What To Pack for Spain in the Fall: Travel Packing Tips
Fall is a wonderful time to visit Spain. The hordes of summer tourists have gone, and hotel prices have started to plummet. With the change in season comes a change in wardrobe. Temperatures vary by region but, generally speaking, the weather transitions from warm to mild to cold. If you’re wondering what to pack for Spain in the fall, you’re in the right place. I will break down things to take on a Spain trip in the autumn season and things to leave at home.
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No matter what season you’re visiting Spain, do your best to pack light. In the fall, you’ll need to take heavier clothing with you – coats, jackets, boots – so it’s even more important to be selective about what you pack. Keep it simple. If you don’t plan to stay for 4 weeks or longer, I’d advise you travel with only a carry-on backpack and a purse.
When it comes to what luggage to take with you to Spain, a backpack is a much better choice than a suitcase, duffle bag, or roller bag. You’ll find that a lot of accommodations in Spain, including hotels, don’t have elevators. Save yourself the hassle of hauling a suitcase up several flights of stairs. Here’s a breakdown of the luggage I typically take with me everytime I visit Spain:
- My trusty Cabin Zero carry-on backpack – I put my clothes, shoes, towels, and electronics here. Read my complete review of the Cabin Zero 36 L carry-on backpack.
- A small backpack – contains my toiletries, books, makeup, and medications
- A small leather purse – for casual days out, going to grab a bite, and sightseeing. I stuff this in my carry-on so I don’t exceed the airline baggage limit.
In the early part of fall, from September to about halfway through October, you can still wear summer clothes. You can get away with tank tops, shorts, and spaghetti straps. At this time of the year, temperatures fluctuate between hot and mild. It’s in late October that the weather starts to get cold.
By December, snow starts to fall in cities located at higher altitudes, like Madrid and Bilbao. Accordingly, you will want to wear layers to stay warm so pack t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, and cardigans to wear under your jacket. Two layers of clothing are normally sufficient to keep you warm. Also, pack one or two thick coats for the coldest days.
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Minimalist is the way to go
If you plan to visit Spain anytime between late October and late December, then you should definitely pack jackets, sweaters, thick socks, scarves, and other warm clothing. Stick to dark colors like navy, black, and brown if you don’t want to stand out as a tourist. In addition, keep in mind that the Spanish dress code is very casual and minimalist. Here’s a rough breakdown of the types of clothes you should pack for your fall getaway to Spain (excluding undergarments and socks.)
- Denim, polyester, nylon, and/or wool pants (25%)
- Cardigans and sweaters (25%)
- Long-sleeved shirts (15%)
- Jackets and coats (10%)
- Blouses (10%)
- Boots and tennis shoes (5%)
- Long dresses (5%)
- T-shirts and tank tops (3%)
- Scarves (2%)
Now what fall accessories should you wear in Spain? It depends on what activities you plan to do as well as what specific regions you’re visiting. If you’re just going to visit places like Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla, you won’t need earmuffs or gloves. However, if you plan to hike the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you’ll definitely need both. That said, there are items you should take no matter what destination in Spain you’re traveling to: a scarf and an umbrella.
- Scarf or shawl – a cashmere scarf that you can wear different ways would be a great addition to your travel wardrobe. It will help you keep warm while also looking cute. You can also pack a shawl if you want to cover up more.
- Gloves – Take gloves just in case. A wool pair is fine. They won’t take up much space in your carry-on so there’s no harm if you end up not using them.
- Hat or Beanie – This one is debatable. You’ll almost never see Spanish people wearing beanies or caps. Wearing one will scream ‘I’m a tourist!’ That said, wear what will keep you warm and what your like.
- Earmuffs – Mountainous cities in the center and north of Spain experience occasional snowfall. That, combined with wind chill, can make for quite a cold experience. Protect your ears with some fluffy earmuffs. A hoodie can also do the trick.
- Belt – I know not everyone wears belt, but if you do take one that solid color. A solid black or brown would best coordinate with all your clothes.
- Umbrella – take an umbrella because it rains more in Spain during the fall. You may also consider packing a waterproof rain jacket if you’re traveling to Galicia or the Basque Country. These regions are like the Pacific Northwest region in America. They receive a tremendous amount of rain.
