Coming up with a packing list for Europe is no easy feat.
With 4 distinctive seasons and temperatures spanning from mild 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.
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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.
Good to know: 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While it is not a good idea to have large sums of cash on you, some cash is handy and can usually be withdrawn at ATMs or changed in banks / change stations (check for exchange rate fist!).
Good to know: always tell your bank you are about to travel overseas. A transaction from an unexpected location may trigger freezing your card, not something you want to deal with while away!
Cross-body bag for European city travel
I always recommend packing a good crossbody bag for Europe as the safest and most stylish way to carry your belongings.
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.
Having your bag on your shoulders also means you can potentially expose it to pickpockets, a possible problem especially in busy cities and train stations.
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!
If you are worried about pickpockets you can invest in an anti-theft travel purse however, I find good crossbody bags like these are perfect for travel.
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, find our packing list for winter in Europe with some suggestions), 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.
If you have special plans such as attending the opera in Vienna, special rules apply: you can find our tips for packing for Vienna here.
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 – ask your provider if they have a good roaming plan you can use or get a sim card at your destination.
- Phone charger
- International travel adapter (worldwide, different European countries have different plugs/sockets)
- Camera charger
- Multi port charger
- Wireless Headphones
- Portable Cable organizer
- Drone / Laptop if using
- All your travel app (accommodation reservations, tickets, maps, language translator etc)
- Power bank – I like those with many ports so you can make the most of the sometimes limited socket options in hotel rooms.
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.
Paper maps are also very handy as some locations simply have poor GPS coverage. In Italy and Ireland in particular we found paper maps essential.
If planning on driving, you may also find handy this road trip checklist with all road trip packing tips and essentials.
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.
If you are interested in travel products that can make your travel a little more sustainable, we have a good list of eco-friendly travel products we like here.
Su glasses and fashion accessories
I find sun 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 and get the name of the generic medication you need: this will make it easy for the local pharmacist to identify the right product.
First aid kid essentials include:
- Fever medication / painkiller
- Anti-histamin cream (after bite etc) and medication
- Plasters and gauzes
- Disinfectant wipes
- Rehydrating salts
- Eye drops
- Motion sickness tablets
- Any prescription medication you know you need/may need
Travel pillow and eye mask
Not an essential but a nice to have, especially if you are travelling by plane on low cost airlines or by train.
Eye masks can be useful on the plane and also a great thing to have in northern Europe in summer.
In Northern European countries, summer brings very long days and short nights and not all hotels are equipped with blackout blinds.
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 if using
- Brush / Comb / Air ties and accessories etc
- Travel hairdryer
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
You can find my full packing list for Europe in winter here.
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
If your European summer vacation includes time on the beach, you may also find handy my beach vacation packing list, perfect for Southern Europe and European islands.
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
- Umbrella – choose a wind resistant one, especially if traveling to windy countries such as Iceland or Ireland
- You usually do not need thermal layers for autumn in Europe unless you are going to mountain areas or are travelling late November / December in North/Central Europe, a time when temperatures can indeed plummet.
You can find more details autumn packing list for European destinations at my Rome in the fall packing list and Italy autumn packing list, Amsterdam spring packing list. They work as good templates with similar climate destinations too such as Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and most continental Europe.
I hope you found this list useful for getting started on your packing list for Europe. Safe travels!