I’ve made this packing list for the person who, like we did, is going to travel through Central Europe by train and needs to know what to put in a carry-on.
This is not a backpacker’s list. This is a list for someone who is a bit more mature (30s or early 40s) and will want to enjoy a nice dinner out here and there. It’s for someone who wants to blend in and be able to walk into an art gallery, techno club, beer hall, or dive bar, and not look like a tourist or wannabe travel influencer.
Fashion is serious in Central Europe. And I don’t mean in the “We take it seriously” way of Paris or NYC. I mean, it’s not cute or fun — this is not Los Angeles or Charleston. It’s armor against a world that can be cold and cruel. They’ve been through it, and they’re not wearing pink sundresses.
You’ll notice Vienna isn’t in here. I’ve decided to make a separate packing list for Vienna later on because the vibe of that city is somewhat different than the rest of the cities we visited, and usually one either stops in Vienna for just a few days before moving on to more affordable destinations, or spends their entire vacation there. For now, I’m going to focus on the rest of the stops on your train tour: Prague in the Czech Republic, Budapest in Hungary, Bucharest in Romania and — if you’re continuing on to Istanbul in Turkey — this will cover that too. (I’ll do a separate packing list for Istanbul in the next few weeks.)
(RELATED: Here’s where to shop in Prague.)
Overall, my guidelines are simple: pack pretty much all casual stuff. If you love wearing heels, by all means, bring a fierce pair, but you certainly don’t have to — they will make navigating cobblestone streets impossible. Stick with the neutral colors: black, white, brown, olive, and then maybe add a pop of your favorite color. Think architectural and conservative for your silhouettes – no short shorts, low cut shirts, or frilly ruffles and sweet flowers.
And if you want to do some shopping before you go, you can’t go wrong with the style of these brands: Study NY, Nicholas K., Raeburn, A.BCH, Oh Seven Days (which is based out of Istanbul), or Barbara I Gongini. ADAY also offers a packable capsule with five of the items I list below.
For the Plane (or Train)
- T-shirt – I really like the drape of Alternative Apparel’s organic cotton and recycled polyester t-shirt, and it comes in 6 neutral colors, or there’s the wide selection at Outerknown.
- Black yoga leggings – I recommend these. They’re versatile and comfy.
- Knit hoodie – Try one from Nicholas K., Naadam, or a merino wool hoodie that you can also wear on a hike.
- Wool socks – I like lightweight merino wool socks for long plane rides, because they wick away sweat and odor.
- Sneakers – You’ll want ones that you can wear in the city and on an easy hike if that’s your style. If you don’t already own some Converse or Vans, buy some secondhand.
- Bum bag – I like hip packs for traveling because it’s handy to have my wallet and passport and phone strapped right to my chest, rather than in my backpack, especially in a touristy place like Prague. Check out my roundup of hip bags.
- City backpack – The Danish brand grünBAG (which I partnered with to come up with a great traveling backpack called the Alden) does some excellent street-style backpacks that would fit right in, or get one of these more sleek backpacks.
In Your Suitcase
- Another t-shirt – in black, white, grey, or with an edgy graphic. Try Groceries Apparel
- Tank and/or crop top – Find some at Reformation, Alternative Apparel, A.BCH, and Outerknown.
- Button down shirt – In white, black, blue or in an architectural graphic. Try Pause. Vetta, or Sourcery for washable silk blouses.
- Long-sleeved white tee – Cute enough to wear in the city, but also great for hiking. Get one from Ably, so that it resists stains.
- Sheath or shirt dress – Go for one that is past your knees so you can wear it to visit a Mosque. Try Sourcery, Barbara I Gongini, Elizabeth Suzann, or Filippa K.
- Leather leggings
- Destroyed blue jeans – Here’s my round-up of eco-friendly denim brands.
- Leather jacket
- Hobes shoes – They flat pack yet look chic on your feet.
- Black ankle boots OR Birkenstocks – depending on whether you’re visiting in the summer or during cooler seasons.
- Chunky belt
- Underwear and bras – Here’s my guide to packing just enough eco undies and bras.
- Sports bra
- Swimsuit – for the beautiful baths in Budapest and Istanbul.
- Pajamas – I like this brand because you can wear almost all of their PJs and loungewear also in public. I recommend getting either one with a tee, or one with a silk tank.
- Scarf – You can rent a scarf to cover your hair at the mosques in Istanbul, but why not just bring one of your own?
- Black sunglasses – Here’s my roundup of eco-friendly brands.
- Brimmed hat – When you’re a tourist, you spend a lot more time out in the sun than you think you will. I like this brand because it rolls up to fit in your suitcase.
- Rain jacket with hood by Marmot – This one folds up tiny.
- Crisp wool coat – If you’re visiting during a cooler season. Or pack a Uniqlo ultra light down jacket which comes with a stuff sack for your suitcase when you’re not using it.
In Your Toiletry Bag
- This might sound crazy, but you do not need to pack your makeup for Berlin, nor all your hair tools or any other beauty products. Embrace the freedom that comes with a mutual understanding that you have better things to do, and you’re worth more than the way you look.
- Argan oil – I can’t live without argan oil for making my hair shiny and smooth, plus sealing in moisture on my face after a shower.
- Makeup – red or burgundy lipstick, eyeliner, mascara
- Coola Tinted SPF BB cream – This is my absolute favorite tinted SPF cream
- Micellar water – I prefer Micellar water to face wash, especially when traveling. I like Yes to Cucumbers, which you can find in the travel size in your local CVS or Walgreens.
- Reusable cotton pads
- Deodorant – here are my favorites
- Mini hairbrush
- Hair elastics
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Multipurpose soap – this one by Akamai is amazing for shaving as well as cleansing.
- Soap box
- Shower cap
- Shaving razor
In Your Backpack
- Portable phone charging battery – These by Nimble are ethical and eco-friendly
- Earbuds – traditional jack for laptop/airplane console, and a dongle if you have the newest iPhone
- Camera and lenses, extra battery, battery charger, extra memory cards – I love my compact but powerful Fuji x-t10, with a wide angle lens for landscape, architecture, and room shots; and a 50 mm lens for portraits and food.
- Lens bag and camera bag
- Hand sanitizer – so you’re ready to pet a friendly stray dog or cat!
- Chico reusable bag with stuff sack
- Wide-mouth reusable coffee cup with sealable lid – Can be used for coffee, or also as a to-go container in a pinch for soup, fruit, snacks, etc.
- SPF chapstick
- Mini tube of SPF cream. It’s so great to have this in your backpack or purse at all times, because you’ll find yourself walking around a sunny city and think, oops! Should have put on sunscreen! Here are my favorites.
- Bamboo travel utensil set – so you don’t have to use disposable one in areas that have terrible or non-existent waste disposal. Make sure it’s plastic or wood (not metal) so it doesn’t get confiscated by airport security (whoops).
- Reusable straw – Most drinks don’t need straws, but mojitos and coconuts do!
- Reusable handkerchief – For your nose, or you can use it as a napkin.
- Travel pen with carabiner – so handy! I haven’t lost this pen in the past nine months, which is astounding.
- Portable pillow