The Best Packing List For Study Abroad in Europe

The most dreaded to-do before any trip is packing, but packing for an entire semester abroad is on a whole other level. How do you pack your entire life into one checked bag and one carry-on?! Are you stressing? Don’t.Luckily for you, we’re here to go over everything you will need so you can feel calm and confident heading off onto your next grand adventure. After reading this packing list you will be prepared for anything that comes your way while studying abroad.  If you’re studying abroad in Europe this Fall, you’re likely arriving in late August or early September and heading back home in November or December. That means that you will go through multiple seasons during your time abroad and need to plan accordingly.In order to fit everything into your suitcases without overpacking and leaving space to shop, you need to be strategic. Think Marie Kondo – do your items spark joy? More realistically, do they need to make the trip across the pond with you?  We’ll get into that and more, so, without further ado, let’s get into the best study abroad packing list for Europe! 

Clothing Essentials

Let’s start with the basics. A good rule of thumb is to pack two weeks worth of socks and underwear. Next, take a mental note of your daily routine. What do you wear day to day–to class, to work out, or to lounge? Pack a few minimal outfits and follow the “capsule” rule- where every piece can be mixed and matched with each other, no matter what combination. For bottoms think “4, 3, 2” with four pants/jeans, three shorts, and two skirts. Leggings are also a travel godsend so make sure to pack at least three pairs–more if you plan to work out often.As far as tops go, you will need versatile pieces that are both comfortable and can be dressed up or down. In our experience, we have been set with five casual tops, four “going out” tops, and three basic tanks. Also it’s Europe, so you can’t forget about the dresses. Three casual sundresses and two nice dresses for wearing on your nights out should be included. There’s nothing like wandering around the cobblestone streets of Rome, stopping for a rooftop aperitivo, and feeling your dress flutter in the breeze. Lastly, don’t forget about pajamas. Pack a few options that can double up as casual shirts and leggings.Remember that you’re studying abroad in Europe! Although younger teenagers will wear athleisure around, most Europeans dress a bit nicer when they head out of the house. Basically wearing an oversized t-shirt and shorts is the equivalent of walking around with an American flag stamped on your forehead!  

Cold Weather Items

Europe in the late Fall (November-December) can be quite cold and unpredictable so start by packing warm layers and transitional pieces. Depending on where you’re studying and planning on visiting you may need to pack a winter jacket – but remember you can also purchase one while abroad! Grab a few layering accessories (that don’t take up too much space in your luggage) like a hat a scarf and light gloves. Other jackets you might want to include are a raincoat, a casual jacket (jean or leather), and a light cardigan. Pro tip: to save space on packing, wear your heaviest coat on the airplane. Next on the list is long sleeves and sweaters. Long sleeves are perfect layering options and transition from Fall to Winter, pack two. Be selective in packing sweaters, only two to four are recommended. Remember you’re going to want to shop!Some of you may be hesitating at packing these cold-weather items– sure southern Italy may never get too cold, but have you considered any trips you might be taking during the semester? Maybe your dream destination is the Swiss Alps? The UK? Even Paris get chilly in the fall! Having at least a few cold-weather items can open up the possibilities for all your travels abroad.


Let’s get some shoes. Many European cities have cobblestone streets that wreak havoc on your shoes. It will still be quite warm in Europe in September so a pair or two of cute and comfortable sandals should be on your list. If you insist on bringing heels, make sure they have a chunky heel and aren’t 5-inches tall – trust us you’ll never wear them. Also, remember to pack a pair of flip-flops. Whether you’re walking on a sandy beach or tiptoeing in a hostel shower, keep your feet protected. Don’t forget we will be transitioning into Fall so you’ll want to pack two pairs of boots or booties, one brown and one black. Like the song, make sure your boots are made for walking. They will need to make it through miles and miles of all-terrain; wet cobblestones, grassy hills, and sticky pub floors to name a few. Grab a pair of cute sneakers that won’t ruin your outfit, but will be comfortable enough for long days of walking. Lastly, pack a pair of athletic shoes. You could be hiking in the Austrian Alps or going on a particularly long walking tour of a beautiful city, and you’ll want your feet as comfortable as possible.


