Updated on May 4, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
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 cover what to wear in Europe, what items NOT to bring to Europe, and some FAQs.
What to Pack for Europe – 17 Essentials
1. Neck Wallet
Europe is unfortunately notorious for its pickpockets at all major tourist attractions and especially in cities like Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Dublin. But if you use a neck wallet you can easily conceal your cash, credit cards, phone, hotel keys, and important travel documents while not screaming “I’m a tourist!”. And the beauty of a neck wallet is you can also easily hide it under your shirt or jacket making it next to impossible for pickpockets to steal from.
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!
The most common outlets in Europe include Type C, E, F and G. For this reason I recommend bringing an international power adapter that will work in almost all European countries (except for Italy and Switzerland). This one pictured comes with USB ports and a built-in fuse to protect you devices in case of a power surge.
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.
Having high speed data on your phone from the moment you get off the plane in Europe can be an absolute godsend. Whether it’s for using Uber, finding your accommodation with Google Maps or simply checking emails, you will be so happy you have this. We used it heavily on our last 2 week trip through France and Italy and it worked perfectly. In fact, this one is compatible with 30 European countries and comes with 10GB of data! It’s definitely way cheaper than paying all the roaming fees with your local carrier and all you need is an unlocked phone for it to work.
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 – TOTAL GAME CHANGER!
It might be surprising to find this listed here but I’ve found that there are a high number of websites (or parts of websites) that get blocked in many European countries. For example, often music videos and movies on YouTube or Netflix 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!
Europe is one of the rainiest places on Earth with much of the continent seeing rain days often for 15 days out of every month! In order to be able to enjoy it even in the midst of rainy days you need a good quality travel umbrella like the one pictured. This one is windproof, super compact at only 12 inches when collapsed, and comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee.
If you’re planning any day trips, a good daypack should be at the top of your packing list. This Venture Pal backpack is the perfect blend of features, quality and affordability. We’ve found it to be comfortable, durable and has numerous little compartments for all our needs. Also, it’s super lightweight and foldable so that when you’re not using it, you can store it easily. Available in many colors.
Travel insurance is a must when traveling to Europe. If you get in an accident and need to go to hospital your local insurance company simply won’t cover the costs. We use and recommend World Nomads who will also replace lost or stolen items and will pay for hotel rooms and plane flights if yours get canceled. Things can always go wrong; (and for a tiny fraction of your trip cost) travel insurance will take care of you if they do, and give you peace-of-mind even if they don’t.
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 a built-in filter so all you have to do is fill and drink.
12. Gorgeous Outfit
Europe’s restaurant scene is really killer, and there are endless opportunities to enjoy the nightlife. Even if I’m planning a more casual trip, I always pack at least one or two outfits that I would feel confident wearing in the evenings. My wife loves this jumpsuit because it’s easy to pack, doesn’t wrinkle easily, and she looks incredible in it.
Most of Europe is best enjoyed on foot. From museums to cafes to just taking in the architecture, you will be walking a lot. Summer months can be pretty hot with high chances of humidity and rain. You’ll want something breathable and comfortable especially if they get wet in a sudden downpour. These Crocs (yes, Crocs?!) are actually super cute, and so cozy and cool on muggy days. They are my feet’s most-loved flat choice.
This bag is genius because it takes up literally no space. Collapsed, it’s about the size of a folded tank top, but when fully packed it is a larger personal item bag that fits under the seat on your flights. This duffel attaches to the handle of your roller bag for smooth airport travel. Consider bringing it as a “just in case” bag to throw in your larger suitcase at the start of the trip – it’ll come in handy for all the stuff you will inevitably pick up on during your travels (such as souvenirs). If you are considering bringing home an even bigger loot (of chocolate) try this larger size.
There are so many cute restaurants and cafes, but many restaurants won’t be as clean as the places you frequent at home. Food poisoning happens! The most surprising was when I actually got SO sick from a $250 Michelin-rated meal in London. Please don’t risk your trip by not bringing these along. They will shorten the duration of the food borne illness dramatically, and in many cases can alleviate the problem almost immediately. Always consult your doctor, but in our experience they really WORK because they simply suck up the toxins and help your body eliminate them altogether.
