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Taking the family to Europe for the first time? It is a big adventure – and it starts with packing. Use this complete travel packing list for international travel and you’ll be on your way quickly and easily!
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International Packing List for Families
My first international trip abroad was for a college choir tour to Europe. I knew I needed a passport. My dad fastened one of those passport/money belts to me that you hide underneath your clothes. But I had no idea about converters, laundry hacks, or packing tips for simplifying outfits.
Fast forward 25 years later. I have traveled to nearly 30 countries, lived abroad three times (once with our kids), and taken annual trips to Europe. I have packed more times than I can count. And each time I packed, I learned something – and that’s what I’m sharing with you. This handy packing list will help you bring what you need, so you can relax and enjoy your vacation.
First Things First
Before we get to the international packing list for families, I like to stop and think about a few things to make sure I have what I need. When traveling abroad, you definitely don’t want to overpack. Chances are you are moving in between hotels, on and off trains, or in and out of tour buses.
Cars in other countries, especially Europe, are smaller than in the United States. Taxi and Uber trunk space will be limited, as is the space in European hotel rooms. But you also want to have what you need! Start by asking yourself these questions:
Where Are You Going?
Are you headed to a European capital? To the countryside? To a warm country? What will you be doing – walking, sitting on a safari van or tour buses, or resting on a beach? Will you need immunizations (check with your nearest travel clinic to be sure)? These are things to consider before your international packing list.
Most likely, you are going to be bringing electronics on your trip (phones, tablets, computers, etc.). So you will need a power adapter. Different countries have different types of plugs and voltage. Using the wrong one will fry your equipment.
England and mainland Europe use two different types of power plugs, so your best bet is to get a UNIVERSAL power adapter with different prongs for different countries. This is especially helpful for a multi-country trip.
I like ones that can charge more than one electronic at once. Because, if you are like me, you probably have a smartphone, a tablet, a smartwatch, and maybe a computer.
What Time of Year Are You Traveling?
You want to think about the weather for where you are going and where in the country you will be. London is quite different in November than it is in July. When we lived in London, we found summer mornings were chilly but afternoons and evenings were warm. In the winter, mornings in London were warm, but afternoons and evenings were cool. Layers are really good for a place like England.
By contrast, mainland Europe can be extremely hot in the summer. During our visit last summer, Avignon, France was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit!
For this reason, our family is a fan of sweat-wicking clothes in the summer. Not only do they make us cooler, they will dry easily.
Clothes that are less bulky also save space in the suitcase. You can look at LL Bean for great travel clothes that pack well, are easy to clean, and can mix and match to make multiple outfits.
What Will You Be Doing?
If you are headed to a European capital, you will be doing A LOT of walking. So, having comfortable footwear is a must.
You will also want a secure daypack, where you can keep your passport, RFID protected wallet, phone, camera and other valuables close to you. You can also get a travel pouch to hide your passport and cash under your clothes.
For security reasons, never put your valuables in a backpack. Especially in European capitals, pickpockets are common, and they love tourists who leave valuables in backpacks. It is easy to access without you realizing it! Definitely keep your valuables in a bag that securely zips and can be in front of you. I like anti-theft cross body bags that I can keep in front of me.
If you will be taking day trips or doing anything active like hiking, you may want to have an extra day bag or backpack so you can bring layers, changes of clothes, swim clothes, or anything else you may need.
How Are You Getting Around?
How you will be getting around will inform your suitcase choice. If you are traveling on a tour, the tour company may have limitations on how much luggage and what type to bring.
When my husband and I went on a safari in Kenya, we had to bring duffel bags, because we were transferring in and out of the safari van. They fit the better than a suitcase in the limited space in the back of the vehicle, because they are more pliable.
On the other hand, if you are traveling on and off trains between destinations, you want the easiest thing to lift and carry. You will also have your carry-on luggage to manage as well.
On our train from Paris to Provence, our seats were on the second level. Having to lift suitcases quickly on and off the train and upstairs required them to be easy to carry and fit in the baggage shelf. Our AWAY Travel suitcase was ideal for this trip.
