Europe Packing List
I know that choosing what to pack for your trip to Europe can be stressful, so we’ve put together an Europe packing list that will help take the stress out of travel. This packing guide for Europe will cover everything from clothes and luggage to electronics and toiletries. This Europe packing guide will also have specific sections for summer travel and winter travel.
Europe Packing List Article Index
This Europe packing list is very extensive, so you may want to use the links below to jump to the specific sections you’re most interested in reading about.
- Tips for Choosing the Right Luggage
- Where to Purchase Luggage and Travel Backpacks
- How Keep Your Bag Organized
- General Tips For Packing Light
- Travel Underwear
- Socks For Traveling
- Shoes For Traveling Europe
- Shirts and Tops For Travel
- Pants and Bottoms For Travel
- Outerwear Travel
- Fashion Accessories For Travel
- Winter Travel Clothing
Ok, now on to the Europe packing list!
Before you can start packing you’ll need to first know what kind of luggage you’re going to use. There are generally two choices when it comes to luggage — wheeled suitcases and travel backpacks. Each style has its own benefits and disadvantages, and you should decide carefully which is best for your travel style.
Before we talk about what type of luggage to choose I wanted to mention the benefits of packing light. I know it can be incredibly tough, and I still struggle with it — even after multiple trips to Europe. Nevertheless, it is still something to keep in mind when you’re starting to create your packing list. The benefits to traveling light are immense, and you’ll be thankful you don’t have a 50lb suitcase when you’re traversing the numerous stairs, narrow train isles, and other luggage unfriendly parts of Europe.
I always prefer to travel with a single piece of carry-on sized luggage, so I don’t have to worry about paying extra for checked luggage or risking the airlines losing my bag. However, I understand that not everyone wants to pack light enough to only need a carry-on bag. That said, I still suggest being very conscious about what you bring and to ask yourself if you’ll use the item you’re packing more than once or twice.
Ok, on to the luggage…
The standard suitcase with wheels is still the most popular style of luggage for traveling Europe. They offer a lot of benefits, but they’re not always right for everyone.
Benefits to Wheeled Luggage
- Weight Isn’t a Huge Concern — Since you’re wheeling the bag around you don’t have to worry too much about weight. However, don’t go overboard because you’ll still need to actually lift your suitcase once it is fully packed.
- Easy on Your Back — Not everyone can strap on a heavy backpack so in this case it makes more sense to use a rolling suitcase.
- Rugged — A quality suitcase can take a bit more punishment than a backpack because they’re designed to be thrown around a bit.
- Good for Door-to-Door Travel — If you plan on mainly taking taxis from your hotel to the airport/train station then traveling with a suitcase makes sense.
Disadvantages of Wheeled Luggage
- Stairs and Cobblestone — Wheeled luggage is great on flat surfaces but it becomes unwieldy on stairs and cobblestone streets. Most hotels in Europe will probably have an elevator, but some hotels or rental apartments might only be accessible via stairs.
- Crowded Public Transportation — It is important to realize that not all public transportation in Europe has escalators or elevators. A large suitcase can be a huge hassle if you have to lug it up a bunch of stairs. Additionally, public transportation tends to be crowded, so pulling a big suitcase through a mob of busy people can be difficult.
- Not Hands-Free — You’ll lose the ability to use both hands — which will impact the ease of travel. Two hands are better than one… trust me.
What To Look For In A Wheeled Suitcase
- Hard-Shell or Soft Bag — Soft sided bags tend to hold up better than hard-shell bags and they also fit into overhead bins much easier because they’re more flexible. They can be thrown around without much chance of major damage. Hard-shell bags are normally much lighter than soft bags but there is a larger chance the bag could crack. However, a hard-shell bag will keep the things inside your bag safer since it has more structure — so a hardshell might be best if you’re traveling with a lot of fragile things.
- Sturdy Wheels — A lot of cheaper wheeled luggage has flimsy wheels that will get eaten up by the cobblestone streets. Additionally, I tend to avoid the spinner suitcases (the ones with four wheels) because those wheels don’t seem as sturdy as the two-wheel suitcases — but that is just personal preference.
- Size — If you’re planning on using your bag as a carry-on, be sure it is within the size requirements. If you’re going to take flights throughout Europe check each airline’s carry-on luggage size guidelines because they can differ among airlines.
- Color — Most people tend to buy black suitcases so they all tend to look alike. Having a different color bag will help you recognize your bag more quickly. If you do have a black bag I always suggest using a distinctive luggage tag or a luggage strap to help prevent other people from accidentally taking your bag (it happens more often than you think).
- Sturdy Handles — You’ll be using the handles of your suitcase quite a lot. It is one of the things that seem to break often so be sure they’re robust enough to take a beating.
