We consider ourselves experts in traveling to Europe. Our first trip was over 25 years ago and we’ve been living in Europe for years. Over that time, we have taken weekend trips, and week-long trips, and traveled for a month at a time. We’ve done it all in one carry-on suitcase each.
In this post, we share our carry-on-only travel tips and help you create the perfect packing list for 2 weeks in Europe. We answer all your burning questions about how to pack for two weeks in Europe in a carry-on bag.
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What To Pack For Two Weeks In Europe
It would be easy just to throw together a European trip packing list to let travelers check off items. We wanted to share more than that, though. We start with why it’s important to travel light in Europe and recommend travel bags to maximize space while minimizing weight.
Regarding what to pack for Europe, we focus on clothing recommendations, what else to bring, and what not to bring. Some of these tips may seem obvious to seasoned travelers to Europe, but often people sort of skip over a lot of these things to pack for Europe.
Our Europe packing list includes luggage, clothes, toiletries, shoes, electronics, and travel accessories. Along the way, we offer special tips if traveling to Europe in summer or winter. Yes, it’s possible to pack light even in winter!
Our packing tips focus on a specific itinerary – how to pack for 2 weeks in Europe. Many of these tips work for shorter trips and longer trips, but these should get you ready for a nice two-week European vacation!
Our Experience Traveling In Europe
This is our most comprehensive guide on packing for Europe and works for most destinations, including city breaks and small villages. Over the last 25 years, we’ve been almost everywhere in Europe, including almost all of Eastern and Central Europe.
We’ve traveled to some of the most popular countries to visit, including Italy, Spain, and Portugal, as well as some of the lesser-known destinations, like Estonia, Luxembourg, and even Serbia. We’ve traveled in every season and in every weather. And, we live in Europe too!
- Ireland packing guide
- Italy packing guide
- Spain packing list
- Scotland packing list
- Packing for Portugal
Who Is This European Packing List For?
I chose two weeks in Europe because that seems to be a typical time for an American tourist traveling to Europe. This list will also work for a 10-day trip in Europe and, frankly, scales up for long-term travel too.
You don’t HAVE to pack all of this in a carry-on only. Even if checking bags, our advice on how to pack for 2 weeks in Europe works for anyone looking to travel lighter.
I am not a fashionista, although I have been trying to dress a little nicer now that we live in Europe. That said, I always focus on function over fashion when it comes to packing for Europe.
Yes, I am one of those girls who stand on a train platform and kind of sneers at the young women trying to load a suitcase onto a train that is so big it could fit a dead body.
I know they have 30 outfit changes and 12 pairs of shoes in that bag. They probably look fabulous hitting the clubs at night. But, they look miserable lugging their giant suitcase around (and maybe look hungover too).
All of my Europe packing tips are at the intersection of function and fashion. It’s still possible to dress nicely when packing light for Europe.
Looking for more travel tips? Check out our Priority Pass Lounge Review.
How To Book Hotels In Europe
Eric and I made our first trip to Europe in 1999. Since then, I’ve completely lost track of how many times we’ve traveled to Europe. That said, we’ve learned a thing or two about booking hotels in Europe. We’ve stayed at a few stunning hotels like the Westin Excelsior Rome, the W Barcelona, and Ashford Castle in Ireland. And we’ve stayed at some not-so-great hotels mainly around train stations. Do yourself a favor and avoid hotels near train stations in Europe.
When planning a trip to Europe, we use Booking.com for our accommodations. In addition to booking hotels, Booking is great when booking apartments for longer stays. Or, if you are looking at booking villas in Italy.
Why Pack Light For 2 Weeks In Europe
We recommend packing light because it makes a trip to Europe so much more enjoyable. Even if you can’t fit your suitcase in the overhead bin on an airplane, choose a smaller-sized bag.
During our earliest trips to Europe, I packed way too much. My bag was too heavy for me to carry and often too big to fit in the trunk of a car. I couldn’t maneuver it around a train station, get it up and down the steps, and definitely couldn’t get it onto a train on my own. Hotel rooms are often smaller and there isn’t a lot of space to place large bags.
