Complete Europe Packing List: Here’s What to Pack for Europe
January 4, 2020
Europe Packing List: Let’s Detail Exactly What to Pack
Just over a month out while planning a trip to Italy for the last week in April, I added the different cities that I would be visiting to the Apple weather app and saw just about every weather pattern imaginable in the week that I was going to be there. There was rain and there was sun and I was utterly confused because I just had assumed in my head that it would somewhere in the 60s (Farenheight) with little to rain. I checked the weather daily leading up to my trip and it changed literally every. single. day. I had no idea what to expect and it left me a little overwhelmed when it came to planning what to pack for Europe. The point here is not to bore you with details about the weather, but to say that we have all been there and this Europe packing list will prepare you for your trip, come rain or shine!
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Let’s first discuss what luggage would be most appropriate for your specific type of Europe trip and compare the pros and cons.
The following are two questions to ask yourself prior to choosing a bag for your trip to Europe.
a) Should you bring a roller suitcase or a backpack?
b) Should you check your bag or carry on?
Best Roller Suitcase for Europe
1. Weight is not as much of a limitation. Since you will be pulling a bag, you won’t have to worry as much if you want to bring that slightly heavier pair of shoes. If you travel with back pain like me, a roller suitcase is a necessity and why no other pros and cons on this list actually matter to me personally.
2. Having the ability to lie your suitcase flat on the ground allows for a much more organized packing experience, especially if you use packing cubes which I personally think are a must-have item.
3. A roller suitcase is more durable than a backpack, so there is less of a likelihood of delicate items breaking.
If you made the decision to go with a roller suitcase, you have one more factor to deliberate. Hard-side luggage vs. soft side luggage. I’m going to make it easy on you and give you just one option for each, my personal favorites. Hard-side luggage is more durable and currently seems to be a trendier choice. Soft side luggage is much more flexible, the case doesn’t get as scratched, and is typically lighter weight.
Which roller suitcase should you purchase?
Check prices for the Away suitcase on their website.
I would suggest staying between the 22 and 25 inch mark. Whether I stay in Europe for a week or for three months, I bring a 24 inch suitcase with me. I ultimately pack the same; I just do laundry once a week or so if I am on a trip to Europe for an extended period of time.
1. Because you don’t have to worry as much about the weightiness of your bag, you might have to pay extra fees if your bag is too heavy. If you are visiting multiple destinations in Europe, each airline has their own weight requirement, many of which are around 10kg. You might be fine flying over on United from Dallas to London, but on the next leg of your trip to Amsterdam on British Airways, you may have to check that same bag that was deemed a carry-on for your flight across the ocean. For example, according to easyjet’s website, cabin baggage must have a “maximum size of 56 x 45 x 25cm including handles and wheels.”
2. Roller suitcases are hard to lift. Walking up stairs and through cobblestone streets can be incredibly difficult. Elevators are not a guarantee in Europe especially if you are staying at an airbnb or apartment. I stayed at an airbnb in Barcelona that was a 5th floor walkup and I had a roller suitcase with me. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but I did make it. Similarly, cobblestone streets are absolutely beautiful, but those wheels have a real hard time rolling over them.
3. Roller suitcases are bulky for tight, crowded spaces. Bringing a roller suitcase on public transportation proves difficult due to crowds and because there are not always escalators or elevators in Europe. Lugging your suitcase up stairs or dragging your luggage down a flight makes a scene. Trust me.
4. You aren’t hand-free when rolling a suitcase. Losing the mobility of both hands does impact ease of travel. If you’ve got the suitcase in your left, your passport in your right, and you need to pull up your mobile boarding pass from your phone for the TSA Agent, good luck not dropping one or all items while attempting to do so.
5. For hostelers: there might not be locked space in hostels large enough to fit your roller suitcase, so you have to keep your luggage out in the open during the day. If this is the case, I recommend locking your important valuables in the locker.
