We just returned from a two-week Summer vacation in Paris & Italy. I spent a LOT of time researching the best items to bring on my vacation because I wanted the essentials and I didn’t want to bring things I wasn’t 100% sure I would need. This is the first time in my adult life that I didn’t overpack! I actually used everything in my suitcase. So, in this post I’m giving you the ultimate Europe packing guide, sharing everything you actually NEED for your Europe vacation.
My biggest concern was if our suitcases were going to be too large and too heavy. Would we be the only people in Europe with a 24-inch bag? Well, let me ease your mind and tell you that we weren’t the only ones! We definitely saw more large bags than small bags- so if you’ve been stressing about fitting everything in a carry-on, stop fretting and opt for the larger bag. Yes, sometimes it was a hassle lugging it around on the old streets and up stairs but overall it gave us room to buy souvenirs and really wasn’t a burden at all. I had a fancy CalPak suitcase and one from Amazon and I actually recommend the Amazon one more! The Calpak’s wheel split in half 1 week into our trip!
I also recommend getting a luggage scale– We always keep this one in one of our suitcases and it has saved us so many times from having to pay extra when we check our bags. We just move items from one suitcase and spread it out evenly so both bags were under 50 lbs.
I tried packing cubes for the first time for our Europe trip and I 100% recommend them!! They made staying organized in the tiny hotel rooms so much easier. My husband didn’t want any and by the end of the trip proclaimed he will be getting some for our next vacation. Packing cubes are really helpful for categorizing your suitcase (use one cube for tops, one for bottoms, one for dresses, one for pajamas, etc.) These are the ones I used- they’re super affordable!
I like how a lot of the cubes in this set had a clear top so you could see what is inside each bag. The variety of sizes was helpful too- and the shoe bag was perfect! It fit all of the shoes I packed and prevented me from getting the rest of my items dirty. *I first purchased the packing cubes that can compress to be even smaller and I actually don’t recommend them. They didn’t save that much space and they really squished your clothes/ were hard to zip. I feel like the compression bags will make your clothing wrinkles a lot worse! Also, bring a few plastic trash bags for dirty laundry.
Speaking of wrinkles, I highly suggest you invest in this dual-voltage mini iron. None of the hotels or apartments we stayed in had an iron or steamer and we used our iron almost daily. Is it the best iron you’ll ever use? No. LOL. But it definitely got the majority of the big wrinkles out and was easy to pack up quickly because it comes with a rubber mat to absorb heat and a nice travel bag.
Mini blow dryer
This little dual-voltage blow dryer really came in handy! Three of our hotels didn’t have a blow dryer available! *It’s very important to buy dual-voltage items when traveling in Europe… Your Dyson Airwrap will get fried if you use it overseas!!
I was shocked that my $30 curling iron that I use regularly in the States was dual-voltage! Another reason to love Hot Tools 🙂
Hanging Toiletry Bag
I usually use a few different toiletry bags when I travel… One for hair products, one for skincare, and one for makeup. Let me tell you, European restrooms are TINY! We only had one hotel (out of 5) that had any counter space in the bathroom. Our hanging toiletry bag really came in handy. I got a large one so my husband’s things could fit in the same bag as mine. The hanging feature was great because it easily hung on bathroom hooks or shower doors.
I still brought a small makeup bag but not my usual big one. This one was perfect! It had slots for my brushes and plenty of room for my basic makeup needs.
The Best Foundation
This foundation held up so well in the heat, I couldn’t be more impressed! It’s $9 from the drugstore, is surprisingly clean, and doesn’t have any pore-clogging ingredients! I used this primer underneath the foundation (on top of skincare and SPF), and this setting powder and my makeup stayed all day!
These TSA-approved luggage locks will protect your valuables from getting stolen while your luggage is in transit. I know most suitcases today have the TSA lock on them but something about me just doesn’t trust it. What if we get locked out? I don’t need that stress haha so I use luggage locks instead.
Once we were settled into our hotel we would use the lock on our day backpack while exploring crowded cities to keep pickpockets’ hands out of our stuff. We opted for the ones with the longer/ bendy lock so we could use it as needed.
If you’re checking a bag for your trip to Europe, Apple Airtags are great for keeping track of your luggage and they can help you locate your bag if the airline loses it. *You need to have an Apple device to track the Airtag. If you don’t have an Apple device, try the Samsung SmartTag or Tile Mate.
We didn’t get them for this trip and I definitely will for our next one! When our bags were lost in the baggage section after the airline moved our flight 24 hours the guy in line next to us could see exactly where his bag was! These are nice because you can use them for so many things around your house too! My friend’s car was stolen and she had an Airtag in it and was able to track it down!
