Ahhh, Europe… French pastries, Czech beer, Croatian beaches… Italian coffee, Portuguese wine, Irish cliffs… English accents, German castles, Greek islands… So many beautiful places and delectable treats to explore and taste.
Americans who want to travel abroad usually spend most of their planning time caught up in the day dream of what it will be like when they get to Europe – I even got carried away! But travelers also need to be efficient so they can enjoy their experience without worry or serious inconvenience. This requires a bit of planning.
So let’s talk packing. I consider myself an expert packer from studying abroad and traveling for two months throughout Europe. I am going to give you a basic packing list for your Eurotrip that can be adjusted based upon your personal style and the duration of your travels. Let’s get started!
FIRST, THE BAG TO PUT IT ALL IN!
Let me first say that you always always always want to pack the minimum amount possible. You have no idea how frustrating it is to drag around a huge suitcase across cobblestone in a foreign country while desperately searching for your hostel. I dropped many f-bombs in frustration, hoping that nobody around me spoke English. A large “backpacking”-style backpack is your best choice, especially for a short trip (1 week-1 month). Try to leave extra space for any souvenirs you might bring home.
**ESSENTIALS**: PASSPORT + COPY, CONTACT INFORMATION, CHARGERS, ADAPTOR, PHONE, CAMERA, WATER BOTTLE
These are the items you absolutely cannot forget. The passport, obviously, but if you lose your passport it is much easier for the U.S. Embassy to help you if you have a photocopy. Always carry this copy instead of the original because pick-pockets exist and U.S. passports are highly valuable. Information you should have on your person includes emergency contacts and the phone number and address of the hotel or hostel you are staying at. You definitely want to check and double check that you packed your charger and adaptor. Bring your phone for Wifi use and camera for memory making. I also highly recommend a water bottle. Yes, you can drink European water and it is much nicer to carry your own than pay for it in restaurants.
You probably will last on travel-sized shampoos and soap if you are not gone for long. Even so, Europeans also bathe (imagine that!) so you can purchase anything you might need from grocery stores or pharmacies once you are there. The pumice stone will save you from aching, calloused feet. You will also want a toothbrush, hairbrush, any makeup of yours, and even a hand/compact mirror.
UNDIES & SOCKS!
Pack more of these than anything else. If you are abroad a long time and do not have access to a Laundromat you need lots of clean pairs. I brought 14 pairs of underwear and 10 pairs of socks.
SIMPLE CLOTHING. YES, SIMPLE.
This may be difficult for some of you fashionistas out there but I recommend bringing some of your more “Plain Jane” items. You will find that in bigger, more fashionable cities that many women wear solid colors and dress them up in different ways. By bringing staple items you can accessorize and make more outfits out of less clothing. Your floral scarves and statement necklaces are perfect for this. You will of course want to bring some nicer, going out type of pieces but for sightseeing that black t-shirt will do just fine.
COMFORTABLE SHOES, I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!
Heels + cobblestone = sprained ankle. Flats + cobblestone = plantar fasciitis. Bring them if you want to go out but your best bet, with all of the walking you will do, is a nice pair of tennis shoes or sneakers. Toms can work well. Boots can also be good if they have a decent sole. Again, I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. Also, shower shoes – I am not sure I want to spell this one out but hostels might have some germs.
YOU MAY WANT…
BOOKS – A good book will keep you occupied on the plane or if you are doing a lot of alone-time in parks or in cafes.
JOURNAL – This will help you reflect on your experience, whether you prefer writing or drawing.
AMERICAN SNACKS – Okay, the food in most European countries is pretty outstanding but if you get home sick easily the food can be a source of anxiety. Pack a jar of peanut butter or a tube of Pringles if you really need to.
FITNESS CLOTHES – For you exercise junkies or people who will do outdoor activities while traveling you might think about activewear. And do not forget a swimsuit if you will have the opportunity to use one.
TOWEL – Some hostels have them, some charge for them, and some do not have them at all. Plan accordingly.
TUPPERWARE – Something I would have liked to have with me. It can save you money if you do not want to eat out for every single meal. You can pack up sliced meats and cheeses to have your own personal picnic.
RANDOM STUFF YOU MIGHT CONSIDER?
LAUNDRY SOAP – This is really helpful if you will just be doing a few loads in the hostel or if you need to desperately wash an item in a random sink. They sell them in cute little pods.
CASH – Go to your bank and see if they carry Euros. If you did not give a travel alert for your credit card you will definitely need cash. But some places do not accept credit anyways. (Pretend the image shows Euros, not USD.)
GUIDEBOOK – Do not let a guidebook restrict you but they offer some nice background, cultural tips and even basic phrases in the local language.
GROCERY BAG – For all of your dirty clothes.
SMALL PURSE – For when you do not have room on your person.
Okay, now a few more tips:
1. Research the weather of where you are going. Pack for that also. If you must bring a coat, wear it onto the plane so it does not take up space in your luggage.
2. If you take any medications bring all the medication you will need, clearly labeled and sealed in a Ziploc.
3. Call your bank to set up a travel alert so they do not cancel your credit card. If you have a cheap international phone plan, it could be helpful to use that.
4. Don’t wear one of those important document fanny pack things. You are just screaming “Hey I’m American and I have money in this for you to steal!” Find different hiding spots.
5. Try not to bring your laptop, especially if you are only going to be gone for a short time. Take in as much of the culture as you can – Eurotrips should be about immersion!
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions! Otherwise, bon voyage! <3
Here’s a funny scene from Eurotrip to wet your palette. Everyone should watch it, it is absolutely ridiculous.