This complete Europe Packing List includes all the essentials you need for a two-week+ trip to Europe. Let me break down precisely what to pack and how to fit it in carry-ons because there is nothing worse than arriving at a new destination to find out that your luggage didn’t make it.
As a food and travel blogger married to a British man, I have been able to visit Europe many times in the past decade. Through this experience, I have become an expert packer. In 2019 I even took a 101-day trip around the world with just a carry-on suitcase and a backpack!
I’ve also written dozens of travel guides that might help you in planning your trip. If you are heading to England, I have suggested itineraries, London neighborhood guides, food guides, and side trip suggestions.
Europe Travel Guides
This Europe Packing List is broken down into two sections. One for warm weather for travel in the summer months and another for cold weather winter travel. In addition to outlining exactly what to pack, you can also find information on how to dress in Europe and pro tips for packing. If you want to get straight to the packing lists, use the table of contents to navigate through the sections of this article.
I have written several packing lists over the years. You might want to check out my London Packing List, Travel Capsule Wardrobe, Packing List for a Trip Around the World, Makeup Packing List, Adventure Travel Essentials, and Ultimate Packing List. If you are going to Northern Europe in winter, my Arctic Circle Packing List might be helpful.
Pack What You Wear
I know it can be tempting to pack items from the back of your closet that *might* be perfect. If you don’t wear something at home, you probably won’t wear it on vacation. At the very least, try on any items that you haven’t worn in a while. You don’t want to waste precious suitcase space on items that don’t fit properly.
Comfortable Shoes Only
When it comes to shoes, less is more since they take up so much space in a suitcase. Pack extremely comfortable shoes. If you do want to bring high heels, pack a chunky heel that can handle cobblestone streets with ease. I have short black boots that I have brought to Europe many times, and they are a perfect choice since they are versatile enough to be worn with pants or a dress.
Chances are, you will be walking much more than usual on a Europe trip. I usually log about 5,000-10,000 steps a day when I am home. When I am traveling, my normal range is 15,000-20,000. Shoes are of key importance. Pack shoes that are broken in and that you know are comfortable. Pack some bandaids in your day pack, just in case. For extra protection against blisters, rub some solid stick deodorant on the back of your heels or any spots prone to blisters.
Be Prepared to Hit the Ground Running
Often, flights from the United States to Europe arrive early in the morning. You might not be able to check into your hotel room for a few hours. I like to prepare for this by packing an outfit and makeup in my smaller carry-on bag. This way, I can swing by the hotel, quickly freshen up in the bathroom, check my suitcase at the hotel, and explore until I can actually check into my hotel room.
If you are going to be traveling to multiple destinations, it is especially important to pack light. You don’t want to be lugging lots of luggage through train stations. The added benefit to packing only a carry-on suitcase and a smaller carry-on item (like a backpack) is that you know your luggage won’t get misplaced.
European Travel Packing Strategy
Dressing to Fit In
Americans dress more casually than Europeans. While it is common for American women to wear leggings and athleisure clothing, Europeans haven’t embraced this trend. You risk sticking out and looking like a tourist if you wear leggings in Europe. Instead, opt for more tailored black pants. They are even more versatile since they can be dressed up or down. If you are concerned about comfort, pick a pair with a bit of elastic at the waist.
JCrew’s slim-fitting Pixie Pant is available in black in a stretch fabric. Banana Republic’s Vegan Leather Pants have a stretch waist and a timeless look. I recommend black pants or dark-colored ones because they can usually be worn a couple of times before needing to be washed.
I do wear leggings or joggers on travel days. I don’t wear them out and about during my trip.
Checking Dress Codes
If you are planning to visit churches or cathedrals, you might need to make sure that your shoulders and knees are covered. The Duomo in Florence follows this dress code. Research and plan outfits in advance. It was about 100 degrees on the day that I climbed to the top of the Duomo, so I wore a tank dress with a button-down shirt over it. I made a point to wear comfortable sneakers for climbing all those stairs.
