“PROST!” – There’s no greater sound than hefeweizen glasses clinking after a long day exploring Germany. However, there’s a lot of packing effort to get to this point.
As an American who spends several weeks at a time in Germany a year, I’ve learned quite a lot about what to pack for Germany. This guide breaks down everything you need to know, from the best luggage to what to pack for Oktoberfest.
|Germany’s weather varies significantly by season
|It can be rainy, especially in the north
|Comfortable walking shoes
|There’s a lot of beautiful places to walk and hike
|Germany uses type F plug sockets
|Phrasebook or translation app
|While many Germans speak English, it can be beneficial to know some basic German phrases
What We Cover
- A Note on Packing for Germany
- Luggage Essentials
- 1. Carry-On Suitcase
- 2. Travel Backpack
- 3. Hanging Toiletry Bag
- 4. Passport Holder
- 5. Luggage Lock
- 6. Reusable Grocery Bags
- Clothing Tips: What to Wear in Germany
- Essential Clothing for Fall & Winter
- 7. Winter Coat
- 8. Lightweight Jacket
- 9. Warm Scarves or Shawls
- 10. Hiking Shoes
- Essential Clothing for Spring & Summer
- 11. Rain Jacket
- 12. Linen Clothes
- 13. Allbirds Tree Runners
- Essential Electronics
- 14. Noise-Canceling Headphones
- 15. Power Bank
- 16. Travel Adapter
- Oktoberfest Essentials
- 17. Dirndls and Lederhosen
- 18. Money Belt
- 19. Liquid I.V.
- Miscellaneous Essential Items for Germany
- 20. Travel Size Umbrella
- 21. Hiking Poles
- 22. Water Bottle
- 23. Google Translate
- 24. Travel Insurance
- 25. International Drivers Permit
A Note on Packing for Germany
How exactly you pack for your specific trip to Germany will depend on your interests and planned activities. Chilly Berlin temperatures you’ll endure when visiting the Christmas markets require different considerations than the summer months spent hiking the Alps.
And trust me: when Germany gets hot, it’s roasting. When it gets cold, it’s frigid.
Use this guide as a starting point for a few items you’ll want to use as your packing list base. For example, if you’re going to Lake Eibsee in July, pack your flip-flops. If you plan on hitting the slopes in Garmisch-Partenkirchen pack your thermal layers.
So, here’s the ultimate packing list of the best travel essentials you may want to consider packing. Whether you’re planning a week trip in summer, a spring fling in the Black Forest, a winter retreat for the holidays, or exploring the biergartens of Munich during Oktoberfest, this will help you get started.
No matter the time of year, the length of your stay, or your destination — make sure you bring your camera!
Before thinking about what to wear in Germany, you need to know what you will put your runway looks in. Below, we’ll discuss the essential luggage items you need to house everything on your packing list for Germany.
1. Carry-On Suitcase
First things first: you need a suitcase. With the constant travel disruptions and delays, choosing a suitcase you can take as your airplane carry-on is best.
Look for a piece, like The Carry-On from AWAY, that offers 360° wheels, interior compression, and is lightweight. While suitcases like these may be advertised for 3-5 day trips, you can pack much more into them using AWAY’s packing cubes.
See Related: Best Places to Buy Luggage in a Pinch
2. Travel Backpack
Every traveler needs one or more reliable travel backpacks. In addition to serving as your airplane carry-on, a backpack can serve as your go-to day bag for exploring the vaunted squares and thoroughfares of big cities or the cobblestone streets of traditional villages.
Take this quality pack. The North Face Base Camp Travel Pack, offers a laptop compartment, water bottle compartment, adjustable dividers, and secure zip pockets. This one bag comfortably stores all your electronic devices, like laptops, cellphones, and tablets.
3. Hanging Toiletry Bag
One of the most frustrating parts of travel is handling all my liquids, makeup, and toiletries. Some airports, like London’s Heathrow or any US international airport, are particularly strict about liquid sizes and storage.
A toiletry bag makes getting through security a breeze and helps keep all my essentials organized and clean throughout my journey. I particularly like a hanging bag because it provides extra counter space in tighter hotel bathrooms.
4. Passport Holder
Germany is an extremely safe country and is comparatively stricter than some other European countries when checking important documents. Therefore, you’ll want easy access to your passport, visa, tickets, or other documents.
Many passport holders offer several pockets for any extra pieces of paper you need to have on you. The Melsbrinna Passport Holder is a solid option as it has room for your favorite travel credit cards.
5. Luggage Lock
In addition to putting luggage locks on checked bags, it’s a great idea to add a lock to your day pack when wandering around tourist locations. This makes it much harder for inquiring hands to unzip your pack when you’re in tight quarters on the bus, U-bahn, or S-Bahn.
Don’t forget to purchase a specific travel lock that airport security will allow. Most locks will say on the outside packaging if they are approved by most airlines.
6. Reusable Grocery Bags
Germans are notoriously eco-friendly; therefore, bringing some type of tote bag for groceries is always a good idea. This way, you’re saving the extra Euros it would cost you to purchase a bag to take your groceries in.
