Holiday Packing List
Don’t Forget To Pack These On Your Next Trip
A Holiday Packing List can be super helpful, especially when you are as scatterbrained before a trip as I am. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or packing your bags for the first time, reading some tips by travel experts and their recommendation on their most beloved travel items is always helpful and fun.
For me, the first thing (well, not really a thing, but still super important) I get before any trip, no exceptions, is travel insurance. Actually, to make things easier and because I travel quite a bit, I just got the yearly travel insurance plan, which is not only cheaper after just a few trips, but it saves so much time and hassle than having to book it for each trip individually. You can read my full review and price comparison about individual travel insurance vs multi-trip travel insurance here.
Here are some recommendations of fellow travel experts and the super useful items that they would never leave behind when going on a trip:
The Ultimate Holiday Packing List:
Don’t leave for your European trip without swimwear! No matter which season you will be travelling in, a swimsuit or bikini will come in handy. European Summers can get quite hot and if you are travelling around the coast you will no doubt be tempted to head for a dip in the Mediterranean after a long day of exploring the nearby towns.
A swimsuit will come especially in handy when you travel to countries such as Spain, Italy, or Greece where you may choose to laze around on the beach all day. And why wouldn’t you with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world?
But also, if you travel to Europe in the colder months, you can still get use out of your swimsuit if you stay in the right hotels. You will find many hotels with heated or indoor pools, and even in most ski resorts, you can find a spa to warm up in at the end of the day.
One of the first items I always have on my holiday packing list for Europe is a tiny reusable bag. No matter what type of accommodation we’re staying in, I always end up picking up a few snacks, souvenirs or other small items.
So many countries are in the process of banning the free distribution of single-use plastic bags due to their negative environmental impact, and for me having a reusable grocery bag is a way to mitigate my “footprint” and make sure that I always have a handy way to store my treasures. I especially love these because they have a built-in clip to secure them to my daypack and make sure I’m never in a lurch!
My down jacket saved my butt on my autumn trip to Europe! My ‘Puffy’, as I affectionately call it, maximizes the warmth to weight ratio, as well as compressing into the size of a doner kebab (How are the kebabs in Europe so good?!) It’s effortless to drop it into your day bag, and it expands to four times its size when needed. Magic!
Down refers to the delicate feathers underneath the tougher outer feathers on a bird. Pockets of air in the loose structure of the feathers trap your body heat, acting as an efficient thermal insulator. Translation: you’re nice and toasty.
Since the material is feathers, however, it weighs next to nothing. When the air pockets are squeezed out, the coat shrinks dramatically, making it ideal for travel. Unlike packing for a tropical climate, which requires loose, breathable clothing, packing for Europe is all about layers.
A down jacket is an excellent outer layer that is efficient, cozy, and in the last couple of years, has even become stylish!
Europe has safe drinking water and is not a country that travellers need to be concerned about when water filling bottles up, but we tend to go off the beaten path and do a lot of long hikes when away overseas and at home too.
A Steripen is invaluable to us when travelling and even in Europe we have used it to make sure water is safe when we are hiking as we fill up from streams on long hikes and extended treks too. Mountain water is delicious, free from chemicals and the best thing to drink (in our opinion!) so knowing it can be treated to provide peace of mind and yet not have the taste altered is great. The Steripen uses ultraviolet light and is simply immersed into a bottle of water, it eliminates 99.9% of the viruses and bacteria that may be present.
Ours is the Steripen Freedom and it can treat up to 20 litres on one charge. The new Steripen Ultra can even do 50 litres on one charge. It is charged via a USB and has never let us down when away. Packing the unit is simple too as it is small and lightweight, so we never think about not taking it, it is one of the first items on our list of must-haves.
For me, Europe is about dressing well, seeing and doing lots, and eating great food. It isn’t about packing a million changes of clothes or spending my precious vacation time at a launderette.
Unfortunately, nice clothes and food don’t always go together. Think spilled gelato, splashed pasta sauce, dropped tapas … When I did a pasta-making class in Rome, I had an apron; but at a restaurant the next day, the pasta sauce somehow managed to splash on my shirt. Is it just me??
Anyway, this is why I never travel to Europe without Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover. That sounds like a TV commercial, but it is totally true. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times it has saved me – or rather, saved one of my shirts. It’s not perfect, but it reduces the stain and with a little hand washing, the stain usually does disappear, so I always take it with me when I travel to Europe.
Europe is a generally safe place, but there can be property crime and it sometimes targets tourists because we have money and gadgets in our bags and because we get careless. Once you have seen videos of brazen thieves targeting tourists outside the Naples trains station you can’t unsee them.
I don’t worry as much about theft because my daypack is from PacSafe and it is always on my Packing List for Europe. PacSafe makes a series of great theft resistant suitcases, backpacks, purses and the like.
