Our simple packing list for Europe with everything you need and tips on how you can fit it all in a backpack! Don’t believe me? Take a look!
Two years ago, my husband and I took our 5 small kids to Europe. We traveled to 6 cities in 8 days and it was seriously the best travel experience our family has ever had! When people hear that we took our whole family to Europe, they usually have a ton of questions –
Where did you go and what did you see?
- Read all about our 8 Day European Family Vacation HERE
How did you afford that?
Are you crazy?
- Yes, but it’s a healthy crazy… I think!
How did you pack your whole family in backpacks for an entire week?
- Let me tell you all about it!
Packing for Europe
It’s true. When it comes to traveling to Europe, I am kind of the queen of packing light. I don’t love walking the old cobblestone streets with a rolling suitcase and I don’t think you need a new outfit every day. Plus, getting on and off the trains and subways is hard enough (especially with kids!) – why add more stress and weight to a situation by carrying luggage?
I’ve done Europe in a backpack twice now, and we have another trip planned for next spring where I plan to do the same. Here are all my packing tips for Europe – what you should bring and what you should leave at home.
Packing List For Europe
1. A Good Backpack
- Me and my 4 younger kids all took a regular school-sized Jansport backpack. (My little ones actually took a cheaper school backpack from Walmart or Target that totally did the job!) Jansports are a good quality, light-weight option that were totally sufficient for our things.
- My oldest son took a small hiking backpack. At age 13 he was 6 feet tall and wore a size 11 shoe, so he needed a little extra room!
- My husband took a larger hiking backpack that held all of his clothes, plus anything extra for our family, like toiletries and such. He was the only one who had to check his backpack on our flight over there. But it was still a nice option to be able to put on his back so his hands were free, and it traveled just fine on the trains and subways.
- Pants – Wear a pair, pack a pair.
- Shirts – 1 shirt for every 2 days you plan to be gone
- Shoes – Wear a good pair of tennis shoes, pack a smaller pair (even sandals). On the off chance something happens to your good pair of shoes, the sandals will be sufficient to get you to the nearest shoe store.
- Socks – 1 pair for each day
- Underwear – 1 pair for every 2 days
- PJs – one pair
- We all wore jeans, which were fine, but I would consider bringing a pair of pants that would dry easier if you get caught in the rain like we did.
- I didn’t pack shorts because it wasn’t hot enough. Also, many churches and museums won’t let you in with shorts, so keep that in mind.
- I pack all of our clothes in gallon size ziplock bags. We suctioned all of the air out, which cuts down on space, BIG TIME! Plus, my kids can more easily dress themselves when I have each outfit for them planned and packed together. Packing in bags is also useful to keep dirty/smelly/wet clothes away from the clean clothes. The only items that don’t fit in bags are bigger kids/adult pants. Even adult shirts can save space when packed in plastic bags.
- Don’t forget to leave ALL of your expensive jewelry at home!
- Toothbrush + Toothpaste
- Hairbrush + Hairties (Think “Pony tail every day!”)
- Travel hair gel or spray (this was for my boys)
- Makeup – I LOVE makeup and rarely go outside without it – but don’t overdo this! Any more than a handful of essentials is too much!
- Medication + Vitamins – Don’t forget any prescriptions you have. I always bring Childrens Tylenol and cough medicine too… just in case!
- Travel sized Dry Shampoo (if you’re hair is as bad as mine is!)
- Travel First Aid Kit – again, you’re in Europe, not the jungle, so a few bandaids to cover blisters until you can get to the corner market is totally sufficient!
- Women’s personal items (tampons / pads)
- Glasses / Contacts
- Dental floss
- Hand sanitizer
- Nail clippers / emery board
Do NOT worry about –
- blow dryer / curling iron / straightener – seriously, put your hair in a pony tail and call it good!
- big, expensive hair products – these take up SO MUCH SPACE!
- shampoo and conditioner – all hotels have them, and they are not awesome, but they do the job. If you’re super worried about this, buy a travel sized conditioner and leave the rest at home.
- Bath towel
4. Weather-Related Gear
- Jacket – 2 of our 3 trips to Europe were in late September / Early October and it was COLD! We each wore long sleeves and never left the hotel without our jackets! I’d suggest getting a packable jacket – we LOVE them! They are totally warm and pack down to the size of a shoe! Consider a water resistant jacket with a hood.
- Poncho – a few packable ponchos would have totally come in handy a couple days on our last trip. You can find them at the dollar store and they don’t take much space in your backpack at all! Totally worth getting the disposable ones because then you can throw them away when you’re done and you don’t have to repack a wet item.
- Umbrella – If you have a small umbrella, you might want to bring it. We didn’t bring any but ended up buying some from street vendors in Florence when we got caught in a storm. They were only $5-$10, so I personally would rather have space in my bag than pack one, but I just want to throw that out there in case you have an awesome travel umbrella you can fit in your backpack.
- Hat / Beanie
5. Documents, Money, and Travel Info
- Travel Documents – any travel reservations / vouchers
- Passport – You’ll obviously need this for international travel. Consider packing a photocopy of your passport to help you get replacements more quickly if the originals are lost or stolen.
