You’re planning a European trip and you need a Europe travel essentials checklist with all the travel-tested essentials for traveling to Europe so that you can have an amazing, stress-free trip. Well, good thing you landed exactly in this spot!
We all know planning a trip to Europe is a big deal and usually, it’s a bucket list travel goal getting checked off. The last thing anyone enjoys is the hassle of not having something they need!
The good news is I’ve traveled to Europe hundreds of times and along the way, I’ve made my fair share of Europe travel mistakes. But, they were all learning experiences! (Can you tell I’m a teacher?!)
So, I’ve put together everything I’ve learned in this ultimate guide of essentials for European travel so that you’re 10 steps ahead of the game before you even arrive at the airport.
Travel-Tested Europe Travel Essentials: The Only Checklist You Need!
You can fill countless suitcases (spoiler: don’t do this) with whatever and however much you want but without the right things for your trip, a potential headache can steal all the fun from seeing the Eiffel Tower or Rome’s Colosseum.
So, let’s skip the headache and build your European travel checklist the right way!
Essentials for Traveling to Europe: The Fundamentals
When planning a trip to Europe, there are European travel necessities that fall into a few categories. Some are absolute musts while others are more personal or for comfort.
Let’s start with the fundamentals. After all, it doesn’t matter if you’ve packed the perfect outfits if you can’t get past airport security.
Whether you’re heading to Italy, Iceland, or Spain don’t leave home without using this guide as your Europe packing list!
Obvious, but a total deal breaker if there’s an issue with yours. Be sure it’s in good condition with no visible damage. Also, check that it has at least 2 pages with no stamps and 6+ months until its expiration date. I always keep my passport and important documents in this protective cover, but also for my sanity so I always know where they are! This passport case is great if there are multiple passports to store.
If you’re renting a car, you will need to show this to pick up your vehicle. But even if you’re not, it’s smart to have another official form of identification with your photo on it in case something happens to your passport.
Maps for Driving & Getting Around
If you’re driving in Europe, download Google Maps for the area(s) where you’ll be driving before leaving home. From the Google Maps app, click on your name or initial in the top right corner. Select “Offline Maps.” Then, click on “Select Your Own Map” at the top. Highlight the area(s) where you need a map and download it. When you arrive at your destination, you’ll be able to navigate in the car even without an internet connection.
Similarly, the Maps.me app allows you to download maps to use offline. These maps can be especially great for when you’re out walking in a city because they show local shops, restaurants, walking paths, and more.
Using your debit card at a local ATM once you arrive is the savviest and most convenient way to get local currency at the best possible exchange rate. Also, debit cards typically have a Visa or MasterCard logo on them and require a PIN. In some cases, a purchase you need or want to make will require a card with a PIN like getting gas in a remote part of Iceland or buying entry tickets to a castle in Germany.
ProTip: The Charles Schwab debit card refunds 100% of any ATM or withdrawal fees no matter where you are in the world. Don’t have an account? It’s free to set up. Plus, you can deposit a small amount into your newly created “travel account” to use for your trip. If your wallet gets stolen or you encounter any fraud, only this account with a small amount of money is at risk instead of your main bank account.
Travel Rewards Credit Card (with no foreign exchange fees)
For 95% (if not all) of your purchases in Europe from restaurants to shops, hotels, top sights, and museums can and should be made with a credit card. I recommend you use your travel rewards credit card for every purchase possible for fraud protection (i.e. when that bowl you shipped from Tuscany never arrives) and for the best possible purchase exchange rate with no fee.
ProTip: When making credit card purchases in Europe, you’ll be asked if you want to pay in Euros or U.S. dollars. Always choose Euros. The credit card processor is secretly charging you a convenience fee that’s baked into that seemingly helpful U.S. dollar conversion.
International Driver’s License
If you are renting a car in Europe, some countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany, and others require this document. The confusing part is car rental companies will let you rent your vehicle even without this document. You only discover that you have a problem (and possibly a hefty fine) should you be pulled over by local police.
