Old School backpacking is so totally ridiculous, in function and in form.
Two girls on the left in the Munich Hauptbahnhof (main train station)
struggle to get their backpacks mounted, in the early 1980's. The threesome on the
right wait comfortably with their hand and roller luggage for boarding call at Stockholm docks, 2006.
They are about to board the ferry to Helsinki.
Europe's Boat and Bus Services has more about that beautiful way to travel, and party through the night. The smorgasbord dinner buffet is out of this world, a favorite of mine for decades.
This entire book is published totally free on-line by the author and photographer, yours truly, with help from my daughter Stephanie.
Yes, you can copy — if you ask first. Please read my copyright and permissions statements.
Visit my home page at
enjoy-europe for truck loads of more helpful illustrated travel
information sans pareil. If you have questions or comments after reading this chapter
please see NOTE TO READERS.
Updated 23 July 2015.
This Europe packing list chapter is divided into four web pages:
Closely related subject matter is at:
Packing is one of the most important aspects of traveling in Europe. It is also one of the most difficult for Americans to grasp. Unlike taking a vacation in the USA, you can't just load up the trunk of the car and drive off.
For a trip to Europe you take the minimum amount of stuff you will need. If it doesn't fit in a 21" suitcase plus a shoulder bag you do not need it. Whatever you bring to Europe, you carry it or pull it to get it there. Then you do it all again at each stop after you arrive.
PACK LIGHT FIELD TEST
The Rule of Pack Light, Very Personal
This exercise originally appeared in the first edition of my book, How To Europe: The Complete Travelers Handbook. That was 33 years ago. I have coined it the Pack Light Field Test. This test has been endorsed by a famous travel guru. He copied it to his web site last year and boastfully wrote it up as if he had invented it. Based on that act of stealing my work and lying about it, commonly known as plagiarism, you could say that my Pack Light Field Test has been peer reviewed and approved.
Pack light is easy to say but difficult to execute. Because it is a big trip and maybe your first trip out of the country your gut feeling is that you need to pack "everything," maybe even two of "everything" just in case. Packing is one department where the gut feeling is wrong. Use the other side of your brain. Analyze your basic needs, pack them up, and take this test. The basic idea of the Pack Light Field Test is to see if you can actually haul around what you want to haul around.
OK. Let's start right now. Get your drawers on.
First, pull up my on-line packing list and print a copy. You are going to want to scribble on it. Last Call: Travel Prep and Pack Lists for Europe is the best Europe packing list. I should say that because I wrote it. This list also originated with the first edition of my book decades and scores of trips ago. My packing list has been tried and tested and polished for 2015. It has also been pinched by so many aspiring web travel writers that I can't count them. Few of them were even born when I wrote the original.
Pack everything you plan to bring, stuff your pockets, put on your hat and coat, open your umbrella, (raining or not), check the time, and walk one mile away from home with the whole load. Then, pretending you are trying to catch a train, run or walk home. If you can make the round trip comfortably within 45 minutes you have packed light. It is best if your test course includes a short, steep hill or several flights of stairs, upwards on the return leg.
If you are of the metric persuasion the test would be one kilometer in 28 minutes. If you do not know metric from Shinola I suggest a visit tp my chapter 27 Europe's Metric System: Travel with Grams, Meters, Liters, Centigrade because you are gong to need it.
Make sure that all of your traveling companions can pass the Pack Light Field Test. If not, old friends may become lifetime enemies.
A rundown on your clothing list was suggested in chapter 5, complete with photos of locals at What To Wear in Europe: Your Best Travel Clothes for All Occasions. That is only about 2/3 of your pack. Your suitcase must also be a miniature bathroom closet, laundry room, drugstore, tool box, photo gear headquarters, office supply, and library of guide books, maps, and dictionaries. This is all in addition to your clothes. Good luck!
Another critical packing issue has come up in the last decade. Back in the "good old days" the international airline free baggage allowance was seemingly unlimited. Two bags weighing up to 70 pounds could be checked. Carry-on was size limited but several pieces could be brought on board.
Airlines are now charging for most checked luggage and strictly limiting carry-on to one piece of luggage plus a "personal bag" to hold your laptop, back-up underwear, emergency sandwich, and such. The airlines are making so much money with luggage charges and other new fees that the amount of loot exceeds their luggage allowance. Your first stop should be the web site of your airline to read the carry-on or cabin luggage allowance. The checked luggage fee could easily exceed the cost of your luggage or even your plane ticket. And you pay both ways, going and coming home. Ouch! Ouch!
Back Pack or Rolling Luggage for Europe
Chapter 7, Luggage for Europe: Pack Light and Let It Roll, has details about what kind of luggage to use. My illustrated essay is based on decades of domestic and international travel.
This is not your trip over the Himalayan peaks. Europe has paved sidewalks. So why does every "travel guru" and wannabee promote and sell backpacks on their websites? Duh. Follow the money.
Rolling luggage can save you grief galore as you walk to your hotel on a hot muggy day in Rome. The back pack mules will be sweating their shirts wet.
NOW, WHERE IS THAT DANG PACKING LIST?
This web page served as a introduction to packing light, including a simple user's manual for the Pack Light Field Test. Actually, it was just a few paragraphs. Some writers are able to assemble a WHOLE BOOK on the subject of packing light. No kidding. I have a couple of those books, collecting dust.
For more specific packing details please continue to part 2 of this chapter, Personal Care Items in Europe: Packing Your Toothbrush and Hair Blower. Most of it is in your bathroom or on your dresser right now. But before you throw everything in your bag look over this essay to see if you really want to do that.
Part 3 of my packing suggestions covers the traditional stuff you need on the road. See Travel Supplies for Europe: Small Stuff Packing List.
Lastly, part 4 discusses the vaulable things you need to bring with you. These include your passport, credit cards, cash, camera, and other ID and valuables. The key message, which bears repeating repeating repeating, is do not put these things in any luggage, backpack, day bag, or purse. Carry them on your person. Documents and funds go in an inside pocket, not in a porous hotel safe. See Packing Valuables for Europe: Not in Your Luggage. Your camera should be in your hand and attached to a leash around your neck, ready for action. Else, why did you bring it?
If you want to skip over all the verbiage in these chapters and go straight to a complete packing and to-do list I have just the thing for you. This total punch list has everything you need, Last Call: Travel Prep and Pack Lists for Europe. Come back to part 2 later to see why you need vinegar and vodka. No kidding.
NOTE TO READERS
I welcome questions and comments. If you have any concerns about your trip to Europe that have not been covered well enough on my web site please do not hesitate to write and ask. When you write please include relevant details.
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