How to Pack for a City Break Holiday

How to Pack for a City Break Holiday

I’d never really been on a city break up until a few years ago; always opting to go for the ‘mandatory’ two-week summer beach holiday instead.

Packing for a summer holiday was easy. Bikinis. Check. Shorts. Check. Vests. Check. Sun cream. Check. After the ‘essentials’, I’d be pretty much done.

Then, one Valentine’s Day, Alfie surprised me with a Valentine’s gift to die for. I opened up the envelope, noticing the ever-so-quirky Valentine’s card featuring a whale and dolphin on the front.

“Whale you be my Valentine?”


It said. When I opened it, I got an even bigger surprise. He’d booked us two tickets to the wonderful city of Amsterdam staying at the Hotel Die Port van Cleve!

We were only taking hand luggage and it was mid-February, I didn’t think my usual packing method of bikinis and shorts would cut it for this trip. So I set about trying to figure out how to pack for a winter city break using only the available space in my hand luggage carry-on.

So how did I pack for my winter holiday? I thought I’d share my list of what to pack to make sure your winter getaway is perfect (well, I can’t guarantee it will be perfect, but at least you won’t have outfit problems!).


Make a List

This one is definitely a no-brainer. If you’re staying for four days, you’ll need at least four daytime outfits as well as a few pieces of evening attire to see you through, but we’ll get to clothing later. Make a list of exactly what you need to remember.

  • Straighteners (or hair styling equipment if you use them)
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Remember your liquid allowance. Do you need to buy travel sized deodorants, toothpastes and hair products?

how to pack for your holiday

Choose Your Bag

Do you take a suitcase? Or a holdall? The eternal dilemma. Personally, I prefer the suitcase to make it easy to roll around with you in case you wanted to stop off for a bit of sightseeing before checking in to the hotel.

Make sure your suitcase is large enough to hold all your items but small enough to be accepted as a carry-on. Also, be sure that your suitcase is durable and sturdy – I’ve had a couple of instances where wheels have fallen off and, trust me, it’s a slog!

what clothes to wear on holiday

Choose Your Clothes

Probably the biggest problem any of us could face. What can I wear?!

If you’re travelling to Europe, then the likelihood is that it will be pretty chilly during these treacherous winter months. When I travelled to Amsterdam, it was around 6 degrees – though I can’t remember it raining, which is a bonus!

Let’s say you’re going for a four-day trip. Here are my suggestions for what clothes to take on a winter European city holiday:

Comfy Shoes

Chances are, you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Unless, you’re in Dublin in which case you’ll most likely be sampling the Guinness-y delights. But that’s another story! So, you really need to take a pair of comfy shoes. DON’T buy new shoes you’ve never worn. DON’T take some high heels you’ll never be able to walk in. Trainers are king.

Evening Shoes

Again, nothing too daring for your city break as if you get lost, you’ll be cursing for hours questioning why you ever took these ‘ridiculous shoes’! I took a pair of knee high leather boots which I dressed up during the evening with a dress and tights and also wore on the journey to save space in my suitcase.

A Thick Coat

Make sure you take a coat! A blazer-style or oversized coat is perfect  as it can be dressed up or down but if you really don’t want to wear it during your journey just hang it over your arm – it doesn’t count as hand luggage.


The majority of my outfits are black. It’s a staple colour (or only one) in my wardrobe so be sure to take vests, t-shirts and jumpers that you can layer over one another during your daytime sightseeing. Don’t forget to pack a cardigan or two, too!

Hat and Scarf

Small items that don’t take up a lot of room are ideal and especially as they’ll keep you warm and snug when the temperature drops. Pack them into a side pocket or inside pocket of your case or alternatively shove them in your coat pockets! Simple.

Evening Outfit

Don’t make the mistake I did when I took a silk kimono to wear as an evening jacket. The fabric was so cold and the weather just wasn’t permitting so I effectively almost froze during my restaurant evening out. Consider something that can easily be folded or rolled up in your case such as a non-crease tea dress or LBD.

Underwear and Socks

Standard, really. Make sure you have enough of both to last you each day you’re away.


A small purse-type bag is ideal for when you’re travelling as it will hold your documents and won’t be counted as hand luggage. If, for any reason it is, simply pop it into your suitcase no problem… though I’ve never had any issues with it.

what makeup can i take on holiday

Choose Your Toiletries

You’ll definitely need your everyday toiletries and accessories such as toothbrush and hairbrush. It’s probably worth taking some hairgrips too, in case you suffer a bad hair day. Other items you’ll have to consider carefully and make sure they fit within the 100ml limit.

Liquid foundations are generally around 30ml whilst shampoo, conditioner, shower gels and moisturisers can be purchased in a handy travel size. Just make sure you’re clear pouch isn’t overloaded or put some of your items into your travelling partner’s bag, if they have room.


Once you’ve got all these details sorted, you’ll almost be ready to jet off and enjoy your holiday. My final top tip for your European city break? Just make sure you have enough storage on your phone to capture those treasured moments!


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