Travel backpacks are the top choice of many 20-something and 30-something travelers. Here is an article with more information about our favorite travel backpacks.
Benefits to Travel Backpacks
- Mobility — You’ll easily make your way through crowded streets and public transportation since all your stuff is on your back.
- Hands Free — Traveling with two free hands makes your life much easier and enjoyable.
- Stairs and Streets — You won’t have to worry about stairs or cobblestone streets with a backpack.
- Less Stress — I find that my stress level goes down when I use a backpack since I don’t have to worry about knowing where my stuff is.
Disadvantages of Travel Backpacks
- Uncomfortable if Overloaded — A travel backpack can become uncomfortable if you overpack it. If you simply can’t pack light then you might want to consider a suitcase.
- Checked Luggage — If you have to check your backpack when flying you must be cautions because the conveyor belts can sometimes tear off straps from your backpack. You’ll have to take extra precautions when checking your bag (or get a backpack that has stowable straps).
- Must Fit Well — It is important to get a backpack that fits well. If not, it can quickly become uncomfortable.
- More Difficult to Pack — Most modern travel backpacks open up like a standard suitcase so they’re easy to pack, but some ‘hiking’ style bags only open from the top. These hiking backpacks are more difficult to pack, so I don’t recommend buying that style.
What Features To Look For In A Travel Backpack
I’ve already written an in-depth guide for choosing the right backpack for Europe. I recommend reading that guide as it will answer any questions you might have. Also check out our favorite travel backpacks for Europe.
There are a lot of places to purchase luggage and travel backpacks. Here are a few of my favorites:
- eBags.com — eBags is one of the largest online retailers of luggage and they pretty much have everything you can imagine. They usually have free shipping or other deals so be sure to check them out. Additionally, eBags also manufactures their own line of luggage which get pretty good reviews and they’re priced competitively.
- Amazon — Amazon has everything — including luggage. If you find something you like I’d recommend looking on Amazon to see how their prices compare.
- Zappos — Zappos has much more than just shoes — they also sell a pretty good selection of suitcases and travel backpacks. Their prices are sometimes a bit higher then other stores, but their free super-fast shipping and dead-simple returns are often worth the extra cost.
- REI — REI has an ok selection of luggage, but their selection of travel backpacks is pretty good.
- Moosejaw — Another place to check out for backpacks. Much like REI, Moosejaw is an outdoor store, so you’ll find a better selection of travel backpacks than luggage.
- Sierra Trading Post — Sierra Trading Post has a lot of good closeout sales so you might be able to get a deal on some luggage.
- Discount Stores — Check stores like TJ Maxx or Marshalls for luggage because they often have discounted suitcases there.
You’ve got all this stuff in your bags but how do you keep it all organized? Here are a few things that will help:
No packing list for Europe is complete without packing cubes. Packing cubes are super handy for keeping all your clothes organized. Plus, they also help minimize wrinkles. Simply roll up your clothes and place then into the packing cubes. I like to separate items into different cubes — so I’ll put socks in one, underwear in another, and shirt in another. Packing cubes come in multiple sizes and materials. Some people put all their clothes in cube, but some just do smaller items like underwear, socks, t-shirts, etc.
There are a few different companies that make packing cubes:
- Eagle Creek packing cubes are about $8-$18 each depending on the size (via Amazon). They also have new ultra-light Specter packing cubes (see my personal review here) that costs $38 for a set of three (via Amazon).
- eBags also makes packing cubes that get a lot of good reviews. They are normally sold in a set of three and run about $16-$25 (via Amazon).
- Other brands include Rick Steves and Kiva.
Packing folders are much like packing cubes, but they’re made for pants and button-up shirts. Here is a video from Eagle Creek that explains how a packing folder works. It does take a little extra work to go through packing your clothes but it really does help reduce wrinkles.
Eagle Creek is the leader when it comes to packing folders. The folders range from about $16-$25 depending on size (via Amazon).
Hanging Toiletry Bag
A toiletry bag is essential for keeping all your toiletries contained. I always recommend getting a toiletry bag that can be hung up because you won’t always have a lot of sink space in these tiny European bathrooms. There are a bunch of different bags available on Amazon but here are a few popular bags:
- The Ogio Doppler Kit gets a ton of positive reviews and can be found for under $20 (via Amazon).
- The Lewis N Clark Hanging Toiletry Case is another popular choice that is also under $20 (via Amazon).
- The Davidsbeenhere Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag gets a lot of good reviews, but it is a bit big. It runs for about $25 (via Amazon).
- Again, don’t spend too much. Just find something that will work. If nothing else you can use a plastic bag.
Other Helpful Organization Aids
- The Grid-It Organizer looks like a great way to keep all those electronics in order. It costs about $15-$20 (via Amazon).