The most important thing when traveling in Europe is to pack as light as you can. Just remember, almost everything you need can be purchased in Europe.
Don’t load up on “just-in-case” items. If you are on a short trip, you might not want to waste time shopping, but consider it an adventure.
2 Week Europe Packing List
I go into more details below on a lot of our advice on packing for Europe but check out this 2 week Europe packing list to see some of our favorite brands we take with us on almost every trip.
|🇪🇺 What To Pack For Europe||☀️ Europe In Summer/Spring||🌨 Europe In Winter/Fall|
|🧳 Carry-on Luggage||ROAM Personalized Luggage; Knack expandable backpack; Chester Spinner Luggage; PAKT Tote Bag (more for men)||Level 8 24 Inch Check-in Luggage for extra space for winter clothing|
|🛄 Packing Cubes||Level 8 Packing Cubes for organization||Knack Compression Packing Cubes (to save space)|
|👜 Crossbody Bag||Kate Spade Crossbody Bags For Women (leather)||Sherpani Crossbody Bag (cotton and canvas)|
|👜 Anti-theft Purse||TravelOn Anti-Theft Bucket Bag (lightweight material)||TravelOn Anti-Theft Heritage Tote Bag (cotton, canvas, and swede)|
|🥿 Comfortable Shoes For Women||allbirds ballet flats; Birkenstocks; Strappy flat sandals|
|👞 Comfortable Shoes For Men||Tropic Feel shoes for men|
|👚 Wool Travel Clothing For Women||Wool& summer dresses, wool short sleeve tees and tanks||Wool& winter dresses; Wool& wool cardigans; twill dress shirts|
|👕 Wool Travel Clothing For Men||Wool & Prince short sleeve tees, henleys, linen dress shirts||Wool & Prince long sleeve henleys, dress shirts|
|🔌 Travel Adapter||Universal Adapter||Italian 3 Prong Adapter Pack|
|🔋 Power Pack For Charging||Anker Power Packs (for charging on the go)|
|🌂 Windproof Umbrella||Windproof Travel Umbrella|
|💧Filtered Water Bottle||Brita Filtered Water Bottle|
|💶 Money Belt or Passport Belt||RFID Blocking Stash Neck Wallet|
|👒 Hat For Women||Foldable Sun Hat|
|🧢 Hat For Men||Packable Hat|
Best Luggage For Packing Light For Europe
We provide a lot more detail below on our tips for the best luggage for Europe, but here are some of our favorites. We’ve used this luggage for long weekends, weeklong trips, long-term travel, and yes a two-week trip through Europe:
- ROAM Customizable Luggage: Our absolute favorite for carry-on sized luggage for Europe. Almost cavernous inside and most important, so easy to maneuver around Europe, including the cobblestone streets. Use the code FoodDrinkDest to save $50 off your new bag
- Level 8: I know this is a carry-on-focused post, but we have started packing for Europe with one Level 8 check-in luggage, which is lightweight on its own. We have a 24-inch, which is check-in-size, but not too large. It still fits in the trunk of most rental cars as well. Use to code fooddrink10 for 10% off Level 8 luggage
- Knack Travel Backpack: Our absolute favorite – we have 2! It is compact, easy to pack, expandable, and fits comfortably on the handle of our ROAM luggage. The back of the travel backpack is expandable to be able to fit a few outfits of clothes, providing extra space. And, a laptop slides into the back, which is easily removable when going through security.
- Compression Packing Cubes: We have two different versions we travel with, including Knack Compression Cubes and Level 8 Packing Cubes . The Knack version has a mesh top, which makes it easy to see what’s inside. The Level 8 version are softer and provide great padding for small electronics, cords, etc.
- Pakt One Tote Bag: Great for a long weekend, it gets a little heavy for me, but Eric loves it!
What Size Luggage Is Best For A 2 Week Trip To Europe
There are two main options when it comes to luggage for a trip to Europe. A travel backpack or a wheeled suitcase. There are benefits and drawbacks to each. Both are entirely doable when packing for two weeks in a carry-on.
