5 Packing Essentials for Germany in the Fall & Winter

packing essentials

As a professional and constant domestic traveler who lives in Arizona, I found myself feeling a little lost when faced with packing for a late-October vacation to Northern Germany. I scoured pinterest, travel podcasts and blog posts and got a lot of good advice. While I did okay with my choices, I’ll share what worked, what didn’t and what I’d do differently along with some tried and true key essentials I’m super thankful I had with me. It was important to me to not only be mindful of function but also to style, as I didn’t want to stick out more than I inevitably already would.

  1. Stick with neutrals

One resounding theme I noticed was most people stuck with basic palettes of gray, black and a lot of olive/army green. Keeping with a basic color scheme allows for you to mix and match your pieces easily and pack fewer items. Locals worked in colors using scarves and hats (more on that in a moment!) I brought one medium weight jacket in army green, and I felt like I fit in with the crowd rather well. It was good to choose a jacket that wasn’t too heavy or too light so it transitioned well from indoors to outdoors.

army green jacket

  1. Accessorize with scarves, hats and gloves.I brought one large black pashmina/scarf that would double as a blanket for the train and I was SO glad I did.
    Me using my black scarf to hide from the shame of all the Gummy candy we bought at the Haribo store in Bonn

    Me using my black scarf to hide from the shame of all the Gummy candy we bought at the Haribo store in Bonn

    My black pashmina being used in a more traditional sense as a scarf to keep me warm and look fashionable

    My black pashmina being used in a more traditional sense as a scarf to keep me warm and look fashionable in Amsterdam

    I brought one additional designer patterned scarf for extra flair (this wool blend Missoni wave scarf). I found myself wishing I had 1-2 more, as regardless of my outfit each day, in my photos you could only see my jacket, scarf and hat. Also, it felt like EVERYONE in Germany smoked cigarettes, so my scarves were kind of funky smelling by midway through the trip and I wished I had a clean one.

    Trend alert: Chunky knit infinity scarves were by far and away the most common on men AND women, and looked super chic! I wished I had one, and almost purchased one while I was there (I live in Phoenix, so I really couldn’t justify bringing an extra one home)

    For hats, I brought one snug fitting beanie and one looser, slouchy beanie and could have used one more for the aforementioned reasons.

    Loose fitting, slouchy knit beanie

    Loose fitting, slouchy knit beanie on the train to Bonn, Germany


    Snug fitting knit beanie in Bremen, Germany

    Gloves came in handy often as waiting for trains happens outdoors and often after sundown. The temperature drops rapidly at night and the sun sets early in fall and winter. I was thankful to have convertible glove/mittens that opened up for using my phone with bare fingers. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the gloves with finger pads that are supposedly good for typing on smartphones so I opted for the latter.

  2. I only brought one full length pair of leggings. What was I thinking? I wished desperately for a fresh pair, and could have easily worn them every day. I brought one pair of stretchy dark skinny jeans that I was glad to have, but an extra pair of basic black leggings would have been a welcome use of space. Trend alert: I saw a lot of patterned black tights and combat boots! I can’t speak to how warm that would be, but it was definitely popular.I really can’t say enough about these leggings below! They’re under twenty bucks, thick material, not see through and hold up to wear. I bought one pair for the trip based on a recommendation and I’ll be getting several more ASAP. They’re the perfect pair of basic black leggings and I’m glad I don’t have to spend $39+ at Express anymore.

    BEST leggings I have ever bought, and they're under $20

    BEST leggings I have ever bought, and they’re under $20

  3. I brought one pair of calf height black boots and one pair of cute sneakers (althletic yes, but not blatant looking running shoes). I was surprised that I wore the boots every day but one. They offered extra warmth and waterproofing, and since they were larger it was easier to wear them than pack them. As long as they fit your color palette and are comfortable to put many (MANY) miles on, one pair is fine. While I often read that non cotton socks were a better choice, I only had one pair so I brought those and short cotton athletic socks. I found myself appreciating the comfort and warmth of the more padded cotton socks more than the thinner synthetic ones. If you’re planning on bringing fewer pairs and handwashing them, then of course synthetic is the better choice.
  4. Packing cubes. To say I am obsessed is an understatement. I got turned on to packing cubes once I started traveling weekly for work. I am not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t imagine traveling without these- even on short trips! You can easily double the amount of clothes you pack in your bag with the use of these lightweight nylon zip up cubes. They keep everything organized and reduce wrinkles significantly. Several brands exist, but I am loyal to the Eagle Creek cubes. I use black as it coordinates with my carry-on bag.
    Eagle creek packing cubes

Other key points:

I picked one 16” Kendra Scott necklace and rhinestone stud earrings that I never took off, and I’m glad I didn’t have to bother with jewelry since they matched everything.

Germany in the fall and winter (or anytime really) rains a LOT, so it’s best to bring an umbrella. We bought a tiny, easy to carry one with great reviews. It’s a little more expensive but we were thankful for the compact size. Through some miracle, we didn’t see a drop of rain the whole trip.

While I packed an internationally compatible travel sized hair dryer (which I love on my domestic trips) I ended up not using it ONCE. Every hotel we stayed at had a decent hair dryer and it was easier to use theirs than mess with mine and a converter plug. That said, I did use my favorite travel curling iron with the help of a plug in adaptor, and was glad to have it.

We used one international plug in adaptor for everything which was big enough to charge our tablets, phones, etc. I was glad to have the larger one even though it was a big heavier than the single plug adaptors. It also has a surge protector, so I felt safe plugging in our travel laptop.