Coming up with a packing list for Europe is no easy feat.
With 4 distinctive seasons and temperatures spanning from mild to to hot, to freezing depending on where in Europe you are and when, it is easier to pack for an individual country than for the continent.
However, since many travelers make the most of an overseas trip to visit large parts of Europe in one go, a Europe packing list makes sense.
In this article, I share what to pack for Europe in each season and list travel essentials you will want to have with you when visiting Europe. You can get an overview of weather across Europe here.
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Packing list for Europe: documents and essentials
Travel documents and wallet
My packing lists always start with documents as you can go nowhere if you don’t have them in order and handy.
This is true for any trip but it is exceptionally useful to remember in Europe as in many countries having ID on you at all times is required by the law (This means an officer can stop you and ask you for ID if necessary).
I find the easiest way to keep track of all my documents to be a travel wallet.
They come in several shapes and sizes and you can choose the one that fits your needs and taste best.
I tend to like smaller ones that fit into a small to medium size handbag but you can choose document holders or pretty much any kind.
The documents you will need to enter and leave Europe will depend on your passport and the specific country you are visiting (Intra or Extra Schengen etc). Make sure you check with your embassy the exact documents you need and visa requirements, as well as allowed duration of stay.
Credit / debit cards and cash
Access to money is paramount when traveling in Europe and a mix of credit card and cash is your safest bet.
How widely accepted cards are, depends on the country.
Iceland is an almost cashless society (check our specific packing list for Iceland in winter here), while in Italy you will want to have cash on you for many purchases and not just smaller ones. Check our tips for packing for Italy here.
While it is not a good idea to have large sums of cash on you, some cash is handy and can usually be withdrawn at ATMs or changed in banks / change stations (check for exchange rate fist!).
Cross-body bag for city travel
The best way to carry your belongings while city exploring is a cross-body bag.
Backpack may pose issues when visiting museums as the security teams may ask you to leave them in storage and they are not always safe in crowded places.
Cross-body bags are handy and can be stylish too, meaning you can feel less than a tourist and more like a local, which is always a plus!
I usually do not buy special bags for travel and bring whatever purse I happen to use at home. However, if you are worried about pickpockets you can invest in an anti-theft travel purse such as this one.
Good walking shoes
In Europe, you will do a lot of walking!
Driving in cities is unnecessary and often unpleasant and you will find walking and using public transport are often much easier than navigating busy city traffic.
Because of this, good walking shoes are essential. For winter, I love sturdy boots that can withstand the occasional bout of snow (if you are going to the extreme North of Europe in winter, you will need proper snow boots), ankle boots for city travel and runners (sneakers) for the warmer seasons.
When picking a pair of sneakers for travel, opt for a lifestyle model rather than a full on sports one to feel like a local.
Even in stylish Italy sneakers are a perfectly acceptable daytime type of shoes and should only be avoided in upper end restaurants (or dressy situations such as the theater etc).
In summer, I a a fan of comfortable sandals such as these cute ones that match style and comfort.
For a full list of shoes that work well on cobbled streets, have a look at my selection of shoes for Italy - perfect in most old European capitals too!
I don't travel with a lot of tech but some items are my must haves and are handier to carry from home than having to track them down while abroad in Europe.
My travel tech essentials are:
- Phone with relevant sim card
- Phone charger
- International travel adapter (worldwide, different European countries have different plugs/sockets)
- Camera charger
- Multi port charger
- Bluetooth speaker by Muzen Audio (or another brand, but I find this one so stylish
Phone, camera, bluetooth speaker, Ipod... whatever your tech addiction is, chances are you will need to recharge while on the go.
A power bank is a good investment and the best ones are those with several port an good capacity so you can charge several devices at once.
European hotels vary in standard but I have often found they are not as many plugs as you may need (especially if you travel with kids so you have the tech needs of 4 people all competing for that same socket!)
Guide books and maps
I do most of my travel searches online but nothing beats a good travel guide such as the ones by Lonely Planet. I have always loved them and find their country or even region specific ones best.
