13 Things to Pack for Europe (and What to Leave at Home)

Heading to Europe for the first time and don’t know what to pack? I hear you. I didn’t know where to begin when we started planning our first European Ladycation! The last thing you want to do is show up unprepared, but it’s equally as frustrating to arrive and realize you over-packed. Do you really want to be lugging stuff around Europe just for shits and giggles? Of course not, so here are a few tips to help you pack smarter. Knowledge is power, ladies!

1 – Power Adapter/Strip:

Did you know that European countries use a different electric voltage than the U.S.? While we use 110 volts here in The States, Europe uses 220 volts. Your electronic devices may or may not be compatible, but their plugs will most certainly not be. In addition to using a higher voltage, their plugs are shaped differently, so regardless of the voltage, you’ll need an adapter.

My best advice would be to buy a power strip you can plug multiple devices into that both converts the voltage and also adapts the plug. You can buy them on Amazon for anywhere from $20-$60. You could also choose to buy cheap, small ones if you want to have more portability. Think about the electronic devices you’ll be bringing and decide from there.

Speaking of things that need electricity, leave your blow dryer at home, gals. Seriously. Most hotels will have them, and many AirBnbs do, too, so there’s no sense lugging an extra, bulky item around. Save the room in your suitcase for something fun!

2 – Portable Battery Charger:

You’re going to be out and about all day, and you’re going to take a shit-ton of pictures. Your phone battery will deplete faster than you think. Get a portable charger to charge your phone on the go! If you’re taking your DSLR camera make sure you bring multiple batteries, and take the charger with you to plug into the battery pack. Lunch is a great time to put your devices on the charger so they’re refreshed and ready to go for the rest of your afternoon.

Since we’re talking about phones, be sure you check with your wireless supplier to find out what international options are available to you. You’ll need to add some type of international plan if you intend on calling or texting family and friends back home, or if you need to call anyone locally while abroad. They’re not cheap, but well worth it to stay connected.

3 – Solid Shampoo/Conditioner:

If you don’t want to check a bag, and for an easy space-saver, buy solid shampoo and conditioner. They’re like bars of soap, but for your hair, and can go in your carry-on. There are plenty of brands available, but I highly recommend Ethique. Their products are plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free and eco-friendly, they leave your hair looking healthy and shiny, feeling soft, and smelling lovely. You can buy them on Amazon or by clicking the link to their website. They come in regular or trial sizes for all different types of hair, and even have body and lotion bars, too!

4 – Water Bottle:

There are plenty of places around Europe to refill water bottles, so save yourself the expense, and save the planet the single use plastics. Bring your own! The water in Europe is as safe as in the U.S. Besides, don’t you want to spend your money on wine instead?

5 – Travel Journal:

Oh, the memories you will make! You’re going to want to remember every moment. The good, the bad, the amazing, the magical, the hilarious, all of it. Taking a million pictures helps, but nothing can beat writing it down as it’s happening, when it’s fresh. Write down what you do, where you go, the funny, random moments and memorable exchanges with the people you meet, the smells and sounds. There’s so much to remember, and without some help, much of your trip will be lost to the ravages of time. You won’t regret bringing one, but you will regret not.

Leave the rest of your books at home. I’m old fashioned in that I like reading my books in book form. I’m not a fan of the Kindle or e-books in general. I like the feel and smell of an actual book, to turn the page when I’ve finished it, not scroll. Scrolling is for blogs and gossip columns. However, I’m even less a fan of lugging heavy shit around when I don’t have to. If you’re a big reader who usually takes several books on vacation this is the time you’re going to want to suck it up and switch to e-books for a while.

6 – Laundry Detergent:

If you’re going to be in Europe for more than a week you’ll need to do some laundry. Take some detergent with you, and research where you can do a load or two. You may alternately opt to hand wash your garments. If you’re staying in a hotel, check to see if they provide laundry service, or have machines on the premises for guest use. To save space in your luggage and eliminate the potential for spills or leaks, you can buy detergent sheets so small you could fit them in your pocket!

Pro Tip: Instead of sticking to hotels, I highly recommend working some AirBnbs into the mix. If you go this route, make sure you book a place with a washing machine. This will save you money, and also allow you to do laundry at your leisure and maximize your time spent exploring! Don’t look for a dryer, though. Europe isn’t real big on dryers. Embrace the European way and line dry!

7 – Sunscreen:

Most European cities have historic centers where most attractions are concentrated. This means spending more time outside walking from place to place as opposed to taking some kind of transportation. Add to that the number of attractions that are themselves outdoor destinations, and you’ll be spending a lot of time under the sun. Make sure you take sunscreen–and not just for your face. The last thing you want to deal with on your dream vacation is a damn sunburn.

8 – Umbrella:

Rain happens. Take an umbrella for the same reason you take sunscreen: the amount of time you’ll spend outside. Going to Europe prepared for any eventuality will greatly improve your experience!

9 – Tampons/Pads/Ibuprofen:

Ladies, we’ve all been there. We’re on vacation or out on a date and bam. There she is. That relentless bitch who arrives every month to shame us for not breeding. Do you really want to be searching for a tampon while exploring the Vatican? “Excuse me, Father?” No, I didn’t think so. Take some pad/tampons, and ibuprofen with you so that you’re ready for anything Mother Nature throws at you!

10 – Tennis Shoes & Socks:

You’ll be walking several miles every day. Blisters are the last thing you need. Even if you think your shoes are sufficient, take some tennis shoes and socks as a backup, just in case. Imagine putting on blister-inducing shoes for the 7th day in a row and walking 6 miles all over Paris. Sound like a good time? I assure you it’s not. Learn from my mistakes, take tennis shoes!

Leave your stilettos at home. I’m sure you have visions of looking like a sexy-bitch in your bangin’ outfit and spikey, 6 inch stilettos, but I’d like you for just a moment to shift your vision to how you’ll look when you roll your ankle and fall flat on your ass while trying to walk on 2000 year old cobblestones. European women have been walking on those uneven streets for their entire lives, you have not. There are plenty of ways to look sexy without breaking your ankle, and zero ways to look sexy while breaking your ankle. Just sayin’.

11 – Shawl/Wrap:

Churches in Europe, like Catholic schools in The States, have a dress code. Make sure you cover your knees, and if it’s summer and you’re in a sleeveless or low cut top you’ll want to have a wrap to put on when you go into a church. You will be flat-out denied entry if they think you look too sexy for Jesus. And by sexy I mean those scandalously naked, seductive shoulders or any hint that you might be hiding nipples beneath that top. Cover it up, you little sex kitten, you.

Since we’re talking about what articles of clothing you should bring, here are some that you absolutely should not bring: Hoodies and Crocs. If you walk around Europe in a hoodie and/or Crocs you’ll stand out like Shaquille O’Neal in a crowd of kindergarteners.

12 – Extra (empty) Bag:

If you plan to do any shopping while you’re in Europe you’ll need a way to bring everything home. It’s always a good idea to bring an extra bag with you that you could fill with souvenirs to take home with you. We’ve all been there. Either you bought so many souvenirs you don’t know how you’ll get it all home, or your original packing was on Master Tetris level, and you have no idea how you’ll fit it all back in to get home. Take an extra bag with you and you’ll always have room!

13 – Sense of Adventure:

It’s Europe. Thousands of years of documented and still-standing history, hundreds of museums filled with culture and the world’s most famous artwork, cuisine to make your mouth orgasm for days, and warm, welcoming people. It’s not like the United States, and you’re a guest in their country. Drop your American entitlement and open yourself to possibility. Recognize the adventure of the experience, appreciate the wonder, be curious and inquisitive. You’ll get more out of your trip, and you’ll be better able to roll with the punches when hiccups inevitably happen. If you’re prepared and take your sense of adventure, you’ll have the time of your life!


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