Fashion guru Diane Von Furstenberg reasoned, “I get ideas about what’s essential when packing my suitcase.” Packing is not always the most celebrated of activities, especially if you are headed to Europe. Traveling to Europe generally involves stopping in multiple destinations, climates and cultures. One false step and your suitcase could be an utter disaster. However, just as Diane points out, you can load up your suitcase for Europe with the essentials, merely if you know where to begin. If you are setting out for Europe and have no clue what’s essential to bring, we’ve come up with a list of 10 must-pack items to allow for smooth sailing in the packing department.
A Multipurpose Suitcase
Europe is filled with cobblestone streets and steep stairs with no elevator in sight. If you pack a rolling suitcase, maneuvering across those bumpy streets can wake up a whole village. At the same time, a rolling suitcase can be convenient when zipping through European airports. If you are caught in this pickle of a packing situation, a multipurpose suitcase can be useful. By bringing a bag that can transform into a backpack or duffel, you can get around Europe with a bit more ease. If you are staying in one place throughout your trip, a rolling suitcase works well. However, if you are hoping on trains and walking a great deal, your bag should be easy and light enough to lift should you meet those stairs instead of elevators.
If you are traveling in the warmer months in Europe, sunscreen shouldn’t be a toiletry item that you assume you can just buy when you get there. Sunscreen can be incredibly overpriced in Europe. Also for the pale, places like Italy and Spain where most people are tan tend to only sell sunscreen with very low SPFs. To save some cash and the evitable sunburn, bring your own bottles.
Comfortable Broken-In Shoes
High heels simply aren’t practical in Europe. Those previously mentioned cobbled streets make it difficult to walk. A better option if you must have that extra height is a wedge. However, all travelers bound for Europe will need a tried and tested walking shoe. Now is not the time to pack a brand new pair of shoes. As you will be walking a lot on you trip, you need a tried and tested pair of shoes that won’t make you ache with each step. When packing for Europe, look for shoes that offer plenty of support and cushion.
When you are packing for several different destinations and climates in Europe, you have to hone in practical accessory packing. A large scarf or shawl is one of those essential pieces that work in multiple destinations and situations in Europe. Not only does a shawl prove useful as a blanket on your flight over but it can also help with sightseeing in Europe. Many churches and holy sites in Europe require you to cover up your shoulders and legs upon entering. That scarf can come in handy on a warm summer day when you want to see that baroque cathedral but are dawning a sleeveless top.
A Luggage Lock
If you are headed to Europe, most likely you will be traveling by train and bus. It is very common to hop from city to city by train in Europe. You can protect yourself from petty theft by using a luggage lock. Almost always you will have to leave your large rolling suitcase in between train compartments due to its size. In the end, your bag is not in your vision at all times. The best thing you can do is to have your luggage locked when it is stored in lockers, trains, hotels and buses. You will avoid petty theft that is quite common on public transport in Europe.
In terms of essentials for packing for Europe, a traveler must pack in a layered state of mind. Most visit Europe and plan to see several different countries and cities. Each of these places will have it own climate with varying temperatures from one to the next. The best way to pack for Europe is by layers in order to deal with differing temperatures. Don’t just bring all short-sleeved t-shirts. Have items that can go over one another to build up your bulk when a chill sets in to town.
You might think coin purses are a thing of the past, something your Grandmother would carry around but you would never need. However in Europe, they are practically a necessity with more meaningful change often given in the forms of 1 and 2 Euro coins. Also, Europeans tend to loath making change. Most supermarkets and shops will almost always ask if you have coinage to break down bigger bills. Having a coin purse at the ready will avoid any unnecessary tourist induced eye rolls from cashiers.
Foldable Tote Bag
Europe is crawling with plenty of markets you will want to sample with the freshest of products and produce. Also when you are touring, you might want to have a bit more room to toss in all of your essentials for the day. Without taking up necessary space in your bag, a foldable tote bag should be on your European packing list. An extra bag can help you lug home those items from the market or even come in handy when you pick up souvenirs along the way.
Small Medical Kit
When my husband and I got the noro virus on a sailing trip in Croatia, we were up the river without a paddle in terms of medical supplies. We lacked some of the basics like upset stomach pills and electrolyte tablets. While you can find pharmacies in Europe with almost every item you might need, it is always best to have a medical kit on hand when your stomach does take a turn for the worse. More often than not, a bad bug hits you on a Sunday when many shops, stores and pharmacies are closed. In frequent hours are commonplace in Europe so in the event of emergency, don’t rely on your destination’s pharmacy to be open or even nearby. Talk with your doctor about what medications you should pack and prepare a medical kit accordingly.
Hidden Cash Stash
Dealing with theft in a foreign country is no picnic. While you can prepare by using a luggage lock, your purse is always a target for petty theft. Whether you want to travel with a money belt or not, regardless it is always a good idea to have a hidden cash stash packed away somewhere in your belongings. In the event of an emergency, you’ll have a back-up plan. In this cash stash, you might also want a copy of your passport just in case you have your wallet and passport stolen.
Have you traveled to Europe? What other essentials would you add to this European packing list?