I’m a big fan of buying cheap flights to European destinations to spend a long weekend unwinding and sightseeing. I like to scour the net, jump on every EasyJet newsletter that pops up in my inbox, do random searches on Skyscanner and indulge in holiday fantasies until a cheap flight appears and I can spontaneously buy it.

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I’m guilty of the ‘bargain brag’ where I can say “Yeah, I’m flying to Prague/Berlin/Faro… BUT THE FLIGHT WAS ONLY £XX FOR A RETURN!!”. I’m a bargain bin hunter, a sales searcher and a shoestring sufferer/survivor – I love making my dollar stretch!! Guilty as charged.

A top way of achieving this is to travel with hand luggage only and cut the cost of checked-in baggage. Not only does it save time when you’re checking in, but it means you won’t have to drag heavy cases onto busy trains or buses and you’re not tied down to a hostel when you have many hours to spare before flying home. You can swing your hand luggage on your shoulder to do more exploring before high tailing it to the airport, without having to march back to your accommodation to pick up the sad left-behind bag at reception.


Of course, this only really applies to short European breaks as a 3 month trip would be a touch stressful with a teeny backpack on EasyJet, Ryan Air etc. But when you’re heading to a cold country, packing light presents numerous problems as warm shit is bulky and heavy.

1. A good, nay, a GREAT coat

When the temperatures dip, you need a coat that is hella warm and cuts out any freezing wind. It helps if it looks cool too, so when you’re heading to a restaurant or club in the eves, you don’t have to worry that it ain’t glam enough.

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My fake lambs skin coat does just the job as I only need to wear a thin cardigan or jumper underneath and it keeps me snugly. It’s got a leather lining which keeps out the wind and the fluffy exterior keeps me toasty. As it’s so warm, I just cannot leave it at home when heading to cooler climates. A real wool coat works as it will keep you warm with some layers underneath, meaning you can take your thickest jumper on your person and not stuffed precariously on the top of your bag.

2. Jeans

Wear your comfy jeans that you can wander about sightseeing as well as dress up in the eves. Wear it onto the plane to maximize your packing space and throw in a selection of casual and dressy tops in your bag to compliment it. Fingers crossed you don’t get soaked through in a rainstorm, as you can only really bring one pair of jeans! My favourite pair is from ASOS and they are stretchy, cool and skinny cut around the legs. A pair that can be worn to any occasion when travelling.


3. Shoes

I love me a great ankle boot. They dress up any outfit for the eves, and as long as the heel is a sensible size, I can traipse around looking for that hidden below-level cafe for a few hours without breaking a toe. Wear your boots onto the plane and pack a lightweight pair of trainers that squish up small.


I highly recommend a waterproof Jodhpur or Chelsea boot to wear if you’ve got a lot of walking ahead. If you fancy a boot with a bit more of a city-slicker style, you could always try chunky soles like mine (below!) to give you some height in the evenings.


My trainers of choice are Nikes. They are very branded and slightly flashy, but these are the most supportive shoes I have ever worn! They have a springy sole that eases the joints and wrap my foot snugly, helping me with my sensitive left foot that I broke last summer. They squish up small and are the lightest shoes I own!

4. A cosy scarf

Wear this bad boy on the plane and he can be a blanket, a pillow, a light shade and a neck rest. I’m a wuss in the cold if I don’t have something covering my neck, so I’ll wrap a huge knitted circle scarf around me and look slightly like the Michelin Man. If the icy winds pick up, you’ll thank the gods that you didn’t take a thin scarf and immediately bury your face into your neck cocoon to hibernate.

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5. One warm as heck jumper or cardigan

Of course you need layers when heading to a colder place, but for a quick weekend break you can easily get away with one warm cardigan or jumper. If your coat is thick enough it will great to layer underneath, and it’ll also prove to be a useful thing to have in your accommodation to throw over PJ’s if it’s a little drafty there. I love oversized jumpers or cardies, but I opt for a cardigan as it’s easier to get on/off and undo to get some ventilation when temperatures rise after a lot of walking.

Wear it onto the plane along with as many layers as your body can carry to save that hand luggage space!


6. Make friends with your luggage allowance

Now this isn’t something to fear, ladies. See it more of a challenge and use some creative thinking into how to get your everyday toiletries through security and to your new destination. I don’t mean smuggle a razor up your bum, but think more along the magical lines of ‘decanting’.

Empty travel-sized bottles can be bought at most pharmacies, so you can easily pour in a 100ml portion of your favourite face moisturizer, face scrub and moisturizer. Buying small versions of your brands can be pricey, but there are some indulgences you can allow yourself.


