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10 Tips for Packing for Europe: What You Need And What You Don’t

10 Tips for Packing for Europe and the most important question: Do you need a European Curling Iron?

As usual, I am preparing for my next trip to Europe and I am determined to do a better packing job than in the past. I am following these 10 Rules of Thumb for Packing for Europe.

As I think about this trip, I remember all the trips in the past where I took clothes I never wore, hair dryers I didn’t use and curly irons that did not work in Europe. Then I lugged an over-packed bag across Europe. Not this time; I am packing light!

Before coming to Europe, do not forget these 3 important points:

10 Rules for Packing for Europe

Rule 1 – Use a Packing List

Start a list of what you want to bring and what you need to buy. Pack at least a few days in advance. Packing at the last minute will ensure that you forget something important and pack a bunch of stuff you will never need. Actually, I start collecting things about a week in advance, adding and eliminating items as I go.

Rule 2 – Bring Comfortable and Mix & Match Clothes

Think neutral. I prefer black clothes for traveling. It is so easy to dress up and dress down with black. Black pants, jacket, and shoes go a long way. Two pairs of shoes should do it. One for walking and one for dressing up a little.

I think flats or comfortable sandals can be dressy and good for walking. I like these ones, because they are comfy and a bit classier than running shoes. Use scarves and colorful shirts to jazz up your outfits.

Just remember that Europe is a little dressier than the US. Skip the cut-offs, jogging outfits, baseball hats, and running shoes, and you’ll feel a lot less conspicuous.

If you look like a tourist, you will be the target of pickpockets. Here is a great packing guide for your trip to Europe. You will look amazing during your trip, but still pack efficiently!

Rule 3 – Best Travel/European Curling Iron

I no longer take a hairdryer to Europe. Practically every hotel has a hair dryer that is at least minimally effective (but good enough for me).

I do carry a combo curling iron/flat iron though, and I bought a dual voltage European curling iron model that I can use at home and in Europe.

Do European Hotels Have Hair Dryers

Many curling irons are dual voltage and my model was quite inexpensive. I do need a plug adapter although, since the outlets in Europe are quite different than in the US. Which brings me to:

Rule 4 – Adaptors & Converters

Adaptors and Converter
Be sure to take adaptors and a converter

Know what electrical equipment you need before you go. Europe uses 220 volts (instead of the US 110 volt service) That means if you plug your electrical appliance into a European outlet with an Adaptor without a Converter, the sparks will fly!

Most likely, you will need not these for your computer, camera, or cell phone charger, but you do need them for your hair dryer, curly iron and straightener, shaver and any other electrical appliance brought from the US.

Converter converts the 220 volts to 110 volts so US appliances will work (without melting). An Adaptor simply adapts the US Plug to match the European outlet. To complicate matters further, not all European outlets are the same.

An outlet in Great Britain is nothing like an outlet in France. For our first trip to Europe, I bought a converter and an adaptor kit that included adaptors for all Western European countries. I still use that kit.

Rule 5 – Packing Cubes

Plastic bags are your friend. Pack underwear and knits in compression bags or packing cubes. You can buy these bags at travel stores or on Amazon. Put your extra pair of shoes in a plastic bag, and always put your travel toiletries case in a plastic bag in case something springs a leak in-flight.

Rule 6 – Important Documents

American Passport
Make copies of your passport and credit cards

When packing for Europe, be sure to take photocopies of your passport, hotel membership cards and credit cards (with numbers to call if they get lost or stolen) and carry those in a zippered pocket in your suitcase as well as in your carry-on.

Rule 7 – Packing Tips

Don’t pack anything of great value in your checked luggage. Jewelry… leave it home or wear it every day. Cameras and PDA’s need to be in your carry-on.

Rule 8 – Kindles & Ebook Guides

Don’t bring heavy Guidebooks. Get the eBook version instead. Pack paperback books and leave them behind when you are finished. Of course, if you have a smartphone, Kindle or iPad this information is now at the tip of your fingers.

And if you are a book lover like me, sign up for Kindle Unlimited. Read as much as you want, for the price 1 average ebook per month AND you get unlimited free audiobooks as well. You can try it out for 30 days for FREE.

Rule 9 – Pack Light

Overstuffed luggage
Don’t overstuff your luggage… save room for souvenirs

Pack light. Take only as much luggage as you can manage on your own. If you are taking trains, you will need to put your luggage on and off the trains yourself.

If you are staying in a 3-star hotel and even many 4-star hotels, the rooms are quite small by American standards and there is very little space for extra luggage. I repeat, pack light.

Rule 10 – Check TSA Rules

Check the TSA site to review the rules on what you can carry on board. (It keeps changing) And when they say that your carry-on liquids need to be in a quart sized zip-lock bag, they mean a quart sized zip-lock bag. The latest update is that you cannot bring powders. It changes a lot, so make sure you check before your trip. 

When they say bottles must have three ounces or less, don’t push it. They confiscate tons (literally) of stuff every day. And pack some extra underwear in your carry-on… just in case they lose your luggage.

Packing for Europe Tips – Written by Terri Fogarty for

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Wednesday 5th of October 2016

Much appreciated. Even bringing a converter does NOT guarantee optimal use. But, better than nothing.


Wednesday 13th of April 2016

Remember to bring your "PDA's" in carry-on!

Stella Godfrey

Tuesday 23rd of February 2016

These are some great tips and ideas. I'm preparing for a short move to Germany and this time I'm definitely packing light. Your suggestions seem to be quite helpful so I'll have them on mind while packing. Thanks for sharing!

Stacia Werksma

Monday 15th of June 2015

Another suggestion: Use packing cubes! I managed to get everything I needed for 3 months of travel across Europe into one carry-on by using them. They're really incredible and they making packing and un-packing much easier.

Terri Fogarty

Tuesday 16th of June 2015

Thanks for that great hint.

EuropeUpClose Best Travel Secrets

Saturday 4th of April 2015

[…] I know you have heard this a million times, but it is so true. Pack Light! I take a large carry-on for any trip that is 3-weeks or shorter. I actually check it on my flight to Europe and back, and carry on a large tote. If you plan to take any trains, or rent a car, or even fly on a cheap Europe hopper, you will be so glad you only have this one easy to manage suitcase. There are really no porters at train stations, so you will have to lift your own luggage when boarding and then stow it above your seat. If renting an economy car, your trunk space is extremely limited; a smaller piece of luggage can stow easily and be hidden from car thieves. Those cheap Europe Airlines have cheap ticket prices, but charge an arm and leg for extra baggage. Here’s a post that helps you learn just how to Pack light. […]

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