Best Travel Backpack for Europe
1. Most European budget airlines don’t even check the size of your backpack, so you should not have any issues carrying-on your backpack for any flight you take.
2. You are forced to pack less; therefore, everything you bring is much more compact and is much easier to store in hostels.
3. It is much easier to move around, go up stairs, and have your hands free to look at maps, take out a metro pass, or eat gelato.
Which travel backpack should you purchase?
Osprey Farpoint and its female version, Osprey Fairview
I don’t have a ton of personal experience with well-made travel backpacks even though I myself wore one for three months when I backpacked a summer through Europe. But I do know what not to do because I didn’t go about purchasing one in the smartest way. I was living in Spain at the time and just went to a local store to buy the cheapest backpack. If you are going to be carrying your life on your back for an extended period of time, do yourself a favor and protect your body with a well-made backpack. Osprey and Tortuga brands are both very high quality options. To stay within a reasonable weight, I would recommend a backpack anywhere between 35L-45L, preferably 40L.
1. If you overpack, your backpack can be really heavy. Once you hurt your back from the weight, it’s hard for it to heal while you are constantly on the go.
2. Limited space won’t allow you to purchase new items. It’s more difficult to buy souvenirs for friends and family.
2. Since a backpack is located behind you on your back, you have to be extremely vigilant about who is getting too close and potentially opening zippers and pickpocketing. Here are my tips to avoid getting pickpocketed.
3. It is more difficult to pack if your style of backpack only opens from the top.
4. Your belongings aren’t as well protected as they would be in hardside or even softside luggage.
Checked Bag VS. Carry-On?
When You Should Check A Bag:
In almost all instances, I recommend checking a bag for your Europe trip with the caveat that you budget in advance extra baggage fees into the cost of your trip.
When You Should Carry-On:
If you are on a strict budget and cannot afford extra baggage fees then you should pack minimally and bring carry-on luggage. Make sure that you check the baggage dimensions allowed for your flight(s) because some of the European airlines require a much smaller-sized luggage than the traditional American-style carryon. TravelPro, for instance, sells both the 21″ carryon and an international carryon bag.
Best Travel Bags for Europe
Once you’ve determined the main piece of luggage you will bring on your trip to Europe, you will need to figure out what carry-on you will bring for the underseat. In this bag, you should put your electronic devices, toiletries kit, and contact lenses. If, god forbid, your checked luggage is lost, you want to make sure you have everything that is a necessity with you in this travel bag. Also, any items that are especially valuable I keep in this bag. I generally bring a backpack, but if you do bring a side bag, make sure the bag you choose has a back side sleeve.
Europe Packing List for Females in Summer
Women’s Clothing Packing List
If you need to be choosy about the clothing items you bring for your summer Europe trip, make sure that each article of clothing pairs well with multiple items. Neutral colors fair best. And, don’t bring a single wear piece unless you are going to Europe specifically for a special occasion.
Topshop tees and Target tanks. Bring a collection of these items in neutral colors and you’ll be set for a week in Europe, all the way up to half a year in Europe. I typically bring a gray and white Topshop short sleeve t-shirt — I also have a cropped white tee that I bring sometimes — and two black tank tops from Target. Black tank tops are a key clothing item to pack because you can wear them during the day and then transition to night by tucking the tank into a skirt or pair of pants. Along with the basics, you can pack any other of your favorite “going out tops” or colored basic tees and tanks that you love. Just don’t pack too many!
I bring shorts, midi-skirts, and pants that are a lightweight material and made of wrinkle-free fabrics; I find that a combination of polyester in the 90th percentile and spandex below 10% work best. My most-worn item during a European summer is a pair of pinstripe crop straight-leg pants which you can dress up or down for daytime sightseeing or nighttime dinner.
