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Packing help - Scotland to Spain trip

In August we are flying to Edinburgh and spending 5 nights in Scotland. We're going to rent a car for a brief tour of the countryside and then spend a couple nights in Edinburgh where we will see the Royal Tattoo as a finale. The reason we are starting our trip there instead of going directly to Spain is because my son will already be in Scotland for a scout trip and we are going to pick him up there rather than having him fly back to the US first. Then we fly into Bilbao to tour around Northern Spain, Southern France, Madrid, and ending in Barcelona where we will meet with friends and a former exchange student who live there.

Back story done; I'm hung up on how to pack for this trip in a carry-on. We're going from the summer cold of Scotland to the brutal heat of Spain. I know, layers, but I'm worried I won't have the space. On the plus side we are staying in Airbnbs that will often have a washing machine. Has anyone done a similar trip?

Posted by
21167 posts

Not that exact trip but similar. That is the whole concept behind layers. We have been in Scotland in September and I would not call it summer cold but a bit cool when the wind was blowing but my rain jacket handled that nicely. Didn't need anything beyond one long sleeve shirt and windbreaker/rain jacket. I would focus more on the Spanish side since it looks like you will be there longer. And if you misjudge the Scotland side, you can always pick up a nice new sweater in Scotland.

Posted by
8203 posts

For just 5 nights in Scotland I’d get by with 1 pr long pants (which I’d wear on the plane) then have 4 or 5 SS tee shirts, 1 long sleeve dri-fit shirt to layer and a waterproof jacket. I’d probably need to add a sunshirt for Spain and 2 pr of capri length bottoms. I’d want all the shirts to go with all the bottoms.

I’m not a dress or skirt gal so that can complicate things if that was your wardrobe plan for Spain.

I also only wear Altra brand athletic shoes for travel so I’d have the same shoes for both locations. You could probably do a closed toe athletic shoe plus a hiking sandal if your feet get hot.

Have you ever looked at the wonderful capsule wardrobe suggestions from Janice at The Vivienne Files blog? She has great color suggestions. I’m pretty sure I remember her doing something like Greece and Norway for the same trip so you might pick up some hints if I am remembering correctly. Her suggestions do tend to be dressier and more expensive than my retired rural lifestyle calls for but she always has basics from Lands End and LLBean which work for me.

Editing to add a link to The Vivienne Files packing wardrobes page. I don’t see the one I was thinking of with just a quick scan but there is plenty to work with.

Fun trip!

Posted by
18746 posts

I am female. You're doing the reverse of my 2019 trip, though mine was longer. It began on April 9 in Spain and reached Scotland (for 26 days) in July; in between Spain and Scotland I was in western France including potentially cool, damp Brittany. There were a couple of cold days (upper 30s in the AM) in northern Andalucía during the second week of April. It was not even close to that cold in Scotland, but I did get rained on a lot (though the east was a lot drier than the west). That's the weather gods for you.

I am extremely cold-natured and don't travel carry-on only. I packed/wore 3 pairs of slacks and 5 tops suitable for moderate-to-hot weather and added the following:

2 pairs of merino wool long john bottoms (used together 2x in Spain)
1 merino wool long john top
1 light fleece jacket
1 waterproof, hooded rain jacket/windbreaker
1 packable down jacket (never used)
2 pairs of merino wool socks in addition to regular socks
waterproof shoes (no extra pair)
good-quality collapsible umbrella

The double long johns would have been overkill for anyone else and not worth the space, but I was glad to have them. They were not the same weight, so they provided an extra option for matching the weather. They were most useful on wet days, when they helped keep me dry. Just about every chilly day I encountered was also wet.

The most useful item in my suitcase (thanks to a suggestion from this forum) was a pair of 97% or 98% nylon slacks. Mine are by PrAna, but there are other sources, including Columbia. The Columbia version is not as heavy and seems to wrinkle more. Those slacks were somewhat water repellant (not totally waterproof) and kept me totally comfortable when worn with the merino long johns. On hot days they were about as comfortable as any slacks I've used in Europe. On my next trip I will take two pairs. On trips with appreciable time in sure-to-be-hot places, I like to have one pair of super-lightweight 100% cotton pants. I buy mine at street markets in Europe; they are approximately pajama-weight. I'm not sure they're any more comfortable than the PrAnas, though.

I think you'll be able to fit what you need in a carry-on bag. The reason I don't do that is that I have to take 4-1/2 months' worth of pills (6 lb.), and much of my voluminous travel literature is paper-based. I never have access to a washing machine; I sink wash. A compression cube or two will help.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all for the help! These are great suggestions. I will check out that blog as it sounds like it is right up my alley.

Posted by
3862 posts

Totally about the layers. Acraven is a great packer. I'm on the other end of the "comfort" scale. I hate to be hot. To me, when I'm outdoors and sightseeing that is probably 88F and above especially if there is humidity. As people have said, its all about the layers. For a man, I'd recommend at least one pair of pants with zip off legs. For myself, I really prefer leggings to long underwear. And I also bring two pairs of leggings (capri and full length) and have at times worn both at the same time. Then I bring a skirt or two, a short sleeved dress and a tunic top. I bring a tighter fitting long sleeve top that can go under the dress and the tunic. I like a light weight fleece pullover. It's light, packs small and can be balled up in a day pack or around my waist. I sometimes wear leggings under my pants or under dresses and skirts for extra warmth, and if the day warms up, I can pull off the leggings. For warm weather clothing in addition to the skirts/dress, I usually have one pair of really lightweight linen pull on pants.

I've not been to Scotland but I know it can be cool and rainy, that's about what we just experienced for a few days in Italy. I was happy to have a thin knit hat and gloves. On rainy days, I wore my leggings with a tunic and brought along rain pants. I like to have a sun visor that I also use under the hood of my raincoat. An unlined raincoat with a fleece pullover is remarkably warm. I also use my raincoat as a windbreaker/general jacket.

People seem to love the Allbirds sneakers and they've come out with a waterproof style called Mizzles. They are on my Christmas list. I HATE wet feet. I did have a couple pairs of performance type athletic socks, that I could wash and dry overnight. I wished I had at least one pair of wool socks for the cooler, rainy days.

I can't stress enough the layering. A few years ago, I spent a month in Europe with my college aged daughters--end of December thru end of January. We started in Barcelona/Cataluna where it was sunny and 60F went on to Vienna where it was a chilly, windy 30F, then to Switzerland where it was about 10F in Berner Oberland and ended in Paris where it was about 40F. We all had carry on rolling suitcases. Some days I wore every layer I had, but I had an option for virtually any condition. We washed our clothes in the sink/shower. Best Wishes on your trip!