Bring only refillable travel-size shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste. You can buy full-sized items when you get to your destination, and then use the travel size for your weekend trips. Ladies, try to condense your make-up bag to only the necessities and remember most European cities have Sephoras and other stores that will have many of your favorite shampoos, facial creams, or replacements if you run out of anything. The more space you have for clothing and shoes, the better.Hairdryers and other grooming tools? Leave them at home. If you straighten your hair every single day, buy an iron in your host city (or Amazon) that is meant for a European outlet. If you’re still thinking of bringing your one from home, make sure you have a good power converter since appliances in the US-run on a different electrical output than European ones. We’ve blown enough fuses in old apartments and have learned this the hard way. RIP hair wand circa 2018. Some electronics are dual voltage which will say something like 120V-240V, which means you can simply use an outlet adaptor and don’t require a converter. Exceptions: deodorant and specialty hair products. If you have a specific deodorant you use back home, we would advise bringing a full size. European markets sometimes have limited deodorant products. Also if you found the perfect hair curling serum or leave-in conditioner that you use every day, pack it. Check the countries Sephora website to see if they stock it in your new home base.


Must Haves:
  • Phone + Charger
  • Laptop + Charger
  • Universal Adapter
  • Portable Charger
  • Luggage Scale
  • Noise Canceling Headphones
  • Small Speaker


Forgo bringing a medium or large-sized purse and opt instead for a travel backpack and a small crossbody purse. Those two will keep you covered in any situation. For traveling in comfort, pack a travel neck pillow and a small foldable blanket for those long plane, train, and bus rides. Pack a pair of cheap sunglasses or buy new ones abroad, but don’t pack expensive designer sunglasses. They probably won’t make it to the end of your trip. A reusable water bottle will definitely come in handy – stay hydrated in an eco-friendly way. If you have space in your luggage a quick-dry towel is helpful, but can also be bought abroad.An often missed opportunity is to bring some small “homey” items to decorate your new space. Bring printed pictures of your friends and family to hang up in your new room and feel a little more connected to back home. Pack a college t-shirt repping your home university or your favorite pair of sweats. Small sentimental items can go a long way if you start to feel a little homesick.

Packing Light

Keep in mind, a mantra if you will, “pack light.” You might reinvent yourself on the inside in Europe as the confident, world traveler you will become. However, it’s highly unlikely your entire taste in clothing and activities will change. So when deciding whether or not to pack something, think about this: If it is a staple in your wardrobe back home, it will probably be a staple in your wardrobe abroad. Pack it! If you’ve only worn something a few times, it’s uncomfortable, or it doesn’t fit, but you think it could work in Europe–don’t pack it. Edit down to your must-haves.Another main reason for packing light? You’re going to shop. End of Season Sales and new fall/winter items are going to beckon you from each of your host cities–and you know you’re going to want to go home with a leather jacket or a new pair of shoes to remember your time abroad. Take some time to think about what souvenirs you might want to buy in Europe like a bathing suit from Greece or a trenchcoat from London. If you plan on buying a clothing item as a souvenir, save space in your luggage and don’t bring a similar item with you.

Final Thoughts

Here’s the thing. Only you know your personality and needs. If you feel anxious about not packing enough clothes or you feel like you will get bored with just the basics or homesick for your fun pieces back home, consider buying a second checked bag. It might be a good option for you if the contents inside add up to more than 50$-100$ bag fee. If you are considering this, make sure your second luggage is a duffel or a bag made for smaller weekend trips, so when it’s empty it can be squished down and fit comfortably in your new place. Plus, you can easily put it on top of your large roller bag to walk around with ease. Trying to roll around three suitcases through an airport and train station–not a good look. Lastly, now you’ve got the perfect travel-sized piece of luggage for your weekend adventures all over Europe.

Packing Checklist for Girls:

Packing Checklist for Guys: