What to Pack for Europe
I had the BEST TIME sharing snippets of Ben’s and my recent trip to Italy on Instagram, and I received a lot of burning questions related to….my hair!
A lot of you wanted to know how I curled my hair abroad. Other hot topics included what clothes I packed (only what would fit in a carry on!), and naturally you fellow food lovers were curious about my healthy travel stacks too.
I’m a self-professed travel addict and have had the incredible blessing to travel frequently over the years, both in the U.S. and abroad, especially in France and Italy. I have learned A LOT since I stuffed my first oversized suitcase to the brim—and subsequently got it stuck in a turnstile in the Paris metro. Quelle horreur!
Whether you are heading to abroad soon and are wondering what to pack for a Europe trip of your own, or you just want a few tips to travel smarter in the U.S., I hope this list of my packing essentials is helpful.
WHAT TO PACK FOR EUROPE—A Helpful List for Travel Lovers
Suitcase Organization and Essentials—Any Trip, Any Time
- Packing Cubes. No more digging through your suitcase looking for that one shirt you thought you packed. These are only $14.99 and well worth it for how organized they keep your suitcase. My clothes wrinkle less too.
- Dry Shampoo. Because trips are too short to spend too much time doing your hair (and this is from the girl who brought a curling iron to Italy). Lately I’m loving this inexpensive one (it also comes in a travel size). This one is great too, but for a premium price.
- Reusable Shower Cap. I wash my hair every other day, then use a shower cap to keep it dry when I shower on the in-between days. My hair stays dry, then it’s time for all the dry shampoo.
- Plastic Bags. We’re talking the basic ones you get at the grocery store. I fold a few and put them in my suitcase front pocket. These come in handy for everything from dirty clothes to a leaky bottle of facewash to a pair of shoes that gets dirty. In Italy, I wrapped a bottle of wine in about four for extra insurance. (It survived the journey!).
Long Overnight Plane Rides
- Essential Toiletries. I can’t even begin to describe how much more human I feel when I’m on a long flight and I can brush my teeth and “wash” my face before “bed.” I bring a toothbrush, travel-sized toothpaste, disposable makeup remover wipes (that’s the face “wash”), and deodorant. I’ll also sometimes pack my basic powder, blush, and mascara to put on before we land. Call me silly/vain/a total girl, but a fresh coat of mascara and swipe of blush really does lift my mood when I’m arriving somewhere for the first time.
- Basic Meds. For me this means Airborne (the travel-friendly chewables), over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen or Aleve in the event of a headache, and hand sanitizer. I am no germaphobe, but plane air does gross me out a little, and the last thing I need is to get sick before a trip. I also bring Tums and a travel pack of these digestive helpers. TMI, I know!!! That said, our digestive systems tend to lag when we travel, and these do help.
- Sleeping Mask and Ear Plugs. People can stare if they want. Thanks to this mask (and always saying yes to the wine), I’m fast asleep and won’t notice.
- Inflatable Neck Pillow. Sweet dreams and space-saving.
- Clear Toiletry Bags. Now that you have all these essentials for your flight, let’s organize them! I use four (this set is very similar to mine), and the fact that they are clear makes the items surprisingly simpler to find (you’d be surprised!). I pack one with toiletries, one with makeup, one with meds, and one with the sleeping mask/earplugs.
- Reusable Water Bottle. Fill it up at the airport once you get through security. I like this one because it can also fit in my purse.
- SNACKS. You know I hate to be hangry. My latest favorite travel snacks are RXBars, One Bars, and high-protein RX Nut Butter Packets (check out the Vanilla Almond Butter and Honey Peanut Butter) which are sized appropriately for airport security. If you have time before your trip, my easy Energy Balls are a great option too.
- E-Reader. I LOVE my Kindle. I add a book or two before the trip (while we were in Italy, I read a few relevant sections of Italian Wine for Dummies, followed by Under the Tuscan Sun; The Paris Wifewas my favorite when I was in Paris last spring). If I finish a book, I can easily download another any time I’m connected to wifi.
Outlet Converters and Power Stuff (A Must When Abroad) + HAIR
- Outlet Converter. I always pack two of these outlet converters, which have a bonus USB charger on the side. I use one in the bathroom for my blow dryer, and one with Ben or I use to charge our phones and set an alarm near the bed.
- IMPORTANT: An outlet converter will make your device able to plug into the wall in a different country, but it WILL NOT convert the voltage. American appliances run on 120 volts and European ones run at 220, so European current is stronger. Your device needs to work at a variety of voltages to be able to safely plug it in, even if you are using an outlet adapter. I have never had an issue with my cellphone or laptop, as these work at a range of voltages. Blow dryers, hair straighteners, and curling irons, however, are NOT automatically dual voltage. Which is why I also have a…
- Dual Voltage Travel Blow Dryer. Do not be fooled by its miniature size. This tiny, foldable hair dryer is quite powerful. It has a dial that you can covert to European voltage (220), so once it’s switched, you can plug it right into your adapter and use it normally. When I’m in the U.S., I flip it back to 120 and take it with me on trips when packing space is at a premium.