Apply through AAA, either at their nearest branch or by mail. It costs $20 + tax. You’ll also need 2 passport photos which they can take for you at the branch for a small added fee. The permit is good for a year and can potentially save you a lot of money if you get caught without it.
Important, especially if you don’t have a travel rewards credit card that offers at least some basic protections. But whether something happens before your trip and you need to cancel or you fall on some uneven cobblestone and break a wrist, you want to make sure you’re ok, as is the travel investment you made. Plus, most multi-day tours require that you show proof of travel insurance.
Photos/Copies of Important Documents & Travel Bookings
Take photos of your passport (a must!), driver’s license, credit cards, travel reservation confirmations, etc, and store 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. You can also print copies of flight, hotel room reservation(s), and activity bookings if it adds peace of mind.
And even though the things above will help you navigate all the logistics of international travel, don’t leave home without the Europe travel essentials you personally need for an incident-free trip.
Contact Lenses + at least 1 extra pair
Feminine Hygiene Products
Ladies, whether you use this, this, these, or something else, be sure to take what you need to be comfortable.
First Aid Kit
This does not need to be overly extensive. I typically pack tablets for headaches, stomach troubles, a cold, and in case of an allergy, some Benedryl. I also like to carry a few throat drops with me, even if just for a dry mouth or throat, and a couple of band-aids for cuts or a blister. You’ll find pharmacies everywhere you go in Europe with everything you’d find at your pharmacy in North America.
The idea here is just to pack a few of these things to hold you over should you need to get to a pharmacy in Europe. For reference, my first aid kit for European travel fits into a small plastic sandwich baggie.
These important travel items keep you safe, and connected and help make your travel days to, in, and from Europe smooth and hassle-free.
Portable Power Bank
Keep your phone charged and ready to go whether it’s to take photos or to use a navigation app as you explore a new European city. And, even though most do, don’t assume all airplanes have a charging port for your phone. This is especially true on inter-continental flights where shorter-haul planes are used to go from one European country to another. (It’s not a good feeling to arrive at your destination airport with a dead phone!)
I bring this portable charger with me on every Europe trip. Fully charged, it can refill my phone’s battery dozens of times before needing to be recharged.
You’ll need to have the right plug adapter(s) to plug your devices into European outlets. I have an older version of this plug adapter set that I have used to travel extensively throughout Europe and have never had a problem. The mini power strip is perfect for charging multiple devices at once.
ProTip: If you’re going to multiple European destinations, check the plug type for each country. They aren’t all the same.
If you’re checking a bag for your trip to Europe, Apple Airtags are great for keeping track of your luggage and can even help you locate your bag should the airline lose it. You need to have an iPhone to track the airtag.
You could choose a traditional wire organizer to manage cables, your portable battery, and other gadgets. They are extremely useful for storage and sanity!
I also love these mesh packing squares. I’ve had the same set for years and they’re so versatile! I can use them for my cords, plug adapters, and portable charger. But they’re also great for just about any small, loose objects you need to pack. They keep everything together so you can find whatever you’re looking for quickly and without unpacking half your bag to find it!
SIM or eSIM Card
Staying connected is one of the most important travel necessities for Europe! European restaurants, cafes, shops, and hotels tend to have decent to good WiFi. However, free public Wifi isn’t the safest or most reliable way to connect your device to the internet. Not to mention, you probably still want a connected device even when you’re not in one of these places.
For U.S. travelers, your phone’s wireless provider likely offers a travel pass. But these are typically very expensive (i.e. $10 a day!) and come with very limited amounts of data. Put another way, this isn’t a great option for staying connected while in Europe.
The better option is to purchase a SIM card when you arrive at your destination. Most airports will have them available for sale, as will shops in most major cities. Even better is to buy an eSIM before you leave so it’s ready to go when you arrive. An eSIM comes with the added advantage of not needing to buy and install a physical card once you arrive.
