17 Top Europe Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2018 Update)

What should I bring on my Europe trip?

A lot of people were asking me, “What should I pack for Europe?” so I wrote this complete Europe packing checklist.

My wife and I (pictured) have been to Europe 9 times over the past 10 years – we love it!!

What to bring to Europe varies based on season, travel style, and region, but these items below will be useful on basically any trip.

At the bottom, I also have some tips on what to wear in Europe, a list of items NOT to bring to Europe, and some FAQs about traveling in Europe.

1) Passport Pouch – You obviously need a passport for European travel but I also recommend you get a pouch for your passport. I keep my money and credit cards in this pouch under my shirt so that I don’t have to have a wallet in my pocket. Europe is known for its pickpockets in places like Paris and London. Having your valuables concealed under your shirt makes it next to impossible to have anything stolen, and since it’s hidden you don’t have to worry about looking “touristy”.
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2) Lipstick-sized portable charger – This external power bank for charging your devices is simply irreplaceable. You’re constantly on the go while traveling, you have limited charging time and space, and you use your devices often to capture and record those unforgettable travel moments. This little charger has saved us many times when we needed Google Maps to help us get back to the hotel but our phone was out of power!
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cellphone charger

3) Europe power adapter – The most common outlets in Europe include Type C, E, F. These are all different to the outlets in the US so if you need to charge any devices you’ll need a power adapter. If you’ll also be visiting the UK or Ireland then I recommend bringing an international power adapter.
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europe power adapter

4) Travel insurance – Travel insurance might not be terribly exciting, but you should consider it part of your packing list if you’re going abroad. It might feel like a needless cost, but you really don’t want to get stuck replacing stolen items or buying a last-minute plane ticket in an emergency. Most of Europe is quite safe, but things can always go wrong; travel insurance will take care of you if they do, and give you some peace of mind even if they don’t. We use and recommend World Nomads insurance, which is a popular and highly-rated option among frequent travelers.
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5) Packing cubes – If you want to be able to easily find things in your backpack or suitcase, you’ll want a set of quality packing cubes like these. Instead of digging through everything you packed to see if there’s one clean t-shirt left, just pull out the cube your shirts are in. I used to avoid packing cubes because I thought they’d be too bulky – but while they do take up a little bit of space, it’s well worth it, and they actually end up making your packing more compact and well organized if you use them effectively.
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6) Activated charcoal – Travelers Diarrhea can happen to anyone especially if you’re eating new food or in a new climate. Europe is much safer than places like India or Mexico but it’s still common for travelers to get a bout of diarrhea typically lasting for 24 hrs. I recommend packing some activated charcoal to be prepared just in case of emergency. These capsules quickly absorb whatever toxins are in your system, stopping the dreaded diarrhea at its source and quickly getting you back to normal.
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7) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – It might be surprising to find this on a Europe packing list but I’ve found that there are a surprisingly high number of websites (or parts of websites) that get blocked in many European countries. For example, often music videos and movies on YouTube won’t be viewable. A good VPN like NordVPN will make it possible to visit every website without censorship.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is the security that a VPN gives you. I recently learned this the hard way in Paris where I had my credit card number stolen after using what I thought was a secure Wifi network at an Airbnb rental.