- A Compression Stuff Sack is nice for keeping dirty clothes away from your clean clothes and it serves as a good bag for doing laundry. Multiple companies make them and they run from about $10-$40 depending on the size (via Amazon).
- Ziploc bags come in handy for storing multiple things and keeping liquids from spilling over all your stuff (I like to keep my passport in a plastic bag for safe keeping). Ziploc makes multiple sizes of bags, so I like to pack multiple bags just in case I ever need one. There is even a three gallon bag that works well for storing an extra pair of shoes so you don’t get your clothes dirty.
- Humangear GoToob Travel Bottles are probably the best travel bottles for shampoo and other liquids/gels. They get a ton of great reviews, but they are a bit pricey. Be sure to check out their website for a list of liquids that they’re not compatible with. A three pack cost about $17-$25 depending on the size of the bottles (via Amazon).
The majority of the weight in your luggage will come from your clothes, so the easiest way to lighten your load is through cutting the amount of clothing you bring — pretty simple, huh? Of course, this is easier said than done as a lot of us struggle with knowing what clothes to pack. This section of the Europe packing list will have advice on what kind of clothes to pack and I’ll give you some general tips for packing light. This guide will also have some packing tips for all seasons (summer, fall, winter and spring).
- Coordinate Colors For Maximum Efficiency — Ideally, each article of clothing you bring should be able to be paired with any other item you pack. The idea here is that you can mix multiple items to create different outfits. If you have a top that only looks good with a single pair of pants, then you might want to reconsider bringing that item. While it might be a bit boring, it is usually easiest to pack mostly dark colors since they’re the easiest to coordinate. Additionally, dark colors do a better job a hiding stains than light colors.
- Avoid Single Use Clothes — Don’t bring anything that you’ll probably only wear one time because it isn’t worth lugging it around for your entire trip. Choose pieces that can be worn in a variety of occasions.
- High Maintenance is No Good — You’re going to be wearing your clothes a lot so you want things that can take a bit of punishment. You should also avoid clothes that are dry clean only because you probably don’t want to spend your hand earned vacation looking for a dry cleaner.
- Accessorize — You’ll probably get tired of wearing the same thing all the time, so throwing in a few accessories (hats, scarves, sun glasses, etc.) is a good way to change up your outfit.
- Buy Clothes as You Travel — I know a lot of travelers who only bring the bare minimum of clothing and then buy new stuff as they need it.
Having the right underwear can make a huge difference while you’re traveling and that is why I’m super picky about what I bring. I choose to spend a little extra to buy quality underwear that’s designed for travel. When you’re looking for underwear, look for the following things:
- Fast Air Drying – The best travel underwear is made from high-tech synthetic materials or fine merino wool that air-dries very quickly. This allows you to wash your underwear in the hotel/hostel sink and then have it completely dry in the morning. Additionally, since you can wash your underwear easily it means that you don’t need to bring as many pairs. Cotton, on the other hand, can take well over 24 hours to air dry — which makes it a pretty poor choice when it comes to underwear.
- Breathable – Synthetic materials and fine merino wool are both very breathable and they wick moisture away from your skin. Dry = comfortable. Cotton does the exact opposite — it retains sweat and it leads to that “swampy” feeling we’ve all experienced.
- Side Note: Breathability is still very important in cold weather. You still sweat when it’s cold and that sweat will quickly give you a chill — even when you have winter clothes on.
- Odor Control – The best travel underwear does a good job at helping manage odors. Cheaper synthetic underwear will start to smell pretty quickly, but the higher quality synthetic fabrics will do a better job. I’ve found that fine merino does the best job of stopping odors.
The number of pairs you bring is a personal preference. Personally, I don’t like washing my underwear every night so I bring five or six pairs, but you could conceivably get away with two pairs (if you don’t mind washing often).
The best travel underwear are made by ExOfficio — they get a ton of great reviews on Amazon. They are so great for travel because they’re super breathable, they repel odor so you can wear them a few times without washing, and they dry very quickly so they can be washed in the sink. They do tend to be more expensive than normal underwear, but most experienced travelers swear by them.
ExOfficio has a fairly wide range of underwear styles available and they’re priced anywhere from $8-$20/pair (depending on style and color):
- ExOfficio Bikini Briefs
- ExOfficio Boy Cut Brief
- ExOfficio String Bikini
- Exofficio Thong
- ExOfficio Lacy Low Rise Bikini
- ExOfficio Lacy Thong
- ExOfficio Lacy Bikini
Patagonia also makes some really nice underwear that is great for travel. They get good reviews for being comfortable. The Patagonia underwear won’t dry quite as quickly as ExOfficios, but they still dry quickly. Patagonia stuff is always high quality, but it also comes at a price — these normally cost about $20/pair.
