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The Ultimate Europe Packing Checklist: by an American living in Europe

Between having been to 11 European countries in the past 13 years and moving to the Netherlands in 2015, Europe has become my second home. I’ve been non-stop amazed at how vastly different these countries are despite them being so close to each other in location. Every time I’ve stepped foot in a new European country or even returned back to the same one, it’s been the same feeling of wonder and admiration for its distinct traditions and rich history.

Despite how different all these countries are, there’s one thing that apparently ties them altogether– the essential travel items that you need regardless of location. Whether you’re in France or Greece, you’ll want to make sure that every item off of this ultimate Europe packing checklist is crossed off and ready to go for your overseas adventure.

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This post was written in collaboration with Hi-Chew.

International Flight Carry-On Packing List

Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

Chances are if you’re headed to Europe from the United States, you have at least a seven hour flight ahead of you. Therefore, you definitely want to make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable on this long flight. Make sure to have these essentials that are always on my carry on luggage packing list.

  • Ear plugs or noise-cancelling earphones
  • Nasal sinus spray
  • Hi-Chew
  • Portable charger and cable
  • Water and food
  • Reusable, foldable bag
  • Entertainment
  • Pillow
  • Light jacket or shawl
  • Melatonin
  • Compression socks
  • Prescription and/or over-the-counter medicine
  • Passport
  • Pen
  • Lotion and/or lip balm
  • Eye mask

Ear Plugs or Noise-Cancelling Earphones

Although planes aren’t the most comfortable place to sleep, if you can catch any ZZZs in the air, you’ll be in better shape once you land. Make sure to pack ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones to block out noisy neighbors or even the innocent crying baby.

Tip to Alleviate Jet-lag: As soon as I board the plane, I set my watch or phone to the timezone that I’ll be going to. Then I plan my naps on the plane around that.

Nasal Sinus Spray

Most of you won’t need this but for those unlucky few like me who get terrible airplane ear with shooting nerve pains into the top of your head, a good nasal sinus spray will save immense pain during take-off and landing.

Mike and I used to get crazy sharp pains from sinus pressure on so many flights, which made flying quite uncomfortable, but after a flight attendant shared this golden tip with us, we never got sinus pain on a flight again.

Hi-Chew Candy

girl in red kimono flower crown hi-chew candy

For those of you who need help with your ears popping during take-off and landing, gum might be your go-to, but the hassle of needing to spit your gum out in a wrapper and still have it possibly spread and create a mess means you should totally skip it and bring Hi-Chew instead.

Hi-Chew is an extra chewy candy meaning you’ll be moving the muscles around your jaw that help equalize the changing cabin air pressure and relieve discomfort from flying. Unlike gum, it chews away ’till the very end so you don’t have to deal with the waste on the plane. Plus it’s super fruity and smooth so it’s quite fun and tasty to eat!

If you didn’t know, Hi-Chew is a chewy, fruit candy that’s super popular in Japan but has wonderfully made its way across the ocean. You now no longer have to go to Japan to get this awesome candy ’cause it’s right here in the States!

Portable Charger and Cable for Your Phone

A lot of planes have charging ports right on the plane now, but just in case they don’t, for both the plane and exploring Europe, you’ll want to pack a compact, portable charger, especially if you plan to use your phone as entertainment or for directions when you land in a new country.

You also won’t want to forget the cable for your phone, which I may or may not have left in my checked luggage before rendering my portable charger quite useless.

Water and Food

If you’re going on a budget airline like WOW Air, you’ll need to pack your own water and food. To save extra money, you can bring a reusable bottle to the airport and fill it up at a fountain there, or at the very least buy water after security but before boarding.

As for food, I enjoy bringing these healthy vegetarian food options on a long flight, which includes things you might not think to bring like an avocado or sweet potato.

Reusable, Foldable Bag

Another key item if you’re flying with a budget airline that might have a one bag restriction is to pack a small reusable, foldable bag. It’s nice to have once you get your boarding pass scanned and bags checked so you can put stuff in there that you want for the flight, then put your main bag in the overhead compartments.

It’s also a good idea to have this in Europe when shopping because countries like the Netherlands charge extra for a plastic bag.

Entertainment

For a long flight, you’ll definitely want to bring some type of entertainment. Most international flights have TV screens built into the seat in front of you, but in case they don’t, bring a book or Kindle, music on your phone, or even download movies ahead of time on Netflix to watch on the plane.

