Packing for trips can be daunting as you figure out what to bring, so we're here to help with some tips and tricks for your European excursion.
Whether you are a frequent flier or this is your first time trying to pack for an adventure, there are so many options on what to bring. It's always frustrating to get to the end of your trip, having lugged around a heavy bag, to find that you didn't wear half the things you brought. So, as we walk through our Europe packing list, think twice about if you really need each item you put in your bag. Efficient packing is key.
Choosing your Luggage
One of the most important items is what you carry everything in. Before you choose, think through what you'll be doing and the pros and cons of each type of luggage. The main two styles I recommend are backpacks and rolling luggage.
Rolling suitcases will be more durable and easier on your back. They also are more easy to organize. But, part of Europe's charm is the cobblestone streets, and the aged cities often do not have escalators. This means that you'll be carrying your suitcase more often or may feel like your hand is going to shake off after walking down the bumpy streets.
On the other side is the backpack. Backpacking Europe has become quite the draw for many of our readers. The flexibility of having your things on your back means that you have your hands free. You will also know where your possessions are at all times, which can be less stressful. If you plan on moving cities or hotels often, this is definitely a great choice because of the mobility. However, backpacks make it extremely important to limit what you bring and organize well, or you will be exhausted and stressed. So, think hard about which kind of adventure you're going for, and add one of the above to your Europe packing list.
Organizing your Clothes & Items
The key to a relaxing day is often starting it out right. Now, in Europe that may be a delectable shot of expresso at a local cafe, but in order to get there you need to be dressed. So, having your clothes and necessities easily found is so important for your sanity. I would recommend getting travel packing cubes. These items can store each group of thing, such as underwear, socks, shirts, etc., together. For our budget conscious travelers, a two gallon ziploc bag will be a little less durable but work just as well.
These zippered cubes not only help you keep outfits together but will also keep them less wrinkled. Also, more important than even these packing cubes in my opinion, is to have a dirty clothes bag! So often I find myself trying to shove the dirty clothes in the unused pockets of my suitcase, when I should really just have a dedicated space or bag for them. So, whatever your packing style, make sure you have a way to organize on your Europe packing list.
Wherever you stay will most likely have a smaller than desired counter space in the bathroom. For this reason, I highly recommend getting yourself a hanging toiletries organizer. This way you can see each of your cosmetics and bottles in a neat, orderly fashion. This is often a category that is overpacked, though. Think twice if you need to replicate your bathroom sink at home while you're abroad. The answer is most likely that you don't. There are great ways to organize makeup for travel though. On a final note, try and keep the organizer only as big as you need it. They have a tendency to take up more space on in your Europe packing list than you'd want if you buy too big.
Gadgets & Gizmos to Bring Along
There are certain things that are mandatory on our Europe packing list. One of those is an adapter! Make sure you're prepared to charge your electronics abroad. I think we've all forgotten our phone charger on one trip or another. In addition, call your phone company ahead of time to see if your plan includes international calling from your destination. You'll most likely be having long days of exploring as well, so bring a watch along so that you don't keep checking your phone and draining it's battery.
You never know what your you will run into on your European vacation, so I'd suggest bringing a first aid kit along. On top of your normal bandaid stash, I would bring Moleskin to cover the blisters you may get after walking eighteen miles around the cities. Also, it's a great idea to bring activated charcoal to ease travelers' diarrhea.
Clothes, Clothes, & More Clothes
Obviously, clothes will take up the most space in your luggage. So, each article that makes it onto your Europe packing list needs to be versatile, low maintenance, and coordinated. Delving into this, your clothes will be packed tight, so shirts that stay wrinkle free are a must. You don't want to be trying to find an ironing board every morning. You also want to avoid anything that can't be worn more than once. Try and stick with the same color scheme for all of your clothes so that each piece can be worn multiple times. One of the keys to always feeling fresh in the same clothes is through accessories. They don't take up much space, but a pair of statement earrings or a stunning scarf can make a bland outfit new again.
Now that we know the theory behind packing, here are some of the actual things to pack. Pants that are breathable, durable, yet still fashionable are becoming popular. Check out brands like Eddie Bauer and Hally Hansen for some wonderful travel pants. A good pant will also have zipper pockets to keep your knick knacks safe. As for shirts, having sleeves that roll up is a great way to layer and be adaptable to the day.
In addition to these things, you'll need some water gear. Swimsuits are a must for European pools, whereas at the beach you can get away with shorts. So, dedicated swimwear is a must for your Europe packing list. Also, rain storms can often roll in so grab a rain shell that can roll up small to always have with you.
Underneath the Clothes
Socks and underwear can make or break your vacation. It may sound like a bold statement, but it is one I have come to fully stand behind when it comes to long days on the road.
Synthetic or wool blend underwear has been gaining popularity recently. They are able to wick away moisture and control odor at the same time. With these traits, you can easily wash them in the sink, and they'll be dry by morning. In addition, it is a lot more comfortable if you stay away from the clamminess that often accompanies traveling. So, invest in a solid paid of undergarments for your Europe packing list.
The same rules and suggestions above apply to your socks. You'll be spending so much time in these, it is important to get high quality socks. Avoid cotton in this area as it will hold moisture and make your feet more likely to blister. There are also wonderful compression socks these days that can ease the soreness that comes with walking fifteen miles around Paris in a day.
And now for your feet…
Shoes rival clothes for the amount of space they will take up in your bag. So, choose wisely. You will want your shoes to be solid, durable, and already broken in. My best suggestion is having one pair of excellent walking shoes. While the shoe industry is getting better at fashion, choose comfort of that for now. After miles of walking, you will be glad you did.
But, I would also suggest bringing along a comfortable pair of open toed shoes or sandals for warm days or lighter walks around the towns. No one likes to have their toes crammed up all day, so make sure to let them free every now and then.
Of course, shoe choices depend on the season you are going. Lean more toward heavier waterproof boots if you're going in the winter or spring, or bring that pair of sandals if you're ready for summer. If you plan on staying in hostels, pick up a cheap pair of flip flops for those showers. You'll be glad you did.
Other Travel Accessories
To carry around what you'll need for the day, it is helpful to have a little day pack. Take a look at your trip itinerary to see how much you think you'd have to put in it in a day. In this pack should be a great water bottle, a journal, a camera, and some ear plugs. You'll never know when you will want any of these things, but they are so good to have on hand.
As you plan out your Europe packing list, you'll begin to see what will be the best choices for you based on your itinerary.
Every person is different in what they want out of their European excursion. If you're hoping to get those perfect pictures in Paris, you might lean a little more fashionable then someone planning to backpack fourteen countries in a few months. So, take these tips and tricks, but you know yourself best when it comes to packing.
Related article: Every Smart Traveler Needs a Smart Backpack