This is your handy-dandy backpacking Europe packing list (female edition). I’ve poured it all out and created a mega (but practical) list of everything you need – from bathroom to intangible essentials.
By the end of this post, you will be so prepared for your trip to Europe and still have space for souvenirs. Let’s get this bon voyage started.
What makes me so worthy to give you packing advice for a backpacking summer in Europe? How about I did it four times and learned something new every time? I became smarter in how I approached packing.
That’s why I am going to make your life insanely easier and round up some essentials you should pack with you. I’m talking gadgets and gizmos and stylish outfits that can be worn in various ways – bringing out the glamorous side of backpacking.
What should I pack for backpacking Europe?
When packing for Europe you need to make sure you are dressing for the weather and itinerary. If you plan on visiting various religious sites, pack less revealing outfits. If you are traveling in the summer, you probably will never wear pants.
That’s why you need to first think about where you are going and what you are doing when you get there.
This may seem intuitive to many people (I’m sure the Reddit community will lose their minds if I didn’t say that) but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve packed things I thought “were cute” and forgot about “what’s practical”.
Sure enough, I would end up buying things abroad I had at home but didn’t pack. Now that is a huge waste of money.
This post is going to show you a healthy balance between clothing and non-clothing essentials. My bag used to be primarily bathroom products and shoes. Then it became clothes. Now, I’ve learned what I can and cannot travel without. Suddenly 5 pairs of shoes turned into 2 and outfits became more versatile. You catch my drift.
This post is broken down by section with a printable packing list at the end. Scroll through or select the topic in the table of contents above.
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Bags on Bags on Bags
Since bags are the most important, I figured we should start here. We can all agree bags are everything when it comes to packing. Packing for the plane. Packing for a day of sightseeing. Bags. Utterly unavoidable so you should invest in a good one that will last you for many trips around Europe to come.
Disclaimer: I LOVE to organize things. Container Store is practically Mecca. If you’re not an organizer you might find this section a little over the top, but I promise you, if you choose to get on board with it, you will love it too. Staying organized on the road is a huge reason why I never leave valuables behind. Come to the OCD side.
The Main Bag
I used to be a fan of duffle bags but honestly, I am so tired of lugging around a heavy a$$ bag on my back. On the other hand, they ARE convenient when walking rough roads and places without an elevator.
For example, on my recent trip to Bangkok, we were walking down a crowded street to our hostel. The sidewalks were insanely crowded with food vendors, etc. causing us to bounce on and off between the sidewalk and street. Had I brought a rolling suitcase, I would have been even more aggravated. Thus, a duffle bag was the smarter choice.
So again, think about where you will be going and which bag will be less annoying.
If the duffle bag is the winner then here is a similar one I have used on every backpacking trip since 2012. It has both a body and a backpack strap. I do love that I can tuck my backpack straps in when I’m checking it at the airport. It also has tons of compartments if you love to organize things as I do.
If the rolling suitcase is the winner, then you need this one that turns into a backpack. Game over!
Packing cubes are a TOTAL GAME CHANGER. Not just for the organization but saving space. It’s so nice to open your bag and see everything organized rather than thrown around in chaos. It makes unpacking and packing in new places easier.
Now, if you need to free up space, you can try compression bags. These compression bags come with an electric pump to use while traveling. Plus, each bag is small enough to fit in a carry-on suitcase.
This is not necessary but I started to bring a cloth laundry bag in an effort to use less plastic. Baby steps cousin. Baby steps. The packing cubes I mention above do come in a 7 piece set including a laundry bag. If not, you can always use laundry bags in most hotel rooms and reuse. Unless you’re staying in a hostel, then you’re SOL.
Carry On / Day Bag
My carry on bag is now my camera bag. Before this beast of a bag, I brought my large Longchamp bag with me on flights. It worked great and I still use it today as my main purse. Now, I have my camera bag which has ample storage for all my electronics and packing spillovers.
I also found this bag from TUMI which has a sleeve to use on your luggage. You can put it on top of your luggage without worrying about it sliding off. Makes for a smooth transit.
Having a small purse for nights out or on days I want to keep it light is a must for me. I got my purse at Target. It holds more that it looks like with a few compartments and zippers. It’s also a crossbody bag which I love. Having the purse across my body as opposed to hanging off my shoulder gives me a sense of security.
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Female Bathroom Essentials
This used to be the hardest part for me because I have SO MANY bathroom essentials. If you’re like me and bring your entire bathroom then you will want the following essentials to keep your bag light.
I would rather bring all my bathroom and health essentials over tons of clothes. I’ve been sick, needed Q-tips, tampons and more abroad, and trust me, it’s not so easy to find what you’re looking for.
