Where do I start?!
Packing for a trip to Europe can be so overwhelming, but don’t worry, I’m here to help! I’ve been over to Europe four times now and I feel like I’m finally starting to learn what I REALLY need & what I don’t.
– COMFY SHOES: Ok, this is HUGE. Every time I go to Europe, I walk miles and miles everyday. No joke. If you want to see things & only have a limited time, you are up and at it early in the morning and go all day. When packing shoes, think to yourself “Can I walk 5 miles in these?” If not, leave them at home. I know it’s hard but it’s a waste of space if you pack them, wear them for an hour and can’t wear them the rest of your trip. These Nikes and these sandals saved me on this trip! (TIP: I start picking my shoes months in advance. I’ll wear them around in my daily life and if they are comfy and neutral, they are coming with me. Also, I try to switch shoes throughout the day. If we head back to our hotel to grab something, I switch shoes. Gives your feet a break!)
– MEDS: I always pack one of my favorite poufs dedicated just for medications. Advil, Tylenol, cough drops, Benadryl, Imodium, bandaids, Zicam, bug bite cream, etc. It’s so nice to have your medications from home JUST in case something happens while you are traveling. Yes, there are many pharmacies all over Europe, but if you are somewhere where you don’t speak the language, it can be hard to find what you are looking for.
– HAND SANITIZER: We used this everyday on our trip. When you are heading from plane to train to taxi and then straight to eat, hand sanitizer is a life saver. Remember, you have to pay for some bathrooms throughout Europe, so getting the opportunity to wash your hands can be tough.
– POWER ADAPTER: All the outlets in Europe need a converter. Bottom line, your iphone charger will not work in Europe without a converter. Bryan & I have used this all in one power adapter for our past two trips and it’s worked perfectly. Don’t forget to bring two. Only one item can be charging at a time in each converter, so if you both need to charge your phones or tech devices, you will need more than one.
– WORLDWIDE DUAL VOLTAGE CURLING IRON: Ok, this might not be a necessity for you, but it was for me. I’ve lost three really nice curling irons to fuze burnouts. Yes, I was using the power adapter each time, but the truth is that the voltage in Europe can’t hold up to the heat of our curling irons here in the US, which in turn causes your curling iron to basically die and break once you plug it in. I did a lot of research about curling irons to use in Europe before we left and this one was talked about all over the place. And from experience, I can tell you it worked perfectly. Did it get super hot? No, but it still worked and still held my curls. Works for me!
– eBAGS: Trust me on this one. These ebags are AMAZING. I think that these bags have some sort of magical power or something. Really, it’s crazy how much more you can pack inside your luggage when you use these things. And believe me, I’ve tried it both ways to prove my point and in the luggage with the ebags, I could fit 25% more. SO necessary when you are trying to pack light. It also is a great way to keep your clothes organized. Tops in one, pants in another, dresses in the other one. Makes unpacking and finding things way easier.
– A HUGE LUGGAGE: Ok, this opinion is from experience. The first time I went to Europe, I brought a HUGE luggage. I needed everything. Truth – I was a European travel novice. Now, I usually travel with a medium to large luggage when going to Europe and a carry-on bag. THAT’S IT. Remember, when you are traveling around Europe, escalators and elevators are very scarce in some places. A lot of European cities are old, full of LOTS of steps and cobblestone streets. It can be a nightmare if you can’t carry your bag because it’s too big as you are trying to find your hotel. Keep your bag under 40lbs…easier to carry and then you don’t have to pay a oversize fee. My first trip to Europe, I lost a wheel on my luggage and my sister’s handle broke. Why? Because our bags were too big, too heavy and didn’t work well with the cobblestone streets. It’s funny when we think about it now, but then, it was a nightmare.
– YOUR WHOLE WALLET: Besides your passport and a couple of credit cards, leave the rest of your wallet at home. Trust me, you aren’t going to need your Costco card while you’re over there. I always just bring a small card holder like this one here. It carries a couple of cards, a couple of folded up bills and is easily moved from bag to bag. That way you don’t have a huge wallet to move around full of stuff you don’t need on the trip. Also, IF anything happens to your stuff and you lose it, you haven’t lost ALL your cards. (TIP: Look for a credit card with NO foreign transaction fees. When you purchase something in Europe, you automatically get charged a little fee for using your card over there. If you have a card with no foreign transaction fees, you save a ton of money. We’ve use this travel rewards card from Bank of America on our last two trips and it’s been a life saver).