Most Europeans travel within Europe with small, rolling luggage. Backpacks are more reserved for hiking or camping or more youth-oriented travel. We are in our forties and switched to rolling luggage about five years ago. A doctor told me to stop carrying a backpack if I wanted to stop compressing my discs!
Some of the benefits of rolling luggage include that it is easier to roll than to carry for longer distances when it comes to saving the stress on your shoulders and back. You can place your smaller bag on top of the rolling luggage and save your shoulders. Last, rolling luggage looks more European if you are trying to fit in.
Some of the downsides of rolling luggage is having to roll it along all of the cobblestone streets in Europe. It also means having to possibly carry it up and down the stairs in train stations or at hotels when there are no elevators or escalators.
If you travel with carry-on-sized bags this is not a huge problem. I have no problem lifting my carry-on wheeled luggage around European train stations.
Our Wheeled Luggage For Europe
We’ve tested a few different styles of wheeled luggage for Europe, all of which you can find in our guide to the best carry-on luggage.
These fun and trendy suitcases make me feel slightly Italian when using them in Europe. They fit in the overhead bin of an airplane and are easy to maneuver on cobblestone streets.
The Roam luggage feels cavernous inside as well. We’ve used these bags for week-long trips with no access to laundry facilities and when packing for 2 weeks in Europe where we do have access to a washer. These bags are, hands down my favorite!
Travel Backpack For Europe
A travel backpack is different from a traditional backpack normally used for hiking or for “backpackers,” which we are not. A travel backpack is better for more urban travel, for city-hopping through Europe, for people using trains, planes, and buses, not just their own two feet.
These open like a suitcase instead of top-loading. A travel backpack is often more square and boxy than tall and thin. There are fewer annoying straps. They just look slicker.
In comparison to wheeled luggage, a travel backpack allows for hands-free movement. That said, when you are trying to get it on and off, it can be cumbersome. They are easier to carry up and down steps and over cobblestones.
We don’t use a travel backpack anymore for two main reasons. One, we tend to travel for work and often stay at nicer or even luxury hotels. I don’t like showing up at a Ritz Carlton with a backpack.
Second, I am just too old and my back can’t take it anymore, particularly on longer trips or with how often we travel. I would much rather wait on a train platform with my suitcase next to me than stand with it on my back. This is really a personal choice.
If I had to recommend one travel backpack, though, it’s the Osprey Packs Porter 46 Travel Backpack. It’s lightweight, compact from the outside, but cavernous on the inside. This is the bag I used for our first few years of full-time travel.
Travel Daypack Or Crossbody Travel Purse
The other piece of luggage you need when packing for two weeks in Europe is a daypack. This will be the bag that normally fits under the seat in front of you on flights, but will often also be the bag you carry with you during the day when exploring.
This can be a backpack, messenger bag, or crossbody bag. It’s meant to hold everything you need during a day out in Europe including a camera, mobile phone, charger or battery pack, sweater or jacket, scarf, travel umbrella, water bottle, wallet, etc. I tend to go a little bit smaller for a day bag for Europe, using a simple crossbody bag. I’ve been using my Kate Spade for over a year now.
Here are some of our recommended options.
Anti-Theft Bags For Europe
For something with a bit more security, there are a few anti-theft bags I recommend. A lot of people have been talking about anti-theft travel bags because the technology is rather new.
There are two primary brands of anti-theft crossbody travel bags, Travelon and PacSafe. They offer bags for both men and women.
The Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bucket Bag is probably one of the most commonly recommended crossbody bags for travel. All of the Travelon bags are practical and functional.
This one, in particular, is large enough to hold a camera as well as everything else you need for a day of exploring. It also comes in over 20 colors, including fun stripes, so it can be stylish as well.
Travelon’s anti-theft includes slash-proof mesh, a slash-proof shoulder strap, and RFID pockets for credit cards. There are also locking zippered compartments.
There is an adjustable shoulder strap and the strap can wrap around a chair or post for extra security. It’s also a great crossbody travel bag with a water bottle holder. I like this because I carry water everywhere I go!