Whenever you go on someone else’s WiFi whether it’s at a cafe, airport, Airbnb, or hotel, you’re potentially putting your passwords, credit card and identity at risk of being hacked. With a VPN, you protect your sensitive data on any device with just 1-click. And, it’s super affordable!
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8) Travel First-Aid kit – Cuts and scrapes are inevitable with travel especially if you’re doing a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking. I highly recommend having a travel first-aid kit on hand so that you can quickly use some antiseptic wipes and get a bandaid or bandage on your scrape before it could get infected.
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9) Quick-dry travel towel – If you’re a backpacker in Europe, it’s a good idea to bring a towel, since you might come across hostels that don’t provide them. Regular bath towels are too big and bulky to be practical for travel, so opt for a quick-dry towel instead. They’ll do the trick, plus they’re lightweight and take up very little space.
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10) Water bottle with built-in filter – Water quality is tough to predict in many parts of Europe – some places have delicious, drinkable tap water. Others have little to no drinkable water available without buying pre-bottled water. I always recommend that travelers bring their own water bottles with a filter, to ensure that your water is safe to drink. This water bottle has an inset filter to do the work for you without any extra steps – just fill and drink.
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11) Travel daypack – If you’re planning any day trips, a good daypack should be at the top of your packing list. Osprey is a popular company, and their Porter backpack has a lot of great features, like lockable zippers, a padded laptop sleeve, and technical suspension. This is the best quality and most comfortable daypack I’ve used.
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12) Solid shampoo – On your flight into Europe and on shorter flights between European countries, you’ll have to carefully measure and pack small bottles of liquids. So any product that cuts down on liquids is more convenient, and fewer liquids means less chance of a mess, too. If you’re skeptical of solid shampoo, try this one from Lush, which works just as well as the regular kind.
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13) Windproof Travel Umbrella – Rainy season is a thing to plan for in Europe – many parts are subtropical in climate. Other parts, such as Ireland, the UK, France & Germany still have significant rains during much of the year. A lightweight, windproof travel umbrella is a great idea to keep you protected from the elements, and it’s easy to pack and carry.
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14) Travel toilet paper – Many travelers are caught unprepared when they encounter ill-equipped toilets (known as WCs – short for Water Closet) in Europe. Travel toilet paper is a wise addition to your packing list and daypack. You will be guaranteed to have what you need in case you find yourself in a poorly stocked WC!
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15) Natural Jet Lag relief pills – Any experienced traveler knows how much jet lag can weigh you down when traveling. You don’t want to lose a day or more of your prime exploration time because you’re feeling too bogged down and jet lagged to enjoy your adventure. This natural jet lag preventative is a great, natural solution to this age-old problem, and can help you ensure full enjoyment of your journey.
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16) Hanging toiletry bag – We all need certain toiletries from home while traveling, and keeping them clean, organized, and spill-free during the ride can save a lot of trouble and hassle. A hanging toiletry bag keeps your items at easy access, and makes organization a re-packing a breeze.
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17) Rolling suitcase – This is the rolling suitcase we use when traveling to Europe. Olympia is a popular luggage brand, known for their lightweight and durable suitcases. This roller has several different compartments and isn’t too big yet fits everything we need to bring within the airline weight limits. It’s also not too pricey.
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Other packing list items to consider bringing to Europe

Other European packing lists you may like: Amsterdam | Barcelona | Croatia | Greece | Ireland | Italy | London | Paris | Portugal | Rome | Scotland | Spain |

What should I wear in Europe?

Europe’s weather varies a lot by country and by season, so it’s a good idea to do a little research on your specific destinations.

In general, though, you’ll be most comfortable in lightweight fabrics during the summer, especially in southern Europe, but you’ll want warm clothes in the winter, especially in northern Europe. A good rule of thumb for traveling in Europe any time of year is to dress in layers, and to bring an umbrella or rain jacket with you.

It might be a less practical consideration than weather, but fashion is also important in Europe. You can often pick out the North Americans in Europe by their casual clothes, especially fleece jackets, sweatshirts, flip-flops, and sneakers. If you want to blend in more, dress up a little and wear mainly dark colors, especially dark jeans.

Lastly, most trips to Europe involve a ton of walking, so you’ll want to wear women’s or men’s shoes that are comfortable but nice.

What NOT to take to Europe

1) 🚫 DON’T BRING lots of electronics:
I recommend packing a camera and a Kindle, and maybe your laptop, but don’t bring much more than that. Unless you have other electronics you’ll really need on your trip, it’s just not worth the risk of them being lost or stolen.

3) 🚫 DON’T TAKE expensive jewelry: Similarly, you don’t want to risk valuable or sentimental jewelry getting lost or stolen on the road. Plus, wearing a lot of flashy jewelry can make you a target. Pack a couple of pieces you’ll want to wear on your trip, and leave the rest at home.

5) 🚫 DON’T PACK a bunch of books: More than one book will get heavy and take up a lot of space in a backpack or carry-on suitcase. Some hostels and cafes in Europe have book exchanges where you can pick up a free paperback and drop it off at a future exchange when you’re done. Or, you can simply load up a Kindle, and do your reading on a lighter device that’s easier to pack.

7) 🚫 DON’T TAKE too many clothes: Most people have a tendency to over pack, especially when it comes to clothes, which just means more stuff to lug around. Pare it down to a few outfits, and if you run out of things to wear, it’s not hard to find a place to do laundry in most parts of Europe.

2) 🚫 DON’T PACK a bath towel: It’s a good idea to bring a towel with you to Europe, but regular towels are bulky and heavy, and take way too long to dry. Take a quick-dry travel towel instead – they’re much lighter and smaller, but still plenty absorbent.

4) 🚫 DON’T BRING lots of cash: Except for in very rural areas, nearly any place you visit in Europe will have ATMs, and many spots take credit cards, too. There’s no need to take a ton of cash and risk it being lost or stolen.