Story Time: When I went to France at age 17, I read the 5th Harry Potter book in one six-hour sitting! It was the perfect book for that flight length. Fast forward 13 years later, my goal for a long flight is to get as much sleep as possible. I’m 30 going on 80….

Pillow

A good travel pillow is essential for a good rest on the plane. One that provides support in the front so that it doesn’t move around while you sleep and has an clip to attach to your backpack or luggage is essential.

Light Jacket or Shawl

Planes get unnecessarily cold so on the off chance that your plane doesn’t provide blankets, make sure to stay cozy by packing a light jacket or shawl. Even if you’re going someplace warm like Greece in the summertime, you’ll be happy to have something warm to cover you.

Melatonin

If you have trouble sleeping on planes or get jet-lag easily, you might want to bring melatonin supplements with you on the plane. Melatonin is a hormone that’s found naturally in your body. By taking it orally, it adjusts the body’s internal clock aka it helps you fall asleep.

Note: I’m not a physician or doctor so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I prefer taking melatonin over sleeping pills, which can be addictive. Always ask your doctor to see if this is ok for you!

Compression Socks

Sitting on a plane for a long time can decrease circulation to your feet. Wearing compression socks can combat that and reduce swelling in your feet.

Prescription and/or Over-the-Counter Medicine

Don’t forget your prescription medicine with you while you travel! On a long flight, I often need at least one piece of medicine or supplement (mainly because I’m lactose-intolerant and need it for food).

You won’t need a specific doctor’s note as a prescription bottle will be enough to let you through the airport with them. I’ve never had a problem traveling with prescription medicines, supplements, and over-the-counter medicine, and as someone with fibromyalgia, I used to travel with 20+ types of pills.

As for over-the-counter medicine, even if you’re a healthy person, I recommend bringing medicine that you’re used to so you don’t need to go searching for pharmacies and deciphering foreign languages on the box.

To create less bulk of bringing 10 different bottles for all your meds, you could do what I do and put the exact amount I need in a little plastic storage organizer with compartments.

Other Essentials for the Plane

  • Passport
  • Pen for possibly filling out customs card; this one’s not a biggie
  • Lotion and/or lip balm
  • Eye mask

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Packing List for Europe

 

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Once you’ve landed in Europe, you’ll want to have some of these items that I are always on my European travel needs list.

  • Credit card and debit card with no foreign transaction fee
  • Cell phone with offline version of Google Maps downloaded
  • Multiple USB port charging station
  • Universal adapter with two USB ports and surge protector (for your laptop)
  • Dual-voltage hair straightener or curling iron
  • Dual-voltage clothes steamer
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Backpack and/or daypack
  • Toiletry bottles
  • Camera
  • Prescription and/or over-the-counter medication
  • Tampons with applicators
  • Tissues and antibacterial
  • Make up
  • Tweezers and small scissors

Credit Card and Debit Card with No Foreign Transaction Fee

I’ve never exchanged money ahead of time for the place that I’m going to visit. Instead, I use my debit card with no foreign transaction fee and take out $20-30 of the local currency right at an ATM at the airport to have for incidentals on the way to my hotel. Then I locate a local ATM within the city, and get a bulk of cash there.

Generally, the ATMs at an airport don’t use the best foreign exchange rate, which is why I wait to get to the destination to pull out more money.

Debit Card Recommendation: I love my Citibank debit card, but because it has foreign transaction fees, I opened up a fee-free online Capital One 360 bank account that I basically use just for traveling. I transfer money in there a week or two before I travel and then use this to get cash from ATMs.

  • Get $25 cash when you sign up for a Capital One 360 Checking account through this link. You can also get another $25 if you open up a savings account with them too.

Credit Card Recommendation: I’ve been using the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard for the past few years, but because of so many peoples’ recommendations for travel benefits, I just signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

Although it has a hefty $450 annual fee, you get a $300 credit towards travel and other perks that makes the $150 net fee worth it.

I do not recommend opening up a credit card if you do not have enough money to pay off your credit balance IN FULL every month. In my humble opinion, paying any interest on credit card debt is a waste of money. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to chat personal finance! This is coming from someone who got a credit card at age 18 and paid off her student loans within two years while living in Manhattan, NYC.

Cell Phone with Data or Offline Version of Google Maps

Of course, you’ll want to bring your cell phone on the trip. It’ll be your lifeline with your tickets, reservations, and Whatsapp to tell your mom that you’re doing just fine.

If you have limited to no data, you’ll want to download an offline version of Google Maps before you leave for your trip.

