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Late May/Early June Amsterdam Paris Swiss Alps Packing 2 weeks

Hello,
I've read through several of the threads and have noted some tips for packing. But would like some specific feedback for our trip. I know its early but I have time to think about it right now!
We are a family of 6. Parents with 4 kids 18, 17, 14, 11.
5 nights in each location beginning in Amsterdam the last week of May, then to Paris, and lastly BO area of Switzerland. We do have a washer & drying in each location. And was hoping each of us would just have a backpack, no suitcases.

I'm thinking through the variety of temps we might encounter.

I feel like we will need our hiking boots for BO but they are so heavy & bulky?! Thoughts?
We won't do major hikes but would like to be outside as much as the weather allows in switzerland.
Do you think the kids will be good with just a fleece if its cool at any point? Or better with a waterproof outer shell?

The shoes the kids will wear mostly and on the flight will be their sneakers I'm guessing.

I have very comfortable ballet flats so I'm not in sneakers in Paris. Just can't do it! And hubby and I might want to go to a nicer dinner in Paris.

And if we have to bring a rolling suitcase is it a major hassle with train travel? Mostly I want something to have to take souvenirs home!

Thanks for recommendations.

Posted by
27349 posts

Is this your first trip to Europe? The reference to ballet flats has me a bit concerned, because shoes like that often have very thin soles. Uneven pavement (cobblestones, etc.) can be very uncomfortable if you don't have thick-soled shoes. Just to wear to dinner at a nearby restaurant, assuming you have a chance to return to your hotel before dinner--that may be fine. To wear all day in Paris? I think you'll be sorry if you attempt it.

I would not head to Switzerland for five days without a waterproof jacket with a hood, plus a hat with a brim. If you plan to take an alpine lift up high, gloves and a warm hat would probably also be advisable. However, I hate chilly, damp weather. Let's see what others say.

I travel all over Europe on trains with a rolling bag. The smaller the better. If you get up to 24", that becomes awkward. 22" or smaller is a lot better.

Posted by
40 posts

No its not my first trip to europe at all. I've traveled quite a bit. Reference to ballet flats is I can wear in evenings for dinner in Paris and they pack very small.
Yes I think a waterproof layer is the way to go for sure. Just wondering if need the fleeces too?
And the hiking boots?...but everything I'm reading is saying we need the boots.....

Posted by
15644 posts

Well, if you are planning to go up to some of the Swiss peaks, beside the below-freezing temps, it can be quite windy. A good rain jacket can double as a wind-breaker, but you'll want a down or fleece jacket underneath - plus warm pants/leggings. I would take thermals that you can wear under lighter weight pants. Sturdy hiking shoes serve me well in towns as well as on hikes and IMO look a little better than sneakers, and they are usually more water-resistant in the rain. Instead of ballet slippers, maybe sandals that are both attractive and good for walking, in case you get a hot spell in A'dam or Paris.

Posted by
108 posts

Seems like the younger ones will need to size up between now and then, eh? Maybe just beef up the sneakers next time? There are a lot of options that fall between Converse lows and Lowe Alpine, if you take my meaning.
These gloves a super lightweight and come in a variety of sizes for adults and kids. They aren't all that warm, but they won't take up much space or weight in your bag. https://www.amazon.com/SmartWool-SW-17981-P-Merino-Glove/dp/B072K6QJHQ
If you can get by with backpacks, do. A small rolling bag isn't a huge hassle on the trains. And you're not moving around much. For an extra bag, try a packable duffel. I have this one: https://lewisnclark.com/electrolight-duffel/ It's the size of an orange. There are larger ones that are probably sturdy enough to check on the way home (full of dirty clothes, of course).
Have a great time!

Posted by
8504 posts

Layering is the name of the game. Pack layers. I would pack a lightweight thermal top, a sweater, and a waterproof jacket with hood. Combine these as needed. Fleece tends to take up space.

I did want to mention on the subject of backpack vs roller bags. You do realize that you should take your backpack off your back and carry it on and off public transport don’t you? Those that wear their backpacks cause difficulties in the narrow aisles and are not appreciated by fellow travelers. There isn’t a huge difference between carrying a roller bag onto a train or carrying a backpack.

I don’t remember really caring what shoes people were wearing in Paris restaurants. I didn’t spend any time at all looking at people’s shoes and I doubt anyone else did either.

Hiking shoes are a good compromise between sneaker and boots.

Posted by
375 posts

I second the motion for layers. I have a black packable down vest that I always travel with (unless it's the height of summer/heat). With a outer shell, it provides me with three options: vest only, shell only, or both.

Instead of going with the classy ballet look, you could go for hipster look in Paris. And perhaps gets some double duty on shoe choice. Last time we were Paris in May/June, we saw a ton of people wearing boots of all sorts (but not heavy winter boots, naturellement).

I think you might end up doing more hiking/walking than you think....the Alps will call your name. I had second thoughts about bringing hiking shoes when we went to Switzerland, but I was glad I had them.