Leather boots and tennis shoes are the way to go. You can get away with flats in early September and maybe even October. However, if you visit from November onwards, then definitely pack more boots and tennis shoes than flats, sandals, and stilettos.
Virtually all Spanish cities, from Valencia to Sevilla to, are walkable so make sure you pack comfortable walking shoes. Here is a breakdown of the shoes I’d recommend you pack. You by no means need to pack all of these; the first two listed are sufficient.
- Comfortable tennis shoes for walking and sightseeing
- Knee-length leather boots for rainy or very cold days
- Ankle boots for going out in the afternoon
- Dressy flats for going out at night
- Flip flops for walking around the bathroom
Of course, you can find deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste in Spain, but you might not get so lucky with hair products. You’d have to do some searching to find things like black hair products or Asian makeup. Save yourself the dilemma and make sure to pack all your toiletries.
- Deodorant and/or antiperspirant – I use Sweatblock, an antiperspirant you use overnight to fight excessive sweating
- Medication – definitely don’t forget these!
- Tampons – You can find tampons in Spain too, but they tend to be more expensive than in the US.
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Soap or body wash
- Hair brush
- Face wash
- Makeup remover
- Makeup bag
- Lotion or shea butter
Toiletries to leave at home (unless absolutely necessary)
- Hair dryer
- Shaving cream
- Nail polish
- Nail polish remover
- Curling iron
Electronics are more expensive in Spain (and Europe in general.) If you buy a gadget that needs to be charged, it will come with a different type of wall plug. Bring all the electronics you need to avoid these issues. Here’s a breakdown of electronics you would find useful while traveling in Spain:
- Cell phone – if you have an international plan, great. If not, you can also purchase portable wifi or a local SIM card. Portable wifi is better unless you plan to stay abroad for a couple of months or longer.
- Portable wifi – I’ve been using the Tep Wireless portable wifi for my travels. It’s reliable and works great in Europe. It didn’t work in Morocco, but that’s going to change with their new upgrades. If you’d like to buy one, use code SOMTOSEEKS to get a 10% discount.
- International adapter – I’ve been using the same Newvanga international adapterfor 5 years! I use it to plug my electronics into different types of sockets in other countries. This adapter works in 150 countries.
- Camera – you could just use your phone but I always recommend the Nikon D3400 camera for beginner photographers. The features are easy to navigate, and the quality of the photos is superb.
- Noise-proof headphones – I swear by the Sony noise canceling headphones I purchased in Japan last year. The sound quality is way better than Beats, which I think is a waste of money.
- Moovit app – don’t let Google maps send you wandering around the city – it’s not that great for finding directions in Spain. Download the Moovit app. It’s available for both iOs and Itunes and it’s completely free!
- Lonely Planet Spanish Guides – Lonely Planet makes some detailed, informative travel guides and the one for Spain is no exception. They cover the highlights of all the neighborhoods in every city. If you want to learn what to eat, see, and do in Spain, you can also check out my Spain Bucket List series!
- Penguin Spanish Phrase Book – all the basic, essential Spanish you need to express common desires and questions.
- GPSmyCity app – this app gives you access to self-guided walking tours in top Spanish cities like Madrid and Barcelona.
Other items to consider
- A combination padlock to keep your luggage safe if you plan to stay in a shared space. A combination padlock works better because you don’t have to worry about losing the key. You just need to memorize the combination.
- A coin-purse for change – in Spain, you’ll find yourself paying for a lot of things with coins. There’s both a 1 Euro an a 2 Euro coin in addition to Euro Cent coins. When you buy something with a larger bill, you’ll likely get back a ton of coins. Because of that, it helps to have a coin purse. Euro coins are heavier than quarters, dimes, and nickels so they will weigh down your wallet if you put them there.
- A pair of earplugs if you’re a light sleeper. At 30,000 feet, the engine noise can keep you awake. Tune out the noise so you can get some good sleep.
Great article! Where can I get my hair done in bilbao spain (black woman)
That’s a good question. When I lived in Bilbao, I did my own hair (weaves) so I’m not too familiar with black hair salons. I know they exist though. There are some Dominican immigrants who run hair salons in immigrant neighborhoods, especially an area called San Francisco. My best recommendation would be for you to do your own hair. I don’t know how good the black hair salons are.
Really one of the best post, it was very useful
Hi Selene, thanks so much for the feedback! I’m glad you found the post helpful.