For the most inexpensive way to share data while traveling in a group, I’d opt for a pocket wifi rental. But if you want your own cell phone data, I’d get a local sim card in the country you’re going to. Just make sure the data you get will work EU-wide (assuming you are going to more than one European country).

Multiple USB Port Charging Station + Universal Adapter

Having a multiple USB port charging station has made all the difference when traveling in Europe. Not only can you charge multiple peoples’ phones, cameras, and Kindles at the same time, but some European hotels only have one outlet in the room, which makes having to plug in multiple items a hassle. This takes care of all of your devices at once.

It’s also great for home too, but as this item has a US plug, you’ll also need to bring an international adapter that you can use anywhere in the world. Different countries have different plugs for their outlets so this will make it so you can use your US plugs in either EU or UK countries.

Note: This adapter will NOT work with your hair straightener or curling iron. To learn how to use your hair straightener abroad, check out this fully detailed post.

Dual-voltage Travel Steamer

If you’re not going to have an iron where you’re going, or you straight up don’t like ironing (like me), make sure to pack a dual-voltage travel steamer and an adapter to go with it.

You can use this at home daily too. Makes getting ready for the day a breeze!

Check out this post for other ways to keep your clothes wrinkle-free while traveling.

Clothes and Shoes

A lot of places in Europe do not have AC so make sure to bring light, breathable clothing if traveling in the summertime. As for the winter, even though it might not seem cold, you will be out and about more than you are at home so pack a couple of extra thin layers for warmth.

My recommendation for thin, warm clothes is to go to UNIQLO, and get Heattech, which are clothes designed for the cold without being bulk.

As for shoes, I would leave most of your heels behind, and bring good walking shoes. They’re a must as a lot of Europe is covered in cobblestone streets, and you’ll be walking around more than you would at home.

Backpack and/or Daypack

You’ll be out and about for most of the day site-seeing so you’ll probably want a backpack to keep a filtered water bottle, camera, an umbrella or rain jacket, a light sweater, and your important documents. I personally bring this very inexpensive daypack with me to every city since it’s big enough to hold my stuff but still small enough that it’s not going to make my back sweat so much.

Toiletry Bottles

Why spend money on toiletry sized items when you can buy good toiletry bottles and refill it with the products you use at home? Also, this will save more waste on buying plastic.

I’ve tested a few brands, and I like these ones the best since the product is easy to get in and out, and they don’t leak. A lot of people like silicone ones, but I found that any liquid sticks to the sides of the silicone so you end up wasting a lot of product.

Camera

 

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Of course you’re going to want to take amazing photos while you’re abroad! Did you really go somewhere if you didn’t take photos of it? (JK!)

My favorite camera for traveling is the Sony A6000 because it’s super light and compact but still takes amazing, high-quality photos. It’s even great for low-lighting situations like at a restaurant.

Most of my Instagram feed is from my Sony A6000 camera, but recently I upgraded to the Canon 6D, which is must heavier! My Sony A6000 could fit in this little purse that you see in the picture above, but for the Canon 6D, I need to bring a daypack.

Tampons with Applicators

A lot of European countries don’t sell tampons with applicators so I recommend bringing your own. If you really want your period to be hassle-free while traveling, I would highly suggest the Diva Cup, which I’ve been using for at least eight years.

Coins / Change

Of course, you won’t get local coins until you get to your destination, but I generally like to carry a few small coins on me at all times. This is because many places in Europe charge about 10-70 cents for you to use the bathroom. It might seem unreasonable if you’re used to free bathrooms in the US, but you’ll enjoy much, much cleaner bathrooms!

Makeup

If you’re bringing makeup to Europe, don’t forget that some items count as liquids such as your liquid concealer and even lip gloss. You may want to put those with the liquids bag ahead of time.

Tweezers and Small Scissors

Besides needing to trim your eyebrows, you’ll never know when you need tweezers like for a splinter or small scissors like for cutting off tags of new clothes you bought in Europe.


Printable PDF of the Ultimate Europe Packing Checklist

Want a printable PDF version of this ultimate Europe packing checklist? Click here to open the PDF. If it doesn’t download automatically, right click and save to your company, or simply press CTRL+P to print it! It’ll help you with what to pack for Europe.

Note: It’s in A4 size so if you use a Letter size printer, then adjust your printer settings to Letter.


Think I’m missing anything on this Europe packing checklist? I’m open for suggestions. Comment below with whatever I forgot!

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