backpacking Europe

The ultimate packing guide for backpacking Europe

To bring or not to bring, that is the question. This comprehensive list of everything I managed to cram into my backpack for a six-week journey through Europe can help you prepare for your next backpacking adventure.

Find a downloadable version here.

Absolute Packing Essentials

  •  Backpack: small enough to fit in the overhead of an airplane, large enough to fill with all of your memories.
  • Daypack / purse / camera bag: leave your big pack at the hostel and carry a smaller backpack or large purse with the day’s essentials.
  • Money belt: wear under your clothes to keep your valuables (i.e. passport, credit cards, cash) safe.
  • Small clutch with wrist strap / wallet: perfect for carrying your daily cash allowance without having to constantly dig in your daypack.

What to Bring

*denotes optional items

Clothes

  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of shorts

  • 1 – 3 dresses

  • 1 pair of leggings

  • 7 shirts (1 long-sleeved)

  • 3 tank tops

  • 14 pairs underwear

  • 1 – 2 bras

  • 1 – 2 sports bras

  • 2 layering shirts (1 cardigan + 1 denim shirt)

  • 4 pairs socks

  • 1 scarf (also a shoulder covering + blanket)

  • 1 pajama set

  • 1 swimsuit

  • 1 statement necklace

  • 1 jacket to match entire wardrobe

  • 1 wristwatch

  • *1 romper

  • *1 skirt

Shoes

  • 1 foldable flat

  • 1 good walking shoe/sandal

  • 1 shower/beach shoe/sandal

Toiletries (remember, no liquids over 4 oz.!)

  • Shampoo

  • Conditioner

  • Face lotion

  • Face wash

  • Sunscreen

  • Laundry detergent

  • Deodorant

  • Makeup

  • Compact mirror

  • Hair ties + bobby pins

  • Headband (for those non-shower days)

  • Compact hairbrush

  • Toothbrush

  • Toothpaste

  • Contact solution + case

  • Lip balm

  • Baking soda (a.k.a. dry shampoo)

  • *Feminine products

  • *Straightener

Additional Toiletry Needs

  • Hanging toiletries carrier

  • Travel clothesline

  • Ear plugs

  • Sleeping mask

  • Bandaids

  • *Travel sheet set

Documentation

  • Passport

  • Photocopy of passport

  • Credit card / debit card

  • Copy of credit / debit card

  • ID

  • Photocopy of ID

  • Travel documents (flight + hotel confirmation #’s)

  • Eurail Pass

  • Addresses for postcards

  • *Student ID

The Very Important Stuff

  • Money belt

  • Travel journal

  • Travel towel

  • Cash (just a bit in US $ + the currency of your first stop)

  • Medications + ibuprofin

  • Travel converters

  • Guidebooks

  • Phone + charger

  • Camera + charger

  • 2 – 3 small padlocks

  • Travel alarm clock

  • Refillable water bottle

Odds + Ends

  • Duct tape or packing tape

  • Sunglasses

  • Reading glasses

  • Travel umbrella

  • Blow-up neck pillow

  • Headphones

Other Packing Necessities

  • Ditty bags / laundry bag

  • *Packing cubes… save space but add weight!

What Not to Bring

Rolling Luggage

The cobbled and narrow streets of Europe will not be kind to the wheels of your rolling suitcase.

Opt for a large backpack instead.

Blow Dryer

Outlet conversions are different in Europe; you’re more likely to fry your blow dryer and have to ditch it than to actually get your hair dried.

Embrace that air-dry look or buy a blow dryer once there.

Mace

Mace and pepper sprays are outlawed in some countries and will never be favorably looked upon by a TSA agent or customs official.

Find a self-defense class before you leave if you’re worried about personal safety.

Scissors/Nail Clipper/ Other Sharp Objects

While you may need these things, they will rarely make it past an airport official in a carry-on bag.

If you foresee needing these, buy them in a European supermarket or pharmacy.

Ipad/Laptop

The technology you bring is up to you, but I recommend leaving the more expensive (and heavier!) gadgets at home.

Instead, use the lobby computer at your hostel or find an internet cafe to send your emails.

*Hat

Hats take up space (even rollable hats) and rarely get used during a Eurotrip. But, if you feel a hat will be necessary to your skin’s survival, by all means pack one.

Note: Europeans rarely wear baseball caps, so avoid these unless you want to stick out.

Happy packing!

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