Daypack or Backpack
Of course, the most classic option is a daypack or backpack. My favorite women’s small daypack is the Anello Lightweight Backpack, which is lightweight and still fashionable. I use this as a carry-on bag, and it fits my laptop, cords, sweater, wallet, water bottle, and more.
A packable backpack is another great option. It is a good thing to pack if you might end up returning home with more stuff than you left with, i.e. souvenirs. You can always check your bag on the way home if needed and carry this plus your normal carry-on onto the plane.
We did this in Scotland when I checked my suitcase because it had two bottles of whisky in it! A good packable daypack like the Eagle Creek Packable Daypack can work for men and women.
Packing For Europe Pro Tip
Thinking about bringing home wine or alcohol as a souvenir? Check out our guide on How To Travel With Wine and Alcohol, with tips on how to pack wine securely.
Other Travel Accessories
Here are a few other items that can help you pack light for a two-week trip to Europe.
Packing Cubes: Packing cubes are helpful in organizing your clothing and accessories within your bag. They help to keep your clothes compressed as well. You can separate outfits into different cubes. Or, use them to segregate dirty clothing from clean.
If moving from place to place and hotel to hotel packing cubes allow you to quickly grab what you need without having to unpack your entire bag. If you don’t use packing cubes, think about a stuff sack for keeping dirty clothes in one place.
We use the compression packing cubes from Knack Bags. They start out small and unzip to expand depending on how much you need to fit. I use one for electronics and cords and another for undergarments and socks. They are so easy to use, particularly when packing a smaller bag where space is important.
Packing Folders: Packing folders are designed to organize larger items within your bag, like dress shirts, skirts, dresses, or pants. We’ve never used packing folders, but I know a lot of people who swear by them to help keep clothing organized and wrinkle-free.
Portable Coffee Maker: Some areas of Europe have great coffee. Others do not. If you are particular about having the perfect brew when you travel, check out our guide to the Best Coffee Makers For Travel.
As an American, I used to be very concerned about not looking like an American when traveling. I’ve given that up. I generally know I look like an American, even if I am often mistaken for being Spanish or Italian, or Portuguese because of my dark hair and eyes.
Eric doesn’t have that problem being blonde with blue eyes but does when we are in Germany or the Czech Republic.
The thing is that in modern society, Europeans dress a lot more casually than they once did. Even in Italy! Many Europeans tend to spend more money on fewer items of clothing. They often wear the same outfits over and over because they tend to value quality over quantity.
This works out well for travelers who want to pack light – it’s totally okay to repeat outfits! Also, many cities in Europe, large and small, have a Gap, an H&M, Levi’s store, and other chain stores found in the US. They wear Nikes and NY Yankees hats.
This just means that travelers to Europe shouldn’t worry as much about looking like an American. Instead, dress for weather and comfort, and a little bit of style.
Above: Eric in his Wool&Prince henley during summer in Scotland
Clothing Packing List For 2 Weeks In Europe
Here is our basic packing list. What follows below are more specific suggestions based on destinations visited, seasons, and tips on how to pack light successfully.
European Packing List:
- 1 coat, jacket, or windbreaker, depending on the season
- 1 sweater, heavier in winter, or cardigan in summer
- 1 scarf
- 1 pair of jeans, unless traveling to Southern Europe in summer, then these can be skipped
- 2 pairs of pants, shorts, or capris depending on the season
- 1 or 2 dresses or skirts, depending on the season, or one dress shirt for men
- Seven tops, a combination of t-shirts, tanks, or nicer tops depending on the season
- Undergarments: two bras in winter (three in summer) and seven pairs of underwear
- One pair of pajamas
- One bathing suit in summer
How To Pack Light And Fashionable For Europe
One of my favorite tips for packing for Europe involves wearing wool! Whether we are traveling to Europe in summer or winter, you will always find a handful of wool clothing in our luggage. We have an entire post dedicated to wool travel clothing for every season.
Merino wool clothing is lightweight, takes up next to no room in the luggage, and can be worn for multiple days without washing.
I normally travel with a wool dress, leggings, a cardigan, a t-shirt, and a henley shirt. I end up wearing the wool travel dress multiple evenings in a row. Between my T-shirt and henley, I can go a week with only two shirts.