Refillable water bottle
I like bringing my own water bottle when I travel as I know I can save money refilling it at my accommodation / breakfast buffet and I can help reducing waste.
You don't have to go fancy when buying one but if you want something handy that occupies little space and is unobtrusive when not in use, go for a collapsible one such as this one.
Su glasses and fashion accessories
I find su glasses always useful in Europe although of course with some exception.
They are essential in spring and summer but they are often also handy in the winter when even in the North of Europe you may get very bright days or a glare that can be unpleasant to the eye.
An easy way to feel fashionable and fit in with local styles is to go for necklaces, both in summer and winter.
Especially in the south of Europe chunky, colorful ones are popular at all ages and add that touch of fun and style to almost any outfit.
They are the easiest way to make your clothes go from day to evening without having to stop at the hotel to get fully changed.
Scarves are also an excellent travel accessory to add to your packing list for Europe as they double up as a fashion statement and extra layer.
If visiting churches, they also often come in handy if you need to quickly cover your shoulders.
Be advised that in some religious sites this may not be sufficient: check our packing tips for Rome, in particular, for dress code in places such as the Vatican
First aid kit
I always travel with a small first aid kit that I fill with essentials in case of wounds, fever and pains.
As well as usual content I always add prescriptions, if any.
Consider than what needs a prescription in Europe is often different from what is given over the country in the US, for instance, and rules even change from one European country to the other.
If in doubt make sure you have a prescription from your doctor in English or ideally the language of the country / countries you will be visiting.
Not an essential but a nice to have, especially if you are travelling by plane on low cost airlines or by train.
Kids car seat / booster seat if traveling with a young child
Rules about car seats are strict in Europe and way from country to country.
However, as a general rule taxis do not carry car seats so it is wise to come equipped with your own. The best car seat will depend on the age and height / weight f your child, but you can find our favourite ones in this guide to portable car seats
Toiletry brands vary widely depending on where in Europe you are so I always recommend you bring your own, in travel sized bottles if traveling carry on only.
This is my toiletry master list:
- Shower gel / soap / face soap
- Shampoo / conditioner
- Razor / blades
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Sanitary pads
- Make up (I love BB creams as you have most of what you need in just one tube)
- Brush / Comb
- Travel hairdryer
- Medicines (paracetamol and post bite cream at the very minimum)
- First aid kit
Europe packing list for winter
I wish there was such a thing as winter in Europe but reality is: there isn't. In the south of Europe winters are mild and often even pleasant but in central Europe and even more in the North you get bitter cold, snow and you seriously low temperatures.
To be prepared for all situations, for winter in Europe I recommend to pack:
- Warm winter jacket, waterproof
- Hat, scarf, gloves
- Warm jumpers
- Woolen cardigan
- long and short sleeve tops for layering
- Trousers / thick tights / skirt
- Thermal underlay for central / Northern Europe
- Good waterproof walking shoes
- Snow gear for specific destinations
- Slippers / house socks
Europe packing list for summer
Packing for Europe in summer is more straight forward than packing for the winter months but you still need to take into account your specific destination.
In general, you can expect very hot summers across most of Europe and milder, wetter ones in the very North and the British isles.
My packing list for Europe in summer includes
- Light cardigan (if traveling in the North of Europe)
- Windbreaker (if traveling in the North of Europe)
- Short sleeve tops and vests
- Jeans and other trousers for the north of Europe
- Skirts / summer dresses
- Swim suit
- Microfiber towel for hotels/ beach
- Good summer walking shoes and walking sandals
- Flip flops
- Sun cream
- Sun hat
What to pack for Europe in spring and fall
Spring and fall are mid-seasons in Europe and the best what to be ready for them is to embrace layers. My must haves for fall and spring in Europe are:
- Mid season jacket: I love the puffy ones that occupy tiny space in your luggage such as this one
- Large scarf
- Short and long sleeve tops
- Long trousers / skirt and tights
- Good walking shoes
I hope you found this list useful for getting started on your packing list for Europe. Safe travels!
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