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 Amazon hard shell luggage whenever I want something sturdier. It’s roomy and super sleek looking. 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.
To be honest, I tend to forget about wheeled suitcases most of the time, because I walk fast and often times 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, they are amazing. However 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.
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.
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.
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 outlet-priced Lululemon 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. For your second pair, consider sandals in summer. I alternate between my Birkenstocks and Toms Open Toe Alpargatas— 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.
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.
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.
Wearable technology/activity trackers | Because we love data, technology, and convenience.
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.
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.
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 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.
Earplugs | 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.
Eye mask | 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, the awkwardness is gone! Plus it’ll make you feel like a fancy lady.
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. The MacBook Pro is such a great investment. 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.
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.
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 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
- Wearable technology / activity tracker
- 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
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.
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