Even if you’re not planning to go grocery shopping during your trip, a reusable grocery bag is a good idea. It makes for an easy option for putting those souvenirs in a last-minute carry-on for your flight home.
Clothing Tips: What to Wear in Germany
The best advice for what to wear in Germant is to pack layers, even in warmer seasons. Get creative with all the same clothes you packed to create different outfits for different weather. Germany is a great destination year-round, so staple items like a t-shirt, sundress, jeans, shorts, etc. can all be brought.
Consider the time of year you visit and add or remove layers throughout your day. Oh! If you’re staying in Germany for over ten days, pack travel-size laundry detergent and simply wash your clothes rather than trying to pack different outfits for two weeks.
Essential Clothing for Fall & Winter
Germany can become quite chilly, especially in winter, so it’s important to pack warm clothing. Below are hand-picked items to keep you comfortable during your fall or winter visit.
7. Winter Coat
German winters are usually pretty cold. Any good traveler needs a quality winter coat for exploring the German Alps. If you’re planning on spending a long time outside, wandering Germany’s Christmas markets, or long days hiking or skiing at high elevations, a well-insulated winter jacket is a must.
My go-to coat is the Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange 3-in-1 Jacket. In addition to its great insulation, it offers the ability to remove the inside layer to use as a lightweight puffy. Having layers is key, and this jacket does the trick.
8. Lightweight Jacket
A quality lightweight jacket is a must-have, too. A German weather forecast can be unpredictable, and a lightweight puffy like the Columbia Lake 22 Down Jacket from REI is a great go-to for fall.
It’s water-resistant for those unexpected showers and includes zip pockets, perfect for keeping your belongings safe in busy city subway systems. This light jacket is also a good option if you plan to do some light hiking or bike riding on one of the 250 long-distance cycling routes in Germany.
9. Warm Scarves or Shawls
I particularly like traveling with a shawl because it allows flexibility in my use. It can be a scarf when I’m walking around the cities, baklava when wandering around the forest, or a fashionable blanket-like item when I enjoy a meal indoors. A regular winter scarf also works if a shawl isn’t quite your style.
10. Hiking Shoes
To experience the best of Germany, you must get out of the city and explore the German Alps. As a result, you’ll want a reliable pair of hiking shoes.
By no means do you need to empty your wallet on professional gear. But, the unpredictable weather in the Alps makes it a great idea to pack more than tennis shoes on your trip to Germany.
I’ve brought the Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Boot on over a dozen trips to Germany, and they’ve served my needs through various weather and activities. Look for a boot with good ankle support and water resistance.
Essential Clothing for Spring & Summer
As the seasons transition from the chilly winter to the blossoming spring and the sunny summer, your wardrobe for visiting Germany must also shift. Here are a few essential items to have on hand for a German summer that quickly goes from chilly to steamy.
11. Rain Jacket
A rain jacket is essential for visiting Germany in the spring and summer. A quality rain jacket, like the EvaPOURation™ Rain Jacket, offers protection from the rain and is a lightweight layer for cooler mornings and evenings.
It’s breathable, water-resistant, and easy to pack. Those features make it a reliable companion for whatever activities you might choose.
12. Linen Clothes
Clothes made out of linen have long been my go-to for European summers. German summers can be pretty fierce, and linen will keep you cool and look stylish.
Unlike in the U.S., you want to maintain a more modest level of skin coverage. Linen is a breathable fabric that will keep you comfortable in the heat while allowing you to appear a bit more put together.
13. Allbirds Tree Runners
I have been a huge fan of Allbirds for many years. I’ve taken at least one pair of Allbirds on every international trip since 2018 (like above in Athens, Greece!). They remain the most comfortable walking shoes I’ve ever owned.
What I particularly like about the Allbirds Tree Runners is how they seamlessly go from day to night. If I’m trying to pack light, I can easily bring these tennis shoes for daytime exploring yet still wear them with a sundress for a nice dinner. Trust me – I have three different pairs right now!
The right gadgets can significantly improve the comfort of your travel experience. With Germany’s impressive train lines and public transportation systems, you’ll want to ride in style and convenience with these travel must-haves. Again, don’t forget your camera!
14. Noise-Canceling Headphones
Any long flights require a solid pair of headphones–especially if you’re a light sleeper. No one wants to arrive at their destination red-eye from listening to crying babies and chatty neighbors.
My Bose headphones have been with me on over 15 international flights and countless train tickets and are still going strong. Plus, you can easily find replacement ear pads if they get worn out. As you can see from the photo above, they hold up great on long runs through the German countryside.
15. Power Bank
Power banks are useful tools for a couple of reasons. You’ll likely be taking lots of photos and videos on your trip to Germany, draining your battery quickly. Having a power bank on hand will ensure you can capture every selfie you need and still have enough power to find your way back to your hotel.
