Your First European Vacation: Travel Checklist

A woman and man look at a map while on a train

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Even if this is not your first European trip, there are probably a few things you need to do in the days before you leave. As you hurry to get ready, it is easy to forget things. And, there may be things like preparation for emergencies that you might not consider. Use this checklist to make sure you've got everything ready to go.

Flights and Accommodations

Copies of your travel itinerary, flight and accommodation reservations, and car rental reservation are good to have in both hard copies and on your phone. Consider the following:

  • Do you have your flights and accommodation all booked? Double check the dates.
  • Is your name spelled exactly as it is on your passport? Some airlines will charge you for a name change. TSA will also be comparing your passport and boarding pass to make sure the names are the same.

Transport Between Cities

Decisions need to be made before you leave. You'll want to price out the cost of bus, train, air and car travel between cities in order to make the best choice. You can find schedules and costs online. When you travel in a country where you are not familiar with the language, finding out this information may be more difficult. Consider the following:

  • How are you getting between cities on your trip? Are you hiring a car? Have you checked the prices of rail travel? It might be cheaper.
  • Do you need a rail pass to save money? There are several types of rail passes depending on how extensive your travel will be.

Maps, Apps, and Tours

Once you land in Europe, you'll need to have a plan in place for sightseeing and touring. Again, this can easily be researched online when you are home in familiar territory. You can make phone calls easily and email tour companies to ask questions. Consider these issues:

  • Are you planning on exploring all the cities by yourself or are you considering guided tours? Book your tours before you arrive on websites such as Viator. A walking tour on your first day is always a good option to get to know a city center. A bus tour providing an overview of a city can be helpful your first day if you think you'll be exploring a wider area during your stay.
  • If you're going to explore by yourself, you will probably want a map. The tourist office in most cities will give you a map for free but you'll get a more detailed one if you buy one in advance from your local bookstore.

If you have a smartphone, remember to download your maps and apps before you go. Both Google Maps and HERE WeGo maps have offline modes. Google and HERE WeGo have different strengths—Google's maps are better, but HERE's offline mode is more reliable, and you can download larger areas.

Make Copies Just in Case

Just like you back up all your critical files on your computer, you'll want to make at least two photocopies of your itinerary, your passport information page (the one with your picture and passport number) and copies of your credit cards showing the numbers. Give one copy to someone you trust at home and can get a hold of any time of day or night. Keep a copy of your passport and credit card information with you but in a different place than the original items.

Call Your Credit Card Companies

A couple of days before you leave for your vacation, call the 800 number on the back of the credit cards you're taking with you. Make sure the credit card company knows you will be charging things in different countries on your vacation. Otherwise, your credit card company may put a hold on your card triggered by unusual expenses in unusual places.

Write Down Medication Details

Certainly, you know to carry your medications with you rather than packing them in your checked luggage but there is more to consider.

  • Make sure you have the medicines themselves, but also record the scientific name of the medicine. Just because a US doctor prescribes something with a generic name doesn't mean you can replace that medicine in Europe. If you know the scientific name of the drug you're taking, at least the name of the active ingredient, you have some chance of replacing a medicine you've forgotten, or need in an emergency.
  • Keep the list in a safe place and give a copy to someone.


Consider a trial run at packing for your trip. You may think your luggage carries more than it actually can. Also, weigh any suitcase that seems to be bordering on "too heavy" per your airline's regulations or any local European airlines you may be planning on taking once you are in Europe.

  • Get everything together in one place and start your packing. Eliminate anything heavy that you may not use. Remember, you're going to a place with lots of opportunities to buy what you need. See more Packing Tips.
  • Check your carry-on baggage against your carrier's rules; some budget airlines allow smaller carry-ons than major airlines (Ryanair is one example).

Final Check

Here's a final check-off once you have planned and packed. Ensure you have these things before you go out the door.

  • Passport
  • Tickets
  • Car rental agreements
  • Hotel reservation receipts
  • Credit cards
  • Chargers for your phone and other gadgets and electrical adapters
  • Medications (and prescriptions, if required)
  • Addresses/password information
  • Clothes
  • Emergency phone numbers