The Traveler’s Secret: Freezer Bags
TravelingMom tip: If you are renting a car and transferring to multiple hotels over the course of the trip, you can pack your complete outfits into freezer plastic bags into your suitcase. I am a huge fan of the IKEA freezer bags because they are extra large and can fit adult size clothing. Then, each night, only bring in what you need (pajamas, tomorrow’s clothes, and your toiletry bag).
When my husband and I drove from Shannon to Dublin in Ireland, we stayed at a different bed and breakfast each night. Rather than bringing our suitcase into each place, we left our suitcase in the rental car and only brought in what we needed each night. This was easy since everything was prepacked in freezer bags! Put your dirty clothes in the bag. Now your clothes are packed for the way home!
What Are Your Accommodations?
Will you be in a hotel or are you renting an Air BnB? Will there be laundry in your accommodation? Is there a kitchen? This will help you decide what to bring, whether you need enough clothing for the length of your stay, or if you can do laundry in the middle. You also need to think about the length of your trip. Then decide how many clothes you need and how you can re-pair outfits to maximize your wardrobe.
TravelingMom Tip: If your hotel doesn’t have an iron, I like to use Downy wrinkle release spray to get rid of the wrinkles. It doesn’t work as well as ironing, but is a great travel replacement, as your clothes will be “acceptable” to wear around town.
Now that we have those questions answered, you are ready to pack! Here is your complete packing checklist for your international trip!
International Packing List:
Plan one outfit per day, plus two extra or reuse.
- Dress-up shirt/Bottoms
- Light Sweater or Sweatshirt
- Light Jacket/Rain Jacket (jackets with several pockets are great for travel)
- Day Bag
- Travel Pouch
Warm Weather/Pool Access
- Swim Vests (if needed)
- Long-underwear/Thermals for layering
- Winter Coat
- Comfortable Walking Shoes
- Dress Shoes (for a nice dinner)
- Toiletry bag
- Body Wash
- Body Lotion
- Toothbrush and Floss
- Toothpaste and Mouthwash
- Face Wash/Toner/Moisturizer
- Makeup Remover
- Hair Styling Products
- Hair Brush/Comb
- Cotton Balls/Cotton Pads
- Nail Clippers/File
- Shave Gel/Cream
- Glasses and Case
- Contact Lenses Solution/Case
- Feminine Products
- Sunscreen and Insect Repellent
- Lip Balm
- First-aid Kit/Band-Aids/Antibacterial cream
- Pain Reliever (acetaminophen and ibuprofen)
- Laundry pods or Travel Laundry Soap
- Tide Stain Pen
- Downy Wrinkle Release
- Lint Roller
- Sewing Kit
- Cell phone
- Passports/Driver’s License/ID
- Wallet with RFID
- Passport Wallet/Family Passport Wallet
- Credit Cards/debit cards/Money/Foreign Currency
- Copy of Passport
- Travel Documents:
- Flight Information
- Trip Itinerary and Contacts
- Emergency Numbers
- Health Insurance Cards/Travel Insurance Cards
- Immunization List (if applicable)
- Car Insurance Info
- Electronics (Laptop/Tablet)
- Charger Case
- Camera and Accessories
- Prescription Medications
- Expensive Jewelry (don’t check those)
- Travel Jewelry Case
- Travel Blanket/Travel Pillow
- Eye Mask (for overnight flights)
- Ear Plugs (for overnight flights)
- Extra pair of clothes
- Hand Sanitizer
- TSA-approved Mini Hygiene Products (for overnight flights) with:
- Mini toothbrush
- Mini toothpaste
- Mini deodorant
- Quick makeup touch-ups (compact, concealer, blush, lipstick)
- Hydrating face spray to refresh
For Kids’ Carry-on Bags:
- Sketchbook and Pencils
- Travel Blanket/Travel Pillow
- Water bottle
- Extra clothes
- Car seats
- Baby items (diapers, wipes, sippies, snack cups, bottles, formula)
For planning your next international trips, here are 17 of the best countries to visit with kids. If it is your first time overseas with the family, check out this TravelingMom post for more great tips for visiting Europe with kids.