What you need to pack for a trip to Europe, how much, and how to fit it all into a single carry-on bag, with some extra room for a souvenir or two.
This is the same list that I used for the first time traveling to Europe but slightly modified, whether I’m going for a week or a couple months. You can always buy extra clothing on your trip. Although my purposes for traveling to Europe are usually for business, the only business related item I bring is my laptop.
When you’re packing you should consider the six cardinal rules of traveling:
- Avoid white
- Avoid wrinkling
- Clothing that layers well
- Lots of pockets
- Avoid electric items
- Less is more
I went in the fall and brought way too much stuff! It was very costly when I ran into an airline that had lower luggage limits that normal. Limits were 15 kilo for checked baggage and 10 kilo for your single carry-on, much different than the laws of the United States. I strongly suggest sticking to this list and don’t bring any more than what I’ve listed here or you’ll be paying BIG TIME (20 EUR per kilo over!)
- 3 to 4 loads worth of laundry detergent
- 2 pairs of jeans.
- 1 belt.
- 4 pairs of underwear.
- 4 pairs of socks.
- 3 t-shirts. Keep them dark. Wear under longer sleeve shirts so the t-shirts will soak up the sweat and you can wash them)
- 2 long sleeve shirts. Nothing thick, try to pack microfiber stuff)
- 1 sweater. Keep it warm and dressy. Europeans wear a lot of nice sweaters when it’s cold. Sports jackets are very popular in countries that are chilly.
- 1 jacket. Only when you’re visiting late fall or winter.
- 1 pair of good walking shoes. Don’t bring anything fancy if you can avoid it. Shoes take up A LOT of space in your luggage and are really heavy. Just bring a single pair of walking shoes OR comfortable black shoes that you can walk in for miles at a time if you’re going to a conference.
- 1 hat. If you’re not too concerned about fashion, grab a Tilley Hat. If you don’t plan on being in the sun all the time, grab a regular ball cap.
- 1 pair of sunglasses. Polarized are the best. Pack a pair that doesn’t take up much space with a bulky container.
- Some jewelry. Pack a small amount of jewelry if you require it. Jewelry is heavy so we don’t recommend taking more than a single watch, necklace, and bracelet.
Store your liquids in quart size plastic bags. I prefer Ziploc. This will prevent spills from happening and the airport TSA prefers it this way. Minimize the space that you use by packing airport sized items. These can be easily purchased at Target or Walmart.
- Toothbrush. Avoid electric.
- 1 small tube of toothpaste. You can always get more from a hotel.
- Small soap bar. Bring the sliver that’s left in your shower and collect others from hotels along the way. You could exchange this for a small bottle of body wash instead.
- Razor. Avoid electric.
- Small bottle of shaving cream
- Medicines. Keep prescription drugs in their original containers in case TSA searches your bag.
- Extra glasses and/or contact lenses. If you wear glasses all the time, bring an extra pair. If you prefer contact lenses, bring 1 pair of glasses and an extra set of contact lenses. The longer your stay, the more contact lenses you should bring.
- First-aid kit. Don’t forget to pack lip-balm, bandages, hand-lotion, sunscreen, and decongestant.
- Laundry Kit. You’ll be doing lots of laundry in your sink or tub. Bring travel detergent, a braided clothesline, and a stain eraser such as a Tide Pen.
- Condoms. US brands are safer.
- Language phrase-books. You’ll need this if you’re in a country that doesn’t speak English well.
- Journal & pens. Or you can use a laptop if you’re bringing one along.
- Camera, memory cards, & battery charger. Don’t flaunt a gigantic camera bag that screams “steal me.”
- Address list. If you have an iPhone, update your address book with everybody that you plan on sending postcards to. People love to receive postcards.
- Bug spray. For rural travelers.
- Luggage locks. TSA approved.
- Tiny folding umbrella. You’ll need this for when it rains.
- Tiny flashlight. LED are the brightest and most compact.
- Plug adapters. For charging your cell phone and camera.
- Compact duct tape. Trust me.
- Inflatable neck pillow. Bean filled take up too much space, and these help A LOT when you want to rest on the plane.
- Eye mask. You’ll fall asleep much easier on the plane with one of these.
- Front-pocket wallet. Pick-pockets thrive on naive tourists who carry cash in their back pocket.
- Money. Exchange whatever you can at a Wells Fargo bank before you leave. They are the only bank in the US that will do a commission free exchange for their customers. I pack about $300 to $500 per week of travel so I can enjoy sightseeing and fantastic restaurants. You can use credit card too, but your bank will charge crazy currency conversion rates. I found this out the hard way.
- Passport. You won’t go far without it.
- Airline tickets.