Eric started wearing wool when traveling in Europe before I did. He started with a couple of dress shirts for dinners out, along with some t-shirts, henleys, and a pullover sweatshirt, which gets him through 2 weeks of traveling in Europe.
We’ve tested a few different brands, and we love wool& for women’s traveling clothing and Wool&Prince for men’s travel clothing. The pieces generally coordinate with one another and help us to look a little bit more fashionable while continuing to pack light for Europe.
Coordinate Clothing Colors And Focus On Dark Colors
Over the last year, much of my travel wardrobe has been focused on orange and blue. Orange, because it is bright and one of my favorite colors, and blue because it goes better with orange than black.
By coordinating your colors when packing, each article of clothing should pair well with any other item. You can mix and match and save space.
Also, think about dark colors, which are easier to coordinate with each other. Dark colors also hide stains well so if you spill on yourself, you can still get away with wearing it again. This is particularly true for jeans!
For a super-simple wardrobe, pack mostly black and use scarves and tops to accessorize. Avoid any items that are single-wear. In two weeks, you will wear it once and then it will just be taking up space in the bottom of your bag.
Above: Eric wearing his Tropic Feel walking shoes, which fit in so well in Italy.
Shoes When Packing For Europe
This is not the time to break in a new pair of shoes. Buy your shoes early and wear them a bunch around the home before packing them for Europe. Also, many Americans think that wearing sneakers make you look too American. Just own it. Everywhere in Europe now people of all ages wear sneakers!
This is where function over fashion comes into play. This doesn’t mean you only bring sneakers or only bring hiking boots like a backpacker through Europe. It’s just important to be practical. You will be walking a lot in almost every European city you visit.
There are stairs, cobblestones, hills, etc. Cobblestones in Italy can wreak havoc on high heels. The hills in Lisbon can be treacherous when it rains. A comfortable pair of shoes can make or break a trip.
Depending on your itinerary, if you can get away with only two pairs of shoes, do it! We tend to pack either two or three pairs but always can make them fit in a carry-on bag.
The Best Shoes For Walking In Europe
Here are some of our favorite shoes we pack for Europe:
- Tropic Feel: Lightweight, comfortable walking shoes that are also waterproof
- Allbirds: Women’s ballet flats in sustainable wool, which are also washable! They also do comfortable walking shoes and running shoes as well
- Birkenstocks: For men and women, our favorite walking sandals to handle cobblestone streets
Shoes For Summer In Europe
In summer, I will often travel with a pair of sneakers for exercising or for any outdoor-type activities. Most days, I wear my trusty Birkenstocks. I can walk for miles and miles in them. Then, I might bring a dressier pair of sandals for evenings depending on our itinerary.
Eric will also bring a pair of Birkenstocks and sneakers, along with a pair of casual shoes for an evening if needed. When traveling in Ireland or Scotland, I might skip the dress sandals and bring ballet flats because it can be quite cool in the evenings.
Shoes For Winter In Europe
Eric will bring sneakers and a pair of casual dress shoes. When traveling in Ireland or Scotland, I focus on the boots and will probably not bring my ballet flats. It’s just too wet and rainy.
Shoes For Spring And Fall In Europe
When it comes to spring or fall travel in Europe, it depends on where within Europe you are and what the weather will be like. It’s important when packing to monitor the weather in the weeks and days before you depart. There could be an unexpected heatwave.
In Southern Europe, including Spain and Italy, it’s possible to choose the summer options for both seasons. When traveling in Northern Europe, something closer to the winter shoe options could be required in both Spring and Fall.
How To Pack Clothing For 2 Weeks In A Carry On
The best advice I can give for packing light for Europe is to think critically about the clothing you pack. This will take up the most space in your luggage.
Many people we meet who travel with enormous suitcases do so because they don’t want to do laundry during vacation. I totally get that. But, if the alternative is being miserable while lugging around a giant suitcase, I choose laundry. Here are some of our tips on how to keep clothing clean while traveling for two weeks or more in Europe.