Secondly, you’ve likely heard of scams related to public USB ports. Having your power bank will ensure you don’t compromise your digital safety when charging your phone at the airport or train station.
16. Travel Adapter
If traveling from the U.S. or U.K., you must bring a travel adapter to charge all your devices. While you can purchase single-region adapters, investing in a universal travel adapter is worth the few extra bucks.
A universal travel adapter can charge your electronic devices in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and mainland Europe. There is a steady increase in the number of USB ports available, but having a complete adapter on hand for charging at smaller, family-owned hotels is a good idea.
Note that items that require high power, like a curling iron or hair straightener, may not be compatible with adapters like these. If you need these items, consider purchasing a travel-size one that doesn’t take up too much space and is already built with the EU voltage. This prevents you from ruining your higher-power items.
Those headed to Germany for the iconic beer-drinking festival will want to add a few special additions to their Germany packing list. What to pack for Germany during September requires extra special considerations like traditional wear and hands-free storage. Here’s what you might need.
17. Dirndls and Lederhosen
It’s not tacky to dress up in traditional German ware for Oktoberfest, as long as you’re respectful of the culture. In fact, it’s encouraged. While it’s not required, you’ll be in the minority if you don’t come in dirndls (women) and lederhosen (men).
There is a varying degree of quality. Some folks (like myself) opt for a cheaper option from somewhere like Amazon.
However, consider purchasing from a German supplier if you want to blend in. In towns like Leavenworth, Washington, there are authentic shops you can order from before your trip.
Or, if you’re feeling risky, you can buy your dirndls and lederhosen upon arrival. However, be aware it may be harder to find your size at the last minute, and prices will likely be inflated due to the festival.
18. Money Belt
Visitors cannot bring a bag exceeding 20 cm x 15 cm x 10 cm (these exact measurements are subject to change) into the Oktoberfest grounds. And, truthfully, it’s hard to keep track of your belongings during the festival.
Instead, opt for a money belt. Cash is king during Oktoberfest (and kind of in general in Germany), and a money belt will allow you to go hands-free and keep your beer money safe and sound from those looking to have a beer on your dime.
19. Liquid I.V.
The beer served during Oktoberfest is intentionally brewed to a higher gravity than normal. Therefore, you may get a bit tipsy faster than normal. To ensure you’re up for a few days of enjoying the party, load up on some Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier to keep yourself up to the drinking marathon.
Miscellaneous Essential Items for Germany
Below are some additional items that may not be on your radar but you may need to ensure a smooth and pleasant experience. Consider these often-overlooked yet crucial items that should be part of your Germany packing list.
20. Travel Size Umbrella
While not the wettest country on the continent, Germany can offer intense rainstorms. It’s good travel practice to keep a travel-size umbrella in your bag to avoid any surprise showers.
This is particularly true if you travel from April to June when Germany sees its most rain. You can find a plethora of travel-size umbrellas on sites like Amazon to throw in your carry-on.
21. Hiking Poles
To really blend in with the locals, you’ll want to try your hand at a few hiking trails. Germans love to be outside, and the country is home to some epic hiking trails like the Zugspitz from Garmisch-Partenkirchen Via Ferrata.
Pick up some trekking poles, like these Traverse Trekking Poles from REI, to ensure a smoother hiking experience. Plus, you’ll look like a local!
See Related: Best Hiking Trails in the World
22. Water Bottle
The tap water in Germany is extremely safe to drink. Therefore, bring along your favorite beverage container and save yourself (and the planet!) money on purchasing plastic water bottles from the local store. Besides, bottled water is ludicrously expensive in Germany.
Much like cities in France, the U.K., and Italy, Germany has free water refilling stations scattered throughout the cities and villages so you can fill up on water without forking out for plastic bottles. It’s important to stay hydrated during all your exploring on hot sunny days!
23. Google Translate
A translation app like Google Translate installed on your phone is particularly useful for ordering meals at local joints that don’t provide menus in English (that’s how you know it’s good).
Simply open the app, point your camera at the menu, and watch those German words turn into English. You’ll never have a surprise meal again!
Additionally, Google Translate can be helpful when communicating directly with another person. I’ve used it countless times across many countries.
For example, I sat next to a Korean couple on a flight to New Zealand who didn’t understand how to fill out the arrival form for customs. I could help explain it to them by typing it into Google Translate.
See Related: Which Countries Speak German Apart From Germany?
24. Travel Insurance
While not technically something you place in your luggage (unless you’re a Boomer and still like to print things – something I do in fact recommend), travel insurance for any international trip is necessary. No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, having insurance is worth the investment.
25. International Drivers Permit
With huge speed limits on the autobahn and epic scenery, driving around Germany is a blast. You are likely eligible for an international driver’s permit if you have a valid US driver’s license. If you plan on renting a vehicle, it is advisable that you apply for a permit.
Indeed, many car rentals won’t actually ask for this, but you’ll want to have it on hand in case you get pulled over. Attaining an international driver’s permit is simple and can be done by mail. Check out the AAA IDP International Drivers Permit page for all the requirements.