Packing & Technology for Europe
How to pack for your trip to Europe
When preparing for a trip to Europe, it's important that you pack everything you'll need. With our extensive travel experience, we've compiled our top essentials that you won't want to forget. Of course, this list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather a guide to help you understand what you may need to make your trip safe and fun.
Please note, the standard dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9″ x 14″ x 22″ including handles and wheels.
The standard dimensions for a checked bag are 27″ x 21″ x 14″.
1. KNOW YOUR ITINERARY
You'll want to dress according to your itinerary. For example, if you have walking tours planned, it's important to pack comfortable shoes as well as breathable clothes. If you are hiking, pack appropriate footwear. If you are renting snowmobiles in Iceland, then pack warm layers.
2. PACK IN LAYERS
We recommend that you pack clothes that can be layered. This includes thin clothes you can put on top of each other to adjust your body temperature to the elements. You may want to start with an undershirt or tank top, then a T-shirt and one or two long-sleeved pieces. For coastal travel, always bring a wind-blocking jacket and something to act as a layering piece under it for warmth, such as a light sweatshirt.
3. PREPARE FOR RAIN OR SNOW
Parts of Europe, such as Ireland and the UK, are no stranger to rain. Opt for an ergonomic rain jacket with a hood that will keep water out. Depending on the destination and time of year, you can also experience snow. Be sure to pack a waterproof jacket with a nice thick lining to keep you warm!
4. MULTI-PURPOSE YOUR WARDROBE
Pack clothes that can be worn for multiple occasions. I like to always pack plain black shirts that can be worn almost anywhere (such as a night out or a day of touring).
5. SAVE ROOM FOR SOUVENIRS
If you can, try not to overpack your bags before your trip. We try to always keep at least one or two pouches in our suitcase open so we have the option of bringing back a great souvenir. You never know what you’ll find in your travels!
6. BRING THE RIGHT BAGS
One of the best tips we can suggest is buying an expandable bag that allows you to pack bulky items. Consider what you’ll carry during the day while you’re touring so that your personal items always stay with you. You might want to use a backpack as your carry-on luggage so you can throw it on your shoulders while walking in the cities. If you'll be spending the majority of your days out and about, consider bringing a larger backpack with more room for essentials. Rolling suitcases work well, but it's important to remember that not every accommodation will have elevators.
Choosing the right attire to pack
Sometimes, it's not enough to say "pack a rain jacket." We've traveled enough to know exactly what you'll want to bring, and why.
We highly recommend packing a thin, breathable shell rain jacket any time you travel. Choose something ergonomic to allow efficiency and flexibility. The hood should pull over your face with a slight overhang to catch drips. Look for zippers under your arms to allow for airflow, which is particularly important for aerobic exercise like hiking or fast walking. You may want to consider a loose fitting jacket as you want to be comfortable if you wear it over other layers of clothing. A decent rain jacket includes thick, durable zippers. Many brands line collars with fabric for comfort and include extra pockets that zip closed to protect gear. We have found that a slightly fitted model is better for summer wear.
Tip: North Face is one of the only brands that carries sizes 2X and up.
LIGHT SWEATER / SWEATSHIRT
In dry weather, cotton material is fine. But if you're in the morning mists blowing off the ocean? You’ll want to choose a low-pile fleece material that keeps you warm and can easily withstand a few water droplets. You can bring any fleece you like, but make sure it is a synthetic material like polyester, nylon and/or spandex. We don't recommend wicking shirts used for running as the material can be slippery when tied around your waist if you get warm.
Stretchy, comfortable pants are a must. Depending on how active you’ll be, you may require something more versatile like zip-off nylon pants. These dry quickly and can easily convert to shorts. For women, leggings or yoga pants are recommended for long bus trips. For men, athletic pants with a stretchy waistband is the best way to stay comfortable while traveling during the day.
Tip: When you buy zip-off pants, test the fit by lifting your knee to your chest. Pay attention to how deeply the seam cuts into your thigh. If a good portion of your trip will be spent walking, your pants should be comfortable as you move around. Choose zip-off nylon pants that are a bit snug in the waist. As you move in them, they should loosen up. A drawstring helps, as does a belt. Look for lined waistbands and well-sealed seams; nylon fabric is slippery and hard to sew back together.
Consider how much movement you plan to do before you choose your shoes. We prefer a waterproof light-hiking sneaker in addition to at least one pair of sandals. In our opinion, Merrell makes very versatile hiking/travel shoes. They heavily pad almost every pair, making them easy to break in. The sole is a thick Vibram construction to protect you from rugged terrain.
Tip: Upgrade to the waterproof model for long rainy days.
We recommend purchasing a travel backpack that will still be comforable after a long day. Look for padding on the straps and bands that snap around your waist and chest. These features distribute weight more evenly, taking some burden off your back. Make sure the straps are adjustable. Taller folks may need to opt for a longer torso pack. The bulk of your backpack should sit right at the small of your back where it’s most comfortable. When you’re rushing to catch a plane or lugging lunch around the city all day, you will appreciate a comfortable backpack.
HAND SANITIZER, FACIAL MASKS AND VACCINE CARDS
In the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it's important to pack hand sanitizer for easy hand cleaning on the move. You'll likely see hand sanitizing stations available in public places as well, but we recommend you carry your own personal supply. Masks are another new essential that you'll likely want to pack in your suitcase. Airlines, hotel common areas, and some tours and attractions are requiring customers to wear masks, so we recommend packing multiple masks of your preferred type and/or design.
We are also encouraging all travelers to pack their physical vaccine card, as many countries are now requiring it prior to entry.
Using your phone internationally can be expensive, but you have a number of cost-effective options to keep in touch with friends and family while traveling.
BUYING AN INTERNATIONAL SIM CARD
If you want to use your phone like you normally do, then your best option for using your phone internationally is to buy a SIM card in whatever country you plan to be in. Most countries have SIM stores right in the airport. Here are the steps on how to buy and use an international SIM.
- Make sure your phone has a sim card slot.
- Make sure your phone is unlocked for international use.
- Once abroad, visit a SIM card store in the airport, or a wireless carrier store.
Be conscious of your data usage while traveling abroad. Your phone won’t automatically connect to pre-established WiFi locations like it does while you’re in the US meaning you’ll be using data much more often than you’re used to. Much like with calling or texting, there are a few options you have for dealing with your data. Many hotels, restaurants, and attractions have WiFi available to the public.
- Buy a sim card that includes data. (500MB might seem like a large amount of data to you, but you will run through that fairly easily while abroad. Ask your cell phone provider for advice, based on your usage, on how much data to purchase).
- Turn off data for the apps you aren’t planning to use.
- Turn off data completely.
- Keep your phone on “Airplane Mode” whenever possible.
You can also reach out to your cell phone provider and see what types of international travel plans they have to offer. Some will offer a “travel pass” plan for $10 USD per day.
What actually are adapters/converters anyway? Here is a breakdown to hopefully ease your mind when it comes to plugging in your appliances!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ADAPTER AND A CONVERTER:
An adapter allows your devices to be plugged into a different type of wall socket. It does not change the electricity supplied to the appliance. If the appliance that you are using supports dual voltage and dual frequency, you will not need a converter, only an adapter. To see if your appliance supports dual-frequency, check for a plate/tag that will be located on the item stating “120/240v or 50/60Hz”.
A power converter steps down the voltage of the appliance from 240v to 120v, allowing equipment that is not dual voltage to operate at the voltage for which it was designed (basically-this prevents you from sending your appliance into smoke). Converters do not alter the frequency at which electricity is delivered and should be used a maximum of 1-2 hours at a time.
Keep in mind:
- Items that normally require converters are mainly larger appliances such as computers, hairdryers, hair tools, sleep machines, etc.
- In order to use a converter, you will need to also use an adapter, so we always recommend bringing both with you while traveling.
PLUG TYPES PER COUNTRY
Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales: Type G plug
France: Type C or E plug
Germany, Greece, Portugal, Spain: Type C or F plug
Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden: Type C or F plug
Denmark: Type C, F, E or K plug
Switzerland: Type C or J plug