Either way, SIMs and eSIMs cost less and can be purchased in different data amounts depending on how much you’ll need. I use Holafly to purchase eSIMs when I travel. If you use code, THEGLOBETROTTINGTEACHER, you’ll get 5% off your purchase.
These durable locks are TSA-compatible so you can lock your checked bags. If they’re inspected, the TSA agent can unlock it and the lock will leave a red indicator letting you know your bag was inspected. Beyond that, these handy locks are perfect for backpacks and a variety of other bags whether you want added security in your hotel or you’ve stowed your bag in a luggage rack on an overnight European train.
From Barcelona to Paris, would-be thieves are more opportunistic than anything. Be alert in touristy areas and on public transportation. (Direct eye contact works wonders to let someone know you’re paying attention.) Add extra layers of security to avoid looking like a target and it’s unlikely you’ll have any problems.
ProTip: Only take 1-2 credit/debit cards and a little cash with you when you head out for a day of sightseeing. Extra money and credit cards, as well as your passport, will be safest locked in the hotel safe.
Travel Day Bag
You want a small bag or backpack that you can use to store your belongings and comfortably walk and sightsee. This has been my go-to daypack whether I’m hiking along the Slea Drive in Ireland or standing in awe as I stare at the Mosque-Cathedral in southern Spain. It’s compact and holds a lot more than it seems it would. I typically pack this inside my carry-on, which is also convenient later if I need an extra bag for souvenirs.
For something a bit more fashion-minded, this messenger bag is both stylish and functional.
Reusable Water Bottle
Most European countries have clean, drinkable tap water. While you should always check the countries you’re planning to visit, rest assured you can safely refill your water bottle in most places. I’ve used the fountains in Italian cities and while hiking in the Cinque Terre, as well as filled up while driving Iceland’s Diamond Circle. So, save money and reduce plastic waste with a reusable water bottle!
Flight Creature Comforts (a.k.a. Things to Keep you Comfortable!)
Long flights across the Atlantic Ocean can be uncomfortable depending on what type of flyer you are and where you’re seated on the plane. But the good news is that small comforts go a long way!
You want to arrive as rested as possible so that on your first day in Europe you can last the full day and adjust to the time zone. Ear plugs, an eye mask, cozy warm socks, and a neck pillow can all help you sleep on your overnight flight.
Whether you have a Kindle to read or you want to downloaded audiobooks, podcasts, music, or your favorite shows on your phone or laptop, plan to do this in advance. Anything that needs to be downloaded should be done before you leave home so you don’t use up data or rely on slow hotel wifi once you arrive in Europe.
With these things set up on your electronic devices, you’ll be ready for that long train ride or just lazing away an afternoon at a cafe in Paris.
Europe Travel Packing: How to Pack for Europe
One of the essentials when traveling in Europe is to pack light.
If you’re like most people, you probably have at least a couple of European cities or areas on your travel itinerary. Dragging and lifting big, heavy suitcases from airports to hotels onto trains and along sidewalks is a stressful hassle that’s just not worth your energy.
So, let’s cut to the chase. You need a few important items to pack lightly, a sturdy piece of luggage, a carry-on bag, and packing cubes.
This is the rolling suitcase I’ve used for nearly all my trips to Europe over the past several years. And let me tell you, I’ve put this bag through the wringer! It’s proved its durability by being checked at countless airports and rolled through train stations all over Europe, as well as hauled in and out of hotels, metros, and more. Put any doubts aside about whether this piece of luggage can hold everything you’d need for a 2-week trip to Europe. I’ve done it numerous times and even stayed for up to 3 weeks without really needing to do a big batch of laundry.
I’ve used a couple of other bags, too, if I’m taking a shorter trip. These honorable mentions go to this 19″ carry-on roller or this backpack which I’ve used for more outdoorsy European adventures.
