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Packing for Europe in 1966

Forget your travel stereotypes about the Swinging Sixties. To the parents of North America's hippie generation, packing for Europe was more about suitcases and foundation garments than backpacks or tie-dyed t-shirts.

AAA Planning Guide to Europe 1966 book cover 

ABOVE: In 1966, the "Little Red Book" wasn't just a compilation of quotations from Chairman Mao.

Mention the topic of "North American travel to Europe in the 1960s" to most people, and you'll conjure up images of backpackers, youth hostels, Icelandic Airlines, and the Let's Go Guides. But it's worth remembering that the parents of the rucksack and Kelty Pack generation also traveled to Europe, and their tastes ran more to Temple Fielding and Harry's Bar than VW microbuses or Amsterdam coffeeshops.

Then, as now, packing advice was a staple of travel literature. For middle-aged, upper middle-class travelers from the U.S. and Canada, "packing" meant squeezing bulky woolen and cotton dress clothing into unwheeled suitcases.

Some of the packing advice from those days seems downright quaint now, as we recently discovered when we ran across a dusty old copy of the AAA Planning Guide to Europe from 1966. This guidebook for clients of AAA World-Wide Travel included a section titled "Your travel wardrobe" with a variety of useful hints.

For women:

"A suit is practically a must--a tweed or flannel stands up well."

"If your coat isn't waterproof, by all means include one of the plastic kind that folds into a little envelope. Should you be going in winter, substitute a warmer coat, but don't even think of taking a fur coat. It will be a nuisance to carry around at any season. A fur stole or cape, on the other hand, is nice for shipboard use and as evening wrap ashore."

"Unless you expect to spend some time at one of the very fashionable summer resorts on the Continent or are going to be entertained formally, you will not need a long evening dress. One or two cocktail dresses will be enough for theaters and dining at hotels and restaurants."

"Hats are a matter of personal taste....One of the little face 'chapel veils' or a lace mantilla serves nicely for church wear and is easily carried in your handbag."

BELOW: We think (but can't be sure) that the AAA Planning Guide's photo caption was meant to be tongue in cheek. 

Photo from AAA Planning Guide to Europe 1966

For men:

"A man's wardrobe is easier to assemble. Two suits, one dark for evening, a sport jacket and pair of slacks and a topcoat that will double as a raincoat are the basics."

"Add a half dozen ties, the same of socks and a dozen handkerchiefs, plus your toilet needs."

"Formal wear is not needed unless you are going first class by ship, and in that case you can, if you wish, leave a suitcase with the streamship line, to be returned to you for the voyage home. A few of London's nicest restaurants, especially those with dancing, do require a dinner jacket, and so do some of the very smart Continental casinos on gala evenings. They may be worn as a matter of choice in the better supper clubs."

"If you wear a hat at home take it along, of course, but if you're the hatless type you won't need one overseas either."

"Many men like a cap for shipboard wear. Straws of any kind are impractical for travel.For shipboard in warm weather you'll need shorts and sport shirts, but remember that the gay 'Aloha' type isn't popular in Europe."

Packing pointers:

"Two medium-size cases, plus a small overnight bag, should serve you well."

"Fold your extra foundation garment in half lengthwise and put at the bottom of the smaller case. Then add your slips, nighties, and last of all your travel robe. Pack crush-proof slippers in the back of the smaller case."

"Hosiery, gloves and handkerchiefs should be put into individual plastic bags to protect them from snagging or becoming separated....Jewelry should be packed in a separate box and placed in the front of the same case."


AAA Planning Guide to Europe, AAA World-Wide Travel, Inc. (now AAA Travel), New York, 1966.