That’s why I say if your suitcase is full of clothes with no room for these essentials, then get rid of the clothes. All these essentials can be found in a travel size if you don’t want to check a bag.
Contact Solution: obviously not for everyone
Toothpaste only if you are a Crest devotee. I have yet to find crest in Europe – at least when I’m out and in the market. I love their products the best so always make sure I have it with me. If you have seen Crest in Europe let me know in the comments.
Ouai Leave-in Conditioner: Not only does this smell amazing, but it also makes my hair silky soft. Most hostels and hotels have shampoo and conditioner so I don’t bother with bringing it. But, I do believe in a good leave-in conditioner that double serves as a detangler.
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Pamper and Beauty Essentials
I’ve been on several backpacking trips and it never fails, 2 weeks in I’m dying for a good wash and DIY spa session. You’re moving around, outside sweating, sleeping in beds that aren’t your own, and you just need to feel good.
That’s why I now pack these beauty products. Yes, I use all the items on this list. I should also mention, everything fits into a small cosmetics bag.
Formula 10 clay mask: I recently started using this brand and don’t hate it. It’s cheap and leaves my skin feeling great. You can feel that burn when you put in on. The good kind.
Derma E face scrub: Now I can’t find it in a carry-on, so you will have to put it in a container unless you are checking.
Shea Moisture Body Scrub: No better feeling mid-backpacking trip than a good scrub down. This one smells so good.
Nail filer and clippers
Make-up remover wipes: I love these oil-free (and cruelty-free) makeup remover wipes. I use expensive face wash and want to save as much of it as possible. Makeup wipes help remove all the makeup and prevent me from needing to do a second wash with the face soap. Did I mention this is a water-saving step?
Face wash: I use Cle De Peau cleansing soap. This stuff lathers so well, you only need a little. Trust me, this will last you for a long time. Since the bottle is not TSA approved, I will fill up a contact lens case with face wash. Lasts me the entire trip, especially when used with make-up remover wipes.
Dr. Brandt No More Baggage: This is my morning secret sauce. This does so, I mean so good at reducing puffy eyes. I for one do not look so hot in the am, which means I need all the help I can get. It’s my secret morning sauce.
SPF Foundation / Tinting Cream: I don’t like to wear heavy make-up which is why I love a dual moisturizer with SPF and tint. Surprise, surprise it’s Cle De Peau.
Fresh lip balm: Fresh is known for their tinted lip treatment sticks, but I think the lip balm is better. It’s not sticky but super shiny and extra hydrating. Plus, it doesn’t come off after the first sip of water.
Face powder: Tarte makes a nice full coverage powder that doesn’t feel heavy. Plus, it’s cruelty-free.
Blush & Highlighter from Inglot
What to Pack for Europe: Body Feel Goods
Vitamins are always a good idea. During my last backpacking trip to Europe, I was in Budapest when suddenly my knees started aching. Yes, I had comfy walking shoes but that was not enough. I was constantly massaging my knees. They were inflamed so I decided to go to the pharmacy and pick up Turmeric pills.
Turmeric works wonders when it comes to inflammation and overall body care. I could go on and on about the benefits. Now, I won’t travel without my turmeric pills.
I also like bringing probiotics. Seed makes a great one. When you are traveling anywhere long or short, your body takes a toll – from dehydration on the airplane to swollen knee caps. You only get one body so you have to take care of it.
Before the day drinking commences, I want you to do the following things. These simple steps will make you feel so amazing day after day. I pinky promise.
Get up and chug a water
Do a little stretch/workout in your room. Some sort of physical movement to get the body feeling good
Take your vitamins/probiotics
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Travel Gadgets & Electronics
This section now takes up the majority of space in my bag, however, over the years, I’ve been able to reduce space with these compactable gadgets.
Portable charger. I love this one. It holds 4 charges and has multiple USB inserts.
Camera: I understand we are all not trying to be world-famous photographers. Many of us are just looking for spicy Instagram pictures. The hardware options start to get cheaper and lighter. On my recent backpacking trip around Asia, I decided to give the Canon M50 ago and purchased it on Amazon.
I loved that it was so lightweight and tiny. I mean the lens is so tiny compared to my Canon 80D. It does shoot in 4k if you want to record.
The picture quality was also nice for what I needed it for. If you are a basic camera user looking for automatic settings then you should check out the M50.
If you’re a manual shooter then you will not like this camera all too much. You cannot set AF points which were annoying but now I’m getting super technical. I’m done.
