Packing light isn’t easy for many female travelers, but the benefits to traveling light are immense. First, it allows you to travel more freely and easily. You might not realize it now, but you’re going to encounter crowded public transportation (usually with lots of stairs), bustling cobblestone streets, small trains/planes, narrow hallways and staircases, and a wide range of other stressful situations that make traveling with a lot of stuff extremely difficult.
Versatility is key when choosing what to wear. Stick to earth-tone colors because they hide dirt/stains better. Look for fabrics that are wrinkle-resistant because it is hard to keep your clothes wrinkle-free when traveling. Ideally, these fabrics should also be quick-drying if you need to wash your clothes in a hostel (but it is easy enough to find a laundromat in any major city).
Tips for Choosing Clothing for Travel
- Mix & Match Your Colors and Styles — The key to being fashionable and packing light is choosing clothes that are versatile. Everything you bring should look good when paired with any other article of clothing you have. You should be able to blindly pull out any top and bottom from your bag and pair them together. If you can’t do this, you should reconsider what you’ve chosen.
- Choose Low-Maintenance Clothing — Make sure the stuff you bring doesn’t have special washing instructions — like dry-clean only.
- Forget the ‘Single Use’ Items — That super cute dress that you’ll probably only wear one night should be left behind. Instead, bring something that can be dressed up or dressed down since it’s more versatile. A good guideline is that if you aren’t going to wear it at least three times, then you shouldn’t bring it.
- Fashion Accessories — A lightweight scarf is an easy way to change up your wardrobe. Plus, European women love scarves, so it’s a great way to look like a local.
- Bring a Smaller Bag/Backpack — You can only bring as much as your bag can hold, so force yourself to bring less by buying a smaller backpack.
SO, WHAT TO PACK?
- Airline Tickets – If you have e-tickets, print out the e-mail confirmation
- Passport – Should be valid for 6 months past your date of entry
- Wallet – While any old wallet will do, many people feel more comfortable with money belts, especially in the high season (summer and during Christmas markets) when the chance of petty theft is highest
- Cash – Ideally euros, you don’t need much to get started. Just enough to buy a transportation and some snacks before you find a Geldautomats (or ATM) for the lowest fees
- Smart Phone – This indispensable item has become many traveler’s everything – map, camera, guide book, wallet, etc. Be aware of roaming charges with your company and investigate if it needs to be unlocked to use a foreign sim card (the best solution for a long-term stay in Germany). Wi-fi is plentiful in Germany, although still more limited than in places like the USA.
- Drivers license (if you want to rent a car)
- Contact numbers – Keep your emergency numbers somewhere outside your wallet. Include personal contacts in your home country, number for your banking institutions, government agencies like embassies, etc. This can be invaluable in case your credit card/passport is lost or stolen
- Copy of medical history and prescription for any drugs you are carrying – This can help if there are any questions at customs
- Medicine – While most things you leave behind can be purchased in Germany, you should know that some common over-the counter goods aren’t available. You need to go to the pharmacy for things as simple as antacids and they will probably carry different brands than you are used to. If there is anything you can’t live without – bring it with you.
- Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste, lotions, shampoo, shower gel, razor, shaving cream, etc.
- Phrasebook – While the number of people who speak English is always increasing and very high in places like Berlin, it is always best to know some key German phrases
- Adapters – Electrical sockets in Germany are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: “Type C” Europlug and “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko. Also note that voltage is higher than in North American at 220-240 Volts
Four or Five Shirts — Bring a mixture of both short- and long-sleeve tops. Make sure to check the average weather for when you’re traveling since it will dictate which type of top to bring. Long-sleeve shirts are more versatile since the sleeves can be rolled up if it gets warm.
Light Sweater/Cardigan – Even in the summer, it is nice to have a sweater or cardigan if it gets cold. You might want something a little warmer if you’re going during a colder season. These are also good for layering with other tops.
One or Two Dresses — Look for a lightweight dress that can be worn casually during the day, but can also be dressed up if you go out at night.
T-shirts and Tank Tops — Pack a few t-shirts or tank tops for hot days, to use as undershirts, and for wearing in the hostel.
Dark Skinny Jeans or Trousers — Jeans are universal and everyone in Germany wears them. Dark jeans are perfect because they look great during the day and they can be easily dressed up for going out at night. Skinny jeans are in fashion and are probably the safest bet. Additionally, a pair of lightweight trousers is also a nice option since they still look classy and they’re a bit more comfortable in the summer.
Skirts — Bring two or three skirts (a mix of short and long) because they’re not only cute, comfortable, and cool, but they’re lightweight so they’re easy to pack.
Shorts — Shorts are a perfectly fine option for exploring the city or having a picnic in the park. If you do wear shorts, bring a fashionable and well-fitting pair (nothing sporty). Don’t forget to bring a pair of comfortable casual shorts for sleeping or wearing around the hostel though.
If you think you can, bring only one pair of shoes. They should be something comfortable since you’re going to be doing a ton of walking. If you can’t comfortably walk in your shoes for over three hours, you shouldn’t bring them. But the maximum pairs of shoes you should pack is two.
For your main pair, use comfortable flats that can be either dressed up or dressed down. Additionally, a pair of fashionable (and comfortable) sneakers is fine — but leave the running shoes at home (unless you’re not worried about being fashionable).
If you’re less concerned about fashion, then waterproof hiking shoes are a good option. These are nice because they’re comfortable and you don’t have to worry about wet feet. They probably aren’t necessary during the summer when rain is infrequent, but you might consider them for travel during the spring/fall/winter since rain is common during these seasons.
A cute pair of comfortable sandals is also a good option if you travel in the summer. Sandals are also nice because they are generally lightweight and easy to pack.
Bring a cheap pair of rubber sandals for hostel showers (who knows what goes on in there). They are also nice if you visit the beach.
But what about that sexy pair of high heels? Honestly, leave them at home. You really don’t need them, but if you do bring them, make sure they are comfortable enough to walk in (think about cobblestone streets).
If you’re traveling during the summer, you probably don’t need a jacket or rain gear (although, summer nights can still get a bit chilly the farther north you go). Additionally, if you plan on traveling during the spring, fall, and/or winter, you’ll probably have a few rainy days (it will still rain during the summer but not as much as the other three seasons). Therefore, having a normal jacket or a rainproof jacket can be nice.
Fleece Jacket – Fleece is a good material because it provides a lot of warmth but it isn’t too bulky.
Rain Jacket – A rain jacket is an item that takes up a lot of space and is rarely used, so unless you’re going to visit notoriously rainy destinations, this can be optional. You probably don’t need one if you’re only visiting cities (just bring an umbrella and duck into a shop/café if it really starts to rain). Additionally, most 100% waterproof rain jackets are not very breathable, so you end up feeling damp and sweaty.
Softshell Jacket – A softshell jacket is basically a nice compromise between a fleece and a rain jacket. A softshell isn’t completely waterproof, but it will repel 98% of the rain you come across. Unlike a true “rain jacket”, a softshell is breathable, so it will let moisture (i.e., sweat) escape. This is much more comfortable than a balmy rain jacket. A softshell jacket isn’t quite as warm as a fleece, but it will still provide a lot of warmth.
Don’t forget your charging cables and a camera!
Do a Test Run Before You Go
Load up your bag and see how heavy it is. Walk around with it for 20 minutes. You’ll be surprised how heavy all your stuff can be. You might consider repacking if your backpack weighs too much. Try to keep your total bag weight around 20 lbs (9 kg).