Book An Apartment With A Washing Machine
When we trained around Andalusia, Spain, for three weeks we stayed almost exclusively at hotels. When we realized this and knew laundry was going to be an issue, we booked one apartment in the middle with a washing machine.
As much as people don’t want to do laundry on vacation the idea of having an entire suitcase of clean clothing during a trip makes me very, very happy.
It’s also possible to find launderettes when traveling, but no one wants to spend their holiday waiting for their laundry. By having a machine in your apartment, you can do a load in the morning while getting ready. Set it and forget it.
Doing Laundry When Traveling In Europe Pro Tip
Even when there is a washing machine, normally there is no dryer. Most Europeans hang dry clothing. Wash your clothes in the morning, spend the day out, and when you come back everything should be dry.
Many European washing machines wash slowly and can 90 minutes or more. Look for a rapid or express button to speed up washing to only 20 or 30 minutes. If the washing machine is not in English, use Google Translate, or look for a setting that reads 20’ or 30’ to save time.
Travel Accessories To Pack For Europe
Accessories When Packing For 2 Weeks In Europe
For borderline fashionistas who are concerned about how they look when traveling in Europe or for people who want to look fab in their photos, well-chosen accessories can really help.
In the summer, I will pack one lightweight scarf that fits the color palette of my wardrobe. In the colder months, I choose a heavy scarf that I can wear with a jacket or coat or use with a sweater when a jacket is not needed.
Eric will only carry a scarf in the winter. Also, remember when visiting churches in more conservative countries, like Italy, women need to cover their shoulders and knees when entering cathedrals. A scarf can cover the shoulders in the warmer months.
Don’t forget your sunglasses, even in the winter. You can also buy them cheaply in many European cities. This is also a great accessory to spruce up an otherwise neutral European travel wardrobe.
Also, here, there is no need to bring super-fancy designer sunglasses that you might end up breaking or losing during your trip.
Electronics For Travel In Europe
Our list of travel gadgets seems to grow each year. I recognize when you are packing for a two-week vacation in Europe, you don’t need to travel with everything we do. After all, we are professional travelers.
Converters And Adapters
Some travelers to Europe get these two things confused. A converter actually converts the voltage or amount of electricity. An adapter merely makes sure the plug of your electronics fits in the holes in the wall in Europe.
In the United States, our electrical outlets are 120 volts. In Europe, they use 220 volts. For most electronics, including computers, mobile phones, tablets, etc. this is irrelevant.
These electronics are dual voltage. All you need is an adapter to be able to plug your device into a wall in Europe.
For heating electronics, like hair dryers, curling irons, and hair straighteners, they are normally not dual voltage, so you would need a converter, to convert the voltage from the US standard to the European standard.
Or, you could buy a dual-voltage version for travel – this is what we recommend. That way you avoid frying them or causing the power to go out in your hotel or apartment.
Adapters For Europe
A proper travel adapter will help you charge all of your devices while traveling. I recommend taking multiple adapters on a trip. We generally carry at least four on each trip, two for our laptops and two for our phones, so we can charge most of our devices at one time.
This is important when you have long days and might not have a ton of time to charge up at the hotel. A Universal Adapter is a good value because it can be used in Europe, the UK, and Asia.
Adapters For The UK (Scotland, Wales) And Ireland
The UK and Ireland use different shaped outlets than they do in the rest of Europe. Most universal travel adapters work in the UK and Ireland. But, we’ve found some outlets, particularly at older hotels and B&Bs to be a little wonky.
When in the UK and Ireland, we always bring a few UK adapters as well. Look for a UK adapter, or a “Type G” adapter, which will work in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
Some older hotels or B&Bs in Europe might only have one or two accessible outlets in a room. This is frustrating, but carrying a small power strip can make sure you can charge all of your electronics at one time. It can also work when trying to charge up at an airport or train station too. I recommend the Belkin Travel Power Strip with USB ports.
We always travel with at least one portable battery to top up our smartphones during long days of sightseeing. We also carry our charging cords with us during the day because there are often cafes or restaurants where we can top up along the way (don’t forget an adapter). We’ve had a few power packs from Anker that have worked well.