- Drivers License – the only time we ever drove in Europe was when we rented a car in Ireland. But you’ll always want to have ID on you. Avoid taking your passport whenever possible to avoid having it stolen or lost. (We would leave our passports in the hotel safe while we were out sightseeing)
- Money Belt / Passport Pouch – Something you can hide under your clothes to hold your passports and credit cards / money. Europe is known for its pickpocketers, so having your valuables completely concealed is a must! You could lose everything except your money belt and still finish your trip.
- Money – Bring a mix of debit / credit cards, and some cash.
- Bring a credit card that doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees. Check into this before you go, it’s easier to find than you think and will totally save you money and the hassle! If you have a small business, this credit card from Chase is perfect for traveling overseas.
- Why bring your ATM Card? This one will depend on each bank/type of account you have so it is important to check with your bank before you leave. OUR bank lets you withdraw cash from any ATM in the world with no fees and you get the best exchange rate. If you have a similar account, you only want to bring enough cash to get through the first day or two of the trip and then withdraw as you go. The reason being is that if you go to your bank’s branch in the US and pull a bunch of foreign cash, the exchange rate they give you is equal to them charging you a 10% fee.
- Cell phone – Every cell service charges different rates when overseas so be sure to check your rates before you leave. We have Verizon and they charge $10 per day to use your plan internationally. Even if you don’t want to pay to have cell service in Europe, my phone was the only camera I brought. I just kept it in airplane mode and it was perfect!
- Laptop – not necessary, but nice to have in the hotel at night to check on reservations / things to do for the next day.
- Chargers and Batteries
- Portable charger – you’ll have limited cell phone charging time and if you use your phone camera and Google maps like we do, a portable charger is a must!
- Selfie Stick – I brought this as a joke and ended up using it all.the.time. There are a few places that wont let you use it, but it was nice to not have to ask a stranger to take our picture all the time!
- Outlet wall adapters – Voltage is different in Europe, so you’ll need an adapter for all your chargers. Also, hotels have limited outlets! Get a wall adapter with multiple outlets so you can charge everything you need each night in the hotel.
- Kindles for the kids (more info on this below!)
- Headphones- You can’t listen to your kindle on a plane or train without it! My husband loves his noise-canceling Bose headphones. It’s a mean trick he plays on me when we travel together. 😉
7. MISC Items to Pack for Europe
Not necessary, but totally helpful –
- Plastic Ziplock Bags – I bring these in a variety of sizes everywhere, just in case! They a flat and pack nicely and are ideal for your carry-on liquids, leftover snacks / food, wet clothes etc.
- Duct Tape – Duct tape can help fix a torn bag or shoe and it offers great peace of mind in an emergency. Rather than bringing a whole roll, wrap some around a pencil to conserve space in your backpack.
- Laundry Soap – I never anticipate doing laundry on vacation, but if I find myself at a hotel or apartment with laundry facilities, I like to take advantage of it… just in case! (Plus coming home with less laundry to do is always a bonus, right?) I prefer to bring just a couple Tide Pods, or a plastic squeeze bottle of liquid laundry soap. In a pinch, you can use hotel shampoo to wash clothes in the sink, or bring a few Shout wipes for spot treatments. It’s better to come prepared, especially when traveling with kids!
- Insect repellent – We’ve only visited big cities in Europe, so I’ve never had to use it. But if you’re venturing out on some unbeaten paths, it might be a good item to pack!
- Water bottles. Water in Europe is safe to drink, so we would stop at a corner market for a bottle then refill it throughout the day. (No use bringing one with you from home!)
Packing for Europe with Kids
8. Entertainment for the Kids
We didn’t pack a ton of things to keep our kids entertained on the flight. We took a red-eye on the way over and made sure they slept. On the way home they were fine with the in-flight entertainment and playing on their Kindles. Load up on movies and apps before you go. It’s small enough for the kids to keep in their own backpacks and might be the best entertainment you’ll ever spend money on! Plus they’re not very expensive, so if they get lost or broken it won’t be the end of the world.
Don’t Pack –
- A ton of electronics. 1 small kindle loaded with games, movies and books is fine!
- Toys and books. Those are heavy and take too much space in your backpack.
9. Umbrella Stroller
With the amount of walking you’ll do in Europe, it’s best to come prepared for little kids with tired legs. Instead of packing our nice double stroller for this trip, my husband and I each pushed a cheap umbrella stroller for our 2 and 4 year old. Not only was it great to give our little ones a break from walking, it was also one less kid to account for on the busy streets. We’d buckle them in and were good to go!
Our other kids also had something to hold onto when crowds were crazy, which offered peace of mind to all of us! The wheels on a cheap umbrella stroller weren’t my favorite, especially on the brick streets found everywhere in Europe, but they were totally sufficient. And we literally paid $20 for each of them, and they were worth every penny!
10. Baby / Essentials
We hope this list is helping when deciding what to pack for Europe!
Have fun on your trip, and next time, take me with you!
Here are some more European Travel Tips you might enjoy –
- European Family Vacation Travel Itinerary
- Traveling By Train in Europe
- Printable Travel Packing List
- Top 5 Things To Do In Amsterdam
- Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland