If you have a fair amount of long-haul travel under your belt and think back to the early days, you’ll definitely remember trips where you were majorly unprepared. From forgetting certain travel accessories to not even knowing you needed them in the first place, travel to Europe is certainly a rite of passage. To help make your next trip your best one yet, here’s my list of travel essentials for Europe that you’ll want to have before you go.
First, if you do a Google search for “best travel essentials for Europe” or “Amazon travel accessories,” you’re going to find all kinds of travel essentials lists that tell you about dozens of products that you may or may not find useful. Real talk incoming… no one “needs” all of the items on my Europe travel essentials list below. Let me say that upfront. You can get by with less.
But when travel is already stressful and chaotic, why not make your life as easy as possible?
Everything on my list is there for a reason and is something I own and regularly use. The last thing you want is to be caught off-guard and in need of something that you wish you bought.
That said, not everyone travels the same way or cares about the same things, so make sure you take your trip location and personal needs into consideration before deciding what is a must-have Europe travel essential for you. My list focuses on items I personally use when traveling between the U.S. and Europe since that’s where I have the most experience, but the Europe travel essentials I talk about below could be useful for travel all over the world.
Next up, before you leave home, make sure you have the most important items ready to go. These are non-negotiable travel essentials for all trips regardless of destination:
–Passport, driver’s license, health insurance card (plus photocopies)
–Feminine hygiene products
Without further ado, here are my top Europe travel essentials for women on the go.
Everyone has heard of packing cubes, but do you actually use them when you travel? I sure didn’t and only bought a set a couple of years ago despite knowing about them for at least a decade. I thought my packing game was strong. Well, game changer, my friends. If you’re unfamiliar with them, packing cubes are soft zippered pouches, often mesh, that come in a variety of sizes. They can help you to organize your clothes as well as maximize space.
You can also buy compression packing cubes and that’s what I’d recommend. They have an extra zipper that compresses your clothes, which will free up even more space in your luggage. If you’re short on space, these are the best compression packing cubes for travel.
You can go one of two ways with packing cubes: Use them to pack one complete outfit in each cube (example: top, bottom, underwear, and socks) or pack all of your like items in one cube, so all of your t-shirts get zipped up into one cube and your socks in another.
Either way you do it, you don’t have to go digging around in your suitcase for that thing you’re looking for that’s always hiding at the very bottom. Packing cubes are the civilized, easy way to pack and I’m never going back. They’re also great for containing your dirty clothes in one spot.
Speaking of what to pack, here’s my no-BS guide on how to dress in France (from someone who’s lived here a decade). I have all kinds of French style tips as well as no-nonsense advice on what to wear in Paris.
Hanging toiletry bag
Sometimes bathroom counter space is hard to come by when we travel, so get yourself a roll-up toiletry bag that you can hang up on the back of a door. The bags are usually made of mesh and have a hanger on top. They are partitioned into a variety of pouch sizes and hang vertically, so you can easily organize all your toiletries up and out of the way. Ours was especially useful when Tom and I cruised last summer and didn’t want to clutter up the counter space around the sink.
No one wants to be pickpocketed, so protect your things with an anti-theft backpack from a brand like Pacsafe. Mine has been all over the world and is still going strong. Rugged and full of room, Pacsafe products feature RFIDs-blocking technology, lockable zippers, cut-resistant straps, and more. No one is getting into your backpack but you.
Osprey is another backpack brand travelers love and are known as the most eco-friendly and best-fitting backpacks out there if that’s more your style.
When your day calls for just a small bag, a trendy belt bag is the way to go so you can keep your hands free. Wear it like a crossbody with the pouch in front of you so you can keep an eye on your things. The Lululemon belt bag is a cult favorite and this belt bag from Quince is perfect too. (Plus, get $20 off your order of $50+ with my referral link. I also reviewed Quince’s affordable cashmere here. If you don’t know about this brand, check ’em out!) It’s just big enough for your essentials and won’t weigh you down.
Reusable fold-up bag
You never know when a reusable shopping bag will come in handy, so always have one at the ready just in case. This one from Baggu made of ripstop nylon is my favorite and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The best part is it’s light as can be and tucks away into its carrying case when you don’t need it but can support up to 50 lbs. They’re great in a pinch if you need to pick up a few things at the market or pop into a store for a quick shopping trip.
On the plane
When it comes to travel essentials for long flights, my Sockwell compression socks top the list. I’ll never fly without compression socks ever again. If you’re prone to leg swelling and achiness when you fly, make that a thing of the past. Even if you don’t have a “problem” per se, compression socks will keep your legs and feet feeling refreshed and ready for arrival. I did a whole compression socks review here, so have a look.
Evian facial spray
Perk up tired skin with a few spritzes of Evian facial spray. The ultra-fine micro-droplet mist of pure Evian water will hydrate and refresh your skin. The small travel-size canister coming in at 1.7 ounces is a carry-on must for me and always gives my face a boost after a long day of travel. It’s also great for setting makeup and cooling off on a hot day.
A shawl like this cashmere/silk one from Quince is both fashionable and functional. It’s the perfect scarf but it also doubles as a blanket on a cool flight and a head covering at a mosque. Don’t leave home without one!