– HAIR DRYER: Unless you have a love relationship with your hair dryer, leave it at home. Most of the hotels in Europe have hair dryers. Are they old? Yes. But they work. It takes about 10 minutes longer to blow dry your hair, but it saves you space in your luggage and saves you from the possibility of it getting fuze fried when the voltage is converted.
– MONEY BELT: Tourist? Ding ding ding! Money belts are a Rick Steve’s travel tip from the past. Now, money belts are a totally easy way for pick pocketers to pick you out of a crowd as a novice European tourist. Plus, every time you need to take out your money or passport, you have to reach down into your pants. Annoying & a little strange.
– YOUR WHOLE CLOSET: This one is hard. You want to bring half your wardrobe, I know, I’ve been there. But it’s a waste of space and lbs if you aren’t going to wear it. What really helped me this time around was that I wrote down every outfit I was going to wear during each activity we had planned & each day. I then only brought one extra outfit. Risky but I ended up wearing almost everything I brought without bringing home a ton of clothes I didn’t wear. (TIP: pack a lot of neutrals. That way you can mix and match different items easily).
– YOUR ENTIRE PERFUME BOTTLE: So you have your favorite perfume but not in a travel size? Still don’t bring the whole bottle. Many retailers will have travel size versions of perfumes and if they don’t, go to the counter before you leave and ask for a couple of samples. Perfect for traveling! I absolutely love traveling with this Chanel travel perfume as it’s travel size and meets carry-on regulations so I can have it handy when I get off the plane and need to be refreshed.
** Download CityMaps2Go before you leave: Unlike at home, you can’t just get off the airplane and expect to have wifi with directions to your hotel. This app lets you use a map when you are offline.
** VAT refunds: A lot of designer stores and retailers in Europe offer a VAT refund. Basically you get your tax back and you can get some great items tax free. For example, I bought this beautiful belt while in Paris, got a VAT refund receipt at the register (just ask them for it), and have already been refunded my $60 in taxes. (TIP: You have to get all of your VAT receipts stamped at your last airport of travel…..if London Heathrow is your last airport before flying home to the states, don’t wait in the long long line outside with a big sign that says “VAT REFUNDS”. You’ll be standing there forever. Once you get through security, there are a couple of windows inside the airport where you can get your receipt stamped. Now, if you have many items and they have to be checked in your luggage, you’re going to have to stand outside in that line because they ask to see your items for verification before you pack them away).
** Book hotels based on location: We are always so happy when we do this. Sometimes people say to not stay in the total tourist spots of the city, but if it’s our first time visiting, we are totally staying right in the middle of everything because we ARE going to be tourists in that city! It makes getting around so much easier and it eliminates the stress of having to take public transportation in a city you’ve never been to if you are walking distance from everything.
** Research ahead of time: Don’t map out every single activity and detail, but have some guidelines for what you want to do each day. That way you don’t miss anything, but you also aren’t crunched for time because you’ve booked yourself full. We usually try to map out each city, what we want to see there and how many days we have in each place on a piece of paper before we go. Then we group together activities that are close together in location on the same day so that we aren’t wasting time walking to three totally different locations to see certain monuments or attractions on the same day.
** Duty free shopping: IT’S AMAZING. Especially at the London Heathrow airport. Seriously though, Bobbi Brown cosmetics, MAC, Kiehls, you name it, it’s cheaper there AND tax free. Let’s just say, I stocked up!
** Bug Spray: You might need it. If you are going to Europe in the spring or summer and visiting a city that’s on the water (Venice), you should bring some bug spray. My poor husband got eaten alive while we were there (more than 25 bug bites), and we wish we would have packed it.
** Always pack a snack in your carry on bag: You just never know when you are going to need it. For example, we got to the Paris airport 2 hours before our flight was suppose to leave and thought “no worries, we’ll just grab food when we get there”. Long story short, there was a huge delay in the baggage drop off/check-in line and we ended up having to run straight from security to our gate, almost missing our flight. And boy were we hungry! Snacks in your bag to the rescue!
** Use Uber: We used Uber all over Paris (we walked everywhere in Prague, took the tube all over London and there are no cars in Venice!) Uber is cheaper over in Europe and it’s a great way to not get ripped off by a taxi. You can set your destination, watch it on the map as you’re getting around and track receipts. Very safe and very efficient. But if you are going to London, use the tube. Super easy to figure out, clean and takes you all around the city in a flash.
Alright, phew! That was a long one, but hopefully all useful information! These are all tips and tricks I wish I knew before I left on my first trip to Europe, so I’m hoping they help you! Have any questions about cities or European travel? Comment below or message me. I’d love to help.
Thanks for sticking with me and reading!