Packing List

Before reading this list, you may like to have a look at my Packing Tips page. This list used to have its home over on that page, but I found the whole thing was a bit too long, so have broken it up. My Packing Tips page gives you ideas on the type of luggage to bring, and some useful accessories. This, however, is about what to pack.

Keep in mind this is just a suggested list, geared towards someone holidaying in Europe during autumn/spring, packing reasonably light (it is possible to go lighter though). It’s what I travel with in that kind of environment. If you are heading to the mediterranean in summer you will probably not need some of the warmer items. I also suggest picking 3 or 4 colours that go together and making sure all your clothes are one of those colours – that way everything goes with pretty much everything else. Pick clothes that do not require ironing.

Clothes
  • 4 shirts (+1 worn on the plane for a total of 5) – incl. at least 2 long-sleeved, 1 short-sleeved (or half-length), and 1 good enough to wear to the theatre/a nice restaurant
  • 3 pants (+1 worn on the plane for a total of 4) – incl. at least 1 long (eg. jeans), 1 good enough to wear to the theatre/a nice restaurant, and 1 pair of half-length shorts or pants that can convert into shorts. I take at least 2 jeans and 1 convertible trousers. While some travellers urge against jeans due to their bulkiness and the time they take to dry, I love them – you can re-wear them multiple times without washing, they go with anything, a nice pair can be worn to the theatre, etc. I wouldn’t take them to SE Asia in summer, but for Europe I think they’re great. Others complain convertible (zip-off) pants look tacky – these days you can get zip-off pants that actually look nice and are hardly identifiable as convertible. You can buy versions that convert into mid-thigh shorts or knee-length pants. I would suggest knee-length ones, as shorts above the knee can be inappropriate in some cultures or at some religious sites, and are not commonly worn by European adults unless at the park or the beach. I have a pair of these which are comfortable and look good as either long trousers or knee-length pants. I wouldn’t wear them to a restaurant in Paris but they are great for trekking around Scotland or visiting ruins in Turkey.
  • 1 set of pyjamas – short sleeves with shorts are fine in most cases as most hostels, guesthouses and hotels are quite warm even on cool nights. Whenever I get a bit cold I just throw on a jumper.
  • 6 pairs underpants (ladies, you only need 3 or 4 bras – these can be worn a few times before they need a wash!)
  • 5 pairs socks. Europe in Spring/Autumn is temperamental, but is rarely dry and warm enough to wear flip flops. I find I wear my enclosed walking shoes every day. Flip-flops aren’t good for walking all day, either.
  • 1 hat – esp. if you will be spending a lot of time at the beach, hiking, on open boats etc
  • 1 insulating layer – eg. hoodie, jumper, cardigan etc (something that will fit under the weatherproof layer below, and will keep you warm on cooler days which aren’t cold enough for the weatherproof layer). This item might not be necessary if you’re doing a mediterranean trip in summer, but it is important anywhere in northern Europe or UK, even in summer.
  • 1 water/windproof layer. If you’ve never lived in cold temperatures you will probably underestimate the importance of a windproof layer. It doesn’t matter if you have a jumper on – stopping the wind can make all the difference between being freezing or comfortable. I have one of these, which I love. It wouldn’t stand up to a full day walking through Welsh mountains in the rain, but it can handle a few hours, and it keeps the wind off you.
  • 1 pair comfortable walking shoes. I recommend black, particularly for men, so they can be worn to the theatre or out to dinner. Ladies, you can get nice black walking shoes which can also be worn out (I used to have a pair similar to these for this purpose. I now have a pair of canvas sneakers which are nice enough for walking around the city but comfortable enough to wear all day).
  • 1 pair sandals/flip-flops for the beach/boats/hostel showers. Honestly, I have not taken flip-flops on my last two trips (1. Germany & Austria in Winter; 2. Northern Ireland & Netherlands in Spring). I have found I hardly ever wear them. Bathrooms are clean enough, even in campsites, that they’re not necessary, and unless you’re spending most of your trip on the beaches of Greece and Italy, they just aren’t that practical for Europe. If I was taking a second pair of shoes, I’d be more likely to take a pair of sandals or ballet flats for dressing up a bit more, but which squish down nice and flat.
  • 1 set swimmers – you’ll be able to identify if this is necessary or not, but who knows – at least they don’t take up much space!
  • 1 scarf and/or shawl/sarong – if you are convinced a scarf won’t be necessary, a shawl or sarong is still a good idea. These can be used to cover up shoulders or heads at religious sites, to keep a cool breeze off your arms, and sit on at the beach. I’d still recommend the scarf though.
  • 1 pair gloves – even in spring and autumn it can get very chilly at night, especially in northern europe
  • 1 beanie if your ears feel the cold easily
  • Tights or thermal underpants to wear under your jeans/trousers if you feel the cold easily
  • Belt

If you still have space and like to dress up a bit more:

  • 1 dress or skirt (with appropriate shoes & tights – I would suggest not high heels as you could be walking on cobblestoned streets, and I’d suggest closed-in shoes, as it’s possible you’ll be walking through puddles of cold rainwater – the ballet flats I mentioned above are a good idea, or the nice black walking shoes).
  • 1 nice coat/jacket (not too bulky – or wear this on the plane! Remember it doesn’t have to be too warm as you have an insulating layer packed as well.)
  • Limited jewellery – nothing too expensive which might attract thieves or which you would be too distressed about losing.
Toiletries
  • Soap – if you’re travelling carry-on, a bar of soap won’t take up any of your liquid allowance
  • 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner – in a small bottle if you are travelling carry-on
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Any prescription medication
  • Sunscreen – esp. if you will be spending a lot of time outdoors, at the beach, on boats etc.
  • Nail clippers
  • Lip balm
  • Razor & shaving gel – you can buy travel-sized versions of shaving gel if you are travelling carry-on. You can buy dry leaves of shaving soap, but you’d need about a million to shave legs, and Andre found they weren’t very effective for shaving his face.
  • Deodorant
  • Tampons & pads – if you are travelling for a few months, just take enough for one or two months and you can buy more later.
  • Travel pack of tissues
  • Moisturiser if you get dry skin
  • Anti-bacterial cleansing wipes or gel (alcohol-free is better for your skin). Good for cleaning your hands before eating or after going to the toilet if you don’t have hand-washing facilities. Wipes mean you don’t run the risk of your gel spilling in your bag, but are probably less environmentally friendly. Wipes are also good for giving your face, neck, underarms etc a bit of a clean on long flights when you can’t have a shower.
First Aid

Keep in mind you don’t need to pack heaps of first aid items. Chances are you’ll hardly use any of them, and if you run out, you can buy more anywhere. So instead of packing a whole box of painkillers or antihistamines, just take one sheet of pills out of the box. We have bought toothpaste in Cesky Krumlov and antihistamines in Siena!

  • A few band-aids
  • One sheet of painkillers
  • One sheet antihistamines if you have allergies
  • Strapping tape/bandage if you have a pre-existing injury which is prone to flare up
  • One sheet cold/flu tablets
  • Sleeping pills for the plane if you have trouble sleeping
  • One sheet pills for any other conditions you are pre-disposed to – eg. migraines, travel sickness etc.
  • One tube anti-itch cream (eg. Eurax, Savlon etc). Your call on whether you bother with this. I find that if there are mosquitoes, they will find me, so I err on the side of caution. It takes up hardly any extra space in the toiletries bag.

If you are going to do any extended or isolated outdoor activities, you should of course take a more extensive first aid kit.

Miscellaneous

  • A few individual bags of laundry powder (most laundromats don’t include detergent, or you have to pay for it). Label them so it doesn’t look too much like drugs 😉 You can also buy dry leaves of laundry soap for hand-washing things in the sink, or alternatively just use a small amount of laundry powder from one of your bags.
  • Small microfibre towel (takes up waaaaay less space than a normal bath or beach towel)
  • Laundry bag (keeps dirty clothes separate from clean clothes and makes it easy to carry laundry to the laundromat. I like to use a stuff-sac for this purpose.)
  • Clean clothes bag (to put your clothes in while you have a shower and to hang on a hook when there is no bench on which to put your clothes. This is something that only just occurred to me while writing about toiletries bags above, but I don’t know why I’ve never thought of it before! I’m sick of trying to hook jeans, underwear, shirt, belt etc onto 1 hook in the bathroom!)
  • Hairbrush
  • If you must take makeup, put together a small makeup kit – choose one or two lipsticks (if you know a makeup sales rep, getting sample-sized lipsticks is fantastic for travel kits); a small mascara tube; put a small amount of foundation into a little container (or use tinted sunscreen, or go without for a few weeks – it will do your skin good!); one or two eyeshadow colours (or a palette like these); one small blush colour (or a small combination palette). If you’re one of those who absolutely cannot go without eye- or brow-liner, bring just one, or even better, a 2-in-1. Use the cleansing wipes in the toiletries list for removing makeup.
  • 1-size-fits-all plug for hand-washing small items (socks, underwear, tshirts etc) in the sink
  • Pegless clothes line for drying said hand-washed items
  • Day bag – either a small backpack or cross-body style bag. You can buy backpacks which are especially designed to pack down small to fit in your luggage, but these often don’t have great shoulder straps. Many airlines will actually let you take this as your second ‘small’ carry-on item.
  • Heavy-duty plastic cutlery for making picnics or eating on-the-go/supermarket/hostel meals like 2 minute noodles, yoghurt, microwave meals etc.
  • Rain cover for your backpack
  • Collapsible water bottle (these don’t last forever, but they lasted us for our whole Europe trip the first time we visited). If you don’t take a water bottle with you, buy a bottled drink when you arrive and use it as a refillable water bottle.
  • Miscellaneous items you don’t realise will come in handy til they do: rubber bands, safety pins, zip-lock bags, a pen. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve wanted rubber bands while travelling. Especially handy for packing half-eaten packets of food.
  • Power plug converter. Remember the UK, EU and Switzerland all use different plugs.
  • Camera (preferably with back-up battery and multiple SD cards, or a USB drive to empty your SD card onto)
  • Phone (a smart phone loaded with the Google Maps app and an international/local sim card is extremely useful)
  • Chargers (Phone, tablet, camera battery etc).
  • Earplugs
  • A folder for any papers you need to take with you. This doesn’t need to be a lot, but you should at least take your travel insurance certificate (with your reference number and relevant phone numbers), a copy of your passport profile page (this helps in getting a new passport if yours gets lost or stolen), additional copies of your passport photo (also helps with getting a new passport) and print-outs of any booking confirmations that require you to bring confirmation along (accommodation normally doesn’t require this, but some activities might). This is also good for saving tickets that you might want to keep as souvenirs or put in a scrapbook back home.

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