17 Top Europe Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2017 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!!

Below are 17 must-have items for traveling in Europe. What to bring to Europe varies based on season, travel style, and region, but these items will be useful on most 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) Lonely Planetguidebook (country-specific) – There are guidebooks that cover the entirety of Europe, but in my experience, they don’t provide nearly enough details about any individual place. To get more useful information, pick up guidebooks for the specific countries or regions you’ll be visiting. True to cliché, I prefer Lonely Planet’s books, which cover both popular and off-the-beaten-path destinations and always include backpacking and budget-friendly options.
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2) Europe Power adapter – Not bringing the correct power adapter is a classic rookie travel mistake, and if you’re coming from North America, you’ll need one anywhere in Europe. Several different kinds of outlets can be found throughout Europe, but the type that takes two round pins is most common. This adapter will work in nearly every country and it comes with an ebook to teach how to avoid frying your electronics in Europe!
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3) Travel insurance – Travel insurance might not be terribly exciting (and it’s true that many people forego it), 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. I normally use World Nomads insurance, which is a popular option among frequent travelers.
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4) Packing cubes – If you want to be able to easily find things in your backpack or suitcase, you’ll definitely want a set of packing cubes. 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.
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packing-cubes

5) 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 it’s source and quickly getting you back to normal.
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charcoal-tablets-for-dysentery

6) Camera – Whether your Eurotrip will take you to see the Eiffel Tower, Santorini, the Alps, or someplace far from the beaten path, you’ll want to have a record of it. When my wife and I travel together, I use a DSLR to take high-quality photos and she uses an iPhone to get some extra snaps. Most travelers, though, will probably want something smaller and cheaper than a DSLR but nicer than an iPhone. The Canon Powershot is a good in-between option that meets most people’s needs.
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7) Passport Pouch – You obviously need a passport for Europe 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 it’s pickpockets in places like Paris and London. Having your valuables concealed under your shirt makes it next to impossible to have anything stolen.
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8) Water bottle – If you’re walking around or spending a lot of time in the sun, staying hydrated is key. Bottled water is available almost everywhere, but you’ll save money and reduce plastic waste by bringing a reusable bottle to fill up. (Note that tap water is not safe to drink in some parts of Eastern Europe; see the FAQs below for more details.)
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9) 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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10) Flip-flops: Women’s and Men’s – You won’t see many Europeans walking around town in flip-flops, but you should still bring a pair with you. If you’re backpacking Europe and staying in hostels, they’re a necessity for the shared showers. You’ll also want a pair if you’re visiting beach destinations or just planning to hitthe pool.
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11) Walking shoes: Women’s and Men’s – Traveling in Europe usually means lots and lots of walking, and if you attempt it in sandals or heels, you’ll probably be sorry. It’s worth it to invest in a pair of comfortable but decent-looking shoes to make your trip to Europe more pleasant.
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12) Quick-dry 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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13) Dark jeans: Women’s and Men’s – Wondering what to wear in Europe? Dark jeans are a staple since they look nice and can easily be dressed up or down. Regardless of where in Europe you’re traveling, you’ll definitely want to put dark jeans on your packing list.
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14) Rain jacket: Women’s and Men’s – The U.K. may be known for its gray skies, but many other parts of Europe can be just as rainy, especially the Balkans, the southern Alps, Belgium, and Norway. In fact, unless you’re traveling in the summer, you’re almost guaranteed to encounter some rain in Europe. Regardless of exactly where you’re going, you should bring a rain jacket to be safe.
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15) Travel backpack – If you’re backpacking in Europe, a good backpack 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. You can also easily attach a smaller pack to the outside, too, in case you want more storage space or you’ll need a daypack during your trip.
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16) Rolling suitcase – If you’re not a backpacker, a rolling suitcase is a must. Samsonsite is a popular luggage brand, known for their lightweight and durable suitcases. This roller comes in several different colors, and it fits the carry-on specifications for most airlines.
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17) 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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Other packing list items to consider bringing to Europe

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 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 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.

2) 🚫 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 pieces you’ll want to wear on your trip, and leave the rest at home.

3) 🚫 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, load up a Kindle, and do your reading that way.

4) 🚫 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.

5) 🚫 DON’T PACK abath 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, which are much smaller and lighter weight.

6) 🚫 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 losing it or having it get stolen.

7) 🚫 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 still deciding where to go, they rarely have sufficient detail on any individual place. Do your generic Europe research online, and get the guidebook for specific countries or regions you’ll be visiting.

8) 🚫 DON’T PACK lots of 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 fewer casual outfits than usual.

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 themain 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 morespontaneity, 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 and tip 5-10%. If you’re tipping, 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 CouchSurfing to cut your accommodations cost. 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 bottle you can keep filling up. And of course, putting a limit on your alcohol consumption will always save money.

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