Your Ultimate European Holiday Packing List
Before we tackle the whole “what should you bring on your European holiday?”, let’s ask the “when“. We can break it down to 3 European travel seasons.
Peak Season (Mid June – August)
The peak season is from Mid June till August. With this being the most crowded time of the year it is expected to be the most expensive. Be prepared for large crowds, expensive accommodations, but also the warmest weather. This is also the time of year most Europeans take a vacation. So, if you are looking for a dentist or an open laundromat, you may be out of luck. Some specific times to avoid are the first and fifteenth of the month. It’s when vacations start and end for the locals. It also means the roads can get super packed.
If you must travel during the summer, then it is best to skirt the crowds and plan on visiting peak destinations at the beginning of the season. For instance, take Salzburg, Austria. A popular resort town in the Austrian Alps. It can be a very different place on June 10 and July 10, so plan wisely!
Pro Tip: Venice tends to empty out at night when the cruise ships leave. During the day, it can be a nightmare of crowded causeways and sweaty multi-national travellers jockeying for souvenirs and a selfie atop St. Mark’s Bell Tower.
Any experienced traveller would know, the two most important items are socks and underwear.
Bring plenty of both and it’s best to spring for wool travel socks as they don’t soak up as much moisture. In short: stinky socks will be less of an issue.
Also, consider investing in a quick-dry travel towel. The last thing you want is packing a soaking wet towel after your shower on the day you check out.
Shoulder Season (April – June & August – November)
Next, shoulder season. As much as we wished it was code for us to swap the fluffy coats for chic off-shoulder tops, that isn’t exactly the case. This travel terminology refers to the in-betweens of high and low periods of a travel destination. For Europe, this points exactly at April to June and August to November. The pre and post-seasons, of which travel experts deem to be the best time to travel to Europe. Still, a good time to rock an off-shoulder top but I digress.
Travelling during the shoulder season is a great way to take advantage of the last of the good weather while avoiding the crowds. Throw in a good rain jacket because it tends to rain a lot during this time of year. *cues Lauv’s Paris in the Rain*
Another thing to be aware of is that Southern Europe (especially Greece) has their own version of high season. That is, in May, June, September, and October. This is because of how hot it gets during the summer. Travel experts have deemed shoulder season as the best time to travel to Europe, to avoid overcrowded attractions at the best pricing.
Low Season (November – March)
The last of the trio, we have our low season, between November and March.
But first, the good news! The low season is the bottom line, the cheapest time to travel to Europe (yay!). Check out this listing in Berlin for mid-Feb, at no other time of year can you get a four-star hotel experience for under $100/night. Flights are also way cheaper during this time. Mid-February flights between NYC-Rome are hovering around $300 for a round-trip!
Even better, no crowds! Instead of the tourist-heavy season with long lines, fully booked hotels, you often get to have Europe all to yourself.
Pro Tip: The Christmas markets in Europe! They can be truly wonderful. Berliner Weihnachtszeit and the Gendarmenmarkt are two of Berlin’s finest. Bring along a camera, you definitely won’t want to miss the sights!
Since we’re talking about winter in Europe, we have to bring up skiing at The Alps. There really is no better place in the world to indulge in skiing than the Swiss Alps. The place itself can be a vacation all on its own.
Alright now onto the bad news. We’re not going to attempt understanding explaining Daylight Savings but in short: the days are short and the nights are longer. So while the night owls can rejoice, expect full darkness by 5 pm. This means making sure that you get an early start and planning your days beforehand.
The weather can get pretty nasty, especially in Northern and Western Europe. Temperatures can go well below zero and you may find yourself stuck in a snowstorm. (Maybe this should be a plus instead: more reasons for hot chocolate).
In all seriousness, for low season packing, add a heavy winter coat, gloves, and wool hat. If you plan on going off the pavement, make sure to bring heavy waterproof snow boots. Also, swap your t-shirts with long sleeve shirts, not forgetting 2 – 3 fleece or sweaters. Brace yourselves, winter is coming!
Pro Tip: We don’t know about you but we absolutely love modern day thermal wear. It has come a long way from old-fashioned long johns. They are often fashionable and extremely comfy to wear both indoors and as a thermal piece. Its lightweight material also makes it easy to pack and wear in the cold.
Unsure of what to expect for your next trip? Enrol in this free 5 Day Travel Prep Email Series for all the tips you never knew you needed!
Packing List for Europe: But Which Bag?
Let’s tackle the container of which you get to stuff your wearables in. The age-old question of suitcase vs backpack.