Bring a 2 or 3 comfortable bras. You may also want to bring a quality sports bra for those long travel days.
Sheer pantyhose and leggings are super fashionable in Europe, and it is a great way to add a little something extra to shorts, skirts, and dresses.
ExOfficio Give-N-Go underwear are the most popular underwear for travelers (read my personal review here) and their boxer briefs have over 1200 reviews on Amazon. I wear mine even when I’m not traveling because they are pretty damn comfortable. ExOfficios are great because they breathe well, inhibit odor, and they air dry super quick so they can be washed in the sink. ExOfficio offers a few different styles and they cost between $15-$25/pair (via Amazon). They’ve also just released their new Give-n-Go Sport boxer briefs that look really nice. They cost $30 (via Amazon)
Under Armour also makes their HeatGear underwear that performs similarly to the ExOfficios. They cost around $20/pair (via Amazon).
If you prefer using a natural fiber I suggest merino wool. The SmartWool Microweight boxer briefs are really nice and will keep you cool and dry. They usually run about $48 so they’re on the expensive side.
It might not be exciting, but a quality pair of socks will make a world of difference when you’ve traveling. I always prefer quality wool socks. And no, I’m not talking about the cheap itchy wool socks that most of us are familiar with. I’m talking about high-quality wool socks. Lightweight wool socks are great in the summer because they’ll actually keep your feet cool and dry. Heavier-weight socks are good for traveling in the winter because they’ll keep your feet warm and dry. Quality socks are expensive, but they’ll last for a long time if you take care of them. There are also synthetic socks that work well and are cheaper than wool, but they’re not quite as good as wool. Look for socks that are:
- Moisture-Wicking – As you walk your feet will sweat and a good pair of socks will draw moisture away from your feet. Keeping your feet dry will help eliminate odor and will also help stop blisters.
- Quick Drying – A lot of good wool and synthetic socks can be washed in the sink and will dry overnight (about 6-8 hours).
- Odor Eliminating – High-quality wool is naturally odor resistant. Some synthetic socks have special anti-bacterial features that help eliminate odor, but they’re not as good as wool.
- Avoid Cotton! – Cotton is a terrible choice when it comes to socks. Cotton traps moisture and dries very slowly — this will lead to blisters and smelly feet. Additionally, cotton socks will take a long time to air dry (24+ hours) so it is much more difficult to wash them in the sink.
A good pair of socks can be worn 2-3 times before they start to stink (although you’ll want to rotate the days you wear each pair). For a more in-depth article about the wonderful world of socks check out our favorite socks for travel.
- SmartWool Socks – SmartWool socks are great and I wear them even when I’m not traveling. They make socks for nearly all activities — hiking, skiing, walking, running, casual, etc. SmartWool also makes Hide and Seek Socks and Secret Sleuth Socks which are great “no show” socks.
- Darn Tough Socks – Darn Tough socks are known for being super durable — they’re guaranteed for life. Plus they’re made in Vermont.
- Wigwam Socks – Another quality brand that is worth checking out.
- Thorlo – If you’re on a budget then Thorlo makes quality socks that are reasonably priced.
- SmartWool Socks — SmartWool socks are great and I wear them even when I’m not traveling. They make socks for nearly all activities — hiking, skiing, walking, running, casual, etc. These ultralight micro socks are great for the summer.
- Icebreaker Socks — Icebreaker is another brand that has great 100% merino wool socks. They are super high quality and will last for a long time.
- Darn Tough Socks — Darn Tough socks are known for being super durable — they’re guaranteed for life. Plus they’re made in Vermont.
- Wigwam Soccks – Worth checking out.
- Thorlo — If you’re looking for a cheaper sock that still performs well then check out Thorlo. They’re not as good as some of the socks listed above but they’re not bad.
Choosing the best shoes for traveling in Europe seems to cause people a great amount of stress. It usually boils down to trying to find a pair of shoes that are both fashionable and comfortable. I HIGHLY suggest choosing comfort over fashion. You will be on your feet all day so you need a sturdy pair of shoes for sightseeing. And trust me, once your feet start hurting, your entire day (or trip) will be ruined. This doesn’t mean you have to throw fashion out the window, but if you can’t comfortably walk a few miles in a pair of shoes, then you shouldn’t even consider bringing them.
It is also important to match your shoe choice to your environment. For example, you may want to consider a waterproof shoe if you’re traveling to notoriously rainy/snowy locations. You don’t need heavy duty hiking boots if you’re spending all your time in cities.
I suggest bringing a maximum of two pairs of shoes. Shoes are heavy and bulky so multiple pairs will take up a lot of space and add a lot of weight. Ideally, both pairs should be practical and comfortable. Do make sure you bring cheap flip-flops if you stay in hostels — who knows what goes on in those showers.