Hidden wallet & secure your valuables
Europe is notorious for its pickpockets, especially in cities like Paris, and Rome. I bought the waist wallet for my husband to wear and it really came in handy when we encountered pickpockets in Rome! We caught someone with their hand in my husbands’ backpack! There is also a neck version if you don’t want to wear something around your waist. These hidden wallets allow you to conceal your cash, credit cards, passports, and hotel keys while not screaming, “Rob me, I’m a tourist!” The neck wallet can comfortably hide under your blouse, t-shirt, or jacket, making it next to impossible for pickpockets to reach. My husband wore the waist wallet the entire trip and it tucked easily into his pants.
*You definitely need to stay alert in touristy areas and on public transportation. (Direct eye contact works wonders to let someone know you’re paying attention.)
ProTip: Don’t count on your hotel having a safe to hold your valuables. Only 2 out of our 5 hotels had one! We carried our passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards, and cash on us every day.
Carry On Bag
This carry-on backpack is absolutely amazing! It has so many compartments and is huge so it holds EVERYTHING. It’s very comfortable to wear and I love how the laptop section zips open for easy TSA checks.
When I fly I store things like my laptop, travel documents, a change of clothes, underwear, & socks, (this is a must in case your flight gets canceled like ours did!), and a toiletry bag with your skincare/ makeup in case they lose your bag.
There are a few items I will always carry on to make my flights more comfortable. This is a LONG flight so it’s definitely worth the extra weight to bring some creature comforts. Ear plugs, compression socks, an inflatable neck pillow, a sweater, comfy headphones, hand cream, lip balm, and snacks.
We took American Airlines and on the way there they provided a flat pillow and a thin blanket which was nice, but they didn’t have it on the way home. You can’t count on airlines to provide these items so definitely bring your own. I will say, American Airlines gave us a lot of food for the flight! But even then, it was nice to have snacks we enjoy.
I brought my laptop but didn’t need it because they had TVs in each seat that had all of the movies and shows to watch. They did provide headphones but they were the small ones that go in your ear so I recommend bringing large comfy ones that plug into an aux jack. They turn the lights off so the cabin is dark for a lot of the flight which is great but if you like it extra dark bring an eye mask.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
I read numerous articles about hackers stealing credit card numbers via WiFi in Europe so I purchased a VPN. Another benefit of having a VPN is that A lot of websites (or parts of websites) get blocked in many European countries. A good VPN like NordVPN will make it possible to visit every website without censorship. I will say, after having a VPN active on my phone while traveling in 90-degree weather I noticed my phone would get extremely hot and the battery would go FAST. So I would turn the VPN on and off depending on if I was using my phone or not. The Nord VPN app is super user-friendly to turn off and on. When we were using Wifi I had the VPN on and would turn it off when we weren’t using it.
Portable power bank
I’m SO GLAD I brought my small power bank. I highly recommend one for Europe (or any travel, really). You use your phone for so much while you’re over there… photos, videos, mapping, research… You’d be surprised how quickly your battery goes.
Upgrade your phone plan
I highly recommend getting the unlimited out-of-country plan for your phone. We upgraded my phone (not my husband’s) and I’m so glad we did, it really came in handy for navigating around and researching things while we were away from Wifi. We have Verizon and it was going to be $10 per day or $100 for the entire month so we opted for the monthly plan of unlimited travel since we were going to be out of the country for 15 days. The maps app on the iPhone is so precise for walking and getting around on the metros. It tells you how many stops and which way to turn when you get off, even underground! Get the upgrade it is so so worth it!
Universal Power Adapter
European plugs and outlets are not the same as in the US so a universal power adapter is a must-have for charging your electronics and using your blow dryer, clothing irons, etc. I bought the two pack of these and they were great because they have 2 USB holes, 1 Type C Charger from the USA, and work in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Iceland, and Israel.
I am so grateful we got travel insurance for this trip! It reimbursed us for our hotel when the airlines canceled our flight. It’s also really helpful if you have an accident and need to go to the hospital or see a doctor, your US insurance company will not cover the costs.
Trip insurance replaces lost/stolen items, pays for hotel rooms and plane flights if yours get canceled or delayed, and you can even get “cancel for any reason” coverage up to 75% of your trip cost. We use World Nomads but I’ve also heard good things about Faye.
First Aid Kit
This doesn’t need to be overly extensive. I typically pack tablets for headaches, stool softeners, a cold, and in case of allergies, some non-drowsy allergy pills and Benedryl. I also like to carry a couple of band-aids for cuts, and blister protectors (these are the best!). You’ll find pharmacies everywhere you go in Europe with a lot of what you’d find at your pharmacy in the US but when I was searching for stomach issue meds they didn’t really have any Pepto Bismo or Tums so definitely bring some of those!
*For reference, my first aid kit for European travel fits into a small plastic sandwich baggie.
Some other items I recommend bringing in your first aid kit:
Motion Sickness Patches
If you suffer from motion sickness, these Anti-Nausea Motion Sickness Patches are amazing for planes, trains, and automobiles! These patches are a great herbal remedy that prevented us from feeling sick many times. Each patch lasts for 3 days so this box will last you a while! I applied over my belly button and my husband put his behind his ear.