6) 🚫 DON’T TAKE a Europe-wide guidebook: Lonely Planet and many other publications have a guidebook that covers all of Europe. While that might seem like a good idea if you’re planning to visit several countries or are still deciding where to go, they rarely have sufficient detail on any individual place. Do your generic Europe research online, and get the guidebooks for the specific countries or regions you’ll be visiting.

8) 🚫 DON’T PACK overly casual clothes: Europeans tend to dress well, and they generally dress up more than North Americans do. While you’ll want some casual clothes for hanging around your hostel or hitting the pool or beach, I’d suggest bringing a collection of slightly nicer clothing for your Europe trip.

FAQs about travel in Europe

1) Is the tap water in Europe safe to drink?

You can drink the tap water in most of Europe. However, that is not true for countries in the Balkans and the Former Soviet Union. In those areas, travelers should be careful to avoid tap water unless it has been treated. In Eastern Europe, you may also want to avoid untreated tap water outside the major cities to be safe.

2) How prevalent is English in Europe?

Among European countries, English is the primary native language only in the U.K. and Ireland, but it is widely spoken as a second language elsewhere. In Nordic countries and the Netherlands, a large portion of the population speaks English well, even in smaller towns. In Western Europe, you won’t have much trouble finding English speakers in major towns or popular tourist sites, and most people who work in the tourism industry speak English. The farther east you go, however, the less English you’ll encounter (though hotel staff still commonly speak English). English speakers can certainly still travel in those countries, it just might be a bit more challenging.

3) What countries in Europe are the cheapest to visit?

In general, Eastern Europe is significantly cheaper than Western Europe. Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic are especially popular budget travel destinations, but Slovakia, Serbia, Latvia, and Ukraine are also very cheap to visit.

4) Is it worth getting a Eurail pass?

Europe’s train systems are highly lauded, and many backpackers and other travelers in Europe plan their trips around riding the train from country to country. But many find themselves wondering, “Is a Eurail pass worth it?” Whether a pass is the cheapest option depends on how many train rides you’ll be taking, where you’ll be riding, and how far in advance you could book tickets.

In general, a pass will save money if you’re visiting a lot of different countries and/or taking long train rides, while buying individual tickets is cheaper if you’re booking far in advance or if you’re traveling exclusively in Eastern Europe. But, one of the biggest perks of using a pass is the flexibility: last-minute train tickets are expensive, so if you want to be able to travel with more respontaneity, a pass is the way to go.

5) Do I need to tip in restaurants in Europe?

Restaurants in Europe often note on the menu or bill that a service charge is included, in which case an additional tip is not necessary. Otherwise, tipping is not required but it’s customary to round up the bill. If you do decide to tip, make sure to do it in cash and hand it directly to your server. The major exception to this rule is Scandinavian countries, where tipping is not generally practiced.

6) Where can travelers get off the beaten path in Europe?

In general, Western Europe is much more traveled than Eastern Europe, and capital cities and historical sites are often heavily visited. To get off the beaten path, head to rural areas or to countries in the Balkans or the Former Soviet Union, which see relatively little tourism.

7) What is the best way to get around Europe?

Public transportation is well developed throughout most of Europe, and it’s generally easy to get from country to country. Most trains in Europe are comfortable and efficient, and train travel is probably the most popular way to get around, whether you opt for a Eurail pass or individual tickets (see above). For most routes, though, the bus is cheaper than the train, and Eurolines is the main network of international buses in Europe. With budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet, flying between countries can be an affordable option, too; just check Google Flights or a site like Kayak to see all the flight options.

8) Do I need a visa to visit Europe?

To visit countries in the Schengen Area, which currently includes 26 European countries, citizens of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and most of Central and South America do not need a visa for tourist visits of up to 90 days (within any 180-day period). The U.K. is not part of the Schengen Area, and allows citizens of most of the same countries to visit visa-free for up to six months.

9) What is the best time of year to visit Europe?

In general, the best seasons to visit Europe are the spring and fall, particularly in May, June, and September. During these months, prices are lower than during peak season, and the weather is agreeable in most areas.

10) How can I save money while traveling in Europe?

There are lots of ways to save money in Europe. For starters, stick to hostels or try couch-surfing to cut your accommodations costs. Car rentals and taxis can be pricey, so use trains and buses to get around instead, or just walk. Limit eating out, and pick up groceries for some of your meals; look for hostels or vacation rentals that have kitchens where you’ll be able to cook. Try eating out at lunch instead of dinner too, as many restaurants in Europe have good-value (and filling) lunch specials. Skip the bottled water, and just bring a reusable water bottle that you can keep filling up. And of course, putting a limit on your alcohol consumption will always save money.

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