Be sure to break in your shoes before you travel. Trust me on this one. So many people start off their trip abroad in a brand new pair of shoes and start to develop blisters. Another option for adding extra comfort is to use insoles. Superfeet insoles get a lot of great reviews, but there are a lot of other brands available.
We’ve put together a list of our favorite travel shoes and boots and the article goes in-depth into choosing the perfect travel shoes. I suggest you check it out.
This list of tops is separated into women’s and men’s. This is just a general guideline on what type of shirts and tops to pack. If you’re an ultralight traveler, you’ll probably want to pack less that what is listed below, but if you’re not too concerned about traveling light, then you’ll probably pack a little more.
- Four or Five Shirts — A mixture of short and long sleeve tops is ideal. Remember to dress for the weather, but also realize that it can get cool at night during the summer. Bring a mixture of casual and dressy tops so you can mix and match.
- Light Sweater/Cardigan — Even during the summer temperatures don’t always get really hot (although they can). In Paris the average high temperature in June is around 72. That’s why it is a good idea to bring a light sweater or a cardigan.
- One or Two Dresses — Look for a versatile lightweight dress that can be worn casual or dressed up.
- T-shirts and Tank Tops — Sometimes you just want to wear a t-shirt so be sure to bring a few. Just pick whatever you’re comfortable wearing. The ExOfficio Lacy Shelf Bra Cami is a nice undershirt or sleep shirt. It is super lightweight, breathable and it will air-dry overnight so it is easy to wash in the sink.
- Button-Up Shirts (3 or 4) — Casual button-up shirts are probably the safest bet when it comes to a shirt. They are more dressy than a t-shirt but they can still be casual. Plus, you can unbutton it a bit to allow for extra air flow. It is up to you to choose whether to get long or short sleeves — but long sleeves is the most versatile because you can just roll up the sleeves when it is warm.
- T-shirts (3 or 4) — While lightweight button-up shirts are probably the most versatile, sometimes it is nice to just throw on a t-shirt. It is easiest to stick to solid color shirts but feel free to wear whatever you feel most comfortable wearing. These lightweight t-shirts from Icebreaker are great in the summer because they are super breathable.
- Sweaters (1 or 2) — A lightweight sweater is nice if you want to dress up a little or when the sun goes down and the temperature drops. Layer a sweater over a button-up shirt looks nice (so make sure all your button-ups match your sweater). Of course, if you’re traveling in the summer you probably don’t need to pack a sweater, but bring a few in the winter.
- Dark Skinny Jeans or Trousers (2 pairs) — A pair of dark skinny or slim fitting jeans is a must for traveling to Europe. Everyone wears jeans. We recommend dark jeans because they can be worn casually but they also look nice at night. Additionally, a well-fitting lightweight pair of trousers is another great option during the warmer months. If it ever gets cold it is a good idea to have a pair of lightweight micro-wool long underwear (aka base layer) under your jeans — SmartWool and Icebreaker are our favorite brands. We doubt you’ll need this for the summer, but you might use them a few times in the spring or fall.
- Capri Pants — Capri pants are nice option in warm weather.
- Skirts — Skirts are dressier than shorts, and they don’t take up much space so you can bring a few. Bring a mixture of short and longer skirts.
- Shorts — Shorts are starting to become more popular in Europe, so you won’t feel out of place wearing them. We recommend bringing a fashionable and well-fitting pair so you should stay away from ‘athletic’ shorts.
- Jeans — A pair of dark jeans is an essential for traveling in Europe. They look great during the day and they can be dressed up for night.
- Trousers — In addition to jeans, I recommend bringing a pair of lightweight pants. My favorite favorite travel pants are made by Bluff Works. These pants are lightweight, slim fitting, don’t wrinkle, and they look really sharp — most travel pants look terrible in urban environments. And they’re made in the US — which is nice. Check out the Bluff Works website for more information.
- Shorts — You won’t find many adult men wearing shorts in Europe, but it is starting to become more popular. If you choose to wear shorts keep in mind that you should wear something more fitted. Just don’t wear khaki cargo shorts because
that is a dead giveaway that you’re an American tourist.
- Long Underwear Base Layer — When the temperature drops it can be nice to have a lightweight base layer to go under your pants. Obviously you won’t need this in the summer, but they’re super nice during those cool nights. SmartWool and Icebreaker make our favorite high-quality base layers.
- Waterproof (or Water-Resistant) Jacket — The winter, spring and fall tend to be fairly rainy in much of Europe, so a rain jacket is a nice thing to have. Those of you traveling in the summer probably don’t need one — I’d opt for an umbrella in this case. There are many types of rain jackets available — from lightweight to heavy-duty. The Marmot Precip is a great lightweight rain jacket that is also pretty affordable. The Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket is nice and has a few more features than the Precip. Check out REI.com for a wide range of rain jackets.
