It’s starting to get real. You’ve blessed your spreadsheet with the airfare and lodging costs for your big trip abroad, and you’re starting to fill your itinerary with places you’ve only ever dreamed of visiting: the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Swiss Alps…
But lingering there in the back of your mind is your packing list.
‘What will I wear?’
‘Should I bring my laptop or not?’
‘Is there some sort of dress code I need to research?’
Surely you’ve heard that a minimalist approach is a good one. So much of European travel involves walking, so the more you pack, the more you’re lugging around on the sidewalk as you head to catch that train, tram or airplane to your next destination.
For our recent 17-day European adventure, a couple of my fellow travelers (we were a group of 5 adults + 1 toddler) decided to pack approximately one-week’s worth of attire, and do laundry about halfway through the trip. This actually worked out flawlessly for them, as there was a free laundry room in our hotel that we checked into on day 8 (perks of being active-duty and getting to stay on military bases!).
I, however, couldn’t resist packing more! Here was my sketch: 1 outfit per day, 3 pairs of shoes (you’re as shocked as I was), 1 set of jammies, a few comfy tee-shirts, and 2 cardigans. (I would have preferred an all-weather lightweight jacket, but hey, you work with what ya got.)
My method prevented any over packing and meant I could incorporate ALL of the new style pieces I had budgeted for and purchased leading up to the trip. Win-win!
I’m going to share with you every single item I packed, including toiletries and miscellaneous items. Hopefully you find it helpful!
Microfiber towel – $12 – you may encounter an overnight stay that doesn’t have towels included. You also may find yourself at a pool for some relaxation time, and these towels are MUCH lighter than beach towels! I recommend the 24 x 48 size, one per person traveling.
Power converters – $11 for set of 3 – Make sure that every country you’re visiting is listed in the product description!
Comfortable walking shoes – I can’t recommend the Skechers Go Walk shoes enough. I ordered them in white and if I could do it all over again, I’d get a black pair, too. They’re that good. I never faced blisters or any rubbing discomforts. Half the time, I wore a no-show sock because I feared without them, I’d cause the sneakers to get smelly. I actually ended up being okay after a couple of days socks-free. If you plan to wear socks 100% of the time, size up by 1/2. Sans socks, these are TTS. It’s a good idea to bring sandals, too, in which case my #1 recommendation is anything by Clarks!
Lightweight jacket – $60 – It’s important to be ready for any weather, but you don’t want to make the mistake I did by packing cardigans. They don’t hold up in the rain and many of them don’t have pockets. Go with a Columbia jacket that you’ll also put to use AFTER the trip. These are worth the investment and then some.
Waist travel wallet – $12 – Notice I didn’t say “fanny pack!” These are meant to be worn UNDER your clothing, to further lessen the likelihood of you being targeted by pick-pocketers. Note: Pick pocketing is REAL. My aunt was targeted in Venice, and an attempt was made to steal from her crossbody bag just 10 or so feet in front of me. Two women worked together, one in the rear holding a map to disguise the other’s actions. They must have assumed we were in separate groups or wouldn’t notice, but I seized the opportunity to weaponize my empty stroller, ram it at the feet of the girl in the rear, and shout “KNOCK IT OFF!” I was furious. The ladies quickly fled the area and once I regained my composure, I explained to my family why I was suddenly such a hot head! Thankfully, nothing was stolen and we all increased our vigilance from that point forward. If you can avoid external bags, do it. I felt safer than ever when I wore the travel wallet around my waist, and it made the trip more enjoyable!
Other items to pack:
– 1 swimsuit
– Portable chargers
– Books for the long plane rides
– Hanging toiletry bag
– Camera (check your SD card storage to make sure you’ll have the room for all your killer photos of the Louvre!)
– Laundry bag
– Extra Ziploc bags
– Card games, such as UNO
Note: These recommendations are based on the age of our son (18 months). Obviously if your child is older or younger, your list could be quite different!
Lightweight stroller – $130 – This, hands down, is the stroller I recommend if you intend to traverse rough terrain during your trip (Colosseum, ruins of Pompei, cobblestone roads, etc.). We put some serious mileage on ours and had ZERO issues – no wheels breaking off, no ripped canopy, no damage to the lock mechanism even after hundreds of times using it. I can’t recommend it enough!
Hiking backpack – $115 – The last thing you want to come home with after your vacation is a ruined back as a result of you hand-carrying your toddler all over Italy, or using a carrier that simply isn’t meant for trips of this scale. You’re going to want to invest in something more sturdy. As we explored Venice, my husband sported this backpack comfortably for about 2 hours, and little guy managed to fall asleep inside the thing!
Durable toddler sandals – $32 – (Pictured above) Easy on, easy off, and they let your kiddo’s feet breathe. Note: SIZE DOWN ONE FULL SIZE! I was willing to pay a higher price if they could double as water shoes, and these definitely do! We made it through the entire trip with 2 pairs of shoes for our son, the Tevas and a pair of Nike tennis shoes.
Other items to pack:
– Diaper bag (backpack style preferred, with a loud zipper)
– Sippy cups
– Pacifiers (w/ leashes + a backup or 2)
– Whole milk powder
– Kids Benadryl
– Bath items (travel-sized shampoo & baby wash)
– Kids tablet; don’t forget the charger!
– New toys (Yes, new. They’ll distract them for longer!) I recommend mess-free coloring books and post-it flags for the long plane rides!
– Another thing for the plane ride…Dum-Dum suckers. We used these as a last resort when Alvi seemed inconsolable. Worked like a charm and kept him occupied for at least 15 minutes.
– Plastic bags for the diapers you change and can’t immediately dispose of (this happens more than you’d think)
Ah, now the fun part 🙂
First things first, if you’re looking for the retailers that allow your dollar to go farther, my recommendations are SHEIN and Amazon. I splurged a bit and snagged a few items from Lulus, which is pricier but worth it!
Here is a peek into my wardrobe for our summer trip:
I’ve linked items for each outfit below!
As you can see, I splurged here and there but really tried to stick to basic & reusable pieces.
In Europe, I saw a lot of the following trends:
– high-waisted denim shorts
– bulky tennis shoes (think all white, clunky FILAs… you will hardly EVER see a pair of heels! These ladies are all about functionality.)
– comfortable maxis
– crossbody bags
So in general, I managed to fit in. Fashion was certainly a focal point in Paris, as we expected. Women wore designer attire and shopping was clearly the preferred pastime for the locals.
Stick to your style and pack the pieces that bring you joy, while keeping in mind the physical demands of your trip.
To wrap up this post, I want to list the intangible items you must pack…
There’s a good chance you clicked this post because you are also a mom with plans to travel as a family. Or perhaps you’re hoping for a trip like this in the future. No matter what drew you here, know that traveling with children (especially this far) is not easy, but it’s also not impossible.
Your little one is going to have meltdowns. You’ll have small panic moments when the toddler jet lag lingers. You’ll lose some sleep. You’ll wish bathrooms in France were bigger so that you could change your kid’s diaper comfortably. You’ll learn how to change diapers on a moving train (poop messes all their own, I tell ya). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… But it’s so important to remember you’re making memories to last a lifetime. Soak up the moments and take pictures even when you don’t want to, because you’ll be able to look back on the adventure, reflecting on the highlights and giggling about the struggles.
Pack patience. Pack a good attitude. Pack a childlike spirit.
If at all possible, plan this trip with more than just mommy, daddy, and the kids. Bring grandma along. Bring one of your siblings. Aside from making fantastic travel companions, they’ll lend you a hand when you need it the most.
I hope you found this post useful! Tell me where you’re headed in the comments! 🙂