In the old days traveling to Germany meant you could pack 5 bags and have clothes for every eventuality (invited to a Costume Ball? covered…. hiking in the Alps? covered…. A day at the spa? got it). Today you are far more restricted by luggage allowance and increasing costs per bag. And honestly… who wants to schlepp all that luggage?? Worst of all, I found out the hard way that you can’t fit THAT many suitcases into the trunk of a small European car. Fortunately, I have a thing for lists. This includes making a fairly detailed traveling to Germany checklist every time I go. And I adjust it with each new experience so that when it comes time to haul out my suitcase, I know exactly what to pack for Germany.
Now obviously, everyone will have different needs when they travel. If you are visiting family, you won’t need to worry so much about too many toiletries or multiple outfits (presumably, you can borrow shampoo or wash clothing). People on a tour need to ensure that everything needed is in their bag, because there may not be time to stop by the drugstore.
This Traveling to Germany checklist leans more toward what women need than men (sorry guys) but it’s general enough for everyone to check out. One of the great things is that you don’t need more for a 2-3 week visit than you need for one. You can (hopefully) do some washing in between. To make things even more interesting, WHEN you go to Germany is important. You won’t need those tank tops unless it’s July. I’ve broken it down by type of thing, and I also recommend whether you should carry it on or pack it into the suitcase.
What to Pack for Germany
Keep in mind, that this is just a guideline! Different types of visits have different needs. When I visited family for a wedding, I packed differently than when I went to Berlin for the week. Take a look at the list, and consider the other things that you may need that are specific to your trip.
And in the worst case, if you’ve forgotten something? They have shops…
Carry on vs. Checked Bag
Admittedly, I don’t mind checking bags. I’d rather not be laden down with too much stuff as I’m racing through the airport and security. And with rules and restrictions about what can go into the passenger cabin of the plane, it’s easier to check things. If you travel REALLY LIGHT, go ahead and carry it all on. If you check your suitcase, go ahead and add an Airtag or something similar for extra security. Make sure to separate out the important things you need take in your carry on luggage.
Most airlines will allow a carry on, and a personal item. Some airlines are particular about how large or heavy your carry on bag can be. Be sure to check with the airline BEFORE you leave for the airport.
In your Carry-On (And purse if you carry one)
Remember, security won’t let you take liquids above 3.4 oz. And they will take away nail scissors, pocket knives and sun lotion. Just pack things in your suitcase so you don’t lose them. (By the way, if you need pocket knives, check out–> Globo Surf
- Your wallet, and important paperwork ** DO NOT CHECK THEM IN YOUR LUGGAGE.
- Passport– make sure it expires at least 6 months after your return date. (also, keep a photocopy of the passport somewhere safe)
- Driver’s License– You can drive in Germany with an American license for up to 6 months.
- Airline Tickets– I know many of you keep them on your phone. I’m too paranoid for that. I also print out the paper.
- Accommodation Information– You may have to fill out forms saying where you are staying. Have that information handy. It’s also good for handing to taxi drivers.
- Student Identification Card– If you are a student, bring your ID card. It will get you discounts everywhere.
- List of Medications- If you travel with medications, make sure you have a list of them by name, just in case you lose them, or get asked about them at the border, or you have a medical emergency.
- Health Insurance Information – Make sure you have your insurance cardand also information about your travel insurance policy . Trust me when I say, it is always better to feel safe, especially when it comes to medical bills or any other similar health-related emergencies. Your travel insurance should be one of your best friends.
- Something to entertain you … a book or magazine or e-reader
- Electronics– Camera, laptop, Tablet ***
- Neck Pillow- if you want one
- Medications –(And believe me, don’t put them all in one bottle thinking you will “remember” which is which and if you already took the ones for today… get one of those pill container thingies.)
- Scarf- I love a larger scarf that works as a bit of a blanket… airplanes get chilly.
- Jewelry– I just like to keep it close
- Slippers or slides– Wearing shoes on a Trans-Atlantic flight is uncomfortable, but you DO NOT want to go into the bathroom in socks. (That’s not water on the floor)
- Brush, toothbrush, basic make up (to touch up before getting off the plane)
- Snacks – Because you NEVER KNOW when you might get hungry.