We invested in the smaller, lightweight roller bag (the 19/20", not the 21/22") and traveled for 6 weeks....stops in Paris, Switzerland, Nice, Dordogne. No trouble maneuvering on to trains or planes. If you do invest, check the weight of the suitcases...there can be a 5 pound difference between same size bags.

Good luck! Sounds like fun!

Posted by
3879 posts

While I can't comment on ballet shoes, I have a pair of low-rise, water resistant, brown leather Merrell hiking shoes that serve all purposes in Europe -- my daily shoes, my hiking shoes (including in the Berner Oberland and in Norway), and my Berlin Philharmonic/dress shoes. I spent some time hiking with a soft-spoken guide in Norway, and he commented on the excellent grip of the shoes in rainy conditions. Of note, they also are my work (with khakis/button down shirt) and casual shoes at home.

I'll leave to others the need for a fleece in May/June (I visited in October; the answer is yes at that time of year). A thin hooded waterproof outer shell is always on my packing list for Europe regardless of the time of year (and makes a good wind breaker when needed, as noted above).

Posted by
11294 posts

For the Berner Oberland, it obviously depends on what you intend to do. If you're just going on the main trails like the Maennichen to Kleine Scheidegg walk or the Allmendhubel, you only need regular shoes with a decent tread. There can be mud and animal manure, but you don't need "hiking boots" - good sneakers would be fine.

Posted by
1224 posts

We were in the Alps in late May and there was still snow on some of the higher elevation trails we wanted to go on. We had sturdy tennies, better than just sneakers but not hiking boots, and had no issues. I would say one fleece and one raincoat type jacket should suffice. It did for me though I'm fairly warm blooded.

Posted by
11439 posts

We have done those city-and-mountain trips and there are a couple of packing challenges. How do I fit in while in the city and still have outdoor wear?

As others have said you will need a water resistant layer as well as one for warmth. Fleece is too bulky so a thermal layer plus shirt or sweater plus rain jacket should suffice for most conditions. We just spent considerable time (4 weeks) in mountain locations in Switzerland and Italy this fall and a l/s merino tee plus a merino cardigan plus my lightweight anorak were the most I ever needed. Some mornings were 40 degrees. All of these items will be fine in the city too. You do not have to dress like a Parisian fashionista to enjoy Paris. My “dress shoes” are black leather Mary Janes that I can wear for 3 or 4 miles of walking. I do like to have a nice blouse instead of a tee shirt when we go out to dinner.

BTW, you may have colder weather than you expect in Amsterdam. That happened to us in early September and I had to go buya (very expensive) warm layer. Bring gloves!

Jeans are fine — one pair per person and wear on the plane. Athletic shoes will serve most of your mountain needs unless you plan to do anything technical. Make sure they have sturdy soles and good support. (No Keds!) I do like to pack a pair of ubiquitous black pants for dinner dates, and my black hiking pants (not zip off) are lightweight and are fine for street wear, too.

Regarding luggage, if the kids can handle a 22” roll aboard plus a day pack, that is an easy to manage and winning combo. The daypack is so useful for transporting their personal items of the flight, each day touring, and gives a little wiggle room in packing. We have traveled with these two items for years now, whether for a week or two months.

Posted by
108 posts

No offense, Laurel, but an 11-year-old doesn't need a 22" roller plus day bag for a two-week trip. S/he is not being invited out to the nice dinner. It's likely the other kids don't need that much space, either. My 12-year-old has that combo for a year-long trip, on which he is invited to the nice dinners. The issue for the 11-year-old might be finding a backpack that is big enough to hold what s/he needs and still fits the child's frame.
We pack our down puffers (mine is the one from Costco) in the little drawstring bags that sheet sets sometimes come in. They double as pillows this way. The sheet sets were microfiber, so they're nice and soft. This may be too warm a jacket for you at that time of year, though.

Posted by
1194 posts

You can most certainly do this trip backpack only. Things to consider:

May is late spring, but spring nonetheless. Expect rain at some point. The weather could be hot or cold. And it could change from hour to hour in the mountains.

A light, packable, waterproof jacket is wise. Especially so at high altitude. It will also cut the wind. There will still be snow at higher elevations.

Fleece has many weights. But a fleece under a waterproof jacket is a good combination in the mountains. I prefer puff jackets as they are lighter and compress small. Uniqlo has some decent deals on lightweight packable puff jackets.

You are not carrying a heavy load off trail. That means you won’t need hiking boots. What you really need is a shoe with a great tread and a pair of wool socks. Check your kids sneakers. Some have smooth bottoms and some have great treads.

You may want to bring some sort of base layer if you are hiking at higher elevations. I like to keep mine in a zip lock bag in my daypack “just in case”.

As others have said, bring a light pair of gloves and a light hat for mountain tops.

I’d slip in a pair of ballet flats for your nice dinner. They don’t take up too much space. But touring in them all day long (day after day) will create sore feet. Another pair of sporty walking shoes or ankle boots would be great for Paris.