There is no shortage of casual restaurants and cafes in Europe, but Fine Dining restaurants might require following a dress code and advance reservations. Many restaurants that serve afternoon tea in London have a “smart casual” dress code which means no sneakers, no athleisure clothing, and only dressy jeans for women.
You might not think you will need a bathing suit if you are going to Finland in winter, but you will need one so that you can visit local saunas. Be sure to review your itinerary and make sure that you have packed anything required for specific activities.
Travel Essentials to Invest In
I bought a lightweight rainjacket several years ago, and I bring it everywhere. It folds up very well, and it can be layered over another jacket if it is cold. I skip packing an umbrella and bring a rain jacket. Barbour makes wonderful water and windproof jackets with large pockets for items like cellphones and wallets.
If I am going to be hiking or spending a significant amount of time participating in outdoor activities, I bring waterproof hiking boots. When the weather is looking rainy in a city, I might bring Hunter wellington boots instead. I don’t bring waterproof boots just in case since they take up too much space.
A Day Bag
My husband and I think that the packable Hershel backpacks that fold up into a small pouch are the best travel backpacks. These are great for day trips. I always pack a purse, but backpacks are best for some activities like hiking and biking.
Best Purses to Bring to Europe
Some European cities still have a pickpocket problem. For this reason, I recommend bringing a purse that zips closed so people can easily reach inside. Purses that are carried on the shoulder and zip closed are best since they are carried securely under your arm.
Another option is to keep important items in jacket pockets that securely snap closed (Barbour Jackets are wonderful for this) or in inside pockets.
My best advice is to be prepared for something to go wrong. I never keep all of my credit cards in one wallet. I always have a backup card and some emergency cash that I keep locked in a suitcase or safe in my hotel room. I keep a photocopy of my passport with a family member at home. I alert my credit card companies to let them know that I will be traveling. It never hurts to have travel insurance just in case something is lost or stolen – your credit card might even include some travel insurance benefits.
I don’t use a money belt, I think they are clumsy to use, and they make it very obvious that you are a tourist. You might want to use a belt bag worn across your chest instead. Lululemon’s Everywhere Belt Bag is so chic and only $38. I also love Senreve’s Aria Belt Bags which come in Italian Leather.
Ways to Save Space in Your Suitcase
The best way to save space in a suitcase is to pack fewer pairs of shoes. I always wear my bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane to free up more space.
How to Organize Your Suitcase
Packing cubes can be helpful. One way that I use them is to separate clean clothing and dirty laundry. Another way to use a packing cube is to categorize outfits or types of clothing. I use them to categorize shirts, pajamas, etc. I don’t organize each outfit since I usually wear things more than once.
Planning Your Outfits
You don’t need to stick to only neutral colors. That is an easy strategy, but almost any top will go with jeans or black pants. I stick to neutrals when it comes to bottoms, but pick more fun tops.
Accessories like colorful earrings, a scarf, or a statement necklace can liven up an outfit while hardly taking up any room in a suitcase.
Roll Your Clothing
I can’t explain the science behind this, but you will save space if you roll up your clothing. To seriously save space, place rolled clothing in packing cubes.
Europe Packing List Basics
These are items that I always pack, regardless of the time of year. Packing for summer and winter isn’t that different – I just swap the dresses for sweaters.
Bring a great pair of jeans or two. The distressed denim trend is not as popular in Europe; pick a clean, more tailored pair. In London especially, you should pack jeans that fit the “smart casual” dress code that is found at nicer restaurants.
Pack a pair of comfortable sneakers that look nice. You can’t go wrong with simple white leather or black suede sneakers. Shoes take up a lot of space, so fill the shoes with socks and other items so that every bit of limited space is used.
I only pack gym shoes if I am going to do an activity that requires them.
A Black Dress
No matter where I am going, I pack a classic black dress. The right black dress can transition from a day of sightseeing to a night out. They can be dressed up or down depending on shoes and accessories. If it’s chilly, I add a sweater or blazer on top. In winter, I will bring tights.
Bring a black pair of shoes that can be dressed up. In colder months, bring short black boots. In warmer months, I pack ballet flats.
The right blazer looks chic with jeans and over a black dress. I personally love a slightly oversized tuxedo-style jacket.