If it’s shoulder season, then a pair or two of jeans is a must, preferably one black pair and one blue pair. But in the summer months, I can pretty much bet that you won’t want to wear them. If you can’t imagine not packing your jeans (I get it), I recommend simply bringing one pair. I would also bring a pair of athleisure leggings — I bring a pair of Wunder Under Lululemon leggings — for the airplane and other travel days as well as for lounging in my hotel room.
Jackets: In the summer, most European countries are going to have such hot weather that a jacket will be the last thing you need. But, I also understand that you aren’t going to want to leave home without packing one because I wouldn’t either! If you’re headed to a destination near the Mediterranean, a black cardigan and/or jean jacket should suffice. I’m betting that you won’t end up wearing either. If you are headed north to countries like Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Norway, I would suggest packing both a fleece and rain jacket just to be safe. I spent a week in Scotland in August for the Edinburgh festival season and it rained the entire time. I was SO grateful that I brought a few warm items with me.
I pretty much bring all of the underwear I own because it gives me peace of mind to know I always have a clean pair at the ready. In my opinion, Hanky Panky makes the best thong underwear, which you can get at a much better price from Nordstrom Rack. I also recently purchased period underwear from Amazon and flushable wipes, both of which served me amazingly well on my last trip when I knew Aunt Flo would be arriving the day I landed.
I bring at least seven pairs of socks per week of travel in the summer for sneakers. Socks are generally an afterthought when packing, but they are actually a really important travel item since you’re probably going to walk an average of 25,000+ steps a day in Europe. Even if you switch into you flat sandals for dinner, you’ll probably wear sneakers the majority of the day and you won’t want have to repeat socks with the way your our feet will stink in the summer heat. I also bring one pair of socks to sleep in for each week I plan on traveling.
Bras and Workout Attire:
I typically bring one of each of the following: black, nude, strapless, and a sports bra. If you plan on hiking or doing other athletic activities, bring a pair of workout top and leggings.
I usually bring one pair of long bottoms and one pair of shorts to sleep in because I never know in summer whether the air conditioning will be blasting or I’ll be sweating profusely. I’ll pack a couple of old college t-shirts to sleep in as well. Basically, I bring a set of PJs for each week of travel. If I do plan on staying in hostels, I prefer to keep covered up so I would pack accordingly.
Swimsuits and Coverups:
If you’re headed to Europe over the summer, chances are you’ll also be frequenting the beaches. I recommend bringing 2-4 swimsuits and 1-2 coverups depending on whether your time in Europe is more of a sightseeing trip of beach vacation. Amazon actually has a great variety of coverups at very reasonable prices! I have bought a few over the years including this beach coverup for Europe.
Travel Shoes for Europe in Summer
I imagine you own a lot of pairs of shoes and trying to narrow down those options seems like a daunting task. But, the types of shoes you should bring is actually pretty straightforward and do I feel like I have perfected the formula. For a European summer, I recommend bringing three pairs of shoes plus flip flops. And no, heels are not included on the short list. Leave those at home! Make sure to wear the shoes you plan to bring for a few weeks prior to your trip to break in your shoes and avoid blisters or foot pain. If you’re worried about protecting blisters and avoiding any rubbing, get some moleskin for the sensitive areas.
1 pair of Sneakers
1 pair of Flat Sandals
I am completely loyal to Sam Edelman. I find that these shoes are stylish and incredibly comfortable. Just make sure that whatever shoes you purchase, they have a back strap because some of the nicer clubs and restaurants require it to get in. Since these shoes will serve as your nighttime or “going out shoe,” you want to make sure that they transition well from day to evening.
1 pair of Flip Flops/Shower Shoes
I’ll either bring my $1 Old Navy flip-flops ($1 when there’s a sale) or my Haviana flip-flops. And, if you’re staying at a hostel, you may want to get these shower shoes which have holes in the soles so that the water drains out before you step out of the shower. Game changer.