- Breathability – The best rain jackets are “breathable.” This means it allows moisture (i.e. sweat) to escape so you don’t get all clammy and balmy. Jackets with this feature do cost a bit more than non-breathable jackets, but it makes wearing it much more comfortable. Just something to consider when making your purchase.
- Fleece Jacket — Fleece is a good material because it provides a lot of warmth without being bulky. A fleece can be worn as an outer layer or it can be layered under a rain jacket or winter coat to provide a lot of extra warmth. Our top choice is the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece (Men’s and Women’s) but there are plenty of great options a REI or Amazon.
- Scarf — Both European men and women wear scarves, so they’re a great way to look like a local and they add a little extra style to your wardrobe. You can always buy a few as you travel because they make a great souvenir.
- Sunglasses — Sunglasses are not only practical but they’re also a way to make a fashion statement. After living in Europe I noticed that Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses were a top choice of the truly fashionable.
The best way to stay warm while traveling Europe during the winter is by layering your clothes. We’ve written up an in-depth guide to dressing for winter in Europe so be sure to take a look. But here are the main points:
- Base Layer — A base layer is basically long underwear. This layer wicks sweat away from your skin and provides extra warmth. Base layers come in multiple weights — from super thin to very thick. The best base layers are made by SmartWool and Icebreaker, but there are plenty of other options available.
This list of helpful travel accessories will help make your travels in Europe more enjoyable.
Daypack For Daily Sightseeing
A small bag or purse is great for miscellaneous things (camera, souvenirs, rain jacket, guide books, etc.). I recommend getting a daypack that isn’t too large because a big bag will make your back hurt after wearing it for a few hours. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite daypacks. This list also includes some anti-theft backpacks — which are handy if you’re visiting areas know for pickpockets.
A quick drying towel is a must if you’re staying somewhere that doesn’t provide towels (i.e. hostels or maybe couchsurfing). These towels absorb a lot of liquid and they can air dry in a few hours. Note: Travel towels are much smaller than a normal towel. I suggest buying the large or XL size—especially if you have long hair.
It is always a good idea to have a flashlight when you travel. They’re essential if you’re staying in hostels, so you don’t wake up everyone in the room when you need to find something during the night. They are also nice for navigating dark streets, illuminating your luggage, or in case of a power outage. I love the Streamlight 73001 Nano Light Miniature Keychain LED Flashlight because it is super small (it fits on a keychain) but it provides a ton of light.
An eye mask is nice if you take a lot of planes or trains, or if you stay in hostels (some jerk will turn the lights on at 3am). Additionally, you’ll be glad you brought ear plugs if you stay in hostels because you’ll eventually share a room with someone who snores.
Journal or Notebook
I always carry a small notebook when I travel. They’re great for jotting down helpful information (directions, phone numbers, addresses, restaurants, etc.) or keeping track of your spending. Sometimes I’ll journal about what I did that day or just write about my thoughts — these honestly make some of the best souvenirs. I tend to always choose the classic Moleskine Notebook but Field Notes and Rhodia notebooks are also fine choices. Don’t forget to take a few pens.
I’d like to think that the sheets in my hotel or hostel bed are clean… but I know that won’t always be the case. If you don’t want to take the chance then consider bringing a sleep sheet (or sleep sack). The cheapest option is a cotton Sleep Sheet but they can be a bit bulky. Silk Sleep Sacks are not only lighter and less bulky, but they also feel great to sleep in.
It is important to keep hydrated as you travel so I like to bring a water bottle. A basic water bottle is perfectly fine, but if you’re looking to save space then the Platypus Soft Bottle is a great choice because it can be rolled up when empty.
When you wash your underwear and socks in the sink you’ll need a Travel Sink Stopper.
Travel Laundry Soap
Flexible Travel Clothesline
A rubber braided clothesline is a nice way to air dry anything you need to wash. Additionally, the braided clotheslines are ideal because they don’t require any clothespins—you just stick the clothes through the braids.
Tide To Go Stain Remover Pens are great for getting stains out of clothes. I used this way more than I thought I would have. They even have mini ones that are great for your daypack. These individually wrapped Shout Wipes also work really well and don’t take up a lot of space in your bag.
If you’re staying in a hostel then you’ll need a lock so you can secure your stuff in the lockers. I recommend the Master Lock Set-Your-Own-Combination Padlock because it allows you to set your own combo so it’s easier to remember.
Retractable cable locks are nice for securing your bag to your bunk or a luggage rack. They will deter a thief from running by and snatching your bag.
You never know when you’ll need to patch something. Don’t take a whole roll because it is too bulky — A neat trick is to wrap the tape around a pencil. They also sell travel duct tape if that is too much trouble.