Now, it all depends on the type of travel that you will be doing. If you are mostly staying at hotels, a good roller pack one is the way to go. A good suitcase will allow you more room for your belongings and the ability to roll when you can. However, do try to lift when you get to those old cobblestone streets. Officials in Venice almost banned roller suitcases because of the noise. So, take note where you roll! Suitcases are also great for airline travel as a backpack can easily get beat up on the conveyor belts.
For the more intrepid nomads, a backpack would be the better option. It’s easy to carry on your back, fit into train compartments and narrow streets, and can be easily carried up the stairs. The key to backpacking is to pack light. You really don’t need all the clothing that you think you need. Especially, if you can do the laundry once a week.
Another thing to consider is security. There is nothing like a good heavy suitcase with a lock to deter theft! And even if you have a backpack make sure to get a good lock. You can check out hybrid suitcase/backpacks, that can both roll and go on your back.
If you plan on staying in one place for 5 – 7 days at a time and will be staying at hotels, we suggest picking the trusty suitcase. On the other hand, if you plan on travelling to many places and staying in hostels, a backpack is the way to go.
What To Bring on Vacation
Ever went on vacation and smacked yourself in the head thinking, “Why didn’t I think of that!”? The list of frustrations includes electronics, accessories and toiletries that we wished we could just remember to bring.
Case in point: A decent travel camera. Even though our smartphone cameras are getting better every day, it’s still better to have a good quality camera. Especially if you want to get those top-quality shots.
Next, a European SIM card. Aside from the regular communications, you need to make with friends, family and the social network, getting one will help you with getting around. We can’t tell you enough times we’ve relied on Google Maps. Plus having the internet helps a lot with the planning in the form of weather checks, operating hours and more. If you’re not really going for a SIM card, a pocket WIFI like this one from HUAWEI works well too! It might even be a cheaper option to split the cost if you’re travelling in a group.
We’re giving a back-to-back mobile phone tip by reminding you to pack a portable phone charger. As crucial as your phone might be, it becomes instantly useless when it’s out of juice. Don’t forget the USB cable if yours isn’t a wireless power bank.
When in Rome… Use Roman plugs? Be sure to bring along a plug adaptor that you can actually use at your travel destination. We highly suggest investing a good international plug adaptor to keep all of your devices well charged for all future explorations. Even better if it comes with USB power adaptor!
Pro Tip: If you’re planning to do your laundry on your trip, know that Tide detergent pods are lifesavers! They’re really great for travel as you wouldn’t want to invest in a detergent box to only use 2 cups of powder and toss away the rest. They make doing laundry while on holiday less of a chore.
On the security front, scam and theft in Europe are common. Pickpocketing is both subtle and swift, most victims don’t even realize they’ve been robbed till they’re ready to pull out their wallet to make payment. One way to counter this would be to get an anti-theft travel backpack. Who says you have to forsake fashion for function? Pick a backpack that is
Another way is an RFID blocking wallet. Thieves can use contactless RFID scanners to steal your credit card information from your wallet, without even taking it out of your pocket. Protect your identity and information with such measures.
The Holiday Packing List Summary
A good summer packing list includes casual clothing for daytime and a different outfit when it gets chilly at night. For instance, the standard women’s packing list would look like:
- 1 Long Sleeve Tops
- 3 – 4 Tank Tops/Short Sleeve Tops
- 2 – 3 Dresses
- 2 Pairs of Casual Pants
- 2 Skirts or Shorts (1 longer, past the knee)
- 1 – 2 Cardigans
- 1 Jacket/Coat
- 7 – 8 Pairs of Underwear
- 1 – 2 Bras (1 strapless!)
- 5 – 6 Pairs of Socks
- 1 – 2 Pairs Comfortable Walking Shoes (leave the heels at home!)
- 1 Swimsuit
- 1 Pair of Yoga/ Comfy Pants (that can double as active wear)
- 1 Comfy Top for sleeping
The key to good packing is to prepare for the situation that you will find yourself in. To sum it all up, always remember the five key points to packing for a Euro holiday:
- Bring a lot of fast drying socks and underwear, you literally can’t bring too many!
- Use the right bag. A backpack if you are highly mobile and a suitcase if you are more stationary.
- Think about the right season to go. Choose between your ideal weather and budget.
- Pack comfortable kicks, your feet will be going through a lot with the amount of walking.
- Remember your security. Theft is especially common at those high volume attractions, so take proper measures!
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