…and five things you really won’t need to pack!
As a seasoned European traveller, I’ve done to trial and error so you don’t have to.
My partner and I are currently travelling around mainland Europe in a converted Mercedes Sprinter van, which we live in full-time in-between house/pet-sits. We find these through Trusted Housesitters (link below), which is a service I cannot recommend highly enough for animal loving individuals wishing to travel on a budget, and meet some fantastic people and pets along the way.
Check it out!
By the way: none of the below are affiliate links, and absolutely nobody has sent me anything for free or paid me to advertise their products.
So you can have full confidence that everything I’m recommending is exactly that – a real, honest recommendation.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into the top 20 European travel accessories that you should not head to Europe without!
1. Adaptors (for plug sockets)
I always travel with a couple of universal adaptors, wherever I am in the World. These nifty little guys have seen me through Asia, Canada, the Caribbean and of course Europe. I find that two adaptors is plenty for me.
If you want to get more specific, European countries use type C (sometimes called “Euro plug”) sockets. These are also used in South America, and in parts of Asia. They look like this:
I made that graphic on Canva all by myself.
Talented, aren’t I?
But anyway, personally, I’d recommend investing in universals. Why? Because you can use them in pretty much every country. The clue’s in the name: they’re universal! So, much better value for money.
2. Sunscreen (obviously)
This one probably goes without saying, but just as a reminder: take sunscreen even if you’re going on a skiing or (especially) water sports holiday.
And take sunscreen even if you’re heading to Europe outside of the peak summer months. We’re currently in Salviac, France, and it’s barely April, but it’s 24 degrees C (75F) today, and extremely sunny!
I’ve been obsessing over this sunscreen by Rituals lately; it’s a spray and therefore super easy to apply, and even my boyfriend (who is seriously texture-phobic when it comes to applying creams or lotions; he despises feeling “sticky”) is able to tolerate it.
Even more of a win, it smells absolutely divine – a sort of light, refreshing floral scent that isn’t at all clingy or claustrophobic – and is great for your skin.
Factor 30 is perfect for me most of the time, but it’s also available as a factor 50.
I purchased mine as part of a gift set (link below), because it came with this really nice shimmering body oil which dries very quickly, does not feel at all heavy, and leaves my skin nourished and with a very subtle shimmer.
Which camera you take will depend on what you have already, or indeed, what your priorities and budget are. But definitely take a camera; you’ll be gutted if you don’t! Europe is stunningly beautiful, and future you is gonna want those memories for years to come.
Personally, I travel with a Sony A6000, and (for videos on the go) the GoPro Hero 11; I have the Creator’s Edition.
Would I recommend either of these?
Well, again – that depends on what your priorities and your budget are like. I’ve had my Sony A6000 for years now and it’s been well worth the fairly hefty price I paid for it along with a quality lens. The GoPro is a newer purchased and I’m still making my mind up.
It was quite expensive (about $600 for the Creator’s Edition). It does take good quality footage (albeit with the kinda “fish-eyed” view that we’ve come to expect from GoPros), and the Volta handle (which provides an on-the-go battery source as well as a tripod) is a nice touch.
But the battery life isn’t great even brand new, and even with the added benefit of the Media Mod the sound quality is fairly basic.
I’ll upload an example chunk of footage below, to give you an idea of what to expect, and I’ll let you come to your own conclusion. But – key takeaway – don’t head to Europe without some sort of camera.
4. Travel Insurance – pick a good policy
Personally, we picked AA Travel insurance, and have the ‘Backpacker Bronze Essential’ policy. There were certainly cheaper policies available, but for me it was more important to choose a company that I know and trust, and a policy that provided everything we might need.
For two of us (plus a couple of minor pre-existing health conditions) it cost about £55/$70 for 4 months of European cover. This includes £5million medical cover, £1000 cancellation cover (those heading to Europe by plane/from further afield may want to look at getting a higher amount of cancellation cover), and up to £500 baggage cover.
We also have separate gadget insurance, since we are travelling with cameras and laptops.
5. Shoe Spray
Bit of a random one, I know. But essential for those sweaty trainers, boat shoes and slip-ons after a day’s exploring (and also, for us, highly necessary for our climbing shoes post-boulder).
I rely completely on this particular deodorising shoe spray by Lemon Sole:
The magical little spray contains six potent essential oils, is super effective and long lasting, and helps look after your feet as an added bonus. It’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal to boot.
The scent is lemongrass and citronella; it reminds me so much of Balinese yoga retreats! And a damn sight better than the alternative sweaty pong.
My boyfriend can’t get by without it; well actually, he can, but not when I’m around!
6. Accident-proof speaker
If – like me – you’re at all clumsy or accident prone, you’ll know that travelling with gadgets can be a nightmare. It’s unusual actually, for me to make it through a trip without breaking something.
