I always find myself clicking on packing list articles. Packing for places is such an art, and I’m always excitedly looking to see if someone has a new idea or something I haven’t thought of before. Sometimes the simplest suggestions are truly such a lifesaver.
Packing is also an area that seems to bring about anxiety in people, myself included. Trying to be as prepared as possible on as little as you can carry is many times a challenge. I’ve compiled the below advice for women who have an upcoming trip to Europe based on what I’ve learned from my past few trips over there. Although the bulk of the post involves what clothes to pack, it also covers important documents, flight and transportation info. Hopefully you find these helpful!
LUGGAGE – MAIN SUITCASE/CHECKED BAG:
Deciding on a main suitcase involves personal preferences. Here are a few overall suggestions I’ll make. Don’t buy a black suitcase. Everyone buys a black suitcase. Not only will you spend a lot of time in baggage claim wondering which suitcase coming towards you is yours, but it will also make it more susceptible to go walking off without you. I’ve traveled with a black suitcase and had someone start walking away with it. Although it was unintentional, had I not chased my suitcase down, it would have gone missing. I wouldn’t buy a light-colored suitcase either, as your luggage will get stained and beat up. I have a dark blue suitcase and love it.
Take into account the layout of your suitcase. Many open up to have multiple sections (half and half if you will) and others are one simple section. I personally like having half of my suitcase as second zip area; it allows me to separate and keep organized different types of clothes. I’ll normally put my running/casual clothes on one side and my dressier clothes on the other. Take notice of how much your suitcase weights without any clothes; there is always quite a difference in weights. Depending on your travels, you may want a lighter or a heavier/sturdier suitcase. The quality and brand of suitcase you purchase depends on how much you travel and how much you want to invest. If you travel frequently, pay the money and invest in a higher-quality suitcase.
If you plan to take any trains when visiting Europe, I strongly suggest you figure out the exact train/trains you will be taking. Then you can get on that train’s website to find specific measurements and requirements for taking bags on the train, as all are different. Just because your suitcase fits the flight requirements for the airline, it doesn’t mean it will fit train requirements. It is always good to be prepared!
LUGGAGE – CARRY ON:
Today’s luggage market bombards us with different shapes, sizes and colors of carry ons. Despite this attempt, there is only one type of luggage I’ll use as a carry on and that is a backpack. The main reason is that it leaves you completely hands free when traveling to and from your location. Many times when you visit Europe, you are also moving around during your trip as you tour different cities and countries. Having a travel backpack helps you use your hands to carry other luggage. Once you try it, you’ll never turn back. It is so convenient. Again, the weight, size, design and compartments of your backpack will vary depending on your travel.
The second reason I prefer a travel backpack involves domestic travel. Many times when I travel domestically, I end up on small planes. If you take a larger carry on, certain planes will take it from your plane side. This means you won’t have it with you on the plane, and you’ll have to wait for it once you land. If you have a short connection, this could make or break you making your next plane. Backpacks will never be taken from you, guaranteeing you can have it with you and can depart the plane immediately after you land.
LUGGAGE – PURSE:
Raise your hand if you’ve ever asked before a trip “What purse should I take with me?” I’m guessing all hands are raised. Again, I choose a hands-free option – the crossbody! You’ll need your hands for many things when walking around in Europe including your camera, cell phone, umbrella, coffee, souvenirs and more. Having a purse on your shoulder gets old. I’ve used many styles of crossbodies over my years of international travel, but my favorite is the Tumi Capri Crossbody. It is a decent size without being too big, has many pockets and then material is nylon. Why is nylon important? It deflects off rain and stains – perfect for Europe travel.
LUGGAGE – ACCESSORIES:
This is one of my favorite travel accessories. Take the guess work and risk of excess baggage fines out of the equation with this helpful hand scale. I got this one as a Christmas present and love it.
Another thing I’d recommend investing in is a universal worldwide travel adaptor plug. Don’t just start buying adaptors for the country you’ll be visiting; instead buy one up front that you can keep and use for all your upcoming travel.
Additionally, take this advice from a strong bookworm – your Kindle is your friend! I repeat that your Kindle is your friend. We have all be there where we pack a pile of books for a trip with high hopes that they will all come back read. And then most of the time, that isn’t the case. I absolutely love loading my Kindle up with ten times the amount of books I know I get to, knowing it is no extra weight and my reading choices are limitless.
WHAT TO WEAR/PACK:
One of the most helpful pieces of advice I can offer when traveling to Europe and figuring out what to pack is to do specific research on the weather of the country you are visiting. For example, I’ve been to both places and 50 degrees in Iceland does not mean the same thing as 50 degrees in England. Research winds, if you’ll be by water and general climate info for each country you will be visiting. Even though it says 50 degrees for Iceland, there were many times I was wearing my winter coat.
Layers, layers and more layers! I can’t stress this enough. Temperatures fluctuate and especially if you are going to be exploring and walking around all day, you want to have clothing you can take on and off.
I would also suggest packing what people call a capsule wardrobe – everything that can coordinate with everything else. Typically this means I bring a lot of black and white with scarves and jewelry adding pops of color.
Overall for Europe, I bring a lot of my running attire. It is comfortable, warm, easy to layer and most is water wicking, perfect for those rainy Europe days. Here are a few ideas of my favorite staple items I would recommend packing for a Europe adventure. You don’t have to buy this specific items, but they will provide ideas on the type of clothing needed. And no, Athleta isn’t paying me for this promotion. I just love their clothes so much and wanted to share.
LEGGINGS – These are extremely comfortable, have back pockets (love back pockets on leggings!) and can be dressed up or down quite easily.
VEST – A vest is especially nice for hiking days or days you’ll be outside, needing warmth but not wanting the bulkiness of a full coat. Your core is what you need to keep warm, and vests are perfect for this.
FITTED SWEATSHIRT – These go perfect under coats and vests for days of exploring on the go. Athleta offers a wide assortment of these.
SWEATERS – These are perfect to put with leggings to dress them up.
SHOES – I have three main brands to suggest for shoes that you can wear for over 10-15 miles without discomfort: Nike, Born and Sofft. Nike is for the more athletic look and Born and Sofft are for dressier flats and sandals. Here are a few suggestions:
Other staple items I’d pack include several jackets of various thicknesses and warmth, including one that is water wicking/water repellent. I’d also throw in a solid-colored cardigan, perfect to add to any outfit when needed.
The biggest thing that helps me avoid packing excess clothes is to make a list of each day that I will be gone (the list can be written or mental). For each of those days, I’ll walk through what I will wear for those specific activities. If you don’t have it planned out in that much detail, then take a few outfits for each type of day you think you’ll have. Then I will throw in either one or two extras that coordinate with the others. This really eliminates the “ooh maybe I’ll need this” excess that gets thrown in the suitcase before you zip it up. You’ll know exactly what you’ll need and be prepared. This works not only for Europe planning but for any trip planning, including leisure and business travel.
One of the most important areas of packing involves paperwork. I strongly suggest calling your bank before you leave to let them know where specifically you’ll be traveling to and when. I’d ensure you have at least one credit card with no transaction fees. What does this mean? You won’t be hit with an extra charge for each and every purchase you make when you are out of the country. Many no transaction fee credit cards are free and take little time to set up. It will definitely save you money!
If you are going to be traveling more than twice a year domestically or once internationally, I’d also suggest getting Global Entry and TSA Pre Check. Global Entry will save you time when you enter back into the country, and TSA Pre Check greatly shortens your security wait time and enables you to not have to shed all your clothes and take every single item out of your carry on (exaggerating a bit but not much). In my humble opinion, it is worth every penny!
I also strongly, strongly suggest you check your passport well in advance of your trip. If your date of expiration is within even six months of expiring, many places will consider it expired. I have heard horror stories on this, so be proactive.
TRANSPORTATION PREP TIPS:
Don’t travel for nothing. Never board a plane or stay in a hotel without getting something back. Nowadays almost all chain brands have rewards programs. Sign up and use them! Especially for a longer flight to Europe, you want to collect your points. Points can be put towards future trips, gain you free upgrades, freebies at hotels etc.
Put your smart phone to good use! Download apps for all major airlines and hotels you will be staying with and ensure your reward numbers are put into each of these apps. I don’t know what I used to do before I had apps for airlines. They allow you to see gate changes, and they provide information not only about incoming flights but about the incoming flight’s incoming flight. Why is that important? It is a proactive way to check and see if your flight will be delayed. More often than not, your flight is delayed because the plane coming for you was delayed. Apps allow you to monitor this long before you are told by the boards at the airport. A five-minute earlier heads up on a gate change is vital. My personal preference for flying is to book a flight as early in the morning as you can, because the first flight out of the day has its plane arrive the night before. This highly reduces the probability of your flight being delayed. And when you have to make connections, this is huge.
When booking a flight, I’d recommend ensuring when you re-enter the country that you have at least a three-hour layover if making a connection. If you’ve never traveled internationally, customs and re-entering the country takes time. Many times you will need to re-check your bag and stand in line waiting for it. Customs lines are long! More often than not you will also being changing terminals since large international flights fly out of a different area from small domestic flights. This again adds to your time needed.
When visiting Europe, you are probably going to be taking a train some time during your trip. Tickets for trains are normally sold starting three months out. From that time on, they typically increase in price, so I’d suggest getting as close to that three-month window as you can.
Research transportation costs! I can’t stress this enough. I’ve planned numerous trips to Europe, and the hardest category of budgeting by far is transportation. It is nearly impossible to know every single mode of transportation (example: I estimate I’ll use 12 Ubers and 5 taxis – not easy), but you can look at each day and make an estimated guess. Use the internet to help you find what transportation costs are in the cities you will be visiting. If you are going to be using Uber (one of my personal favorite modes of transportation), look and see if the cities you will be visiting offer Uber and what the rules are for Uber in those cities.
Packing lists and pre-trip research take time, lots of time. But the benefits this provides far outweighs the time you dedicate. When you get to your destination having eliminated a large amount of stress that packing, logistics, transportation etc. can bring, you’ll no doubt be ready to do all that planning all over again for the next trip.
Feel free to reach out if you have questions! Would love to help make your next trip even better. Also what have you found to be the best packing tip? I’d love to hear about your best finds.