Packing time. Don’t know where to start?
Got a trip to Europe coming up? Awesome, congrats! With all that travel planning out of the way, now for the packing… Do you ever find yourself standing in front of your closet, staring at your belongings, not knowing where to start? Trying to rack your brain to see if you’ve forgotten anything?
Welcome to the only luggage guide you’ll need. I’ve recently come home from a three month trip to Europe and have gained so many learnings about how to pack to max efficiency. Read on to see exactly what you need to bring with you and pack like a pro!
*Please note: All of the products listed in this post are my personal tried and true recommendations and may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running. Thanks!
The Ultimate Packing List For Europe
Before you pack anything, it’s important to start with the skin and bones of packing. Having the right tools to put your belongings in is extremely important.
The last thing you want is to toss everything for your trip into a bag with no method of organization. You’ll find yourself spending a lot of extra time later on packing and repacking once you’re actually on your trip.
Trust me, your life will be so much easier when you actually apply strategy to how you pack.
You’ve got two options here. Do you want to go with a wheeled suitcase or a travel backpack? Wheeled suitcases are awesome in that they are pretty much weightless on your body, you just roll and go.
However, in Europe where cobblestones and stairs are abundant, this might not be the best option.
The other option is a backpack. They can get heavy, but with adequate hip belts attached, they really aren’t bad at all! Travel packs are so convenient when it comes to hands-free commuting.
My top picks for both are:
Wheeled suitcase | I use my Monos Carry-On or my Paravel Aviator Carry-On whenever I want something sturdier. Both are investments, but they’re roomy, sleek looking, and long-lasting as heck. Plus their warranties are top-notch so I won’t have to worry about buying a new suitcase for at least another 8 years! Spinner wheel hard shell cases are the future!
Travel backpack | I love my Osprey Aura 65 so much. It’s extremely comfortable because of its super intense hip belt (if you get it, you’ll see what I mean) and perfect for those warm travel days due to the ventilation technology. I actually went backpacking with this pack and can attest to its greatness. Totally worth the investment. If you’re looking for a new travel bag or backpacking bag, GET THIS BAG! You won’t regret it.
One great thing about the Osprey Aura (women) and the Osprey Atmos (basically the men’s version) is that you can remove the top lid for everyday use if you don’t plan on bringing a smaller daypack, thereby turning them into smaller, less bulky packs you can roam around town with.
Pro Tip: To be honest, I tend to forget about wheeled suitcases most of the time, because I walk fast and oftentimes feel slowed down by them. I’m all for the travel backpack if I know I’ll be doing a lot of moving around.
Packing cubes | You need to get these lightweight packing cubes, they are nothing short of amazing. No matter how you choose to organize your clothes— by day, by the outfit, by type—these will be the most useful thing you have in your packing artillery. You’ll no longer need to go through the entire suitcase for that one thing you’re looking for because you’ll know exactly where it’s at.
Read More: 9 Best Compression Packing Cubes For Travel
Everyday bag | A mini backpack that can fit a water bottle is a great option. Another good option for days where you’re not feeling the backpack look is a medium-sized, cross-body bag. I like the Fjallraven Kanken Mini Classic Backpack for something simple and compressible, so when I’m not using it, I can flatten it and store it in my luggage.
Tops | You really don’t need that many shirts, especially when they are simple colors, allowing them to be multifunctional. I had a few plain workout tops that weren’t branded, so I was able to wear them out as regular shirts as well. You can go with a mix of sleeveless and sleeved, as there will be instances where you need to cover up your shoulders.
Pants | Bring 2-3 pairs at most, depending on the season. In the spring, fall, or winter, you can bring 2 pairs of jeans (a blue and black one). Wool leggings or baselayers will keep you warm and comfortable when sightseeing outdoors.
For summers, in the face of humidity, go with something loose and light and a pair of shorts. Jeans can be way too hot for summer travel. When I went to Europe last summer, my legs would almost immediately start sweating once I began walking. It’s pretty uncomfortable, to say the least.
Shorts | I’ve seen a lot of blogs out there mentioning the taboo of shorts abroad. To be frank, I think that’s pretty outdated, namely with regards to Europe.
I’ve asked a lot of locals in many countries about this shorts controversy and they see no problem with it—I went to Europe with zero shorts and a few long dresses because of this notion. Once I got there, I saw SO many locals rocking shorts. So I bought some. Because it was REALLY hot. Just don’t wear booty shorts and you won’t have a problem.
Bike Shorties | The next thing I want to discuss is bike shorts as a form of coverup! Let me be the first to tell you about my newest discovery on how to keep my legs from becoming a huge sweaty mess… I love Thigh Society’s shorties for hot weather!
