Our Europe Packing List: Travel Essentials for Europe

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We have been across the pond a few times now, and we have discovered from trial and error that there are some things that we pack that get used and some that just don’t.  Here is our go to Europe packing list of all of the travel essentials for Europe that get used on just about every trip we take.

This list can be modified by adding or deleting items depending on your destination and the time of year that you are traveling.  Having the right stuff (but not too much) can be the secret to an enjoyable European family vacation.

After you finish here, these are some other great posts on the blog about packing and planning travel:

travel essentials for Europe

This is another post that I wrote offering suggestions for travel clothes for Europe.

This is a basic list of travel clothing for women, men and children to get you started if you are traveling to Europe in the more temperate months (spring, summer or fall).

Kitchen Kit

Having a few kitchen basics on hand can really help you save money while eating in Europe, especially if you are staying in a hostel or renting an apartment with a kitchen!

  • Shopping bags: This is one of the most important travel essentials for Europe.  If stores in Europe even provide them, they charge you!  Never leave home without your bag! This is my favorite brand of packable shopping bags!
  • Basic Travel Spices Kit: Its little things like spices and condiments for recipes that add up when grocery shopping.  Bringing some of these (and even little packets of ketchup or other condiments) can save a TON of money!
  • TSA Compliant Wine Bottle Opener
  • Travel Bottle Opener
  • Spare plastic baggies (large and small): These can be used for leftovers, dividing up larger packages of snacks, etc.
  • Collapsible plastic water bottles: These can be used for drinking, but could also be frozen if you needed an ice pack to keep food cold in your travel cooler. These are very similar to the set that we travel with.

Picnic Kit

Shopping at local markets and eating picnic lunches or dinners in Europe’s magnificent parks is a great way to immerse yourself in local culture (AND save some money at the same time!)  Here are some items that we have found make picnicking easier:

  • Ultra packable picnic blanket:  This has many uses.  Our picnic blanket has doubled as a rain shield on more than one occasion.
  • Collabsible cups: Drinking is the obvious use for these, but they can also be used for containing snacks or for soups or other liquids.
  • Sporks: The Light My Fire Sporks are our favorites.  You can buy them at Walmart if you don’t want to order online.
  • Collapsible cooler: This is SUPER handy to take lunch with or to keep food cool that you purchase at the morning market.  Take one of your collapsible water bottles and freeze it for an ice pack.

Our Travel First Aid Kit

Our travel first aid kit grows and shrinks depending on where we are going.  If we are traveling somewhere with good pharmacies and medical care, we pare it down to just the basics below.  If you are traveling further off the beaten path, consider adding to this basic list.

  • Homeopathic sleep tablets: These are natural and effective for promoting sleep.  This is a reliable brand that we often use.
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic Wipes: We like this brand…you don’t want to mess around with infection when traveling.
  • Bandaids: We carry these in abundance and in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Make sure to have some large ones for big scrapes.
  • Tweezers
  • Blister kit or moleskin and some tape: Essential if someone is wearing new shoes or boots, but always good to have.
  • Packets of Biofreeze:  This is a LIFESAVER for muscle soreness caused by airplane or train rides or unfamiliar beds.
  • Pink Pepto tablets: We often take these before eating in a new place or at the first sign of minor stomach upset.
  • Diarrhea medicine: This is for more serious stomach upset – when you just need to STOP GOING!
  • Day/night cold medicine
  • Ibuprofen/NSAID of choice
  • Eye Wash/Eye Drops: While relatively unlikely, getting something stuck in an eye can be a debilitating condition that needs serious attention.  You won’t want to wait until you can go to the pharmacy for relief.