I’ve had my Ultimate Ears (UE) BOOM 2 Wireless/Bluetooth speaker since 2020, and it’s survived countless drops, rattles and rolls. It’s shockproof and waterproof. Even more impressively, it’s proven itself van life, motorbike trip and beach proof.
7. SunGod sunglasses
The ultimate customisable holiday eyewear; catering for both the causal beach fan, through to ski and snowboard lovers. SunGod are a carbon neutral company, and a member company of 1% For The Planet.
This means they donate 1% of their revenue yearly to sustainability-focused non-profits. Perfect for those who are trying to be a little more eco conscious.
And – above all – their sunglasses are fit as f*ck. Check them out if you don’t believe me.
8. Battery pack
Another fairly obvious essential, but worth a reminder; it’s never fun running out of power in the middle of a day’s adventuring, and having to put activities on pause to embark upon a frantic search for a plug socket.
I’ve been using the INUI 10000mAh 15W high speed power bank, which cost less than £20/$25 from Amazon. I’ll be entirely honest – I’m a sucker for appearances sometimes, and frankly I chose this power bank not for it’s specs, but for the fact that it has the most adorable little paw print design which lights up/flashes when charging.
I realise that’s a ridiculous reason to be swayed into a purchase. But then again, I’ve never claimed to be reasonable.
9. Apple AirTags
This is the only item on this list which I have not personally tested, and that’s for the obvious reason that I travelled to Europe in my van by ferry, and so had no need to let my luggage out of my sight at any point.
But for those travelling to Europe by air, I would highly, highly recommend investing in some (relatively cheap) Apple AirTags.
An AirTag is basically a small tracker disc that you attach to your luggage before checking it in at the airport. It links to Apple’s ‘Find My’ app on your smartphone (note: obviously make sure your phone travels in your hand-held, otherwise the purpose is somewhat defeated). This clever set-up lets you can track the co-ordinates of your luggage in real time, and even view it on a map.
You can also use the Precision Finding feature on the App to get directions to your luggage at the other side – essential given that most bags go missing at the departure or (in many cases) the destination airport.
This feature helps you find your bag amongst hundreds at the arrival airport, or at least ensures it can be found at the departure airport in the worse case scenario that it gets left behind.
Your luggage has never been more likely to go missing, and there is very, very little that is more frustrating. There’s no faster way to ruin a trip than having absolutely nothing you need – no clothes, shoes, toothbrush, gadgets…nothing but irritation, and the prospect of many hours spent on the phone to the airline and your insurance company.
A single AirTag comes in at around the $30 mark, and (for travelling families), a pack of four can be purchased online for just under $100. A pretty low price to pay for peace of mind, if you ask me.
10. Sports equipment
Bit of a vague one, but intentionally so. The reason I can’t get more specific, is that which sports equipment you should consider bringing to Europe largely depends upon you.
Europe has several incredible boulder spots (Fontainebleau, Albarracin and Magic Wood to name a select few), and we are both rock lovers…so for us, we would’t have dreamed of embarking on a European trip without bouldering gear (including a crash pad, since we have the luxury of travelling by van).
We also brought along a Fit Beast resistance band set (pictured with boulder gear) to keep us conditioned during the boulder-free stretches of travel.
But for you it might be a surf board to hit the waves in Biarritz or Nazare, or hiking boots to hit up the Dolomites (to be fair, we have these too)!
Or a mountain bike or skis, if you’re heading to the Alps.
Or even a yoga mat, if that’s your thing. I use mine daily, and even took it with me when I motorbiked across Vietnam.
And if you’re not usually the sporty type, what better time to try something new? Maybe don’t pack your own stuff (nobody wants to be that guy with “all the gear and no idea”, after all), but certainly make use of rental facilities and try a new activity where available.
11. Mosquito spray
Europe has mosquitos.
It’s funny how everybody responds differently to mosquitos. Personally, I find the mozzies in Europe to be worse than Asia, but drastically less horrendous than in the Caribbean. But you might have a whole different set of mozzie sensitivities!
Best to be on the safe side.
I use Jungle Formula when I can find it, because it has a really good duration of action, and doesn’t make me stink (the scent is pleasantly tolerable, if not actually pleasant).
12. Boondocker Recycled 26L Backpack from Passenger
Yes, a very specific requirement, and of course other backpacks will do just fine. But I like this one.
It’s large enough to stash away everything you might need for a day’s exploring; has a handy laptop sleeve to keep my MacBook separate; it’s water resistant, and it’s made of recycled materials.
It’s also very bloody cute; the ‘Multi-Primary’ is my favourite, with its mix of vivid primary colours.
Giving very Euro-trip vibes!
13. Comfortable slip-ons
Havianas…or Birkenstocks…Crocs, Supergas or Roxy.
Whatever sandals, flip flops or slip-ons you find comfortable to sight-see in all day.
Pick something that won’t give you a blister, over something that just looks cute. Functionality before form, people!
Obviously this one doesn’t apply to ski holidays.