Travel Alarm Clock
An alarm clock is essential because you don’t want to oversleep for those early morning flights and trains.
A digital luggage scale is great for avoiding those costly overweight luggage fees.
Photocopies Of Important Documents
Make copies (physical and electronic) of your passport and other important documents. I also recommend emailing them to yourself so you can access them from any computer with internet access.
Ziploc Bags (Multiple Sizes)
Plastic bags are a great way to store your dirty or wet socks/underwear so they don’t get mixed with your clean clothes. It is important to store any liquids in sealable plastic bags in case of a leak. In fact, double bag them. You don’t want to be one of the many travelers who discover shampoo covering all your clothes. For a bit of extra protection I recommend putting your important travel documents/passport in a plastic bag. The large 3 gal bag are nice for storing shoes so you don’t get your clothes dirty.
One of the best ways to avoid becoming to victim is wearing a money belt (learn more about avoiding pickpockets here). Personally, I don’t really like money belts because I find them uncomfortable, but a lot of people always wear one — it comes down to personal preference.
I’d say that a travel umbrella is optional if you’re traveling in the summer. However, the fall, winter and spring all tend to be rainy, so you might want to bring one with you so you don’t have to go searching for one in an unfamiliar city.
A great way to save some money is to buy meals from grocery stores — plus, a lot of stores offer prepackaged means that are great for quick picnics. Plastic travel utensils come in handy because the stores won’t always provide utensils. If you really want to go all out, you should check out this sweet titanium spork.
I like a clean toothbrush… call me crazy. That’s why I always use the Steripod Clip-on Toothbrush Sanitizer cover. It not only protects the brush but it also sanitizes the brush using voodoo science. Yeah, science! Or you can just get a normal toothbrush cover if that’s how you roll.
A Lint roller is an easy way to help keep your clothes looking presentable.
Guide Books and Phrase Books
I like to do a little research about the cities I’m visiting before I go, so I always look at guide books. I’ve put together a list of our favorite guide books and websites for travel planning. A small phrase book is nice if you want to learn a bit of the local language.
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a wine key in Europe, but pick one up before you leave if you can’t wait to drink.
Read my guide to traveling with electronics for more in-depth advice about using electronic devices while traveling.
Travel Power Strip
We seem to travel with more electronics every year, so power outlets are becoming a hot commodity in hostels and hotels. Don’t be surprised to only find one or two power outlets in a hostel room for 10 people. A travel power strip is almost essential these days. This Monster 4 Outlet Travel Power Strip is my favorite. The Belkin Travel Power Strip with USB ports is also a popular option for travelers.
Dual Voltage Travel Hairdryer and Straighteners
Standard N. American hair dryers won’t work in Europe — even if you have a voltage adapter. If you plug a standard hair dryer into an European outlet it will fry since European voltage is twice as much as in the US or Canada. You need a dual voltage hair dryer. The Babylisspro TT Tourmaline Titanium Travel Dryer is a top choice for travelers because it is powerful, lightweight and foldable. If you straighten your hair you’ll also need dual voltage straightening iron.
Digital Camera w/ Charger
We’ve already written an in-depth article about choosing the best digital camera for travel. Don’t forget the extras…
- Extra Memory Cards — Don’t forget to bring extra memory cards because you don’t want to run out of storage space — it’s better to have too much than not enough. And memory cards are cheap. I suggest getting the biggest one you can afford.
- External Hard Drive or Cloud Storage — BACKUP YOUR PHOTOS!!! Ok, I said it. I’ve encountered numerous travelers who either lost their camera (along with all their photos on the memory card) or have suffered from a corrupt memory card. It happens way more than you’d think. A portable external hard drive or a few USB flash drives are great for backing up all your photos. Another great option is to upload all your photos to cloud storage. Google Drive is free and it gives you up to 15GB of space (you can make new accounts if you run out of space). The main problem with this is not having reliable internet access when you travel.
- Extra Battery: All the memory cards in the world won’t do much good if your camera’s battery is dead. I suggest picking up a few extra camera batteries.
- Buy an extra battery or two from Amazon (you’ll have to search for the specific battery that your camera uses). I got two cheap 3rd party batteries from China and they’ve worked pretty well for a few years.
Laptop or iPad
More and more people are choosing to travel with a laptop. We’ve written up a guide on the best laptops for travel. However, I think the best “computer” to travel with is an iPad or an iPad Mini. It really is the perfect travel companion because they’re light, portable, and can do just about anything you’d need from a computer.
Laptops are becoming more popular in the backpacking world. Personally, I use a Macbook Air but a cheaper option is a netbook. An iPad is also a great choice. Read our article about the best laptops for travel for more help on choosing a travel computer.