Skip super casual cotton tanks and choose a couple of tank blouses. These can be worn with jeans, black pants, skirts, or shorts. Dress them up by adding a cardigan or blazer.
A Button Down Shirt
A classic white oxford never goes out of style and can be worn in so many ways. I’ll wear it with jeans, then add a blazer for dinner. In the summer, I might wear it as a cover-up or knotted in the front over a dress. If you search online, you can find so many creative ways to style a simple button-down.
Bras and Underwear
My default is to pack a nude bra, a black bra, a strapless bra, and a sports bra. You want to make sure that you have the appropriate undergarments to make the clothing you pack. For example, a strapless dress isn’t going to get worn unless you have a strapless bra to wear with it.
I love the True & Co bras since they are seamless and extremely comfortable. Since they are unstructured, they are a great way to save space in a suitcase. The convertible Strap Bralette converts to a racerback style.
If I am planning to do anything sporty, I may bring more than one sports bra. I always bring one, just in case.
Simple pajamas that don’t take up extra space are best. I like J.Crew’s cotton short pajama sets.
When packing, I make sure that all of the things I need for a day of sightseeing and activities will fit into my purse. To prevent pickpocketing, I choose a purse that has a secure closure. I try to pick a classic bag that transitions from day to night, but sometimes I will also bring a small clutch for night use.
Europe Packing List for Summer Travel
Packing for European destinations in the summer is easier since summer clothing takes up less space.
Dresses are fantastic. They are complete outfits, and they don’t take up very much room in a suitcase. In addition to a black dress which is something that I always pack, I will pack two or three additional dresses in the warm months. A longer maxi dress that covers your shoulders and knees is perfect for hot days of sightseeing and complies with conservative dress codes at cathedrals. A shorter, more formal dress is a sophisticated choice for a date night at a fancy restaurant.
Bring two so that one will (hopefully) always be dry.
Always pack extra layers or a light jacket. In the warmest months, a cardigan and a rain jacket are enough. Planes tend to be chilly so I wear an extra layer on the flight, too.
Europe Packing List for Winter Travel
Winter clothes take up more space; you might want to check a bag instead of trying to fit everything into a smaller carry-on.
Long-Sleeve Shirts and Turtlenecks
Wear long sleeve shirts or turtlenecks under sweaters to stay extra warm. J.Crew’s tissue turtlenecks are great extra layers since they don’t add much bulk.
Waterproof Winter Boots
It is harder to have fun if you have cold feet. Make sure you pack waterproof winter boots and extra pairs of socks. If I am going to a snowy European destination in winter, I pack my shearling-lined L.L. Bean boots.
Since I live in Chicago, I have a variety of winter jackets. If I am staying in a city like London or Paris where it isn’t super cold, I will bring a nicer wool coat. If I am going to a colder destination like Denmark or Finland, I will bring my Canada Goose Parka. I also bring the parka if I am going to participate in outdoor activities or sports.
Europe Packing List for Men
Leave the joggers and hoodies at home; if you want to dress to fit in, pick more tailored, sophisticated items. Remember that Americans usually dress more casually than Europeans, and Europeans wear workout clothing at the gym, not 24/7.
Best Travel Shorts for Men
Lululemon’s chino shorts are classic and stylish. Plus, they are available in several lengths and colors. My husband, Charles, likes the Commission Classic Fit Short in Black.
Best Travel Pants for Men
Lululemon’s ABC Classic-Fit Pant is the perfect travel pant. Charles loves in these pants since they are comfortable, don’t really need to be ironed, and can easily be dressed up or down. He wears them with polos and tees in the summer, collared shirts for a night out, and sweaters in the winter. Buy a dark grey or black pair of these pants, and you will be bringing them everywhere.
Versatility is important when packing. My husband loves these solid-colored swim trunks that can double as shorts.
Packing collared shirts so that don’t get all wrinkled can be a challenge. Charles loves Bonobos Tech Button Down Shirts because they resist wrinkles. He usually packs 3-4 of these shirts for a trip, including some with fun casual patterns and some solid ones for nights out.