Posted by
11439 posts

So maybe the kids get 20 roll aboards. I still think it is tough to do only a backpack that can hold all they need and still be able to carry them.

One way to know: practice pack the bag(s) you have in mind and have each of the children take a 6 block walk to see how they manage.

Posted by
1194 posts

@Laurel

The kids don’t need to take all the stuff because it is shared in the family. So washing items, clothesline, medicine, camera etc gets carried by mom and dad. The kids are probably clothes plus a personal electronic device. This will make their bags much lighter.

I posted in another thread but here’s an example of a family doing backpack only through Europe. Those kids are even younger than the OPs.

Posted by
40 posts

This is so much great info everyone!! Thank you! My 11 yr old is quite small so she would have to carry something smaller than the older kids but her stuff is small too!
I'm wondering if there is a shoe, like a merrill, that would work for walking in the city as well as the Alps....for the kids and me? Unfortunately we aren't very pedestrian here in the US and have a shoe for every scenario we might encounter at home!
Any specific products you have to recommend please share (shoes, jackets, luggage)
Thanks for the ones you have shared...will check those out. I've looked at the rolling backpack on RS's products. Would be too big for 11 yr old but good for rest of us. Any of you use that one?

Posted by
1194 posts

I wrote this in another thread:

For consideration - I have the Rick Steves rolling backpack. I originally bought it for carrying heavy paperwork on work trips. I also tested it out for a few personal trips. It was actually the bag I had when caught during the great winter vortex of 2014.

Size: it’s smaller than US carry on bags. That’s good. I could easily fit it in overhead bins of planes, buses, and trains. Perfect for European travel.

Size #2: my trip was in deep winter with temps several degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The snow was hip deep. I had plenty of weather appropriate clothing. It’s big enough for any non-adventure tour trip (normal travel). I take a full size carry on when I’m mountaineering, caving, or jungle trekking because I have specialized gear.

Backpack straps: not the most comfortable, but good enough. It is awesome for going up and down stairs. The straps attach and store easily.
Width: I have wider hips but the wheels never connected with my body.

Weight: it comes in at ~5.5 lbs.

Here is a review of it from Frugal First Class Travel

And another from Frank II

Posted by
1194 posts

I'm wondering if there is a shoe, like a merrill, that would work for walking in the city as well as the Alps....for the kids and me?

Check out the Merrell Jungle Moc. Available in kids and adult sizing. There is a waterproof “frosty” version in the kids sizes.

Arcopedico Leta is also fairly durable. The synthetic outer washes right up with a damp cloth.

Posted by
1221 posts

I'm currently testing out some Salomon lace-up hiking shoes (not sure of model name) that I got on really deep discount earlier this year to see how they work for moderate hikes and walks in comparison to my Merril hiking boots. Ecco is another good brand for when you're going to be on your feet all day long- Spousal Unit has some of their hiking boots and loves them.

We're going BO to family river cruise to Amsterdam in that same time frame. I'm not a pack light person- a minute or two here and there of slight unpleasantness from wrangling a 25" suitcase in the name of reducing laundry concerns is a fair tradeoff for me. (And if we decide to bring hiking poles, we have to check bags anyways)

Posted by
16683 posts

Selfie, if those Salomon hiking shoes are the Alp-X "low" style you are in luck. They are terriffic. I bought a pair in France after our first day on the Tour du Mont Blanc, when my regular mid hiking boots ( well broken in) were irritating my ankle bone so badly I could not walk in them. My daughter-in-law, a physician, suggested I may have sprained the little tendon that wraps around the medial malliolus (inside ankle bone) and it would take some time to heal. I could hike just fine, as long as the boots or shoes did not touch that spot. We were in a tiny village on the route but it was a ski resort with two outdoor shops.

I looked at the array of shoes and chose a pair of Merrills to try, as I have good luck with that brand. But they did not fit well, no matter what size I tried. Then the very helpful salesman pulled the Saloman Alp-X off the display, and suggested that. I recognized them as the exact shoes our female guides were wearing. I tried them on, and Voila! They were perfect. Comfortable right out of the box for the next 5 days of hiking (8-11 miles, with as much as 4400 feet of gain and loss some days). The grip on the soles was excellent, as was the arch support. I may never go back to mid boots again.

When we got home I saw them on sale at REI Outlet, as they have been discontinued. About two weeks ago I decided to get an extra pair, while I still could. There are very few left out there, but I did manage to find my size in a nice teal blue, at a great price.

But for city/light hiking shoes for the OP's kids, I would suggest something lighter. The Jungle Mocs suggested by Cindy H would be fine if they like the style. Oleather sneakers, as long as they have a lug ( grippy) sole,not a smooth one. I love my Lowa Palermos, but they have also been discontinued and are hard to find.

https://www.campsaver.com/lowa-palermo-gtx-casual-shoe-women-s.html?_iv_code=X48-FW3-LWA0124-3207599337-M095&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgef_59643gIVj8pkCh1AIgBvEAQYAiABEgILdvD_BwE

Trail runners would be fine too.