Smart Phone or Dumb Phone
If you don’t want to travel with a laptop or a tablet then you might consider a smart phone. You can just use Wifi to access the internet so you don’t need to get a voice/data plan. If you do want full access to your phone (voice and data) make sure you buy a pay-as-you-go plan once you arrive in Europe. Using your own plan from home will be incredibly expensive. Additionally, you can buy a super cheap pay-as-you-go phone in Europe if you just want to make calls.
Having a book to read on those long flights and train rides is great but lugging a heavy book around is a pain. The Amazon Kindle is great for those of you who love to read. You can even download a lot of travel guide books.
Its nice to listen to tunes as you travel. Additionally, there are a lot of downloadable audio guides for cities and museums — which is a great way to learn more about the places you’re visiting. We’ve written about our favorite travel headphone here.
You’ll need a Plug adapter for your electronics (UK and Europe have different plugs).
Try to minimize the amount of toiletries you bring because they add a ton of weight. You can buy pretty much anything once you’re in Europe.
Pour liquids into those small travel-sized bottles.
Non-Aerosol Dry Shampoo
Dry shampoo is amazing for getting your hair ready when you don’t have time to jump in the shower.
Toothpaste & Toothbrush
I made the mistake of buying a travel toothbrush on my first trip abroad — it sucked. Now I use a normal toothbrush and a toothbrush cover. I did find that dental floss was much more expensive in Europe, so buy some at home.
Shaving Stuff (Razors & Cream)
Europeans shave just like you and me… so you can find pretty much the exact same products as you can back home.
For whatever reason I found that deodorant in Europe didn’t seem to work as well — maybe it was all in my head. When I travel I bring my own from home.
Nivea makes a lot of great lip balm that’s sold all over Europe. But if there is brand you really like you might want to bring it with you.
Contact solution is actually a pain to buy and is normally only sold in pharmacies. Plus it isn’t cheap. I’d recommend bringing your own if you can.
It is best to only bring the basics when it comes to makeup because it is easy to go overboard. Below are some basic ideas, but you can decide on what is important to you.
- Lipstick (or something similar) — Parisian women seem to never leave the house without sexy lipstick. You can also use lipstick as a blush.
- BB Cream — BB Cream is a great ‘all-in-one’ product. It’s a moisturizer, contains sunscreen, provides light coverage as a basic foundation and it evens skin tone.
- Mascara — Mascara should be changed every three months, so this is a great excuse to buy a new bottle.
- Cream Blush — You really don’t want to have makeup brushes in your bag so a cream blush is a great option.
Some souvenirs are no fun so it is better to be safe than sorry. I’d buy them before you go. Amazon seems to have the best price/selection of condoms.
Your clothes will probably smell a bit funky after a while… so travel-sized Febreze To Go is a good way to stay a little fresher.
Travel Size Toilet Paper
You never know when you’ll need a bit of toilet paper so it is good to carry some travel toilet paper as you travel.
Wet Wipes/Baby Wipes
These are a lifesaver when you actually need them. Cottonelle Fresh Flushable Wipes are my favorite because they come individually wrapped so they’re super easy to pack.
You’ll be touching so much dirty stuff all day and you don’t want to get sick as you’re traveling.
A lot of people get chaffing after the walk a lot — especially if it is really hot. Anti Monkey Butt is great for those hot days.
Take care of your feet because you’ll be walking a lot. O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet Cream will keep your feet from becoming rough and cracked.
I like to travel with a bit of cologne or perfume. Don’t bring a full bottle because it is pretty heavy. I suggest picking up a few sample vials — they’ll usually give you free ones at department stores or you can buy them online if you’re looking for something specific.
I would pack minimal first-aid supplies because you can get everything easily in Europe. Just get the very basics.
The prescription needs to be on the bottle/box because some countries will check your medicine when you pass immigration. I’ve never been asked to present any medicine, but it is possible. Also make sure you have enough medicine to cover your entire trip. I’m not really sure of the rules about buying prescription medication overseas but I’m sure it is a hassle.
In many European counties you can only get medicine (even basic stuff like Tylenol) from a pharmacy. This isn’t really a huge problem but some pharmacies have limited hours. Might as well have a few pills on you before you arrive.
They’re nice to have on hand.
Motion Sickness Pills
If you suffer from motion sickness I’d pack a few before you leave.
Traveling can take a toll on a lot of people’s stomach. The Pepto-Bismol tablets are much more convenient to carry in your bag than the liquid.
Small Pack of Tissues
These are helpful for when you look at your credit card bill.
My top choice for buying gear is Amazon because they seem to have the best selection and prices. Here are a few other companies that sell travel equipment:
MooseJaw: Hiking, camping and travel gear.
REI: One of the largest outdoor retailers.
eBags: Good selection of bags and backpacks.
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