1 pair of Water Hiking Shoes
I go way more in depth about these shoes in my Best Water Shoes for Rocky Beaches post, but instead of bringing a pair of running shoes for hiking and a pair of water shoes for pebbly beaches, I would recommend consolidating two shoes into one and bringing a pair of Keen Whisper sandals. These shoes will give you the necessary arch support and the stability needed in ocean waves. Plus, they are water resistant. Check them out on Zappos and Amazon.
Confession: I’m a germaphobe and cannot stand having the dirty soles of my shoes touching any articles of clothing in my suitcase. If you can relate, get these travel shoe bags from Plusmart. They are so inexpensive and have a transparent sleeve so you can see which shoes are in each bag. They also come with two free laundry bags which I had no intention of purchasing but actually ended up being more useful than the shoe bags! It’s a much more sustainable option than using the free plastic laundry bags at your hotel.
Best Travel Purse for Europe
I recommend an anti-theft crossbody bag or backpack that is large enough to fit your phone, camera, money, credit cards, and small water bottle. I use the Travelon Anti-theft Signature Slim Backpack because I like that the backpack displaces the weight evenly across my back. I actually use the backpack as my daily purse while home in Los Angeles. While I like the look of the bag enough to use everyday, there are companies that market their bags as a more “stylish and sleek” option like the Pincnel Waterproof Anti-theft Rucksack.
I recommend bringing a foldable travel hat that properly covers both your ears and your neck. I brought a baseball cap because I didn’t want to carry a large hat on the plane with me and I didn’t know that foldable travel hats existed. But, the cap just didn’t work for me. It never matched with my outfits and I still got sunburned.
I’m sure you have a pair at home to bring. My current favorites are the Don’t @ Me sunglasses by Quay.
During the summer in Europe, it’s just too hot to wear a full coverage face of makeup, so my routine consists of Shaptape concealer applied with a beauty blender, Benefit Hoola bronzer and brush, blush and brush, highlighter and brush, CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara, and chapstick WITH SPF (It’s hot, your lips will get burned!). Also, I try to bring durable products that don’t consist of any loose power to avoid breakage and hotel room disasters.
While I only used the above items, I still brought the following with me which I will include for list purposes: Foundation/tinted moisturizer, beauty blender, concealer, bronzer, blush, highlighter, eye primer, eyeshadow, eye liner, mascara, brow pencil, brow brush, chapstick, lipstick/lipgloss, brushes.
To check out my full list of makeup products, check out my Travel Toiletries Checklist! There’s a FREE download you can print out so you don’t forget your deodorant or worse, your contacts, at home!
Bring lots of hair ties and don’t bring a lot of appliances. I recommend only bringing one of the mainstay products: a blowdryer, curling iron, and straightener. I brought ALL THREE the first time I went backpacking which is absolutely laughable and a huge mistake. That backpack was a tad heavy. Now I only bring a travel straightener that is compact and folds in half. Everyone has different hair demands but I realized that all I needed to keep the baby hairs and frizz at bay was to put my hair in a tight ponytail or bun, wet the front of my head, use a round brush, and straighten the rest. Yes, my hair looks better curled, but the straightener is a faster and easier solution.
I also always get my hair done right before I go away since I don’t bring all of my hair moisturizing, volumnizing, and color protecting products with me. It’s nice to start the trip with hair that has been cared for since the sun and salt water will not be good to it.
Europe Packing List for Females in Winter:
As with any winter wear, layers are the key to success. That way, you can bundle up good when sightseeing in the cold, and then throw off all those layers when you walk into a shop to warm up with a coffee and the heat is blasting. It’s a vicious cycle, am I right?
The further North you go, the more layers you’ll need. If you’re headed anywhere closer to the Mediterranean, the below list might need a little modification. You can probably leave some of the layers at home.
You’ll want to bring a variety of layering options starting with a tank. Next, you’ll want to pack tight long sleeve shirts to wear underneath. I have a strange affinity for long underwear; I wear it during the spring and fall in Los Angeles.
