HEADING OFF TO THE CONTINENT? WHETHER YOU'LL BE TRAVELING WELL-WORN PATHS OR BLAZING YOUR OWN TRAIL, THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS YOU’RE DEFINITELY GOING TO NEED.
A trip to Europe, while exciting, has the potential to daunt when it comes to packing. Can you use the same plug in Stockholm as you do in Dublin? Which side of the road do you drive on? Are you even permitted to drive in the UK? This list of essentials will take you from clueless to prepared for your journey to The Continent. We can’t guarantee they’ll solve all potential travel obstacles (you’re on your own when it comes to language!), but it’s a pretty good start. Bon voyage!
1. Power Converter
Not only can the voltage be different when you travel, but the pin configuration on plugs/outlets may differ, too, which is why it’s important to bring at least one power converter. Keep in mind how many electrical devices you plan to bring along and where you’re traveling to, and pack accordingly.
2. Small Umbrella
If there’s one thing consistent about European weather, it’s that it’s inconsistent. (This will come up again!) A folding travel umbrella takes up little space in your day bag, but can be a saving grace if you get caught in a downpour while out and about.
3. Tie or Scarf
Europe is, by and large, considerably more formal in dress than the United States. A fanny pack and baseball cap will mark you as a tourist—and a perceived “easy target” for pickpockets—every time. On the other hand, little accessories can really dress up an outfit when the situation warrants, and a higher degree of chicness is called for. Who wants to be viewed as a slouch anyway?
4. Sewing Kit
Clothes age more rapidly when you’re traveling, which is why you’ll want to bring along a pocket sewing kit (and the know-how to work it). A certain degree of tearing to one’s jeans is trendy; anything beyond that is a sartorial disaster.
5. Ear Plugs
You know what’s a total bummer? Finding out that your travel companion snores like a revving chainsaw. Whether the offender is in a hotel, hostel, plane, or train, drown ‘em out with a good pair of ear plugs. If your travels take you to a cheaper hotel—with the accompanying poor soundproofing one expects on a budget—you’ll consider these the best few bucks you ever spent. There’s no price on a good night’s sleep!
6. Money Belt
It’s worth repeating: Fanny packs are for tourists—the hapless kind who get pick-pocketed blind in the crush around the Trevi Fountain. Be a smarter, safer traveler by choosing a money belt or neck wallet, and wearing it inside your clothing. That way, no matter what, your cash is literally under control.
7. Playing Cards
Some of the best memories ever made while traveling involve killing time with new friends. (Say, while waiting for a train or bus or plane.) Oftentimes, this involves a few hands of cards (and a bottle of wine). If you are smart enough to tuck a few packs in your bag, you’ll be ready to entertain a group—or hazard a few rounds of solitaire in a pinch.
8. International Driver’s Permit
If you’re visiting another country and plan on driving while you’re there, you will need to obtain an international driver’s permit (IDP) from your local registry of motor vehicles. Not only is this required to drive a car, but it may be required to rent one as well, not to mention that it’s a useful form of identification, with all your important information translated into many languages.
9. Travel Blanket
Thanks to both inconsistent weather and the generally chilly nature of public transportation, it’s a safe bet to say that you will have some cold moments on your Euro-trip, even in the height of summer. Some versatile outerwear (a cozy sweater, ahem “jumper,” or light jacket) is recommended, along with a travel blanket that can do double duty as a neck pillow.
Washcloths are, for some reason, a scarcity in Europe. If one ranks on your list of bathing essentials, be sure to bring it along—preferably in a quick-drying microfiber iteration that takes up almost no room in your bag. A small hand towel will surely come in handy as well.
Shannon O’Donnell is a long-term traveler on the road since 2008; she travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way. She wrote The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook and founded GrassrootsVolunteering.org to help travelers connect with ethical volunteering and travel opportunities on their round the world travels.
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