Now, this article won’t be for those of you who prefer traveling in luxury, sleeping in warm hotel beds, and toting along a suitcase full of shoes (guys, don’t think I’m excluding you here).
There’s nothing wrong with those things, of course, and there have been countless times in my own travels when I’ve wanted nothing more than some of the comforts of home. I get this.
But this post is for those of you making the trip to Europe maybe as a coming-of age tour, a mid-life crisis, a post-grad I-don’t-know-what-I-want adventure, or for any number of other reasons that lead you to want to see as much as you can of the world right this very second. This packing list is for you, brave traveler.
Pick your Pack:
This is the first and foremost thing you’ll need. You’ll initially have to decide how you want to carry your things. Do you want a backpack? If so, you’ll want to figure out how small you can go while still fitting the base essentials you’ll be carrying. The smaller the pack, and the lighter the weight, the better, you’ll find. You’ll want to make sure that the pack bears weight well. While this might sound like an obvious requirement for a backpack, you don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised, like some people are (you might notice that many backpack review mention a “strain on the shoulders” after a few hours. Keep an eye out for this—also, reading reviews can be incredibly useful).
Some travelers prefer wheeling their items around—or prefer a pack that they can attach wheels onto.
Paring Down Essential Clothes:
You’ll want to pack as little as possible that will cover the widest variety of situations you might encounter. Things like an ultra-light rain jacket will be invaluable when you need it. You’ll need a couple pairs of pants, and if you are going someplace that might get cold, you might also want to pack long underwear or tights to layer under the pants.
Bring enough underwear to last you five days, because three days is too often to do laundry, but seven pairs of underwear takes up too much space in you pack. The same goes for socks—but pick quick-drying ones instead of cotton. This will help you when you’re trying to wash them and quickly move on, or when your feet inevitably get wet while you’re out adventuring.
Think layers for your top half. If you’re traveling somewhere warm, you can probably get away with tank tops and your jacket. If you might encounter other weather, pack shirts and over shirts or sweaters that can be worn on top. You might also need gloves and a scarf, so check the weather ahead of time or familiarize yourself with what “typical” weather is like wherever you are heading during that time of year.
I’ve found that pajamas are best substituted with lightweight running shorts that easily wash and dry.
Bring sandals that you are comfortable getting wet (maybe even wearing in hostel showers), and shoes that are comfortable to walk in, yet sturdy enough to last you a while/ survive a rainstorm. Boots are always a good choice, and they’re popular over there so you’ll fit in.
Bring only what you need, and remember that you can buy lots of things in drug stores when you get there. If you’re going to be roughing it a little, dry shampoo is a good thing to have. Also pack a little soap, deodorant, lotion (to keep your skin from getting chapped), shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a small hairbrush if you’ve got long locks. You’ll also want a small pack of wet wipes; you’ll know when you need them, and you’ll be forever glad to have them when that time comes.
You’d be surprised at the number of toiletry items we are comfortable using daily that we don’t actually need. Try your best to pare down the list of essentials.
Organizing it all:
There are a few products on the market that will help you put items in their own compartment and help you to find things when you need them. Packing organizers, packing cubes, and stuff sacks work particularly well for this. These can also keep your electronics and important documents safe.
Ed Kim is a freelance writer for VacationPass.com. He lives in Boston with his wife and two young daughters. He can’t wait to show them the world.