So, this is slightly biased opinion, but I think this fleece-lined base layer top and bottom is the perfect layering piece.
I would then pack a fleece jacket, The North Face Osito jacket is a great option, and a bunch of sweaters. You’ll want to bring a variety –ones that are best for day and some that are dressier for night. I recently purchased these basic crew-neck sweaters from Old Navy and am in love with the look and fit.
Winter Down Jacket:
Bring a down jacket that is waterproof and make sure you like the look of it. Why? Because the jacket will be in every photo you take!
In order to maximize space, carry it on the plane and either stuff it into an overhead bin or use it as an additional blanket or pillow.
My absolute favorite winter jacket is the North Face Metropolis III. It’s affordable compared to some of the other down winter coats. However, if you’re willing to splurge for the best of the best, check out Canada Goose jackets.
I would pack a pair one pair each of black and blue jeans as well as a pair or two of yoga pants.
You’ll want to bring a few cashmere scarves (I prefer a softer material and not something potentially itchy), a couple of winter beanies and/or earmuffs, and some touchscreen warm gloves. I get all of my winter accessories on Amazon. Click on the images below to get more details on my favorites.
You can also purchase some HotHands insoles for your hands and feet to keep warm while sightseeing.
Underwear & Bras:
For more detailed info, check out the Europe Packing list for Females in Summer just above.
You will want to pack multiple pairs of merino wool socks. Merino wool is thinner and softer than regular wool, but also regulated temperature and wicks moisture away from the skin. Don’t underestimate the number of socks you’ll need! Pack AT LEAST one pair per day plus a pair or two to sleep in.
I like to wear some long-sleeve and long-pant thermals to bed during wintertime in Europe. You could simply purchase an additional pair of the fleece-lined layer top and bottom and wear that to sleep.
You only need to bring one swimsuit if you think you’ll go in a hot tub during your Europe trip.
Travel Shoes for Women in Winter:
You will want to bring a pair of walking shoes like the Allbirds Wool Runners or Adidas Cloudfoam, a pair of flat black boots or booties to wear to dinner at night, and a pair of Sorel waterproof boots if the weather forecast calls for rain or snow or if their could still be ice on the ground from a previous cold front.
Europe Packing List for Males in Summer:
T-shirts are a staple item for any man’s summer trip to Europe and will be worn almost if not every day of the trip. You will also want to bring a few casual button-down shirts –preferably short sleeve or long sleeve made from extremely lightweight fabric — to wear out for dinner
If you’re traveling close to the coasts where the temps are really soaring in the summer, packing a few pairs of shorts to wear is a must. You will also want to pack one pair of either dark jeans or chino pants –made of a lightweight 100% cotton or cotton-blend fabric in a tighter weave — for slightly dressier evenings or if you are visiting religious sites where shorts are not acceptable.
Summers in Europe are HOT, so chances are you won’t be needing to bundle up all that often. With that being said, it is good to bring a lightweight windbreaker with you because it might be cold on that airplane, train, or tropical rainstorm that occurs out of the blue. This North Face windproof and water resistant soft shell jacket is just what you need for those rare occasions!
Socks and Underwear:
Don’t underestimate the amount of socks you will need during a summer trip to Europe! You’ll be doing a lot of walking and a lot of sweating so bringing one to two pairs or socks with you for each day of the trip would not qualify as overpacking. You should also bring a minimum of one pair of boxers/briefs/ tighty whities (you do you) per day of trip and throw in a few extras just in case.
I think you got this one covered, but just remember that if you are staying at a hostel in a mixed dorm, please be respectful of your roommates and cover up appropriately.
Make sure to bring a couple of swimsuits with you for the beach!
You should pack two pairs of walking shoes. One of the pairs should double as a walking/running type of shoe and the other should be more of a trendy shoe that can be worn with a button down and jeans or shorts for dinner. Make sure these shoes are broken in well and easy to walk in before adding them to your suitcase.