I absolutely love Lush’s products so I had a spare tub of Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner in my cabinet. Not only does it abide to flight allowances, but it’s thick, creamy and smells divine – no need to take perfume as it’s so fragrant and it’ll repair the damage the cold air will do to your skin. With a good moisturiser, there’ll be no worries about zero temperatures shrivelling your skin into a wrinkly 90 year old prune-like texture!

Dry shampoo is by far my lifesaver. There are many things you can buy at your new destination, but I doubt that European cities won’t make it easy for me to find my fave Batiste can! And I don’t want to spend any time searching for toiletries when I could be looking at beautiful architecture or sipping local wine. The great thing about Batiste is that you can spritz it into your layers of hair for an instant refresh as it soaks up any oil, and you won’t have to worry about finding a hairdryer or going outside with damp washed hair (hello, Mr Flu!). My hair is thick and long, but Dry Shampoo means I can getaway with a solid 3 or 4 days with no hair washing.


A great tip to take for future stays at hoity toity flashy hotels is to steal. I don’t mean stuff a pillow in your suitcase or hold the maid at ransom and pillage her cleaning trolley for toiletries, but I always accumulate complimentary mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel (plus the odd tube of toothpaste!) from hotels. These are the perfect dinky size to take with you on a weekend away and save you a heap of space (& a touch of cash).

7. A small fold up umbrella

Showers and drizzle should be expected, and if the weather forecast says otherwise then you’ve struck winter holiday gold! But instead of cramming in a rain Mac into your luggage, opt for a neat umbrella for any rain. This works well for a city trip as you’ll probably be ducking and diving undercover, and can always hole up in a lovely cafe if the heavens open. If you plan a lot of outdoors times, then opt for a waterproof thick coat.


8. The two bag tango

With shunning check-in luggage comes trying to get everything to fit in one bag for some airlines. Monarch Airlines and RyanAir allow two or three bags as hand luggage, but EasyJet are the dictators of budget European flying. If you have a large bag plus a handbag, they will shine a spotlight on you and stop you from boarding until it’s all in one.

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But that’s really annoying when you want a smaller bag for the evenings and for pottering around in the day! I like to take a smaller bag that has enough room for my camera and day-to-day survival, but I don’t want to cart around a mammoth bag.

My top trick is to take a holdall that is open top. Important bits, like camera, wallet, passport and phone, are stored in a smaller bag that I can then half-heartedly stuff in the top of the holdall. This leather Zara holdall is deep and similar to a Mary Poppins bag, as you can cram a lot in. My small handbag then squishes on top for when I have to pass by the eagle eyes of the flight attendants. I’m abiding to the one bag rule and the dimensions, but as soon as I’m on the plane the smaller bag comes out with everything I need for the flight with the larger bag in the compartment above my head.

Sophie: 1  EasyJet: nil.

9. Fold-up noise cancelling headphones

A good pair of headphones can erase your chatty fellow passengers, a distressed child and noisy engine sounds. You can play your favourite tunes and float away into daydreams as you coast to your holiday. However, good headphones usually have to be the large all-ear-covering earmuff variety that can be annoying to cram into your bag.


If you’re wanting to invest in a great pair of headphones for travel, make sure that they can fold up small in a carrying case to avoid breaking them in transit or having to wear them around your neck. I got a great pair for Christmas and not only are they supremely noise cancelling (blast that Rihanna!), but they fold up small.

10. Mini Febreze

As you’re limited to how much you can take with you on a short break with hand luggage, it’s a good idea to pack a travel sized clothes deodoriser. I learnt this after a recent trip to Prague as I completely forgot what your clothes smell like after drinking in a bar or eating in a restaurant where smoking indoors is permitted.

As smoking indoors has been banned in England for eons, the stench of my clothes stunned me after a night out in Prague! As I had no mini Febreze/deoderiser, I had to continue to wear the clothes the next day. It’s a good idea to pack this clothes refresher and give your jeans, scarf, jumper etc a quick spritz at the end of an evening, so in the morning you won’t smell like Miss Ash Tray of the Year.

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A last bit of advice is to say that you should probably avoid Flea Markets or Thrift Stores whilst on this trip, as it can be a bit painful trying to add newly purchased things into your crammed luggage. And any souvenirs you’ll be bringing home will be of the fridge magnet or key chain variety.

Do you have any tips on how to pack for a winter city break?

All images by Sophie Saint, apart from image 12 via Pixabay.

Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog saintsonaplane.com and instagram: @saintsonaplane