The straps of the backpack have metal cables in them so that they can’t be easily cut. The backpack also has a metal mesh so that you can’t slash it. Even if it didn’t have that feature, I would still like it as it is a durable bag with good protection for my laptop, tablet, etc. I use the Pacsafe Ultimatesafe 22L which I don’t think they make any more, but the newer Metrosafe LS450 is similar.
I have a new favourite item on my Holiday Packing List for Europe after our trip to Switzerland last year at winter time. We used a compression bag which was incredibly valuable for packing up all our snow gear in the smallest space possible.
This gear takes up a lot of space but it would squish into about one quarter of the size when we used a compression bag. A compression bag is basically a sack that holds your items that you can then shut and use straps to tighten it with a way for the air to leave the bag so that it takes up the smallest space possible.
I recommend you take a couple of smaller compression bags instead of one big one. We tried both but the problem with one big one was that it would end up in a bag awkward shape that was hard to pack. It also made it more difficult when we just needed one item out as we would have to pull it all apart looking for it and then compress it all again.
Here is a set with 12 compression bags – 12 large and 8 medium that should be plenty to stay organized for a family trip.
Credit Card Without Foreign Transaction Fees
Having explored over 50 countries in the world, the majority being in Europe, there is one thing I have learned to never travel without and that is a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Granted, there are many places in Europe that still haven’t caught onto the benefits of using a credit card, but when you are in a location that happily accepts them, it is so great to not have to worry about carrying cash or having to find an ATM and guess at how much money you MIGHT need to take out!
However, if you charge just any card, you can be shocked at your next bill if you weren’t careful to bring along a card that has NO foreign transaction fees, so be sure you’ve guaranteed that yours doesn’t. While it is fun collecting a few bills and coins from all the locations you travel to, traveling with a credit card is always a smart idea.
I love my Olloclip 4-In-1 lens for my phone because I can do more photography than my phone alone allows and without carrying around my DSLR camera.
I use the wide angle lens for tight spaces and the macro lens for my photos of anything tiny, like flowers, texture tapestries, and stonework.
The Olloclip itself is very small, fitting my front jeans pocket and weighing less than any DSLR camera lens. This gadget is one of the smallest I carry and is always in my photography bag. This is the ideal gadget for anyone who enjoys photography but doesn’t want to carry extra weight or bulk in their bag. It’s gone around the world with me and is used everywhere.
However, do note that the macro lens must be placed very close to the object in focus, so is not usable for photographing in museums or for very fragile objects that may be damaged if touched, nor in low-light environments.
Don’t have an iPhone? Here are some great alternatives for other phones.
One of the items I always pack when travelling in Europe is my dry shampoo.
Dry shampoo is such a time-saving hair miracle product. Using dry shampoo enables me to significantly stretch out the time between normal shampoo hair washes. Dry shampoo absorbs any oil from my hair and gives my hair a feeling of freshness even days after I last washed it. When traveling I want to maximise my sightseeing time not waste time washing and drying my hair.
To use dry shampoo you don’t need any water. Just shake the can and spray it on your roots. Dry shampoo also adds volume and texture to your hair and makes creating a stylish updo easy when needing a more stylish hairdo for a night out while traveling. Dry shampoo is especially useful when access to showers is limited.
Get your travel size dry shampoo for your next trip here and add it to your Holiday Packing List.
As a traveler, my wardrobe is often “functional” and not always “stylish” but people in many European countries dress very nicely and coming from North America, I want to try and fit in with the place I am visiting.
One of my favourite things to pack when I visit Europe is a fancy hat! And if I don’t have one, it is the first thing I look for when I get there! If I am visiting France, a colourful beret will help dress up every wardrobe. Last summer we visited Greece and I traded in my usual baseball cap for a big floppy hat as we explored the beautiful Greek islands! While most of the people on the islands were also tourists, I wanted to look good and fit in with the crowd!
Traveling with hats can be tricky to pack, my best advice is to wear it on the plane or to pack it in your suitcase in a nest of clothes, and then fill the inside. This will help your hats keep their shape!
Packing a good camera is essential for any trip to Europeand definitely should not be missing on your holiday packing list. Yes, many smartphones take good photos, but for the very best photos you still can’t beat a Digital SLR camera. Don’t tell anyone, but I am old enough to remember the days traveling with an old film SLR camera. Heavy, cumbersome and a huge space hog in my backpack. Never mind all the film canisters you had to safely store during your trip!
Fortunately, there are now small, lightweight and high-quality digital cameras to choose from. Our camera of choice is the Olympus OM D EM 10. The best thing (apart from the amazing photos it takes, like the one below) is that it is a mirrorless DSLR. What does this mean? The clever people at Olympus have taken all the great things about a Digital SLR camera and made an even smaller version by removing the complex mirror system inside. Our Olympus fits comfortably inside my handbag when we go out in the evening. During the day we pop it in a small bag with the extra lenses in our day pack.