You should also pack a pair of flip-flops for casual wear around your accommodation as well as a pair of water shoes if you plan to spend time at any of the pebbly beaches in Europe. I would not pack dress shoes unless you are planning to go clubbing in Europe as many of the nightclubs do have strict dress codes. But if not, dress shoes are bulky, heavy, and unnecessary.
Hat and Sunglasses:
You will want to pack a pair or two of sunglasses to shield your eyes from the sun as well as a hat to protect the rest of your face. A baseball cap is fine but just know that it won’t protect the back of your neck so you will need apply that sunscreen regularly.
Europe Packing List for Males in Winter:
Depending on how cold the weather will actually be during your trip — generally the more North you go the colder it is — you might want to consider bringing this base layer: thermal, fleece-lined top and bottoms.
It’s all about the layers. If you are more of a warm-blooded creature, then maybe skipping the thermal underwear and packing short-sleeve shirts, layering with a sweater, and completing the look with a down waterproof coat is enough insulation. If you have a tendency to get cold easily, you can start with the thermal base and then layer with a long-sleeve shirt and/or pullover or sweater. For nighttime, sweaters or button-down shirts are best.
You will want to pack a pair or two of jeans –perhaps one blue and one black — for your trip. You could also throw in some joggers for travel days or for a more casual look while sightseeing. I particularly like these Tapered Joggers for Men.
Socks and Underwear:
Merino wool socks will keep your feet warm during the days and nights. You should pack a pair for each day of your trip and include some extra pairs of socks in case you want to change at all during the day.
Just a reminder that whatever you decide to wear at night, if you are staying in a mixed dorm at a hostel, you need to be respectful of your roommates and cover up appropriately.
You probably won’t need to pack a swimsuit unless you plan on spending some time in a hot tub on your winter trip.
A comfortable pair of waterproof boots is essential for your winter Europe trip. These waterproof Chukka boots by UGG have the perfect balance of style, comfort, and durability.
Travel Accessory Essentials for Europe:
I’ve got a ridiculously comprehensive “Best Travel Accessories for Europe” post with everything you could possibly need for your upcoming trip to Europe as well as a super in-depth Travel Toiletries Checklist with a free printable that you can use so you don’t forget anything on packing day!
No matter where you are going, here is a quick preview of some items you might not have thought to include while packing for your trip to Europe:
Contacts and glasses, ziplock bags, a tote bag for daytrips/weekenders, passport and copies of important documents, medications like Advil, Tums, Bonine, Emergencee and prescriptions, hand sanitizer, adaptors*, a small umbrella, toothbrush, nail clippers, band-aids, floss, and travel-sized laundry detergent.
*note on adaptors: you usually can get away with just bringing adaptors…most devices we use nowadays do not need a converter; however, some blowdryers, curling irons, etc. may need a converter. Be sure to check ahead of time.
These are the packing essentials specifically for hostels:
lock, microfiber quick-dry towel, ear plugs, eye mask, shampoo, conditioner, shower shoes, and body wash
What electronic devices should you bring with you to Europe?
I always find the electronics decision process to be one of the most stressful parts of packing. Bringing a laptop with you is so bulky, but if a work emergency comes up, you can’t always fix everything from your phone. Plus, it’s more difficult to book additional accommodations and transport on a small phone although most travel websites have apps you can download that are user friendly for booking purposes.
If I know that I will need to work during my trip, I suck it up and bring my laptop. But, if I don’t have plan to do so, bringing an iPad is probably the best solution.
Should you bring a camera or use your iPhone/Android for taking pictures?
I would suggest bringing both a camera and your smart phone. I end up using my iPhone the majority of the time, but it is nice to have a camera for nighttime and in crowded tourist spots. Personally, I would rather have a camera snatched out of my hand as opposed to my phone because of the personal information stored on it.
Do you have any other tips for this Europe Packing List? If so, please share your suggestions in the comments below!
Europe Travel Planning
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