- Water Bottle – Note… you MAY NOT carry liquids through the security checkpoint, but you can carry an empty bottle. Fill it up at the fountain on the other side and keep hydrated on the plane!
- I like to keep a clean shirt and pair of undies in my carry on… just in case the suitcase is delayed.
If you are nervous about losing them, keep these things handy in a Passport Pouch around your neck. I know they can be uncomfortable, but you don’t have to wear it there all the time. Once you arrive, you can secure passports and important documents in the hotel safe. I like a passport pouch that doubles as a wallet, and fits into my purse.
Also make sure that none of your documents must be translated. For example, you might need translation of medical insurance. If such a translation is needed, my advice is to order it beforehand, you can use websites offering online translation services.
The question of Euros
I am frequently asked whether to exchange dollars for Euros in the US, and if American credit cards work in Germany (they do). To make things simple, I usually tuck around 80-100€ into my wallet before I leave home. My bank will make the exchange for a low fee. All of the rest of the cash I need comes from the ATM machines in Germany. Honestly, there are ATMs in every town. The exchange rate is good (and free with some bank accounts), and you don’t have to worry about carrying hundreds or thousands in cash with you. Read more about that here–> ATMs in Germany.
***Traveling with Electronics
- Power Converters!– The plugs in Germany are a different shape than our American ones… and the power coming in from them is 220V not 110V. Rather than buy German appliances, or a bunch of little plug things, I bought myself a Bestek power converter. It’s lightweight, can support charging 3 plugged in things at once as well as 4 USB ports, and I don’t have to worry about my electronics.
- Smart Phone- If you like to stay in touch with people back home, or feel like you will need to make phone calls while in Germany (and you probably will) you will need a phone. BE CAREFUL. Roaming charges are crazy expensive!! Most phone providers have some sort of international plan. Here’s a great article on taking your phone without breaking the bank–> Rick Steve’s Phone tips
- Camera– Yes, you can use your phone, but for really good shots, you may want the best camera for pictures. Don’t forget the batteries, cables and memory cards!
- Laptop– Is this a working trip? Pack along that Laptop, and don’t forget the Charger!
- Tablets/e- readers– Instead of packing a stack of books, you can download them all onto an e-reader. And tablets are useful for watching movies, getting information you need, or keeping up with family at home. Just be sure you are using WiFi.
How much Clothing do you Need?
I love Rick Steves, but he and I have some serious differences when it comes to clothing. I need more than 3 shirts. And I’m NOT washing out my undies every night. That said… I’ve also learned that you have to carry everything you pack, and there is no sense in stuffing a suitcase full of cute tops that you “might” wear if the right invitation comes up. Do check the weather before you go! If they are having an unseasonably warm summer, bring more light things… but I’ve been to Germany when it rained for 3 weeks straight in JULY. (Every photo of me is in a raincoat with umbrella).
Keep it simple, and stay with a color palate so you can mix and match items you are wearing. Don’t worry about wearing the same shirt twice, because if you are traveling around, no one will notice… and if you are staying with family, no one will care.
Avoid bulk! Hoodie sweatshirts will eat up half of your luggage space! A fine gauge sweater over a long sleeve t shirt is just as warm, and takes far less room.
One more thing…if you have a fitness routine at home, such as running, pack the things you need. They aren’t “extras”, they are essentials! Read more about the importance preparing for and maintaining your fitness routines while traveling HERE–>How to Stick to your Fitness Routines while Traveling.
DO NOT TAKE BRAND NEW SHOES. And don’t bother with that pair that “only pinches a little”. You will be on your feet a lot. Take care of them with comfortable, slip-resistant shoes that you’ve worn in a bit. Those cobblestones are hard on your ankles!
Remember, this list is a guideline, it’s not in stone. Depending on what you are doing and where you are going, you may need to make some adjustments. Keep in mind, every time I threw 3 extra shirts into the suitcase “just in case”, they’ve come back unworn.
You can use the same list whether you are traveling one week or four weeks, you just need to find time to do a wash.
Packing for Spring/Summer
- 3-4 T-Shirts or Tops (don’t wear shirts with giant slogans, stick with plain and simple)
- 2-3 Blouses (you can wear them alone or over the T-shirts)
- 1 Fine gauge Sweater or cardigan
- 1 lightweight Jacket
- 1 pairs Jeans (or pants that you like)
- 1-2 pair light pants
- 1 pair shorts or a skirt
A dressy outfit …
- For women maybe a dress or nice slacks and blouse.