Which Shoes to Pack
Only pack gym shoes if you are planning on working out. Otherwise, bring something super comfortable that looks more dressed up. Allbirds are incredibly comfortable, washable, and perfect for travel. Charles loves Allbird’s Tree Pipers, an everyday sneaker made with a lightweight, breathable material.
In addition to sneakers, pack one more formal pair of shoes.
Some Fine Dining restaurants might require jackets. You would likely need to make a reservation in advance and have that on your itinerary before you arrive at your destination. Bring a jacket only if it is in your plans. Otherwise, you shouldn’t need one.
Be prepared to fit the “smart casual” dress code if you plan on going to nice restaurants. In general, that means a collared shirt and pants – no shorts, no sneakers, no jeans, and no tee shirts. A Bonobos collared shirt in a solid color or very subtle pattern with Lululemon ABC pants and leather shoes is a perfect example of this dress code.
A light rainjacket in the summer or a thicker waterproof parka in winter will keep you dry even when the weather isn’t. Barbour makes high-quality men’s coats with lots of very useful deep pockets.
Additional Europe Packing List Essentials
I always bring a small bag of over-the-counter medications. When I caught a cold on the flight to Serbia, I was so thankful that I had some Sudafed. I always recommend packing medicines that you are familiar with and that you think are effective for you – you don’t want to take something you are unfamiliar with and end up sleeping through your vacation. In Europe, you might not be able to find your go-to brands. In addition to cold medicine, I pack some Pepto tablets and a small packet of cough drops. It is smart to bring bandaids or a small first aid kit, too.
One of the most important things you need to pack is a power adapter / converter since there are different outlets in Europe. It’s a good idea to bring a power bank so that you can charge your cell phone and camera battery on the go.
The Cannon Powershot G7X is my favorite travel camera. It’s lightweight and small enough to fit into my jacket pocket. It takes high-quality photos and videos both inside and outside. Plus, it is wifi enabled so that you can instantly transfer images to your phone for editing and posting to social media on the go. My friend Jenn Lake recommended this camera years ago, and it comes everywhere with me. It’s a great idea to bring some extra memory cards too.
Most hotels have hairdryers which are convenient since getting hair tools to work abroad can be tricky. If you use a hair straightener, you might want to ask the hotel if they have one. Some nicer hotels tend to have hair straighteners in the rooms already – or they might have a few available upon request.
Most hotels have irons available; you might want to confirm this in advance. An alternative is to bring a travel steamer. They are much faster and easier to use than irons, and they are just as effective at removing wrinkles.
I always bring some of my preferred brand. Tampons with applicators are not easy to find in some European countries.
What I Don’t Pack
While popular in America, these aren’t as beloved in Europe. They aren’t formal enough or practical for walking on cobblestones. Instead of bringing flip flops, invest in a pair of leather sandals in a neutral or metallic color. I have gold sandals that I always bring on summer trips to European countries.
This is another example of something that is commonly worn by women in America but not in Europe.
Clothing That Doesn’t Fit
If you haven’t worn it in a while, try it on before packing it.
Fabrics That Wrinkle Easily
I leave the linen at home.
Making Sure Your Luggage Makes It
Now that you have put all this effort into packing the best things for your European holiday, you want to make sure that your travel bag doesn’t get lost. If you have a layover and you are checking luggage, the most important thing you need to do is to ask one question at check-in: Is my bag being checked through to its final destination? Sometimes you need to collect and re-check your bag during a layover.
Using a tracking device like a tile or an air tag can also be helpful.
A 19-Day Europe Packing List Example
Here is a real-life example of everything that I packed for a 19 day trip to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro. All of these images are shoppable.
To give a very simplified overview, my Europe packing list included: 7 dresses, 2 pairs of jeans, 8 tops (a mix of long sleeves, short sleeves, and tanks), and 3 pairs of shoes. I did wear a couple of things twice, but I think that is better than overpacking and lugging too much stuff with me. I was traveling to 10 different cities, so packing light was key.
This list was updated in 2023.
I also created a 14-piece travel capsule wardrobe that can be used to create over 25 outfits.
What is on your Europe packing list?
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