There are two different options I like depending on what look I’m going for. If I want to wear an above-the-knee dress on a hot day, I go with The Cooling 5″ option. It’s so thin, meaning “sweaty butt” won’t be an issue. And they’re especially useful if it happens to be a windy day. These lil’ shorties make me feel so much more comfortable knowing that I have an extra layer of protection and coverage should the wind decide to do me dirty and lift my dress in one swoop.
The other pair that I have is The Original, which has become a staple in my hot weather arsenal too. They’re super-versatile because these guys are very opaque, meaning they can be worn alone or layered under clothes. I find that I can wear them in all sorts of situations — while exploring a new city, ziplining, ATVing, working out, on airplanes, on road trips, and even as pajama bottoms! Love ’em!
Leggings | I love leggings and can’t take any trip without them. If you plan on working out, bring an extra pair so you can use the other for lounging. Can’t ever go wrong with my trusty, long-lasting Lululemon Fast and Free leggings. This pair is the best because of the waistband pockets — you can actually be hands-free with leggings!
Dresses | Long dresses for the summer season are a staple in Europe. Long or flowy dresses/skirts are really good for days when you plan on visiting places like cathedrals (no bare shoulders or exposed knees, so be prepared). If your knees are showing slightly, it’s usually not as big of a deal as those bare shoulders. Aim for one of the dresses to be appropriate for both daytime and evening looks.
Underwear and socks | Bring up to 5 sets and just find a washing machine whenever you can. Or save water and wash them while you’re showering.
Bras | Depending on your activity level, 2-3 will do. The same goes for these, wash them often. Because I’m pretty active, I typically bring 1 regular bra and 2 sports bras.
Shoes | Bring one or two pairs of comfortable walking shoes with good support and traction. I usually go with one pair of sneakers (gives you the ability to go for a run in the morning and then walk all day in them) and another pair of cuter shoes when I want to dress up a bit more.
My all-time favorite travel shoes these days are the tried and true Ecco Soft 7 (they’re stylish, comfortable, and have been raved about for decades since they were first created)! They are perfect for instances when I want to avoid that tennis shoe look–like when I’m wearing a dress or plan on going out for some nightlife. The best part is that they have them for both men and women.
For your second pair, consider sandals or something breathable in summer! I alternate between my Birkenstocks and Ilse Jacobson Hornbaek slip-ons — both allow you to walk miles and miles. During my trip in Europe, I was averaging 8-9 miles in both of these with zero pain or blistering! Flip-flops are also handy to have if you’ll be using communal bathrooms.
Sweater or lightweight fleece | Preferably a dark-colored one so it can be worn on multiple occasions. More if you’re traveling in the fall/winter. I love, love, love my trusty Patagonia Better Sweater. For something more affordable, I’d go with this one by Columbia.
Light Travel-Friendly Jacket | Ideally, this jacket will be a lightweight, water-resistant, windbreaker. You’ll be walking around a lot, the last thing you want is to be lugging around a jacket that you may or may not wear.
Consider a light rain jacket if there’s rain in the forecast. This one by North Face comes in so many colors and is ultra-packable, taking up virtually no space at all.
A puffy jacket is another good option (if rain is very unlikely on your trip) because of how they can pack up into nothing! You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of adventuring!
Shawl or scarf | One of my must-haves! I’ll always have a medium sized thin scarf in my bag. Not only can you use them for warmth or style, you can use them as a coverup in churches and other sensible places, as a towel, as a mat on grass/sand/dirt, as a quick rain shield, or as an emergency skirt if your bottoms get stained or soaked somehow.
Swimsuit | Usually only useful in the summer if you’ll have access to pools. As I knew I was going to be beaching a lot in Barcelona and all over Croatia, I actually brought 2 and alternated between them.
Sleepwear/loungewear | Yoga pants and a t-shirt or workout clothes are all you need here. Save luggage space; these items can be used as pajamas, loungewear, and airplane/road trip outfits.
Sunglasses | Because it can get really bright during sunny European afternoons.
Jewelry | Optional. I tend to skip jewelry on most days (even if I’ve packed it) because either it’s too hot/humid to want to deal with something sticking all over my neck, or I just forget to wear it. If you have fancy jewelry, it’s better to leave it at home. I’ve heard that many pick-pocketers abroad will either go for the wallet or yank chains off of people’s necks on public transportation.
Squeeze bottles | GoToob travel bottles are my favorite thing ever. Made of high-quality silicone, they are extremely durable, have never leaked on me, and are super easy to squeeze. They have different TSA-approved sizes, but I found the Large ones to be the best for the duration of my trip. I put face wash in one of the large ones and it lasted me all 3.5 months without a need for a refill!