16. Deodorant wipes
Europe in the summer can be hot and muggy. I often find myself sweaty most of the day. I hate reapplying deodorant to my already sweaty armpits, and I will no longer succumb to washing my underarms in a sink that has no paper towels to dry myself. These non-toxic, natural wipes do the trick! They fit nicely in my purse or daybag, and with a quick wipe I’m as fresh as I was first thing in the morning.
17. Rolling suitcase
We pick this suitcase by Olympia (hands down). When you are trying to navigate cobblestone streets or haul it up a 5 story building with no elevator you will thank us. The wheels are designed with recessed in-line skate metal ball bearings making it very sturdy on uneven surfaces, it’s inherently light (5lbs), it comes with many pockets and compartments, has self-repairing zippers, and the top section is big so you can easily see everything you’ve packed.
We have written a helpful ebook with all our best tips for saving money and avoiding scams and pickpockets in Europe. You can download the ebook below for free. We were compelled to share these important tips after seeing countless tourists getting ripped off and scammed in Europe during our dozen or more trips there. The guide also includes a useful section with general Europe travel tips to help you get the most out of your adventure.
Other Europe Packing List Items Not to Forget
Facial cleansing wipes
Affordable Underwater Camera
Steripod toothbrush cover
Sweater: Women’s and Men’s
Sunglasses: Women’s and Men’s
Vitamins: Women’s and Men’s
Travel Toilet Paper
Shoulder bag: Women’s and Men’s
Personal Item Travel Bag
What should I wear in Europe?
Walking: You’ll be doing a LOT of walking. Bring shoes that are comfortable but that still look nice.
Fashion and Style: No, you don’t need to dress like a model, but you should look nice to fit in. Choose mainly dark colors, especially dark jeans if you’re wearing jeans.
Weather: Seasons are similar to the US, but they still vary depending on location. ALWAYS bring an umbrella and rain jacket with you.
The weather often varies a lot across Europe so you will want to pack clothes that are versatile. European women are quite stylish so choose outfits that are more on the smart casual side. Ankle boots are very popular and a pair of nice sneakers or flats are great to have while exploring around. Choose dark colored pants, jeans, or leggings to wear with camis, blouses, long knitted sweaters or cardigans, and dresses. Outside, leather jackets are popular and a scarf is essential. Accessories to add to any outfit include retro shades with a leather saddle bag or vintage rucksack to carry your things.
Men also need to pack versatile outfits that can be worn for many different activities. European men are quite fashionable and wear clothing that is well fitted. Choose to pack a pair of leather sneakers for activities in the day and dressier oxford shoes for nights out. Wear dark fitted jeans, or earth colored tapered pants with a collard button up shirt or teeshirt with a sweater or casual blazer. Choose tee-shirts that are solid colors but you can add some style to button up shirts with different patterns. A belt helps dress up any look along with a pair of semi-rimless shades and fedora hat. Store your cash and cards in a minimalist RFID wallet and for day excursions bring a lightweight backpack.
SPRING – March, April, May:
Spring counts as one of the shoulder seasons for Europe, and is an ideal time to travel to many locations which will have sparser crowds and still agreeable weather. Although, some places will be wet and dreary at this time, so check the specs on your destination before you pack.
Rain gear is absolutely crucial during spring, so bring a quality windproof travel umbrella and a good rain jacket. Boots are a good idea in most places, just in case you find yourself slogging through mud or wet grass. Temperatures average between 41°F and 58°F (5°C to 14°C).
SUMMER – June, July, August:
European summers are lovely, and typically comfortably warm – though parts of Europe can endure searing heat during the peak of summer.
The downside of this nicer weather is that the summer is when most tourists visit, making it high-season. If you can handle the crowds and the inflated prices, it’s a gorgeous season to visit!
You probably won’t need any heavier outerwear unless you’re traveling to destinations farther north or at higher altitudes. Temperatures average between 59°F and 78°F (15°C to 26°C).
FALL – September, October, November:
Fall or autumn is the second half of the shoulder season in Europe, and brings milder weather and again, smaller crowds. Prepare for some precipitation (usually drizzle) and chill, but expect tolerable to fair conditions. As always, check on averages for your destinations to be sure!
Autumn in Europe calls for a light jacket, dependable waterproof walking shoes, and a couple of scarves to keep warm should a chillier day arise. Temperatures average between 45°F and 60°F (7°C to 16°C).
