Packing For a European Vacation is a lot different than packing for a trip cross country to Disneyland.

Travel here in the good ‘ol USA is a bit different than than it is across the pond.  Here in the states, if you’re not road tripping it, your travel gear will probably include a rolling suitcase and a rental car upon arrival.  Travel gear in Europe is a bit different. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with how the locals do things – there’s usually a good reason they do things the way they do.  

Packing For a European Vacation

Packing For a European Vacation

Here are some great suggestions and tips to help you on your way to being ready for your next European vacation!


Travel horror stories are fun to tell unless they’re about you.  When you’re overseas, try to fit in at least a little.  If you stand out like a sore thumb toting around enough luggage to suffice the queen, while wearing a bright red University of Utah sweatshirt, and arguing with your travel partner about where the heck you are on the map, you might get targeted as being a tourist.  That’s not always a bad thing – just be aware of your surroundings and be prepared.  

TIP: If you’re carrying a backpack take a couple of bread twists and attach the two zipper pulls on your backpack together.  This makes it almost impossible to be pick pocketed.  You would be amazed at how easily someone can slip into your bag without being noticed.

Don’t Over Pack 

Most European travel involves some amount of walking and public transportation via Eurorail, bus, or tram.  Excess luggage can make getting around very cumbersome.  My rule of thumb is only allow yourself what can fit in the overhead bin of the airplane (that’s roughly 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches) and one personal bag to carry on your arm.  I know that sounds a bit tight, OK it sounds like the size of your cosmetics case alone, but trust me when I say you will not regret having less luggage to cart around.  You will almost certainly find yourself walking around with your luggage more than you think you will.

In the wise words of Rick Steves, “Don’t pack for the worst-case scenario. Pack for the best-case scenario and simply buy yourself out of any jams.”

TIP: When packing for a European vacation lay everything out that you want to take.  Eliminate HALF. Get rid of non necessities (3rd pair of jeans & 2nd pair of heels) or that you can buy (shampoo, soap, etc). Put small items – socks & underwear – baggies to use as laundry bags later.  Check out packing cubes or Eagle Creeks Garment Folders. They really help fit more stuff into a small space.

Type Of Luggage 

Packing For a European Vacation

Rolling suitcases are almost never seen in Europe.  9 times out of 10 folks are using some kind of backpack.  They scream tourist (see rule 1).  If you don’t mind having looks of irritation flashed at you from other train riders as they try to maneuver around your “obviously American” luggage, then be my guest.  If you really love the wheels, there are some great travel backpacks available with wheels that will work great when packing for a European vacation.

TOP PICK: My top pick for all around travel and backpacking is the Osprey Packs Ariel. There is one specially designed for women and one just for men.

Bring Or Buy An Extra Bag

After your amazing adventure you will have acquired some souvenirs.  Since you packed so lightly, you might have room for souvenirs. I always buy too much so I bring a smaller soft sided backpack rolled up inside my other bag. On my return trip I use clothing to cushion any fragile items which are divided between the two bags.

TIP: Buy a fun backpack or bag as a souvenir and fill it with your items on the way home.

Whatever paths you’re setting out to explore… have fun.  There will be moments of frustration on any vacation.  Always have fun and take things in stride.  

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”