These are the packing cubes that quite honestly I couldn’t live without. They are what makes the above suitcase possible. Depending on how I want to pack, I use 3-4 of these packing cubes to hold all my clothes. The magic comes from the compression. Once you’ve rolled everything inside and zipped the cube, the 2nd zipper compresses the cube down to half its size. If necessary, you can smooth out any lumps by pressing on the cube to even things out.
ProTip: Think about how you’ll manage dirty clothes. You could bring an extra packing cube or a laundry bag. You could also shift clothes around as you travel, moving dirty clothes to a single packing cube and clean clothes into all the others.
Without hesitation,this carry-on backpack has been my go-to for years. I absolutely love it. This bag has the perfect combination of smart storage compartments, style, and comfort. In fact, this is the most comfortable expandable backpack I’ve ever worn.
I store things like my laptop, important travel documents, a change of clothes, and a 1-quart toiletry plastic bag with some necessities for the flight. Fully expanded, it can even hold a few days’ worth of clothes or those extra souvenirs you want to bring back home.
ProTip: I like to pack a few extra plastic bags in case something leaks and for things like wet clothes.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
Not only does a hanging toiletry bag keep everything organized and easily repackable for European city-hopping, but it also allows you to keep things like toothbrushes and contact lens cases off the limited counter space around hotel sinks. You can still have all your toiletries hanging in the bathroom when you need them without worrying about knocking them off the sink.
Mini Travel Bottles
No need to take up space in your luggage with full-sized toiletries or create more waste with travel-sized (3.4 oz.) toiletries. These mini travel bottles are all TSA compliant, as well as easy to fill and easy to dispense. Best of all, they’ve never leaked into my bag!
Clothes for Your Europe Travel Checklist
This section is a bit subjective because the clothes you pack will be dependent on the time of year you travel, what you’ll be doing, and your own style. But what to pack for a Europe trip is one of the most common questions I get, so I’ve compiled my best tips and recommendations below.
The most important thing is not to overpack. I know, easier said than done!
One way to avoid this is to plan your outfits, or if that is too difficult, pack clothes in a similar color palette. By doing this, you’ll inevitably have numerous pairings because most of the pieces will go together.
As you begin to pack, lay everything out first. You’ll likely be able to eliminate things that are duplicates (no, you do not need 3 black tops.) or items not in line with the majority color palette of the rest.
There are cliche items to avoid in European cities like flip-flops, workout clothes, or anything too casual like sweatpants or sports jerseys, shorts, super dressy clothing, or clothes meant for hiking and other outdoor activities. Not only will avoiding these items in cities be more fashionable, but they also help you blend in more. When you blend in more, you’re less of a target for a potential scammer or pickpocket.
Think more along the lines of classic pieces in neutral, soothing, or dark colors. For example, navy, black, beiges, white, and soft pastels. Also, be mindful of clothing that is too revealing, especially if you’re planning to visit cathedrals or other religious sites like in Rome or Seville.
The shoes you pack are also (so!) important.
First, pack at most 3 pairs of shoes including the ones you wear on the flight. Think smart casual and comfortable when choosing which to pack to find a balance between fashion-friendly and comfortable. You’ll likely be walking a lot and oftentimes on cobblestones.
And ladies, unless you have a specific formal event planned, you won’t need high heels. Even if you’re thinking they would be nice to wear for dinner, high heels are near impossible on cobblestone streets and take up valuable suitcase space! Instead, opt for a boot with a chunkier heel if you feel you need something dressy.
The items below are meant to be ideas to help you see what’s typically in my suitcase.
Except for the hottest days, jeans always work. They can be dressed up or down and worn with every top you pack. Everyone has a favorite pair of jeans they love so I want to give a shout-out to mine. These Duer Performance jeans are perfect for travel. They have a good amount of stretch and are very durable. What I love is they never seem to stretch out after multiple wears and they’re great for both city sightseeing and hiking.