WINTER – December, January, February:
Winter in many areas of Europe is cold, but generally mild. Depending on your location, you may experience anything from chilly seaside winds to blustery gales and everything in between. Mostly, you’ll see days that chill you and necessitate hot chocolate and warm jackets.
Hats, gloves, and scarves are needed. Sweaters are ideal. It’s also a good idea to bring good all-weather walking shoes that can keep your feet warm and dry while you’re out and about. If you’re exploring at higher altitudes, you WILL need warmer gear. Temperatures average between 29°F and 41°F (-2°C to 5°C).
Churches – Europe doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the number of beautiful, magnificent churches and other holy sites. From the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris to the world’s largest church at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and the 700-year-old Westminster Abbey in London, there’s a lot to see! With any religious site, it is important to dress conservatively. Shoulders need to be covered and women should avoid wearing anything with a deep v neck or tops that expose the midriff or back. Dresses, skirts, and shorts can be worn if it goes below the knee. Keep in mind, many places have now banned selfie sticks so leave them at home.
Museums and Galleries – You can find some of the world’s best museums in Europe. What was once a medieval fortress now houses the most famous painting, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, at the Louvre in Paris, France. There’s also the Rosetta Stone at The British Museum in London, and insights into Athenian life at The Acropolis Museum in Athens. Dress smart casual if you are planning to visit any museums or galleries. It can often get quite chilly so bring a shawl or sweater to stay warm. You will also be doing a lot of walking, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes such as flats, loafers, or sneakers. Museums tend to be very quiet so avoid anything with a heel that makes a lot of noise while walking.
Eating Out – Europe is a food lover paradise offering the best of French, Italian, Greek, and Spanish cuisine just to name a few. From traditional markets offering local products to the best of fine dining, you can find an array of foodie experiences. If you are looking for the best of the best, book a reservation at a Michelin starred restaurant such as Arpège in Paris, The Ledbury in London, or La Pergola in Rome. Europeans tend to dress up in the evenings so pack a few nicer pieces for dining out. Men can wear leather shoes with trousers or dark fitted jeans with a button up shirt and blazer jacket. Women can wear wedges or a pair of nice flats with maxi dresses for warm weather or dark slim fit trousers with a nice blouse on top and a few accessories during colder months.
Exploring the Streets – The best way to start a trip in any city is by exploring the streets! In many major cities in Europe, many companies offer free walking tours. This is a great way to get your bearings in a new destination and check out some of the highlights. Just keep in mind, it is common courtesy to tip your guide at the end what you think the tour was worth. While you are walking around the city, make sure to wear a pair of comfortable shoes like sneakers or flats. There are manycobblestoned streets in Europe so avoid anything with a heel. Outfit ideas for men include fitted chino pants with a tee shirt and cardigan. Women can wear leggings with dresses or skinny jeans with a cami and a long sweater. It’s also a good idea to bring a lightweight, windproof jacket and pack your valuables in an RFID wallet or purse for protection against pickpocketing.
What NOT to take to Europe
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.
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 trips to Europe
1. Is the tap water in Europe safe to drink?
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 safe for women to travel alone to Europe?
Yes! Women should have no more fear about traveling alone than men should – especially when traveling to places in Europe. Stay in areas that are safe for tourists, don’t flaunt the fact that you’re a tourist, and take standard safety precautions with your money. The one thing that may be more applicable to women than to men is that you shouldn’t go walking alone at night, but that’s standard anywhere. Don’t carry excess cash, take familiar routes when possible, try to avoid out-of-place clothing, and relax! You’re more likely to blend in instead of sticking out as a tourist if you look like you belong there. It will likely make you more comfortable to research current country-specific travel notes here.
5. Is it worth getting a Eurail pass?
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 spontaneity, a pass is the way to go.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. What is the best way to get around Europe?
9. 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. Check here to verify the current requirements.
10. Are there any good Mediterranean cruises?
Absolutely! Apart from the Caribbean, we believe the Mediterranean is the best place to do a cruise. Why? Well it’s simple, you often get to see six different countries in the space of 10-days and many itineraries have only a couple of cruising days. This means you can be out exploring the ports every day and finding the best food and best excursions to do while enjoying such an array of different cultures in such a short time. If you’re wondering what to pack for a cruise, read our full guide.
11. What is the best time of year to visit Europe?
12. 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.