Hand cream, body lotion, face masks | Highly recommended, learn from my mistake. I didn’t bring any with me because I didn’t want to carry ‘luxury’ items and I ended up being pretty annoyingly dry. Halfway through the trip, I just had to buy some.
Moisturizer with SPF | You’ll be out in the sun all day. Save yourself face from premature aging and sunburns.
Sunscreen | Sunscreen is absolutely necessary. Even if it’s overcast or cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors. No matter where we go, we like a coral reef-safe sunscreen, as traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that damage our environment. For the face, we are absolutely obsessed with the magical Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen.
Shower supplies | Buy in your destination country and only as you need them. Don’t stock up or else you’ll end up carrying too much extra weight.
Dental supplies | Same as above. Don’t forget the floss! If you haven’t heard of Cocofloss, now you have. This was the only kind of floss to get me to start flossing on a daily basis. YOU ARE WELCOME.
Deodorant | If necessary. I don’t really have an odor in my armpits so I didn’t need this– less weight to carry!
Makeup | Some girls have a huge collection of makeup. Bring only what you need. You probably won’t be needing that green eyeshadow or glitter eyeliner.
Dry shampoo | I tried not to wash my hair every day, but at the same time, Europe was really hot and muggy. Dry shampoo came in handy very frequently.
DIY survival kit | Make a little bag of the following: ibuprofen, allergy pills, Immodium, ciprofloxacin (or whatever your doctor prescribes for traveler’s diarrhea), band-aids, floss, hand sanitizer, eye drops, lip balm, a sharpie, tape, and extra contact lenses (if applicable). Think about the ailments you typically suffer from and have to deal with on a regular basis and adjust the contents of the bag as needed.
Extra plastic baggies | Because you never know, but they always come in handy.
Tissue | Sometimes, your hands get dirty. Sometimes, there’s no toilet paper in the public bathrooms.
Laundry soap | Bring a super-concentrated travel soap so you can do your own laundry at hostels. Clothesline optional. I usually just hang my wet clothes on anything I can find around the room (even lamps).
Camp towel | If you’re going to be staying in hostels, some don’t provide towels, or they’ll have them available for rent. These towels are light and quick-drying. They’re also useful if you plan on having beach days but don’t have access to a beach towel. I have this one.
Eye mask + ear plugs | Amazing for hostel/shared rooms where the beds aren’t separated by curtains.
People being able to see your sleepy little eyes? A bit awkward. But with this super comfortable and patent-pending eyemask, the awkwardness is gone! I find eye masks to be awesome for plane or train travel too.
Now, onto earplugs. There is a good chance there will be families traveling by plane with young children and/or babies. A very good chance. I would highly recommend bringing earplugs or headphones for your plane rides to drown out any potential crying babies!
They’re also very much necessary if you’re going to be staying in shared rooms. Bring multiple pairs with you, because it’s so easy to lose these bad boys in your sleep. These earplugs by Mack’s are my absolute favorite.
Phone | Make sure you have everything right with your phone before you go. Get the battery changed, free up some memory space. My phone was operating on 79% battery efficiency so it wasn’t really holding a charge. I pretty much had to go through Europe with an external battery by my side always. Not the most convenient.
Camera | You’re going on a huge trip, some higher quality pictures wouldn’t hurt. I brought my Nikon D5500, which I found to be sort of heavy but produced great photos that I’ll cherish forever. You could go with a more convenient point and shoot or a GoPro as well.
External battery | Crucial, especially if you’re going to be out all day exploring and using your phone for Google Maps and such. Check out this external battery.
Noise canceling headphones | Always good to be able to get into the zone and tune people out. Not to mention, you can use them to watch Netflix all night in your hostel room without disturbing anyone!
Travel adapter | Necessary for many countries. This one here is tried and trusted. It allows for a normal plug and has two additional USB ports.
Chargers | Bring multiple phone cords since they are light (and easy to misplace).
Laptop | (Optional) Depending on what you plan to do. For longer trips, I’ll definitely bring my computer. There are just some things I’d rather do on a full screen rather than my teensy phone screen. I’m old school in that sense. Not to mention, having an actual keyboard and multiple tabs visible allows me to be so much more efficient in responding to emails, having meaningful conversations with my friends/family, and keeping up with news/social media.
E-reader | Go with the Kindle over books if you read a lot– it eliminates a lot of potential weight from actually carrying books.
Travel belt/money belt | Thief proof! I used a Flip Belt when I went out exploring, which doubled as my running belt. I swear, this thing doesn’t budge or jiggle at all when you run, plus it’s super comfortable!
