This ultimate checklist for travel to Europe is a result of my pre-travel planning mania.

I know that there are many travelers who prefer to fly by the seat of their pants – but I’m not one of them! I like to say that I am a type A planner and a type B traveler. I do all my planning and stressing ahead of time because it helps me to relax when I arrive.

We have traveled to Europe multiple times. Read about our most recent trip to France here!

Paris is gorgeous. Luxembourg gardens is one of the prettiest parks in Paris. Before you plan your Europe trip take a look at this checklist for travel to Europe.

Hope this checklist for your trip to Europe helps YOU to have a wonderful and easy vacation!


Let’s talk about the most important thing first. Your health! You certainly won’t enjoy seeing the world if you aren’t feeling well! My husband and I are midlife travelers and health becomes an ever more important consideration as we age. Even if you are a younger traveler you should think about any medications that you might take both over the counter and prescription.

Health checklist for your trip to Europe

  • Discuss your travel plans with your doctor and get the green light for the trip you intend to take.
  • If you take medication, fill your prescriptions before you depart. Be sure to bring enough to last through the entire time that you intend to be gone.
  • Ask your doctor for a letter with the dosages and scientific names of your medications. Generic names vary and might not be translatable. You don’t think you will lose your medication, but things happen! Bring this list with you on the off-chance that you need to replace something while you are abroad.
  • Bring your necessary medications in your carry-on luggage. Don’t pack them in your checked luggage.
  • We bring small amounts of non-prescription medications with us as well. Obviously, you can find everything you might need anywhere in Europe, but do you really want to waste vacation time buying Tylenol or Imodium?
  • Bring an extra pair of glasses and extra contact lenses.
  • Oh, and if you need them the way I do – don’t forget your reading glasses! I always have a pair or three (or four) along with me.

Make sure your Passport is Ready to go before your trip to Europe

  • Don’t have a passport? Apply for it at least 3 months before your trip. It will probably arrive sooner but you don’t want to cut it too close.
  • If you already have a passport check the expiration date. It’s best if your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your stay so go ahead and renew your passport if it expires too soon.
  • If you travel a lot make sure that there are there enough pages left in your passport for this particular trip.
  • Make sure that your airline tickets have exactly the same name that is on your passport. Check the spelling.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

  • Consider signing up for this State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollent Program. This will give you updates about any safety concerns in your destination country, keep you informed of natural disasters, and help your family members get in touch with you in case of an emergency.

Global Entry

  • Consider signing up for Global Entry. Be aware that this can be a long process. You sign up online and after you receive conditional approval you will need to go to an enrollment center at an international airport for an interview. The cost is $100 and it will be valid for 5 years.

Should you buy Travel Insurance?

When we were younger we traveled without travel insurance and rarely gave it a thought. Now we almost always buy insurance for our independent travels. It gives us peace of mind. With the world being as unpredictable as it is I would recommend travel insurance for travelers of all ages.

NOTE: If you are traveling as part of a tour group you will typically be required to purchase travel insurance.

There are 6 types of travel insurance that you will want to consider: rental car collision/damage, trip cancellation or interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, lost baggage insurance, travel accident insurance, and medical insurance including emergency evacuation and transportation.

  • Check to see what your current health or homeowners insurance would cover in the case of an emergency.
  • Does the credit card that you will be using to pay for airline tickets and accommodations have travel insurance? If so, make sure that you understand the terms and exactly what it would cover.
  • Do you still feel under-insured? Buy travel insurance.

Paperwork, Copies, and other Details to add to your Checklist for Travel to Europe

There are certain documents that you will want to have copies of when you travel. You will probably never need these copies! However if you do experience theft or loss having copies of your important papers will make your life SO much easier.

Make two file folders with copies of your important documents. Take one with you and leave one with a designated person at home. Some people prefer that file folder they take with them be on your phone. Just take photos of your important documents and keep them in a folder on your phone that is NOT named something like important documents.

It goes without saying that you should keep the original passports, credit cards, and documents separate from the copies, but I’m saying it anyway.

Don’t throw your originals in the file folder with your copies! Keep the originals on your person or in a very safe place.

In summary:

  • Designate a friend or family member to keep copies of your important documents at home. This should be someone that you can easily get in touch with if necessary.
  • You might want to have both hard copies and/or phone copies of every document that you might need.
  • Keep the copies separate from the actual documents! Do not store everything together.

