Budget, Destinations, Europe, Lifestyle, Packing, Top Tips, Travel Resources, Types of Travel

The Not-So-Obvious Packing List – A Guide To European Summer

The time is almost here. You’re about a month or two out from the **best summer of your life** studying abroad and traveling across Europe.  You’ve bought the flights, the Eurail, the backpack, etc. But now what? What should you think about packing? What products should fill up your cart at Target? What’s necessary and what’s not?

Throughout my travels and with the help of fellow travelers, I’ve come up with a list of items that you may not think about bringing with you. These items are small enough to easily tuck away in your carry-on, but big enough in value to make you happy you brought them along.

So here are the top 20 items you may forget to bring with you!

1.)  Scarves and headbands. Whether you’re traveling in cold or warm weather, scarves and headbands make all the difference. Not having a washing machine at your leisure, ultimately leads to repeating outfits. A lot more often than you’d like. Adding a scarf can instantly “change” the outfit, while also keeping you warm on colder days.10104_10151953757996258_435237703_n IMG_23012.)  Basic COTTON layers. Going off the scarf concept, you’ll need basic tee’s, long sleeves, v-necks, preferably cotton, that you can wear repeatedly. I promise you, you won’t wear that chiffon button down while trekking through the streets of Prague trying to find your hostel. Cotton is the key to happiness.

3.)  Good walking shoes. I’m not saying you won’t wear your sneakers, but there’s a less touristy way to walk about the city without killing your feet. Converse, Keds, slip-ons from H&M, etc. These shoes are easy to pack, lightweight, and protect your feet.

4.)  An umbrella. If you’re like me, you don’t think “European Summer Adventure” and think snow and rain. But it happens. A lot. Be sure to bring a small, easy-to-carry umbrella.

5.)  A good book. Long train rides or plane flights with no wifi can be excruciating unless you have a good book to read to take your mind away from the countless hours of travel, uncomfortable seats or foreign language being played in a movie you were excited to watch. Last summer, I reread The Great Gatsby.

6.)  A towel. This is a must. Whether it be a full body towel or just a small washcloth, you’ll want your own towel. Even though the majority of hostels provided you with a towel (check their bookings first), sometimes you’ll just want your own.

7.)  A good water bottle. Save money on buying bottles of water that cost more than a bottle of wine by buying your own “green” water bottle and drink from the tap. BUT only in countries where it is safe to do so. In Switzerland, their water ran from a faucet on all street corners, and it was the best water I’ve ever had.

8.)  A small coin purse. Throughout the course of your traveling, you’re going to acquire a TON of coins. Coins that eventually add up to a large sum of money. A small coin purse can help you keep track of all your coins and the different currencies you’ll be using.

9.)  A laundry bag. After a week of travel without time to wash your clothes, your clothes will start to get dirty. The last thing you want to do is put it back into the confined space of your backpack with your other clean clothes. A laundry bag or pack can help divide the two and make washing easier and faster.

10.)  Air freshener. Dirty clothes also mean a dirty bag. Buy a three pack of car air fresheners and stick one in your bag every week or so. It keeps your backpack smelling fresh, as well as your clean and dirty clothes.

11.)  Makeup wipes. After a long day of travel or walking around the city, make up wipes are an easy way to wipe off the day and feel fresh. It makes all the difference.

12.)  Baby powder. It’s a great way to keep your hair fresh on a tight schedule. There’s been many times where I went straight from an all day train trip to an all night out, and baby powder was my lifesaver. Pour a little amount around your part and comb it through.

13.) A jump drive. If you’re planning on bringing your laptop and uploading your photos every week or so, it’s smart to bring a jump drive to back up those files. Unfortunately, bad things can happen while traveling, and the last thing you want is to lose your laptop with all of your memories on it. Laptops are replaceable, but those memories are not.

14.)  Sunscreen. No matter what you’re doing, in cold or warm weather, sunscreen is always a smart idea. It’s even smarter to purchase it in the U.S. because it’s much more expensive to buy in Europe. Pack it. Use it.

15.)  A good jacket. I don’t mean fleece vs. leather, just a good jacket that can keep you warm and cover you up. You may not think that you’ll need a jacket in the summer, but in my case, I unexpectedly experienced the coldest day in May in Amsterdam since 1960… Jackets can also be used as a pillow on train rides.

16.)  Neosporin and band-aids. You never know when you may cut your hand or get a bad blister from walking around so much. These small, but necessary items can save you time and money, while also preventing infection. No one wants to deal with foreign health care in a foreign language.

17.)  An extra backpack/tote. It’s inevitable. You will buy souvenirs. You will buy an item of clothing at every H&M you can find. And you will not know where to store it in your already filled to the brim backpack. Bringing an empty backpack or tote will ensure that you can bring those “necessities” back home.

18.)  Travel sized shampoo/conditioner bottles. If you’re studying abroad, these are key. This allows you to bring over your bigger bottles to stay at they study center. While you travel on the weekends, you can put the shampoo, conditioner, soap and face wash in the smaller bottles to save space in your luggage. Often times, my friend and I shared these bottles.

19.)  Bottle opener. Speaking of bottles… One of the most important items to bring with you is a bottle opener. This is not a joke. Many times, you’ll buy a bottle of wine for a train ride and realize it’s not a twist off that’s often served at your local, scummy liquor store. Bottle openers are small, lightweight and very useful. Bring it.

20.)  Color copy of your documents. This may go without saying, but… Make sure to bring a color copy of your passport, driver’s license, credit and debit cards, health insurance and international student ID. It’s so important to always have these just in case something was to happen.

Hopefully this list helps you! Keep on a lookout for the what DEFINITELY not to bring packing list.


For more information and pictures, follow me on Instagram at @where_in_theworld ! 

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  • Reply Lady Light Travel April 11, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Cotton takes a long time to dry. If you have a light weight cotton you’re fine but some Tees are fairly heavy. If you wash them they won’t be ready the next day. Merino, while expensive, doesn’t stink and dries quickly. That said, I always pack 1-2 cotton tees because they are very comfortable.

  • Reply What NOT To Bring | April 30, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    […] my Not-So-Obvious Packing List was published, I’ve gotten a ton of feedback from readers about how helpful it was, and I’m so […]

  • Reply Caroline S&C (@SparklesCrumbs) November 3, 2014 at 11:04 am

    KP, having backpacked around Europe myself, this is a SUPER useful list! Love it! xx

  • Reply Glamourous Traveller November 7, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Cool tips! I never even thought about the bottle opener! Another thing I like to make sure I have on me all the time are tissue paper, or if I have space, some wet wipes as well. You never know when you may end up with sticky fingers – I’m looking at you gelato eating in Rome

    • Reply KP Schwan November 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

      Great idea! I seriously don’t think there’s been a meal I haven’t spilled anything, so I could definitely use some wet wipes! Thanks for the ip 🙂

  • Reply Kendra Granniss March 1, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Yes! Especially to the scarf and the laundry bag!

    • Reply KP Schwan March 2, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Scarves and headbands saved me on multiple nights… haha!

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