Activated Charcoal (Food Poisoning Fix)
I rarely get sick but one week into my trip I definitely had some issues. I am so glad I had my activated charcoal pills to help! They’re also great for hangovers! Please don’t ruin 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 immediately.
What documents should you bring?
I make copies of EVERYTHING. Passport, driver’s license, credit cards, travel reservation confirmations, etc. Also, keep them in a cloud-based place like Google Drive or Dropbox. If you lose anything, you can access the photo from any device with an internet connection.
The comfiest shoes you’ll ever wear!
I brought 5 pairs of shoes because I was so worried about my feet hurting and I ended up wearing my white sneakers the most! Sneakers are very popular in Europe- you definitely won’t look like a tourist if you decide to wear them! I didn’t break them in before my trip and the first day I walked 16,000 steps and was totally fine! They were so worth it, I highly recommend them! I was worried my feet would get hot in the sneakers but they really didn’t. They were also very lightweight! I always size up half a size in flat shoes and they fit perfectly.
The best tripod!
This tripod is AMAZING! It is collapsible so it can easily fit in your day bag. It stands on its own and expands to reach 60 inches! I love that it has a Bluetooth remote control (that attaches to the tripod for safekeeping) so you can set up your phone, walk away, and get a great pic. It can take vertical or horizontal photos. Every time we used this so many tourists would come up to us and ask about it. It took a lot of great photos of us without us having to ask strangers for help.
My husband carried his backpack every day, which was really nice! So all I needed was a small crossbody bag that I could put my phone, chapstick, hand sanitizer, and cards in. I recommend getting one like this that is harder for a pickpocket to get into.
Other Europe Packing List Items Not to Forget
- Passport (Make sure it’s not close to expiring!!)
- Drivers license
- Credit and debit card Be sure to notify your bank of your travels beforehand just to be safe, we don’t want them to think it being used overseas is fraud and they lock it when you need it most. We never use our debit card in the States but we used it a few times at ATM’s in Europe. It’s a super convenient way to get local currency. *When you go to ATM’s make sure you’re keeping watch. This is when a lot of people get robbed.
- Deodorant– this one got me through two weeks of 90+ degree weather without smelling bad! It’s aluminum free!
- Anti-chafe stick– If you plan to wear dresses or shorts I highly suggest getting this anti-chafe stick. It will prevent any uncomfortable irritation on your long travel days.
- Shorts to wear under dresses or skirts- I love wearing shorts like this under dresses and skirts and these come in a 4-pack. I used them almost daily! I only wore my pants 3 times during the entire trip and these shorts really helped with preventing chafing.
- Toothbrush Cover– these are great for when you use your toothbrush in the morning and need to pack up and go. They keep your toothbrush from getting everything else wet.
- Dental Floss
- Hand Sanitizer
- Nail Clippers
- Sunscreen– we used this the entire trip with very long days in the sun and never burned. It’s very clean!
- Insect Repellent
- Loofah Glove
- Sweater– I brought two and wore them both only on travel days. It’s nice to bring something to stay cozy, even if it’s hot outside, it’s not always hot on planes or in your hotel room.
- Sunglasses – I brought my designer sunglasses and was very cautious the whole trip. You may want to bring a less expensive pair (like these) just in case you get pickpocketed.
- Kindle or a book to read.
- Journal & a pen
- Prescription medications & Vitamins- any supplements you take
- Feminine Hygiene Products
What NOT to Take to Europe
- DON’T TAKE expensive jewelry
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. I brought my wedding band and these pearl earrings and it was perfect. So many people were wearing pearl earrings in Europe, I wasn’t expecting that! The ones I found are very lightweight, comfortable, and affordable!
- 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.
FAQs About Trips to Europe
Is the tap water in Europe safe to drink?
They say that you can drink tap water in most of Europe and I wish we knew that when we were there! We spent so much money on water bottles. Restaurants don’t provide water unless you ask and then they bring you a bottle and charge you for it. A few of our hotels didn’t provide water either. Be prepared to spend a lot on water bottles or bring your own filtered water bottle everywhere and save some money!
How prevalent is English in Europe?
We had no issues communicating with the locals in Paris or anywhere in Italy. English is the primary native language only in the U.K. and Ireland, but it is widely spoken as a second language elsewhere.
Do you need a travel agent?
Nope! We planned our entire trip in 3 weeks. It was a lot of nights after work with us planning but it was fine! If you are hesitant to plan your own trip then I would probably hire one but honestly, with all of the reviews available online, if you’re willing to spend the time just do it yourself!
I was the most concerned about booking the trains from place to place but even that isn’t hard! We purchased a Eurail pass (which was pricey!) and then we had the surprise of needing to purchase tickets from place to place after that. Once we got on the train though it was so easy to navigate. The trains are nice, comfortable, and very use friendly.
Do I need to tip in restaurants in Europe?
Nope! 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.
Whew, that was a lot of info! Hopefully, this list helps you pack for your trip! If you want to see some of the outfits I packed for this trip, you can check out my mid-size affordable summer style haul.