People have a love/hate relationship with travel pillows. Some of us love the donut-shaped ones and others do a neck pillow like this one that keeps your head upright. I like the adjustable design Huzi Infinity Pillow that lets you move the long pillow into whatever position feels best. Whatever way you slice it, a travel pillow is a Europe travel essential for sure. You never know when you’ll need a little extra support.
Seems obvious, but I’ve forgotten these more times than I can count. Now I write down my travel essentials list in my travel notebook, so you know it’s coming with me. You never know when you’ll need to write something down so I never go anywhere without a notebook and pen. This French one from Rhodia is my favorite. And don’t forget a pen so you can fill out your arrival card.
If you are at your worst when you’re hangry, stock up on snacks so you’ll have something to munch on. Airport stores don’t always have a great selection (plus they’re expensive) and flights are sometimes delayed, so keep your hunger pangs at bay with some healthy travel snacks you bring from home. My favorites are nuts, trail mix, something crunchy and something sweet.
I discovered Loop earplugs last year when I was going to a concert and wanted to protect my ears. I blew out my hearing in college and have been really careful about not making things worse ever since. Even when you aren’t in a super loud environment, earplugs can come in handy while traveling to block out the background noise of the plane’s engines and the people around you.
I always put my Loop earplugs in after takeoff and I feel like I’m in my own little cocoon. They have different levels depending on what kind of sound blocking you’re looking for, but Loop earplugs are the way to go. They also come in fun colors. Let’s not also forget earplugs come in handy if you’re a light sleeper and have accommodations above a noisy street.
Does anyone travel without headphones these days? I don’t think so, but I still need to include them in my travel essentials list here. I’m a big fan of wearing my Apple Airpods on the plane and in the airport, but I’d recommend leaving the headphones in your backpack when you’re out exploring.
After almost getting hit by a bus I didn’t hear coming in NYC during college, I learned my lesson and don’t even chance it when doing touristy stuff. But in closed environments where I’m sitting down, like waiting at the gate or on a plane, headphones all the way. So many podcasts, so little time!
We don’t always have the time to do our full skincare routine or shower when we’re on the move, so stocking up on some wipes is the next best thing. These biodegradable unscented ones from Nolla are great for freshening up after a long flight.
There’s nothing more annoying than getting food stuck in your teeth at the airport and then having to sit on a plane for hours knowing it’s there. This happened to me with the skin of an apple recently and I was so glad I had my Cocofloss with me. Cocofloss is the best dental floss I’ve ever tried. While it’s a premium product made in Italy, it’s thicker than regular floss and removes more plaque than you ever imagined. It’s am amazing product that comes in delicious flavors for every day of the week. Get $10 off your first order here.
Small power bank
Don’t let your phone or headphones run out of juice! I like to keep a small portable power bank with 2 USB plugs handy just in case. Make sure you check what size will be allowed on your flight. A small one like this model with 4 USB outputs is perfect for most people’s needs but they make more powerful ones as well.
Other travel essentials
Universal travel adapter
This is definitely one of those European travel necessities that should go at the top of your packing list. Forget trying to figure out which adapter you need for which country and buy a universal travel adapter instead that comes with a variety of prongs and USB inputs for all your travel needs. UK, EU, US, Australia, you name it and a universal adapter like this one has you covered.
You never know when you or someone you’re traveling with will need a Band-Aid, Advil or one of the other items in this handy mini first-aid kit. You don’t need to make it too complicated, but a small first-aid kit is definitely something you’ll want to add to your Europe travel essentials list especially if you’ll be out hiking and away from a pharmacy.
P.S. If your trip takes you to France, check out my post on the French equivalents of American medications.
Doing laundry while traveling isn’t always convenient or possible, so stash some Tide laundry packets in your bag so you can wash small items in the sink in a pinch.
Lost luggage can get your trip off to a terrible start, so if you’re an iPhone user, save yourself the trouble and slip an Apple Airtag into your luggage before you say au revoir to it at the airport. You’ll be able to see it go from point A to point B along with you and the cost is definitely worth the peace of mind.
Apple Air tags also come in handy for a million other things, so you’ll get your money’s worth for sure even when you’re not using it as a travel essential for Europe.
These days, you have so many options when it comes to getting euros before your trip. To save yourself money and the hassle, steer clear of rip-off currency exchange booths and get yourself a Wise (formerly Transferwise) card instead. It’s one of the best travel essentials for Europe that everyone can benefit from.
You can hold a balance in another currency via their borderless account and without all the hidden fees that come with doing international bank transfers through your home country bank. Everything can be done from a handy mobile app or their website and then you can pay like a local in euros, easy peasy.
I did a full Wise review here that has all the details.
BONUS TIP: Use Wevat to take advantage of the VAT refund in France
If shopping is the name of the game and you’re a non-EU resident, the VAT tax refund is a fantastic way to put money back in your pocket. With the Wevat app, you’ll get an even bigger VAT refund in France than the traditional paper forms method. You can claim it on all kinds of items like clothes, jewelry, bags, watches, wine, tobacco, cosmetics, and more.
I go into more detail about Wevat in this post on how to save money in France, so check that out for all the details. Be sure to visit Wevat’s site here and download the Wevat app before your trip to France. You’ll get a 5€ shopping bonus with code OUIINFRANCE.
What are your OG Europe travel accessories you never leave home without?
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.