Tripod! My biggest regret on my last backpacking trip was that I left the tripod at home. My boyfriend and I would have got way more pictures together if I had one. I hate asking strangers to take my photo unless I don’t care about composition but I do so. . . should have brought the tripod.
Dual Adapter and Converter
Padlocks for hostel lockers: If you are staying in a hostel you need to bring your own lock just in case. I’ve stayed in plenty of hostels that have lockers with built-in pin pads, but just in case.
Flight Flap Phone & Tablet Holder: This will come in handy on the short flights in between countries.
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Europe Packing Checklist for Females by Season
The clothes change given the season, so I separated this section by season. FYI, I typically pack at least 7 different capsule outfits and wash them once a week.
Summer & Spring
1 pair of denim shorts
2 pairs of paper bag shorts
1 flowy skirt
Black romper: I love a black romper because it’s casual enough for daytime but can easily be dressed up for a night out at a cocktail bar, whatever.
1 machine washable blouse: I like wearing an off the shoulder blouse or lace design that can be washed.
1 graphic tee: I love a good graphic tee for added character.
2 plain tees: I usually buy a size up so that I can tie the end for a stylish finish, or on days I want to be lazy. Aka when it’s that time of the month but you still have to go outside.
1-2 tank tops
2 pairs of yoga pants for gym and travel days
Zip-up jacket for flights
2 pairs of sleeping shorts
2 pairs of sleeping shirts
Socks, undies, bralettes, sports bra, swimsuit
Winter & Fall
3 Long-sleeve thermal shirts
3 pairs of thermal pants/leggings
2 pairs of jeans: Because I wear thermals under my jeans, I don’t need to wash them as frequently. That’s why I bring more yoga pants and leggings to jeans. They are easily rollable compared to thick denim.
2 oversized sweaters to be worn under thermals
1 boyfriend cardigan
1-2 graphic tees to wear with a cardigan
2 pairs of yoga pants for gym and travel days
Zip-up jacket for flights
2 pairs of sleeping pants
2 pairs of sleeping shirts
Socks, undies, bralettes, sports bra,
Scarf, beanie, gloves
Raincoat. Rain follows me on every trip. I’ve learned to pack a raincoat and deal with it. Sadly, mine is not available anywhere so here is a comparable one.
Jacket or sweater for the plane. If you are backpacking Europe in the summer, you will most likely never wear a jacket. Many places don’t have AC inside (unless you are spending more on dining in restaurants and newer/renovated hotels) and obviously outside is hot AF. But you should still bring a jacket. Airports are cold.
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Women’s Shoes for Backpacking Europe
Dressy sandals: Honestly if you’re walking around all day in sandals with zero sole you’re going to regret it. The pain. Am I just old? I feel I keep talking about aches and pains haha.
I have to avoid wearing sandals on 12 hour days of continuous walking. However, dressy sandals are ok on those nights out.
I love heels but they aren’t practical in many parts of Europe except for wedges. Wedges are good. Anything with a thick heel. Those cobblestone streets will get you otherwise. *crack* That’s the sound of a broken ankle.
Leopard Print Mules: Because I’m currently obsessed with these. You can easily make a minimal outfit looks more fashionable with a bold show.
Dad shoes are the latest trend. Surprisingly they are comfy. Be cool and comfortable.
Walkers Walking Shoes: Something about a pair of white shoes that makes the entire outfit look clean.
Intangible Packing Essentials
The following might not need to be packed in your suitcase but is equally, if not more important. Can’t have my cousins (aka you) getting hurt abroad with no insurance.
Blue Shield: I used Blue Shield on my recent backpacking trip around Asia. I liked that it was affordable compared to all the others with a low deductible and higher coverage.
I had never been to Asia before and heard so many cases of people getting sick; therefore, I didn’t want to risk it so choose a plan that had a lower deductible and more medical coverage
Travel Guard: This is good if you are traveling with expensive things (i.e. cameras and laptops). You know better than to carry expensive name brands but something like electronics is a must.
If stolen you want to be protected with insurance plans that have a high reimbursement.
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Checklist complete. That’s everything you’ll. Hopefully, you found this so freakin helpful that you share it. But mostly, I just want you to have a great time. Europe is filled with so many wonderful things *tears*. I’m low-key jealous of you because I have no immediate plans to return.
Psst. . . Looking for more fashion and packing tips? Check out these guides:
What to Pack for Southeast Asia + Bonus Survival Guide
What to Wear to Disneyland If You’re A Rose Gold Loving Princess
What to Bring to A Festival: Genius Essentials for 2020
Have any more questions about backpacking Europe? Share your question in the comments below!
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