If Traveling with kids, add:

  • Kids Dramamine or kids homeopathic motion sickness medication: We have used both with good results.  The Homepathic option has less side effects.
  • Kids Melatonin: Everybody is happier when the kiddos sleep through the night when adjusting to jetlag.  A kids dose melatonin tablet makes our kids sleep in about 30 minutes (…adults can drink wine 😉  )
  • Kids Rescue Remedy:  This is a great natural product for helping anxious kids or kids that need a little help calming down in exciting or stressful situations.
  • Children’s Tylenol (chewable)
  • Kids Diarrhea Medicine

Miscellaneous Travel Essentials for Europe

These are some miscellaneous things that we have learned from experience to add to our family packing list.  These might not be obvious when putting together your Europe trip packing list.  The are generally things that don’t take up a whole lot of room, but can come in VERY handy when you discover that you need them.

  • Plastic grocery bags: These don’t take up any space, but they have hundreds of uses.  Think wet swimsuits, dirty clothes, etc.  Throw some into a spare corner of your bag and I guarantee they will get used.
  • Super absorbent towels: Some places don’t offer towels or charge for them.  You also never know when you will take a quick trips to the beach.  These can be found in the carwash supply section of Target or Walmart.
  • Sunscreen
  • Ear plugs
  • A Compass:  You have no idea how many times we have been standing in a huge train station trying to figure out which exit to take up or in an unfamiliar city with a map in hand and still no idea which direction we were heading.
  • A flashlight:  Super handy if the power goes out or if you find yourself on a cave tour.  A tiny LED flashlight is just a good common sense thing to have.
  • A couple extra ropes/straps/duct tape for securing doors and windows from toddlers while sleeping:  Lots of windows in Europe have shutters so that you can leave the window open while sleeping or while raining, but they are not always as secure as I would like.  Duct tape also has a ton of other uses 😉
  • Travel clothes line/baggies of washing powder:  Washing clothes while you travel is a great way to pack lightly and enjoy your travel more.  This looks like a really functional one!
  • Applicable Language Book (we like Rick Steves!)
  • Swimsuits:  We usually bring these even if we don’t think we will be swimming.  You just never know.
  • Hotel confirmations and directions to get from the train station to each hotel
  • Passports: Another tip – always keep a copy of your passport at home or in your e-mail box and a copy in your luggage, just in case.

Travel Toys (disregard if not traveling with kids)

We discovered on our trip to Switzerland with our toddlers that we did not need nearly as many toys as we thought (we also bring the kids’ tablets and let them use them on long rides or on the airplane).   There were enough new things to see and do in each place that I could have brought half or less of what we had.  Lesson learned.  Consider bringing a few of these with:

  • Toddler card games: Go Fish, matching games, travel bingo, etc.
  • Felt board set: A felt board story set is a great, open ended amusement.  I really love this set from Etsy (all of this artist’s stuff is super cute!).  The pages fold open to make a 20″ play surface.
  • Koosh balls:  It is nice to have balls that you can toss that won’t roll too far or break something.
  • Gel clings for train and airplane windows: You can often find these at stores after holidays and the kids are just FIXATED with them!
  • Sticker books
  • Brain Quest Packets:  These have some great questions to keep the kids’ brains working to pass the time more quickly.
  • Story Cards: Our kids LOVED these!  These could keep us busy for hours!  We are going to buy another set for our next big trip to add on the set that we already have!


Travel essentials for Europe for keeping connected and keeping the kids busy on long plane/train rides (or so you can enjoy 10 minutes of quiet to finish dinner before being interrupted.  It’s your vacation too, you don’t need to feel guilty).

  • Tablets and headphones for each adult/kid:  We bought these headphones for each of the kids and they are holding up really well so far!
  • Portable Wifi Device:  Being able to access wifi just about where ever we were has been invaluable!  This device from Gosim.com has been working really well for us on our last trip.
  • Outlet adapters for the country that you are visiting: We have wished that had more of these or a little power strip.
  • Cords for charging tablets and camera batteries
  • Tablet or laptop computer
  • Camera
  • Extra batteries
  • Cell phone and charger

What are the things that you can’t live without on your European family vacation?  Please share below!

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