- For men, a nice shirt and tie
- Comfortable walking Shoes
- Shower shoes (like flip flops) are great for public pools (but not for touring churches)
- 5-7 pairs underwear (wash Travel Underwear in the sink, and it dries fast)
- 3-5 pairs socks
- Pajamas or Nightgown
- Bathing Suit
Packing for Fall/Winter
Remember, even though it’s COLD outside, it will probably be warm inside. You need a coat for the elements, but when you are in a restaurant or museum, you will overheat if you overdress. (Most places have coat rooms, use them. I learned that security HATES when you walk around a museum with bags and coats.)
- 2-3 Long Sleeve T-Shirts or tops
- 2-3 Long Sleeve blouses
- 2-3 Fine gauge Sweaters (they take less room than bulky ones)
- 2 pairs Jeans
- 1-2 pairs Long Pants
- 1 pair nice slacks (for going out)
- 1 Heavy warm Jacket
- 5 pairs WARM SOCKS
- 5-7 pairs Underwear
- 1-2 pairs Tights or Leggings
- Undershirts (if you need them)
- Lounging Clothes- if you like wearing a track suit around the hotel room, perfect… otherwise Leggings and a long sleeve t-shirt.
- Boots for Winter (I found a great pair of boot that are warm, waterproof, and look a lot like shoes–> Ugg Waterproof Boots)
- Walking or Tennis shoes- for indoor touring days
- Travel Slippers for indoors
- 2-3 Scarves (because you will be wearing the same coat in every photo… might as well have a pretty scarf showing)
- Umbrella– compact and portable.
Packing for Oktoberfest
Pack a mix of the above stuff… and add Dirndl or Lederhosen. Keep in mind, you can wear one Dirndl and then mix and match different blouses and aprons. One pair of Lederhosen is generally enough, just get a few shirts, and you are good to go.
Where to buy-
You can buy them in Munich, but if time is limited, buy your Festival clothing ahead of time, and be ready to go right away!
Like to Pack Light? Or Just Going for a Quick Trip?
The Journey System from Idea Mountain is a fantastic set of bags! It’s a small day pack that fits into a bag large enough to hold a few changes of clothes and toiletries. AND you get a small waist bag that fits inside too. All fit in the overhead compartment as one. Take them apart on arrival, and lighten your load. Travel with JUST this set as one… or use it in addition to a suitcase. Learn more about it here–> Journey System
I have a neat bag that opens up and hangs from a towel rack so it doesn’t take up space on the bathroom counter.
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
- Shampoo and Conditioner– buy SMALL bottles, or fill small travel bottles with your products at home
- Brush/ Comb
- Hair Dryer- if you are staying in Hotels, they should supply them. CHECK
- Basic First Aid Stuff- Band Aids, Aspirin or Tylenol
- Nail file or Clippers– For the privacy of your bathroom in the hotel.
- Lotion or moisturizers
- Any Make-up you need
Other Things You May Need
- Notebook and Pen– I like to keep a loose diary or journal of my travels. This way, when I get home it’s easier to remember what I saw on each day. Also, it’s great for notes and reminders, and for keeping score when we play games. You can also use it to write up your itinerary for the day. Of course, we already talked about how I am a list person…
- Cards or Dice Game– My family loves games! And small travel games are great for killing time in Airports or in the evening over a drink before bed.
- Guide Book– I like to take guide books, or photo copy pages of guide books, of the places I’m visiting.
- Extra Shopping Bag– I like taking along a packable nylon bag, so I can use it when I shop. Also, I often pack an extra empty medium sized bag into my suitcase, in case my shopping gets out of hand, and I need to check another bag to get home. (It also works as a nice beach bag)
- Detergent for hand washing. – I have a set that includes stopper.
If you are staying with family or friends in Germany, you might want to pack along a host/hostess gift. I list some ideas here–> Gifts for a German Host Family
PHEW! That’s a Long List!
Remember, the list is a guideline. Most important is to not over pack!
Take the time to put together a wardrobe that will mix and match.
Lay out all the things you need BEFORE you start putting them in a suitcase.
And most of all… HAVE A GOOD TIME!!