Money | A mix of local currency because you’ll need it, and your home currency for emergencies.
Tickets and travel documents | Passport, student ID, medical card, proof of travel insurance, printed documents of your flight/hotel bookings, visas if you need them
Travel cards | Credit cards, debit cards, airport lounge access cards, visas
Journal or book | ‘Cause everyone could use a little alone time.
Other Travel Essentials
Travel pillow | This one by Turtl is THE one! It comes highly rated because it has so much support, almost like a neck brace (there’s a chunk of flexible plastic in there to prop your head up). It’s warm and super packable too.
Foldable tote bag | Great for doing groceries or carrying your belongings in a pinch.
Laundry bag | Keep your worn clothes separate from your clean ones, especially when traveling to high humidity places such as the EU. When it’s humid, you’ll just be sticky all day and all that stickiness will transfer to your clothes. In either case, you will inevitably have dirty socks and undies to toss in here.
Small lock | If you’re staying in hostels, you may need to provide your own lock for the lockers. Otherwise, this can be used on your luggage bag when you’re traveling and checking your luggage.
Massage Ball | One of the best things in my bag, hands down. Roll your legs, upper back, and under your feet whenever you have downtime to undo that tension and soreness you’ve built up over the course of the day. Check out this one.
Electrolyte Packets | Emergen-C packets or Liquid I.V. Hydration Packets are a must for travel. These are a great way to support your immune system and overall health on a trip. They are light, take up no space, and are very easy to pack!
Cooling towel | For something simpler / less bulky than a neck fan, you can consider a Chill Pal cooling towel to stay cool. Trust me, it will save your life from the heat and make exploring the outdoors more bearable.
Ultimate Packing List Review
To wrap up, let’s review the ultimate packing checklist for extended travel:
- Wheeled Suitcase / Travel Backpack
- Packing Cubes
- Laundry Travel Bag
- Everyday bag
- 2-3 pairs of pants
- 1 pair of shorts if applicable
- 1 pair of wool leggings if applicable
- 1-2 pairs of shorts / bike shorts
- 1-2 pairs of leggings
- 1-2 dresses
- 5 pairs of undies
- 5 pairs of socks
- 3 bras
- 2 pairs of shoes
- 1 pair of sandals / flip flops
- 1 sweater or lightweight fleece
- 1 jacket
- 1 shawl or scarf
- 1 swimsuit if applicable
- DIY survival kit
- Extra plastic baggies
- Laundry soap
- Camp towel
- Eye mask
- External battery
- Travel adapter
- Travel belt / money belt
- Tickets and travel documents
- Credit /debit cards
- Journal or book
- Travel pillow
- Water bottle
- Foldable tote bag
- Small lock
- Massage ball
- Electrolyte packets
- Neck fan
Now you’re ready!
If you get nothing else out of this post, at least take this with you… pack light! Everyone has the urge to pack a lot of things. There’s a scenario for everything you own to have a purpose on your trip. But what usually happens is that we either wear them once or not at all.
Remember to mix and match clothes and evaluate each item, only bringing it if you think you’ll use it more than 3-5 times.
GAME-CHANGING GADGETS FOR SMARTER AIRPORT TRAVEL
These are some of my favorite airport/airplane travel products that free my hands up and make traveling so much more convenient. Say goodbye to the days of fumbling around or not having enough hands for things.
- Add-a-Bag Hook and Hanger Strap | Have a purse, briefcase, tote bag, or bag of souvenirs that’s causing you inconvenience by needing to be carried? Get this bag hook and attach it to your luggage so you only need one hand to tow everything with you.
- riemot Luggage Travel Cup Holder | This foldable drink caddy holds 2 cups, perfect for your pre-flight coffees and fountain drinks. There’s also room to hold books, iPads, phones, tickets and documents.
- Traveling Hat Clip | Have you ever brought a wide-brimmed hat on vacation and found it to be the most annoying thing to travel with? A hat clip for your bag or backpack completely removes the struggle of needing to carry your hat in hand!
- Flight Flap Phone & Tablet Holder | Attaches to airline seat backs so you can watch movies hands-free. Also great for standing your phone up on tables too!
- Clipa2 – The Instant Bag Hanger Collection | Hang your bag or purse literally anywhere (on your luggage, on restaurant tables, hotel rooms, etc).
- Priority Pass – I have had a Priority Pass membership since 2018, and I don’t think I’ll ever give it up! I love being able to gorge on lounge food/drink, shower, nap, and relax in peace before my flight. If you’re wondering if this pass is worth it, it is! (Especially if you travel internationally — the lounge options have gotten kind of poopie domestically, but are still amazing in other countries!)
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