- Dual Voltage Curling Iron and/or Dual Voltage Hair Straightener. Both of these work at either voltage (120 or 220), no special steps required. I use them both at home and abroad.
- DO NOT USE a hair straightener or curler if you don’t know if it’s dual voltage. I made this mistake and burnt of a big chunk of my hair in Greece several years ago. I’ve tried the voltage converters like this one, but they are giant to pack and unreliable (as my burned hair can attest).
- European Power Strip. As silly as it sounds to obsess over power outlets, many AirBNBs and even hotels don’t have the number of outlets you’ll need to change your and your travel buddies’ cellphones, cameras, and (if you have them) laptops at the same time. Even if you are in a room where outlets are plentiful, you’ll still need a separate outlet converter for each device. I bought a power strip fitted with a European plug for this trip, and it was super handy. Note that the power strip acts like a giant outlet adapter but will not convert voltage.
- Portable Cell Phone Charger. Why is it that phones die so much faster when we travel? This remote charger will fit in your purse is great for any trip when you’ll be gone for a long day. This is a more compact option (though it only lasts about one charge, where this one can handle multiple).
- Guide Book. Rick Steves is my favorite for Europe. His Rick Steves Italy is how I pulled off most of my planning. He also has a number of city-specific guides (I’ve used Rick Steves Paris, Rick Steves France, and Rick Steves Best of Europe too.)
Ah, the essential question: “I’m going to [insert your favorite European country here]. WHAT DO I WEAR?”
Here is what I pack for 10-day trip to Europe. It’s also what I’d pack for a two week trip to Europe—each outfit simply gets worn an additional time.
Europe Warm Weather Packing List
- 4 dresses. The less they wrinkle, the better.
- 1 pair of jeans. I pack jeans if it will be cool at night; if not, bring a fifth dress and ditch the shirts below.
- 3 tops. Only if I’m bringing jeans.
- 3 pairs of shoes:
- 1 pair of cute/dressy flat sandals. These are the ones I wore in Italy and are one of my favorite buys this summer.
- 1 pair of practical/sturdy walking sandals. Shout out to my Tevas! These babies have been with me through Thailand, Vietnam, Maui, and now Italy.
- 1 pair of cute tennis shoes. These are the ones I wore in Italy.
- NO HEELS. You won’t need or want them on cobblestone streets.
- 1 jacket. A jean jacket or light cardigan is perfect if you are going to a place where it cools off at night.
- Jewelry. 1 simple “match all” necklace (like this one), 2 pairs of earrings (1 set of studs—I bought this pair years ago and wear them almost daily + 1 dressy longer pair like these), 1 to 2 bracelets.
Europe Cold Weather Packing List
- 2 pairs of jeans. 1 blue, 1 black.
- 4 sweaters OR 3 sweaters + 1 sweater dress and tights. If I want a fifth sweater item, I wear it on the plane because SO BULKY.
- 2 to 3 pairs of shoes. Wear the largest ones on the plane.
- 1 pair of dressy flats for going out to dinner or pairing with above sweater dress.
- 1 pair of comfortable booties that are both warm and walking-friendly.
- A second set of booties (I’ll often try to bring 1 brown pair and 1 black pair, for example) or another sturdy walking shoe.
- Again, NO HEELS. Trust me.
- 1 warm coat. I like a peacoat because you can dress it up or down. I end up wearing this on the plane because it never fits in my carry on.
- Jewelry. Same rules as the above: 1 simple “match all” necklace like this one, 2 pairs of earrings (1 set of studs like these + 1 dressy longer pair like these), 1 to 2 bracelets.
And that’s it!
Packing appropriately for Europe means you have to embrace wearing the same outfit more than once. I know it’s tempting not to want to be seen in the same outfit in multiple pictures on different days, but I promise you are the only one who will be bothered by the repetition.
A little wardrobe duplicity in your Instagram feed is worth it for not having to deal with a giant suitcase on uneven streets and up flights of stairs. Don’t count on elevators. If you don’t want to personally haul your bag for blocks, don’t bring it.
In the event of spills, I pack Shout wipes. For longer trips, I make sure I’m staying somewhere with a washer and dryer halfway through the trip.
Don’t forget that in addition to your clothes, you’ll still need room for things like toiletries and pajamas. Your suitcase space will go more quickly than you think!
If I need extra space, I’ll cram the overflow into the same backpack that I wear onto the plane. I’ve used this one for the last several years. I love its clean aesthetic and despite being hauled across the globe, it still looks as great as the day I bought it.
I plan to keep this list updated as I find more helpful packing resources and ideas. What are some of your go-to travel items? I’d love to hear from you!
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