The functions are easy to use, and with a few free online tutorials, you will be taking photos like a pro in no time. Our best tip is to download the images regularly (to a laptop, an external hard drive, or the cloud). There is nothing worse than losing all those perfect Europe holiday photos if your camera is lost or stolen.
An adaptor is an essential item to add to your holiday packing list when you are traveling to Europe from other continents. An adaptor allows you to plug your electronic device from one country into the wall outlet of a country in Europe.
For example, my wall chargers from Canada do not work in Europe, without an adaptor. It is a good idea to invest in a world adaptor that comes with multiple adaptor pins and is lightweight.
On my trip to Vienna, I saw that most newer hotels in Europe have USB ports, making it super easy to charge your electronics without a plug or adaptor. But in most hotels and AirBnBs, adaptors are a must to charge your cell-phones and cameras. This is one of my first items in my packing list to Europe.
Keep in mind that adaptors are different from converters and transformers which actually converts electricity. They allow a dual voltage appliance to be converted into the voltage recommended for that country, where you are using it in. They include items like hairdryers, shaving machines, etc, but only if they are dual voltage.
Unfortunately, many “heat-producing” electronics, such as hair-dryers or hair straighteners/curly irons are not dual voltage, so make sure that you buy one that you can use for travel. Converters are not designed for “continuous duty” and should only be used for short periods of time.
One of my favorite items to take to Europe is an unlocked cellphone. We didn’t have data access on our first trip to Europe and it made everything so much harder: connecting with our Airbnb host, finding the right roads after we got lost while driving, the list goes on.
However, if you bring along an unlocked cellphone, you can grab a SIM card from any vendor and be instantly connected or you can even buy your SIM card before you leave for Europe. It makes travel so much easier and really helped us on our trip to Greece!
Convenience: They are great, if you don’t just want to eat at restaurants, but plan on having a lot of take-out or popping into supermarkets to make up your own meals. By having your own set of cutlery in your day bag, you can eat wherever you like. Grab yourself a salad and sit in a nice European park.
Environment: You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that single-use plastic items are terrible for the environment. So say no to plastic cutlery and grab yourself your own personal travel cutlery set that you can use over and over again.
A travel scarf with a secret pocket serves several purposes and takes up very little space – in fact, I am usually wearing it, so it takes up no space in my bag. The most obvious use of a scarf is to keep warm. Whether I am on an airplane or walking through a historic city, the scarf keeps me warm.
Wearing a scarf always dresses up an outfit. I like having that one accessory that makes me looks a little nicer and a little less touristy. If I am going somewhere where I need to cover my head, I simply slip it off my neck and over the top of my head.
One of the less obvious reasons to use a travel scarf is that it serves as a concealed carryall. A secret pocket holds my money, passport, credit card, and phone. I love not having to carry anything around, and that my valuables are close to my body.
Once I have settled in to my hotel, a walk around the destination I am visiting with my sunglasses on helps me blend in a little and check things out without being too obvious. I head straight to the nearest cafe and indulge in some people watching through my tinted lenses.
It was an 8-hour flight to London from Seattle, and I listened to music downloaded on my phone while doing work on my laptop. When I landed, one of my first priorities was charging my phone.
Even though I’d known to bring an outlet converter with me, I didn’t realize how different London (and other cities in Europe) are from the United States. Outlets are not as prolific there as they are in my part of the world, and I didn’t find a place to charge until I’d arrived at my hotel. Thankfully, I’d manually documented the details for my hotel, or I would have really been in a pickle!
Now, I carry an external battery pack with me whenever I travel. I have several now, and I decided which to take with me for the day depending on our plans. One will charge my iPhone 7+ twice, another as many as twelve times.
It’s not unusual for a traveling companion to sheepishly ask if they can borrow it, too! I recharge the battery packs in my hotel room overnight. It’s my #1 recommendation to anyone traveling to Europe.
Aside from our passports, the one piece of gear we absolutely can’t leave at home while traveling around Europe are our binoculars! And a guide of the local wildlife to boot.
Travelers interested in visiting places off the beaten track, especially the more natural landscapes of mountains, prairies, deserts, and marshes throughout Europe, will find that every destination has unique wildlife to see. You never know when a rare bird or animal will make itself known while out on a hike or simply exploring.
We suggest swapping out the binocular strap for a generic, unbranded one, as well as covering up the make and model of the binoculars with some black electric tape, to avoid becoming a target, especially if you have higher-end gear.
If you want more information on the area’s nature and wildlife, consider signing up for a tour through a local park or preserve, or check out Birding Pal to connect with knowledgeable locals about spending the day showing you around their nature hotspots.
