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What to Pack for Student Weekend Trips Nearly Anywhere in Europe

by - Published June 2

Easy access to tons of destinations is one of the best parts of living in Europe as a student. When else in your can you take quick study abroad weekend trips to fabulous international destinations? Yes, a weekend in Florence or 36 hours in Lisbon is as fun as it sounds—if not more.

group of friends sitting together

But as you’re preparing to study abroad and looking ahead to your bucket list for student weekend trips in Europe, you’re probably feeling a wee-bit overwhelmed and like you wish you could bring an entire shipping container full of your stuff just in case. 

(Totally normal, right?). 

But truth is, there’s an art to deciding what to pack for weekend student travel in Europe and what to leave behind. And we’re here to dish lesson 101—these packing tips will make sure all of your study abroad weekend trips go flawlessly (and if you need more tips just ask the Weekend Student Adventures’ travel gurus). Here’s our ultimate packing list for student weekend trips in Europe!

The essentials for student weekend trips in Europe

1. Backpack over suitcase

You need a small-ish weekend travel backpack. Backpacks are definitely the way to go for weekend travels because they are WAY more convenient and can save lots of time (and headaches). To start with, nothing screams tourist more than a rolling suitcase rumbling down a cobblestone street. Plus, most European cities have metros—this usually involves going up and down lots of stairs. Plain and simple, a weekend travel backpack is much easier to carry. 

Further, at the airport, flight attendants are much less likely to gate check a backpack and they usually don’t make you try to jam it into the impossibly small metal racks either. This means you don’t chance luggage getting lost, and you can save time once you get to you destination by bypassing baggage claim altogether.

The key is picking a weekend travel backpack for students that works for you. Paying a bit more to invest in a brand like Osprey or Patagonia is usually worth it because they are very durable, not to mention they often come with a waist strap (this saves you from sore shoulders by distributing the weight to your hips). They also have special designs that help keep your back from absolutely roasting which is especially key in summer. You really don’t need anything larger than a 30 liter backpack for student weekend trips in Europe (especially if you want to succeed at traveling on budget flights with hand luggage only). Find something with pockets that can be locked for extra security on the metros and at the hostel. 

[GoAbroad’s 2018 Study Abroad Gear Guide]

Woman posing for a pic in Amsterdam

Bonus: The Best Purse for Travel Abroad as a Student

When choosing a purse for study abroad, look for something that is cross body with a flap pocket. These are harder to swipe off your shoulder, and in crowded tourist attractions or on the metro, it’s easy to keep your hand on the flap to ensure no pickpockets can get at your valuables. Keep your purse on the front of your person at all time so you have extra eyes 👀👀👀 on it.

Pick something stylish yet versatile; the best purse for travel abroad can easily transition from day to night. Waterproofed leather is best for the inevitable rainy days you’ll experience during student travel in Europe! #notadesert

2. Pack primarily basics and layers

When it comes to choosing which clothes to pack for study abroad weekend trips, remember to keep it simple and think of light layers. This allows you to mix and match and to ensure you’re not too hot or too cold. Everything that makes it into your backpack should be something you absolutely love and feel comfortable in. Neutral colors like grey, white/cream, and black are your best friends, but be sure to add a couple accent pieces for some pops of color. Scarves and light jackets can help dress up or down an outfit, not to mention keep you appropriately warm or cold. 

Be sure to check the weather forecast before you leave to make sure you bring the right items. Nothing kills a trip more than feeling constantly uncomfortable in what you’re wearing. If rain is in the forecast, make sure your shoes can handle the wet and don’t forget the umbrella!

[Your New Study Abroad Checklist + Tips to Prepare]

For jewelry, the best option to keep everything organized and tangle free is to get some small plastic bags. These can easily be found on Amazon in a variety of sizes, or you can just stop by your local jeweler!

Your clothes packing list for weekend trips in Europe for college students should include:

  • 2 pairs of bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts, whatev!)
  • 3-4 tops
  • 1 nicer outfit for going out—this can use the shirts and pants you’ve already packed or be something entirely new
  • 1 pair of comfy pjs
  • 3-4 pairs of underwear & socks
  • a light jacket or sweater to wear if it gets cold
  • a cute scarf that goes with at least half the shirts
  • Summer caveat—Swap the pants and shirts for couple of dresses or tank tops. Dresses are the best because they look fancy but are SO comfortable.
Women celebrating in Florence, Italy

3. Get on board the packing cubes train

There are two types of people in the world: people who use packing cubes, and people who will eventually use packing cubes (because they’re great). Your student travel in Europe is the perfect excuse to hop on!

Packing cubes help you maximize the space in your backpack and keep everything organized with expandable packing cubes. The best ones come with a second zipper so you can pack them, and then compress them (similar to a rolling suitcase!). Packing cubes come in all shapes and sizes and can be used on everything from shoes, to electronics, to bulky sweaters and jeans.

To pack them group like items, like all the shirts, then roll them (the rolling is KEY), arrange them in the packing cube, and zip. Badabing, badaboom! It’s amazing how much space these save, plus it makes it so much easier to live out of your weekend travel backpack without having to constantly search for things!

4. Comfortable shoes ONLY

European cities are all very different from one another, but one thing they have in common is the amount of walking you’ll end up doing. Always bring at least two pairs of shoes for your study abroad weekend trips in case one gets wet or you get a blister (also always bring a couple band aids just in case). 

Boots are a great option because they have excellent support, look very stylish, and can easily fit padded insoles to keep your feet comfortable. Be sure to wear the bulkier pair on your travel days to save space in your backpack. If you are staying in a hostel, you might also consider packing a pair of flip flops for the shower.

Now is not the time to break in new shoes. Make sure you pack shoes that you’ve already established as comfortable, especially over a couple of hours and walked miles.

Your shoes packing list for weekend travel should include:

  • One pair for walking during the day 
  • One dress up pair for evenings out
  • One pair of flip flops for hostel showers (optional)
Friends on top of the hill

5. Keep the toiletries simple

Really prioritize what you might need for a weekend away, and if you’re traveling with friends, divvy up different group items to save on space. Try to bring toiletries that are not only travel sized, but can serve a dual purpose (like a hair straighter and curling iron in one). Bring multiple tiny toothpastes in your study abroad toiletry bag and then use them during your weekend travels as you go.

Find a good toiletry kit that can help keep all of your items organized and won’t take up too much space. The kind that lay very flat tend to work best and are a perfect fit for the front flap of your weekend travel backpack.

[Get More Great Travel Advice With GoAbroad’s Newsletter →]

Extra weekend travel toiletry tips for the ladies

Dry shampoo is a HUGE time saver—for a weekend, you can avoid having to wash and dry your hair (but still look great for all the photos you’ll end up taking #flawless). If you’re strapped for cash you can even make your own with cornstarch and some essential oils (lavender is my favorite).  Apply this mix with a makeup brush and forget squeezing a 3oz aerosol into your toiletries ziplock at the airport.  Also figure out a couple of hairstyles that look good on day two or three of washed hair. Twisting or braiding can work wonders, as can the messy bun and headbands are  your friend! 

Find the smallest possible container for things like face wash, moisturizer (with SPF of course), and foundation (or bb cream). Often eye cream containers or cases work best to give you just enough to use for the weekend. 

You might bring along your go-to makeup items instead of the whole kit and caboodle. Face powder, mascara, your eyebrow pencil, blush, eyeshadow, and lip color tend to do the trick. 

Your toiletries packing list for weekend student travel should include:

  • Shampoo/Conditioner/Soap
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • Deodorant and  body spray
  • Hair care products
  • Makeup (the essentials only)
  • Glasses, s, and eye solution
  • Necessary medicines
  • Sunscreen
  • A sick toiletry bag

6. Electronics

Of course you’ll want to bring your phone along (it’s basically your study abroad BFF, #amiright) and we highly recommend you have a European SIM card in it, too. This gives you easy access to data and navigating, and a tool to use in case of emergency. The best part? Based on current EU laws, a SIM card from another EU country must work without roaming in all other EU countries (so you won’t have to buy a new one every time you go on weekend trips in Europe for college students!). 

Be sure to pack an external charger that can handle multiple recharges in case your phone runs low on battery when you are out adventuring. They might be a bit bulkier and expensive, but it’s worth it. Pro tip: Invest in a converter that has multiple USB ports on it so you can charge everything at once while you sleep—both the charger itself AND your phone. External chargers usually take several hours to fully juice up again and being able to plug them and your phone in is key.

For some people, a camera is also necessary, but try to invest in one that has great quality without the bulk. DSLRs take gorgeous photos, but they are very heavy and cumbersome. Many mirrorless cameras are much more compact and take equally beautiful photos.

Foreigners enjoying local food

During student travel in Europe, be sure to bring the following electronics:

  • Smart phone and charger
  • External battery pack
  • Headphones
  • Camera (optional)
  • Tablet (optional)

In summary—

Here’s everything you need:

  • A ~30L backpack
  • A purse
  • Packing cubes
  • 2 pairs of bottoms 
  • 3-4 tops
  • 1 nicer outfit for going out
  • 1 pair of comfy pjs
  • 3-4 pairs of underwear & socks
  • A light jacket or sweater to wear if it gets cold
  • A cute scarf that goes with at least half the shirts
  • Shampoo/Conditioner/Soap
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • Deodorant and  body spray
  • Hair care products
  • Makeup (the essentials only)
  • Glasses, s, and eye solution
  • Necessary medicines
  • Sunscreen
  • A toiletry bag
  • Smart phone and charger
  • External battery pack
  • Headphones
  • Camera (optional)
  • Tablet (optional)

Other miscellaneous items to consider tossing in:

  • Umbrella
  • A book you’re reading
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Forms of identification (passport, driver license, ISIC student ID)
  • A deck of cards
  • Essential oils
  • A hat and your sunglasses
  • Your own half & half supply (because European coffee shops rarely offer it😭)

You (and your bag!) are ready for weekend trips in Europe for college students

Girl at the airport

Of course, you always need to make adjustments based on the season and your personal preferences, but follow these basic steps and you are all set for an epic European weekend. From the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower to the depths of the ancient Roman Colosseum, you’re bound to have an incredible summer or semester bee-bopping around the continent. 

KEEP READING: 8 Things to Leave Off Your Study Abroad Packing List

This article was contributed by , your go-to guide for experiencing fun, action-packed weekends all throughout Europe. WSA Europe’s trips go to Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Krakow, Prague, Barcelona, Budapest, and more fabulous cities, and we’ll show you how to have an epic trip and experience the city like a local.  You can even show off your independence on our self guided detours or take advantage of our AMAZING local guides on our guided weekend and week-long trips. If you have questions or find the idea of planning travel overwhelming we’re happy to help and will answer any travel questions you have at [email protected]

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