Which important documents should you copy?

  • Passport information page (the one with your photo and passport number.)
  • Credit and debit card information with the card numbers and phone numbers. I just make a copy of the front and back of the cards we will be using.
  • Your health insurance card, auto insurance card, and if you have purchased travel insurance make sure that you have that your agreement with you as well.
  • All reservations, car rental agreements, receipts for tours that you have booked, etc.
  • Hard copies of your airline boarding passes aren’t super necessary anymore, but I’ve been told by airline workers that they can be helpful if you get lucky enough to be upgraded at the gate, or if you are unlucky enough to have a cancelled flight.

Other paperwork you should consider having with you as you travel to Europe

  • Double check the dates of all reservations, airline, hotel, car rentals, train reservations and bring all the paperwork that you might have with you.
  • Make sure you have email communication with hotels and car rentals on your phone.
  • Your itinerary. Include dates, phone numbers, addresses of accommodations, methods of transportation and tickets or agreements that might apply. Bring this information on the plane with you in case you are delayed and need to inform your hotel or car service.
  • information about tours and activities, etc.
  • Make a list of valuables you are bringing (mostly electronics and cameras) along with serial numbers makes and models. This will be helpful for your insurance company in case anything is lost or stolen.
  • Hard copies of your airline boarding passes aren’t super necessary anymore, but I’ve been told by airline workers that they can be helpful if you get lucky enough to be upgraded at the gate, or if you are unlucky enough to have a cancelled flight.
The bouquinistes are a highlight of a trip to Paris. Checklist for travel to Europe

Money and Credit Cards for Your European Trip

  • On your European travel checklist one of the most important things is to call your bank and credit card companies a week or so before you depart in order to inform them of where and when you will be traveling. This will prevent a fraudulent transaction hold from being put on your accounts.
  • When you call the bank ask about transaction fees and find out if there is a daily limit on the amount you can withdraw from an ATM.
  • Make sure that your cards have a chip and PIN. These cards are finally becoming more common here in the US, but they are already standard in Europe and many transactions will require a PIN.
  • The best way to get cash in most of Europe is with your debit card at an ATM machine. Don’t use your credit card at an ATM machine because the withdrawal fees and cash advance interest rates are very high.
  • Credit cards can be used to pay for rental cars, most hotels, and some, but definitely not all, restaurants.
  • We like to have backups of credit and debit cards just in case one is lost or stolen or demagnetized.
  • Should you get Euros (or other local currency) before you go? It is not necessary and the exchange rate and fees at your local bank will be high. There are typically ATM’s in the airport that you can get cash from upon arrival. That said: I can’t lie, we usually bring about 50 or 100 Euros with us. It gives us enough to pay a taxi or grab a bite to eat without having to drag our jet-lagged selves around looking for an ATM as soon as we get to our destination.
  • Check out the exchange rate before your departure so that you have a better idea of what you are actually spending!

Reservations and Itinerary Planning

  • I suggest making reservations for accommodations well in advance of your departure especially if you are going to be in Europe during peak or shoulder season.
  • Check into reservations for major attractions. Many museums or attractions now require advance reservations due to the large volume of tourists flooding them so take time to check this out. In places where reservations aren’t required they still might save you from standing in long lines.
  • Are there any big events or holidays at your destination during the dates you will be there? These could have an impact on your travel plans.
  • If you would like to hire a popular local guide you will want to reserve in advance.
  • Do you have your heart set on a special restaurant? Check to see if you can make a reservation. Some of the most popular restaurants in the bigger cities fill up their reservations months in advance.
  • Make reservations in advance for special activities such as cooking classes, food tours, or early entrance tours. You would be surprised at how quickly some of these things fill up.
  • Print copies of all of these reservations and bring with you. Have a copy on your phone as well.

Transportation – What to Add to Your Checklist for Travel to Europe

You will want to decide in advance how you will get around while in Europe. There are great public transportation options! Do some research and figure out which is the most convenient and price effective, trains, planes, rental cars, bus…

We have used almost all forms of transportation while in Europe but we particularly love the ease of using trains. We also enjoy having a rental car so that we can explore on our own – but only in certain areas…NOT the big cities.


  • If you will be driving while in Europe double check the expiration date of your drivers license! We have actually gone to Europe with an expired driver’s license. Learn from our mistakes! Checking our driver’s license is one of the top things on our checklist for Europe travel!
  • Get an International Driver’s Permit. This is basically a translation of your driver’s license. Although they are not necessary in every country, they are easy and inexpensive to get through the AAA and it won’t hurt to have one along with your regular driver’s license.
  • If you will be driving and you don’t speak the language of the country you will be visiting then please, please take some time before you go to familiarize yourself with the road signs you might see!
  • Learn about the driving customs and rules in the various countries where you will be driving.
  • Don’t consider driving in most of large cities of Europe.
  • Have your information from the car rental company handy along with the local numbers. Our rental car once broke down on the Autostrada in Italy about an hour outside of Rome. After a call to the rental car agency (hertz in this case) a tow truck quickly arrived and we had a new car and were back on the road within a couple of hours. (OK, we did have to ride in the broken down car on top of the tow truck, but that is a story for another day.)
  • Can you drive a standard? If so you will find it easier and cheaper to rent a car in Europe. Automatic vehicles are available at the larger rental agencies but they are less common and more expensive.

Trains and other forms of public transportation

We love riding the trains in Europe and find it extremely relaxing. The train systems can get you to most of the larger cities and they are mostly pleasant and easy to use.

  • Tickets for regional routes can be purchased after you arrive. However if you want to take one of the high speed trains on a popular route you should purchase in advance.
  • My favorite website to help you learn about using the trains in Europe is the man in seat 61. He is the best for information about European train travel.

Have a general idea of how you will be getting from place to place, but don’t stress over it! Public transportation is excellent and much of this can be figured out after you arrive.

Sometimes it is cheaper and quicker to fly from city to city especially if you are going to destinations that are far apart. Check out some of the budget airlines to compare prices and look at routes.

Download any apps that might come in handy on your trip to Europe

Seriously, there are apps for everything! Definitely add downloading a few apps to your checklist for travel to Europe. Grab these before you leave in case the wifi isn’t great where you are when you arrive!

  • I highly recommend Rick Steves Audio Europe which has some great free downloadable audio tours of many of the major sights in a variety of European cities. We have used these many times and they are always great.
  • A language translator app is always a good idea. Google translate is the one we use most often. A translator app is especially helpful at restaurants.
  • Each airline has its own app. Download the ones you will need.
  • Food and restaurant apps such as The Fork or Spotted by Locals. We also look into restaurant apps specific to the city or area where we will be traveling.
  • You might be able to find and download some area specific destination apps, both for specific cities and countries.
  • Download the maps you might need especially if you are going to try to only use wifi with your cell phone.
  • Uber or Lyft are available in most European cities.
  • Most of the larger European cities have apps for their public transit system. Download the ones you might need.

Download any books or entertainment that you might want before you go.

  • I have my travel guides on my kindle on my phone so that I can quickly reference anything I might need.
  • Download books to read on planes and trains.
  • The in air entertainment systems don’t always work on an airplane. Think about downloading movies for your flights.


  • Bring an adaptor – An adaptor simply allows you to plug the flat two pronged outlets that we use in the USA into the two round prongs plugs that they use in Europe. Adaptors are inexpensive and lightweight so bring a handful.
  • Most appliances now are dual voltage and can be used without a convertor. Convertors are bulky, heavy, and expensive. If you have an appliance that isn’t dual voltage you might be better off purchasing a new one rather than a convertor!


First of all – don’t worry. Most of Europe is very safe.

However, things can happen and it is always wise to take some common sense precautions. Pickpocketing and petty theft are the types of crimes that you are most likely to encounter. Be particularly watchful for pickpocketing on crowded public transportation and crowded touristy areas.