Many places where wildlife watching is popular will also have binoculars for rent, but why not have your own pair that you take everywhere? Enjoy Europe’s wild side even more by bringing along binoculars!
One of the must-pack items on our list for European travel is a wallet with RFID properties. For those who don’t know, RFID wallets provide protection against thieves who seek to steal the electromagnetic information stored on your credit cards. They do this using a process called “skimming” and RFID wallets block the signals from your cards, which makes them difficult to read remotely.
While credit card companies say cards no longer transmit sensitive data, we’re not so sure. Having fallen prey to a compromised debit card while traveling off the beaten path in Europe and not knowing exactly how, we think why not just use an RFID wallet as added insurance?
RFID wallets come in a wide variety of styles and colors, suitable for men and women. The kind we like have multiple slots to hold all the credit cards, as well as enough space for a passport and other forms of identification. Other styles will have compartments large enough for a smartphone and crossbody straps, which make the wallet a practical alternative to a bulkier handbag.
One of my favorite items that I always pack when traveling is my Takeya reusable water bottle. Staying hydrated while traveling is crucial. Our bodies lose water from everyday activities like breathing. When you walk fast as I do when exploring a city like Vienna, you can get dehydrated without realizing it.
Carrying a reusable water bottle helps me stay hydrated while also forcing me to stop for a few minutes. I’ve tried a lot of reusable water bottles but none kept liquids as well insulated as a Takeya water bottle. The dual walled insulated BPA-free bottles keep drinks cold for up to 24 hours, even on hot days! I’ve used it at the beach and the ice cubes didn’t even melt. If you visit Europe during the winter your coffee, hot cocoa, or hot toddy will stay hot for 12 hours. Definitely keep the chill away while strolling the Christmas markets.
The wide mouth makes it easy to fill. The leak-proof lid has a sip spout which I love because I don’t have to take it off to drink. I attach the handle loop to my daypack with a carabiner to save valuable space for snacks. Because it’s made from stainless steel my Tekeya bottle more durable, lasts longer, and is better for the environment than a plastic water bottle.
Planning to cook some meals during your trip to Europe? If you’ve booked a hotel room with a kitchenette, or an AirBnB with a full kitchen, consider packing a travel spice kit.
Along with the pots and pans provided for guest use in your vacation kitchen, there may be some spices included. But you won’t always know which spices, or their quantities, or their freshness. And buying a regular-sized container of a frequently-used spice, such as Thyme or Oregano, at your vacation location market can be wasteful and expensive.
Holly, of Sleeps5.com, routinely packs her own spices when traveling. To do likewise, first decide which spices you use most often. Then buy small containers to create a DIY travel spice kit, or buy a handy ready-made spice kit that includes your chosen spices. Be sure to select containers that have a tight lid, such as screw-on, to prevent spills in your suitcase. Some kits even have pouches to keep the little containers separate from the other items in your bag. Just a little bit goes a long way! Happy Travels!
My favorite item to pack when I travel to Europe is my journal. I never leave home without one! I love keeping track of little notes and details about my trip, in addition to my thoughts, impressions, and feelings about where I am, and what I’m doing and experiencing. Those little details are what spark so many forgotten memories when I read through my journal years later.
I often buy a journal before I leave so I can write down all of my travel plans and pre-travel thoughts, as well as write on the plane on the way to my destination. Sometimes it’s a beautifully made journal and other times it’s an inexpensive spiral notebook. While I’m traveling I’ll buy fun pens to use with my journal, and sometimes I’ll even pick up a journal or two for future trips or just to use when I’m back home (some countries in Europe have gorgeous paper products).
Once, when I was short on space, I simply journaled on postcards that I bought on my trip and then bound them together when I got home. Don’t forget to add your travel journal to your holiday packing list.
With all that travel time to get to Europe, my e-reader is one of the few things I won’t leave home without. Gone are the days of carrying the weight of paper books, with an e-reader you’ve got all those stories at your fingertips. Whether you’re waiting at an airport gate lounge, in line for an attraction or chilling out in your hotel room, I love having the option to read rather than just endlessly scrolling social media.
But it is on that long flight to Europe that an e-reader really comes in handy. No matter how good the onboard entertainment system is, when you have up to 24 hours flight time (I’m in Sydney, Australia) you need lots of things to help pass the time!
I recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine for the flight. It’s impossible to put down, so should make the hours fly by. If you’re relaxing on a beach or a cruise, then try Circe by Madeline Miller. Or for a feel-good read after a huge day of sightseeing, then The Man I Think I Know is fabulous.
For years I traveled without them, not realizing they would help improve my circulation, especially on long flights. From the first time I put them on, I was hooked.
Wearing these socks on long haul flights lessens the swelling in your legs caused by flying and also decreases your risk of blood clots. You still need to get up and walk around the plane, but these socks will certainly help keep the blood flowing and your legs will thank you.