What Technology To Pack For Europe
We travel with a lot of tech, which is understandable considering our profession. I also recognize that even “normal” travelers want to stay connected while traveling.
iPad or Laptop or MacBook
We always travel with our Macbooks, but that’s because we work while traveling. There are some great laptops for travel, but if heading out on an actual vacation an iPad or Kindle Fire might work well. This will help you stay connected and provide reading material.
Extra Memory Cards
We upload photos we take on our Smartphones to Dropbox daily and automatically. But, we also both have big memory cards in our Smartphones and on our cameras. Either upgrade the size of your memory card or pick up an extra before leaving home.
You don’t want to miss out on idyllic European scenery photos because you’ve run out of space. This 128GB memory card will mean you will never run out of space for your photos even while traveling for two weeks or more in Europe.
Things To Consider Packing When Traveling To Europe – Money & Passports
There are some other items you might need when traveling in Europe that I haven’t covered above. These include European travel tips that don’t depend on how long you stay.
- Credit Cards and Cash
- Money Belt
- Eye Mask and Ear Plugs
- Filtered Water Bottle
- Windproof Umbrella
Passport Requirements For Europe
If you are traveling from within the European Union, a National Identification card is sufficient to enter most of Europe (for now). For the rest of us, a passport is required. Be sure to have at least six months’ validity on your passport.
For example, if your trip begins on January 1, be sure that your passport doesn’t expire until after July 1. Starting in 2024, though, an electronic visa will be required for US citizens to visit the EU.
When it comes to requirements and how long you can stay, it depends on whether you are visiting a country in the Schengen Zone. Generally, Americans can stay in the Schengen zone for up to 90 of every 180 days within a year. The Schengen Zone includes most European countries, but not the UK, Ireland, Croatia, and a handful of others.
I recommend scanning a copy of your passport or taking a photo on your phone and keeping it in the “cloud.” This can mean keeping it in Dropbox, Google Drive, or even just emailing it to yourself so that you can access it if need be. I don’t recommend carrying your passport with you during the day in case your day bag is lost or stolen.
If you have your American driver’s license, that is sufficient to show ID during the day. Should you ever be asked by a police officer, a photocopy of your passport is normally sufficient. If there is a serious issue, you can always present your passport later.
This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about traveling in Europe, particularly for Americans. This advice comes from an American perspective. We have both American and Irish bank accounts and all American credit cards.
ATM Cards And Credit Cards In Europe
I recommend bringing one ATM card and two credit cards. Keep one credit card in your hotel safe, or hidden in a suitcase just in case your day bag is stolen during the day.
Call your bank and your credit card companies before leaving to let them know you are traveling to Europe and when so that they do not turn your credit card off for suspicious behavior. They may ask for a list of countries you are visiting too.
Most important, check whether your credit cards charge Foreign Transaction Fees. Foreign Transaction Fees can be 2-3% of every purchase you make. Some cards have these and some don’t. Most of our Chase credit cards don’t charge the fee.
The same goes for ATM cards. Just call to confirm so you are not surprised when you get home with random fees. I can place a travel alert on my Chase cards online and on that page it tells me what Foreign Transaction Fees are for each of my cards.
Most places in Europe now also accept e-wallets, like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, which is great.
Accessing Money in Europe
As for money, the easiest and best way to access cash when traveling in Europe is to use the local ATM machines to withdraw either Euros or Pounds. Most countries within Europe are part of the Euro Currency Zone and use the Euro.
The United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales use the Pound. Some European countries use their own currency, including Hungary and the Czech Republic.
There is no need to convert USD to Euros or Pounds at your bank before leaving home. There is no need to convert at the airport in the US or in Europe.
Generally, the exchange rates and fees are way worse than simply withdrawing money at an ATM. Avoid ATMs that are located as part of a souvenir shop or convenience store in touristy areas – stick to the ATM machines at legitimate banks.
Money Belt or Passport Belt
There are cities in Europe that can be problematic with pickpockets so it is important to take precautions. A lot of people consider a money belt or passport belt when packing for Europe. We have not traveled with one since our first trip to Italy in 2000.
First off, there is no reason to carry your passport with you during the day. Leave it at in your hotel safe and have a copy or a photograph on your phone instead. That way it stays safe.
As for money, Eric doesn’t carry a big wallet when traveling. He keeps his money in his front pocket where it is most safe. If you follow my advice above about keeping money in various places and not carrying all your credit cards with you, you should be fine.
All that said, if you would feel more secure using a money belt, we recommend this Stash Neck Wallet It includes an RFID blocker, which means that your credit cards are more secure. It also has room for a smartphone to keep it secure as well. For extra security, think about an RFID blocking wallet as an alternative.
If you have prescription medication that you must travel with, try to bring it in the original bottle that shows your name and details. We’ve never been stopped, but you never know. This is better than bringing random pills in a pill organizer.
Eye Mask And Ear Plugs
If you have difficulty sleeping, I can’t recommend these two options enough. Hotel walls are thin or your room might face a city street or square. Bring at least a couple pairs of ear plugs just in case. Sometimes, the curtains might not close all the way and there could be street lights just outside.
If traveling to Ireland, Scotland, or anywhere in Northern Europe in the summer, it rarely gets fully dark. I would recommend an eye mask for traveling. This can also help on planes and trains as well.
Filtered Water Bottle
We’ve never had problems drinking tap water when traveling through most of Europe. We try to reduce our use of plastic whenever possible. And, traveling with a filtered water bottle can just reduce any concerns you might have about drinking the water straight from the tap.
To reduce your use of plastic, I recommend bringing a Brita filtered water bottle so you can fill up your bottle from the tap and carry it with you through the day.
Depending on the season, or your destination, a windproof umbrella might come in handy. If you are used to traveling with an umbrella, be sure it is high quality and windproof.
Toiletries For Carry-On Travel To Europe
I feel like there is no more controversial topic for female travelers than trying to limit their toiletries to carry on sizes (okay, maybe shoes are pretty controversial). Rest assured, it can be done!
This means either buying travel-sized toiletries or buying travel bottles for your favorite shampoo and conditioner. Here are some suggestions and steps for how to make this work when you pack carry on only for 2 weeks.
Separate your liquids from your non-liquids. The toughest part is trying to meet FAA and international requirements for liquids in a carry-on when you have other items getting in the way. For non-liquids, I use a small cosmetic case, which has a few smaller compartments in it.
It doesn’t need to be any longer than the length of your toothbrush. This can hold your dry makeup, pills, dental floss, solid deodorant, etc.
Place your liquids into a non-spill bag. This can be a simple Ziploc bag, but I’ve used a waterproof toiletry bag that I’ve had for three years and it was a great investment. With a Ziploc bag, it could get punctured during your trip and leave you with a big mess.
When packing, leave the liquid bag in an easily accessible place, like the outside of your suitcase, when going through security. Also, remember no small manicure scissors in your toiletry bag.
FAQs – Is it possible to pack light for Europe?
We believe you can pack for a trip to Europe in a large carry-on sized bag. But if you feel you need more space, or are traveling to Europe in winter, try to limit yourself to a 24-inch tall suitcase. This size will give you more space, but still be easy to carry around European train stations, up narrow staircases, and along cobblestone streets. We have used both our ROAM carry-on and our Level 8 checked luggage for longer trips in Europe.
The important thing is not to overpack. Think about a capsule travel wardrobe, where you can coordinate everything you bring. When it comes to how to pack light and fashionable for Europe, think simplicity – jeans, black dress, simple t-shirts, and cardigans. Most important, comfortable shoes for walking! No heels!
Absolutely! The combination of our ROAM carry-on luggage and expandable Knack backpack has taken us through two weeks in Europe and even longer trips!
It’s not up to the airline if you travel with hard or soft luggage. Airlines are going to treat your luggage the same regardless of the material. That said, we prefer and recommend “hard” luggage. Why? We travel a lot. And even if we didn’t, moving around airports, train stations, and taxis, take a toll on your luggage. By their design, hard luggage can take the beating of travel better than soft luggage.