No matter which jeans you pack, go for a pair of dark-wash jeans. They’ll look cleaner for longer!
Leggings are timeless, comfortable, take up little space in your luggage, and can be part of a smart casual or even dressier look. In other words, they’re perfect for travel!
No matter what the season is I like to bring tops in different sleeve lengths that can be worn on their own or under a layer like a cardigan or a blazer. For summer European sightseeing, short sleeves that cover the shoulders will be ok for most Cathedrals. Lightweight and loose-fit tops will be the coolest for walking around a European city.
A top or a bottom layer can make all the difference for both style and comfort! For winter travel in central and southern Europe, a thin, effective base layer becomes your secret weapon. It keeps you warm while you’re walking without adding bulk to your overall look. In northern Europe, like Stockholm or Finnish Lapland, a baselayer top and bottom are essential!
For shoulder seasons, a casual blazer that can pair with nearly all of your outfits is a win-win! Cardigans, either lightweight, open front, or something chunkier, go with most types of tops and bottoms and are great for added warmth even for a breezy evening by the sea.
A scarf is an absolute Europe travel essential! It can add to your overall look and even provide warmth when needed. I always have 1 (or 2) with me when I travel to Europe. Longer scarves create that perfect fall or transition season look. These square scarves are so fashionable and can double as a headband!
If you’re looking for something that can double as a scarf and a wrap, these pashmina scarves are perfect.
ProTip: As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to wear little jewelry when traveling to avoid being a target for potential theft.
Perhaps the most important Europe packing decision you’ll make is the shoes you’ll bring. European travel inevitably comes with a lot of walking which will become difficult or even painful with uncomfortable and unsupportive shoes.
A Chelsea-style boot works in every European city and can be worn day and night. (In Italy, I think it must be obligatory for every Italian woman to have a pair in black!) These winter boots are stylish and warm in the colder months.
For summer European travel, I never leave home without these sandals. They’ve been an excellent investment and have saved my feet compared to other non-supportive summer shoes.
Europe Travel Essentials FAQs
Is it better to travel with a backpack or suitcase in Europe?
There are pros and cons to both. Personally, I prefer a rolling suitcase and have never found it to be a problem even when traveling from city to city. Yes, there are cobblestones and sometimes no elevators when you need them. However, I’d rather lift my suitcase for a moment just to get up or down some stairs than always carry it on my back.
What size suitcase is best for a 2-week trip to Europe?
I’ve typically traveled with a 24″ suitcase for 2 weeks in Europe with the help of my packing cubes. If you need a bit more space, look at a 26″ or a 28″ but I wouldn’t go any bigger than that. Otherwise, it can become a real chore to move from place to place.
Is it better to fold or roll clothes in a suitcase?
Without question, it’s better to roll clothes in a suitcase. It saves space and protects against wrinkles. When rolled clothes are packed within a packing cube, it’s often possible to have 2 layers of rolled clothing inside.
How much should I pack for a 2-week trip to Europe?
In general, you’ll want to pack 3-4 bottoms and 5-6 tops. Dresses are also helpful (but not required) because they are complete outfits that can be dressed up or down. I’d bring 1-2 dresses if they match your style. For shoes, 2-3 pairs are plenty. Above all, comfortable shoes are absolute Europe travel essentials!
Also bring a scarf to use as an accessory, to cover up in conservative places, or for a little warmth. And unless you’re traveling in the absolute heat of summer, pack a blazer or light jacket (jean jacket, trench, etc.), as well as 2 sweaters or items for layering over a lighter top. Be sure the top layers go with the majority, if not all, of your clothes.
Your travel packing list for Europe needs to include a combination of fundamentals, gear, gadgets, and clothes. If you take the time to get yourself set up and packed before your trip to Europe, you’ll have done everything you could to ensure a hassle-free, comfortable, and amazing trip!
So, what’s on your checklist for European travel?
Like this post? Please share it using the buttons in this guide!
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.