  • Decide how you will keep your valuables safe while you walk around town. I carry a small, crossbody, zippered purse. The one I like is a Baggallini. It has a reinforced strap and so many zippers and and pockets and zippered pockets within zippered pockets that half the time *I* can hardly get to my own money and credit cards! It does make me feel secure from pickpocketing though!
  • It is not recommended that men carry their wallets in their back pockets. Put it in a jacket pocket or don’t carry one at all. My husband leaves his in the room and puts just enough money to get us through the day in a jacket pocket or a front pants pocket.
  • Rick Steves recommends using a money belt which you wear underneath your clothing. Some people like using a neck pouch which is worn around your neck under your shirt.
  • If you are using a backpack don’t leave your phone or anything valuable in the exterior pockets. Consider using a little lock or a twist tie on the zipper so that it is not easily opened.
  • Put valuables that are left in your hotel room in the safe if one is available. If there is not a safe put valuable items out of sight.
  • Pay attention at the ATM. Don’t let people nearby see your PIN. Don’t let someone “help” you.
  • Have some knowledge of the most common scams being used in the places you are going. Remember that many scams involve distraction. For example, one common scam is for a young person, usually a non-threatening young girl, to approach and ask you to sign a petition. Unfortunately while she is distracting you someone else is picking your pocket. Add doing a quick google check of common scams in the countries you will be visiting to your checklist for travel to Europe.
  • Beware of buying knock-off items from the street venders. In some European countries it is illegal to purchase these items as well as to sell them and you could be fined.

Using Your Cell Phone

I’m not techy at all. There are probably cheaper ways to use your phone in Europe. I’m just going to touch on the simplest as this is not an area of expertise for me!

  • The easiest option to be able to use your phone while overseas it to use your carriers international plan. We simply call AT&T and ask them to put one of our phones on the international day pass. It is $10 per day and allows us to use our phone exactly like we would at home. it gives us unlimited calls, unlimited texting, and we don’t have to search for wifi. The feature we probably use the most while traveling is the navigation system with walking directions turned on. With AT&T if you don’t use cellular data on a particular day you don’t get charged.
  • Of course you can choose to only use your phone when you have wifi and keep the cellular function turned off. This is what we do with our second phone since we only put one on our carriers international plan.
  • The most important thing is to make sure that you aren’t accidentally paying exorbitant roaming charges.

Consider Your Comfort:

  • As you select your accommodations and think about where to go take into consideration what you really need to feel good. Then do your best to make sure you have it. For me? I am a light sleeper. A quiet room is important to me. I read a lot of reviews about the places I might be staying and ask a lot of questions. Hotels want you to be happy! So, what is it that you need? A good breakfast before you head out in the morning? Then make sure you stay somewhere that provides one. The point is to know yourself and what you need to sleep and function well.
  • Two words. Comfortable. Shoes. I can’t express the importance of this. You will be walking a lot in Europe. Bring comfortable shoes. I love cute shoes, y’all. If you look hard enough you can find something that allows you to both look cute and be comfortable. But choose comfort over appearance. Nobody is happy when their feet hurt.
  • Buy those comfortable shoes in advance and wear them enough to break them in before you go!
  • Bring band-aids, moleskin, whatever you might need for blisters. Have I mentioned that nobody is happy, even in Europe, when their feet hurt?
  • Check the weather before you go and bring appropriate clothing. I have been freezing in Florence in June because of not heeding my own advice.
  • Bring some type of rain gear. You will still want to be out and about even if it is rainy and you don’t want to be wet and miserable.
  • Consider packing light especially if you will be switching locations often and taking public transportation. . If you will be taking trains you will need to be able to lift your luggage in to over head bins.

What You Should Learn Before You Go…Add some knowledge to your Checklist for Travel to Europe!

In my opinion it is very important to do some research before you go. I know that not everyone is a reader, but at least talk to some people, check out some travel guides or blog posts, and know a bit about the food and culture of the place you are going. This is an area that some people overlook that I think is a vital part of your checklist for European travel.

  • Guidebooks. I think Rick Steve’s books are great for the first time traveler. They also contain really good self-guided walking tours which we have used on many occasions.
  • Learn a bit about the customs of the place you are going. You certainly don’t have to know everything and you will be forgiven a lot because of your foreign status. However, I believe that we have a responsibility to be good guests, which means knowing what is considered polite behavior as well as adjusting our expectations. Remind yourself that different than what you are used to is just different, not better or worse.
  • You will probably want to know a little about the food and dining customs of the places you will be visiting. It will help you to discover the best of the local cuisine as well as help you to not be caught off guard by local procedures.
  • Discover the tipping customs of the places you plan to travel and do as the locals do.
  • Learn a few words of the language, the polite ones, Please, Thank you, Excuse Me, and a few essential phrases such as, “where is the bathroom?” And most importantly, “I would like a glass of wine, please.”

I really hope that this checklist for travel to Europe will help you to plan your trip! I would love to hear how your vacation went and if there is anything else that you think I should add to this long list!

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The Ultimate checklist for travel to Europe!

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