you kind of wear two different outfits every day: the outfit you wear outdoors AND the outfit you wear underneath that’s revealed when you’re indoors.

All together, the act of fitting all your winter clothes into a bag and then looking chic + feeling comfortable every time you put them on is HARD.

Being chic IS just as important as being comfortable while traveling in Europe's most fashionable cities—if you want to experience the city a little less like a tourist and a little more like a local.

Walking into a restaurant, a museum, a quaint little boutique—you want to feel welcomed there, you want to feel confident to ask questions and start conversations, you want to almost forget that you don’t live here (and you want some cute travel pics of course {wink}).

But don’t let the added packing difficulty + fashionable standards of chic cities like London or Paris stop you from taking your travel in January—I’m here to help!


A guide: packing for winter travel in chic european cities {like London + Paris}

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1 Start with the outside + work in

Remember that point up there about you have to plan two outfits for each time you leave your hotel/hostel/airbnb rental? That’s actually a pretty important thing to consider. You need to think of what you’re wearing when you’re all bundled up as an outfit, and what you’re wearing underneath your coat as an outfit.

When packing, I like to start from the outside and work in. Because what you need to wear outside is what you’re in the least control of.

Choose your footwear

Your footwear needs to do two things:
1) keep your feet comfortable while you walk around all day
2) keep your feet dry (now might be the part where I mentioned, although I'm calling it great weather, it still rained for at least some time every single day while visiting Paris and England.)
With those two purposes in mind, choose something like a nice leather boot, a trendy sneaker, or maybe even a pair of wellies.

QUICK TIP! They are a little pricey, but I absolutely love my Frye boots. They’ve proven to keep my feet dry and comfortable whether it’s rain or snow—and they stay looking sharp, even after a few winters of snow and salt. (I have these OTKs and these Engineers incase you were wondering.)

You can opt for a second pair for the days it’s not wet out—in which case you want whatever makes you feel both chic + comfortable (maybe a comfortable ballet flat or a leather loafer?)

I like to think of bringing a rain shoe and a dinner shoe.
Sometimes these can both be the same shoe (like a sleek pair of boots) but along with my outdoor boots I often like to bring something a little lighter, a little more feminine (like a low-heeled bootie or a loafer.)

A wool coat goes a long way

A mid to long wool coat is my ultimate winter accessory. They are the most chic + the most wearable—and a good wool coat provides a ton of warmth!

A wool coat will go with everything from casual sightseeing wear with sneakers to a fancy dinner outfit.

Wool has water-resistant properties that can help keep you dry—even in London’s winter weather.

Wool is good at adapting to the temperature. Unlike a down-filled or thinsulate leather coat, it’s more breathable, so you’re less likely to work up a sweat while walking around (or from walking indoors.)

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2 Outfit Formulas

You now know most of the pieces for your “outside outfit,” now you can decide what to bring for your “inside outfits.”

Pick one or two outfit formulas that go with all your shoe + coat choices

What are outfit formulas?
They're a recipe that outlines what type of clothing pieces (their shape and fit) you’ll mix to create an outfit. You can get as specific in your formula as “light-coloured chunky knit sweater with dark fitted pant or jean”. Or your formula could be “a fitted pant with a loose-fitting sweater,” “long sweaters and tops over skinny jeans and leggings,” “tights with a high-waisted A-line skirt and a cropped loose-fitting sweater”—just to name a few!

Here's the packing trick: Pick one or two outfit formulas that can share pieces—you want all your tops to go with all your bottoms (for maximum options out of your little bag of tricks!)

Say we picked “light-coloured chunky sweaters with dark fitted pants and jeans” as our outfit formula. Our second formula could be “loose tops tucked into an A-line skirt with tights.” This works if you also like the look of “loose tops” with your “fitted dark pants” and “light-coloured chunky sweaters” with your “A-line skirts.”
If you packed two of each piece (2 chunky sweaters + 2 dark fitted pants + 2 loose tops + 2 A-line skirts) instead of packing in outfits where you’d have 4 outfits, you packed in formulas and now you have 16 outfits.

Having trouble thinking of outfit formulas you wear?
I put together a database of 20 outfit recipes (with visuals) that work for staying chic + comfortable during winter travel.

QUICK TIP! Pay attention to material. You want to prioritize packing things that don’t wrinkle easily. You’ve probably noticed which clothes you find yourself needing to iron, but as a guide:
Silks, linen, and viscose/rayon tend to wrinkle easily.
Wool and thicker knits, as well as anything with spandex or polyester in it tends to be less wrinkle-prone.

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3 Accessories are mostly optional

You can pack accessories at your own discretion—based on what you like to wear, how much room you have left in your suitcase… But, I will tell you my few must-bring’s!

1) A hat—toque or wool

A large chunk of our body heat escapes through the top of our head. So, even if it doesn’t cover your ears, a hat still keeps you warm!

I opted my toques on this trip, but your favourite wool (even felt) fedora or wide-brimmed would be another perfect chic accessory.

2) A stylish carry-all

If you carry around a camera, you’ll want a stylish bag to carry it, along with the whatever-else’s: umbrellas, water bottles, guidebooks, cosmetic bag, etc.

Other accessories, optional

A scarf and gloves (or mitts if you are me) will, of course, help keep you warm, but as a Torontonian, I didn't feel like either were necessary in London’s or Paris’ “typical” January weather.

I do love me some scarves though (as do the Parisians!) so I always bring a couple options.

If you like to wear jewelry, bring jewelry! But it’s definitely not a requirement to look chic (even in Paris!)

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+ Bonus Travel Tips!

My most highly-recommended travel accessory

That was a lie—it’s my favourite accessory—travel or not: the Fulton Tiny umbrella. Confession I have one in my bag at every given time (because I do NOT like being caught in the rain, and I especially don’t like being caught in the rain AND getting wet hair.) And that’s what you want in an umbrella—one that’s a no-brainer on whether you’ll bring it—it fits in every bag and weighs nothing who cares if it’s calling for only a 10% chance of rain?
PS: It's hard to tell on the internet, but the Fulton Tiny-1 and Tiny-2 are the ONLY umbrella I've found that collapses to this compact a package.

Blanket scarves!

It’s no surprise I love to bring one along with me (you can check out a post I wrote over a year ago on 3 ways to wear them.) I use mine as a fashionable accessory, to sleep on the plane, and if you didn’t take my advice about the Fulton tiny umbrella (shame on you!) you could throw this over your head if caught in the rain!

Let’s talk about your undershirts…

I feel like the use of t-shirt-style undershirts hasn’t been marketed to women. But, you guys, they are such a must. I use them in everyday life to wear under all my sweaters and more delicate tops, but they are especially useful when travelling. An undershirt that covers your underarm significantly cuts back on how often you need to wash your sweaters (and other delicate tops)—making them last in pristine condition a lot longer. And when you're traveling, the t-shirts are a much easier bathroom-sink wash.

Heels in London + Paris?

I say leave ‘em! I’m not much of a heels-advocate to begin with, and I’m definitely not a heels-wearer when I’m going to be walking on my feet all day. Londoners + Parisians seemed to agree with me on this, and with the exception of chunky-heeled boots, I really didn’t see much in the way of heels.

Pieces of foam!

Okay guys, probably a weird one. I’m a DSLR-lover, but not a lover of those ugly camera bags. And we know no one is a lover of broken cameras. So, I like to bring ½ thick inch foam pieces (bought from a fabric store) to line the bottom and the sides of my carry-all bag, offering some protection against bangs and falls.

Include tights in one of your outfit formulas

I like to bring tights for one of my travel outfit formulas because they don’t take up much room in your luggage, they’re comfy + cozy, they come in multiple warmth levels, they’re easy to hand wash in a bathroom sink, quick to air dry, and if you get stuck with a lot colder weather than you anticipated you can wear them under your pants!

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I hope you find this guide helpful for your next winter city vacation! I truly believe there is no wrong month to visit either London or Paris.

What are your packing struggles? Your packing tips? What time of year do you like to travel?

Ready to start your packing?
Don't forget to grap the outfit recipes cheat sheet!

To falling in love with cities in style,