14. International SIM card, and/or a portable wifi hotspot
In our case, we travel with the same Huawei E5785-330 portable wifi hotspot that we were already using the in UK, and that I’ve already mentioned here:
It cost less than £100/$125, and we haven’t found a spot yet in the UK or Europe where we didn’t have at least at least a bit of signal. Couple of spots where it was annoyingly slow, but nowhere with nothing! And we do a lot of wilderness park ups.
We use the ‘SMARTY’ Sim card which came in the box with the device, and have a plan that gives us unlimited data for £20/month. This applies to Europe and the UK, as well as some other countries.
Obviously, if you’re not traveling Europe by van, you may understandably find a local SIM card to be a more sensible option than a portable wifi hotspot, and – also obviously – the best SIM to pick depends what country or countries you’re heading to. If in doubt, ask a local!
15. Reusable water bottle
I wish I could share a picture of mine, but heartbreakingly I left it at the last house/pet-sit I did in England before catching the ferry to France. I was honestly so gutted – I loved that water bottle, and I’m 100% one of those weirdos who gets abnormally attached to the odd random object that they’ve had a while.
In fact, the longer I’ve owned an object, the more precious it becomes to me. Like, I’d honestly rather lose a brand new item of expensive clothing, than a ratty old T-shirt I’ve had for ten years. I’m that weirdo.
Anyway, here’s the closest approximation I could find to my beloved dearly departed water bottle, and I’ll be ordering it shortly. It’s not the same brand as mine was, but it’s practically identical (had mine so long the branding all wore off…*nostalgic sigh*)
Why a reusable water bottle, for Europe?
Because it’s cheaper. It’s a tonne more environmentally friendly than reusable plastic bottles. And a bunch of places all over Europe have safe to drink tap water, these days. Just ask around.
16. Eye mask and ear plugs
I’m rather fancy, in my eye mask choices; mine’s jasmine silk, black with stars on. Coupled with a set of Quies wax ear plugs, I sleep soundly, even when we’re pulled up in one of the dodgier, noisier French Aires.
My boyfriend’s eye mask (donated by his little sister) is rather less alluring, and so – for your viewing pleasure – I’ve uploaded a picture of it, below.
Yup. That’s what I wake up next to in the morning.
F*cking horrific, isn’t it?
But it does the trick.
17. Lightweight shopping bag
Not just for grocery shopping; also super handy for spur-of-the-moment European flea market perusing, and last minute souvenir hunting.
Personally, I swear by carrying a couple of Seasalt Cornwall reusable foldaway bags in the van at all times, to avoid the need to grab plastics at the checkout. I’m especially loving this rather gorgeous foldaway canvas shopper in ‘Painted Blanket Watson Green’ (bit of an unnecessary mouthful, but the pattern is lush):
But yeah. Reusable shopping bags. Because throwaway plastic bags are for nobs 🙂
18. Hand sanitiser
Some of the places I’ve visited in Europe, you’d be forgiven for wondering what pandemic?
Because I’ve never – outside of mainland Europe – had quite so many housesit hosts plant enthusiastic double-cheek kisses on my vaguely horrified face, within seconds of meeting me.
Yes, it’s lovely and welcoming and yes, I do try to embrace the European way of life.
But bring hand sanitiser.
Especially bring hand sanitiser to France, because – right now at least – it’s difficult to find in the supermarkets.
19. Three tonnes of Mercedes Sprinter van
OK, this one’s not for everyone!
But if you want to really see and experience Europe in a truly unique, in-depth and raw way, you can’t do it better than by van.
A word of caution – just don’t hit up the Alps or the Pyrenees unless you’re sure your vehicle can handle it.
I have rolled backwards down at least one hill, and I can’t say I massively enjoyed it.
20. Medicine box
Because we are nothing if not practical here on VeryRealVet.com.
For Europe, prioritise the aforementioned mozzie spray (and ideally some steroid cream for when you inevitably get bitten anyway); anti-histamines; paracetamol and ibuprofen for when you get sunburnt or stung by an angry hornet; and aftersun.
It also never hurts to pack Immodium, and some activated charcoal tablets.
BONUS FEATURE: 5 things you really DON’T need to pack for Europe
- Packing cubes. Pointless waste of money; just smaller bags within your big bag.
- An umbrella, if you’re visiting southern Europe in late spring, summer or autumn. Save the space for something you’ll use more than once.
- A fanny pack, slashproof bag, or RFID blocking travel wallet. You’re visiting Europe, dude. Take a normal backpack and keep your wits about you – you’ll be fine.
- A luggage scale. I was surprised to see a couple of travel blogs legitimately advocating that people reserve space in their luggage for a literal portable scale with which to weigh their luggage. Weigh your bag before you leave (like everybody else does), and allow a little dead space for the souvenirs you’ll inevitably purchase at a flea market, or that adorable artisan pottery shop.
- Travel fan. Because sitting in the shade is for free.
Where would you like to go next?