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Urban European Travel: Packing List for Europe and Her Cities

Women on the Road
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Putting together a packing list for Europe is a bit like putting one together for "America" - would that be Hawaii in summer or Alaska in winter?

Seriously, there's no way to cover all of Europe, all of the year. So let's take what I consider the most agreeable travel seasons in Europe: late spring and early autumn, and let's stick to urban Europe travel (I'm a city girl and I know cities best).

A final caveat: I travel light. I might take 2-3 pairs of underwear for a week or two, but wash a pair every night. My bags are always only 3/4 full when I leave home because I know I'll find something I like during my travels.

Take this list - and change it! Adapt it to your needs, add things, remove things, but at least you'll have something to start from.

Travel Documents and travel necessities

  • Passport: I love storing mine in this Passport Amigo 
  • Requisite travel visas: Brexit will undoubtedly bring European visa changes with it, so be prepared and check visa regulations just in case laws have changed
  • Plane or train tickets: I highly recommend travelling by rail whenever possible in Europe, but it can be complicated - I explain it all here
  • Senior discount card (or student card): European countries have different age limits but if you have a senior discount card from your own country, bring it along
  • Health insurance card: here's what I use 
  • International vaccination certificate: you'll only need this if you're coming from parts of Africa or Asia 
  • Money: Much of Europe uses the Euro, but not everyone so check before you go
  • Other forms of payment: bring the requisite credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid credit cards; keep in mind you’ll need a chip card in Europe
  • Guidebooks: either the hardcover or Kindle versions but I like to travel with one of these 
  • Maps: many people use Google Maps but my favorite is Map.me (and a physical map just in case)
  • Travel journal: here are my recommendations 
  • Driver's licence: your national one will usually do but some countries require an international licence - so check first
  • Emergency phone numbers: a physical list should complement the one on your phone and flash drive and include embassy contacts, next of kin and your hotel phone number in case you get lost (you'll be happy to have your physical list if you drop your iPhone into the toilet, trust me)
  • Travel money belt: it may not be pretty but it's one of the safest ways to carry your money
  • First aid kit checklist: look it over and take what you need 

Packing for Europe: Chic Clothes

  • 2 pair of pants/trousers: Dark-wash jeans are a classic, as are any well-tailored casual slacks. Denim is fine as long as it's not "sweaty" summer.
  • 1 pair of comfortable leggings or palazzo pants - something stretchy is great for the plane and for wandering around in your room
  • 1 wrinkle-free washable travel skirt or a travel dress you can dress up with a scarf
  • 1 pair of shorts if you're headed to the coast (if not, leave these at home)
  • 2 blouses (short- or long-sleeved, depending on the season)
  • 1 tank top (for layering or sleeping in)
  • 1 cardigan, lightweight fleece or pashmina for warmth on chilly evenings
  • 2 quick-drying underwear (more if this is too scary)
  • 2 travel bras
  • 1 bathing suit (if you'll have access to pool or sea)
  • 2 pairs of shoes (sandals if it's warm, walking shoes if it's colder, a pair of leather boots if it's really cold)
  • 1 travel towel (if you're staying in a hostel; a hotel will provide its own)
  • (optional: cold weather clothes if you can't make it in the spring or fall)
  • Rain gear: a classic trench coat, or a waterproof poncho for emergencies
  • Decorative scarves, pashminas or an infinity travel scarf (with hidden pockets!)
  • Funky jewelry (not the real stuff!)
  • Handbag or purse
  • travel packing cubes 

Personal Items for european travel

  • Shampoo/Conditioner or a kit with everything
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste and dental floss
  • Small antibacterial soap
  • Small moisturizer
  • Small deodorant
  • Nail clippers or file, tweezers
  • Disposable razor
  • Comb or hairbrush (like this mini one)
  • Prescription drugs (and your prescriptions)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Make-up
  • Hair accessories (hair clip or barrette)
  • Dramamine or motion sickness bracelet (I tried these and they worked!) if you suffer on the road
  • Pads/tampons/diva cup if needed, and panty pads
  • Neck pillow for the plane or long rides (this one doesn't require inflation)
  • Eye mask and earplugs if you need them
  • Eyeglasses, contact lenses and supplies (keep them organized with this kit)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen (you can just buy this when you land)

Technical Stuff

  • A flashlight, one of the things I never travel without
  • Portable luggage scale - optional, but important if you're flying discount because weight restrictions are getting ever more stringent and guessing luggage weight could be costly
  • Universal adapter
  • Pens or other things to write with (check out this Space Pen!)
  • Phrasebook or language translation app
  • Books or Kindle
  • Phone paraphernalia - charger, cards and unlocked cellphone if you plan on buying a local SIM
  • Portable external battery because with all that phone use for language apps and maps you'll drain the battery quickly
  • A camera if you're not using your phone to take pictures
  • A music player, also if you're not taking your phone
  • USB key - use it to keep copies of your important papers and carry your documents if you don't plan on bringing a laptop
  • A laptop if you plan to work or write while you're away (I'm an Apple person and take my Macbook Air everywhere)
  • A VPN - a virtual private network to keep you safe while you surf

what to wear in europe: a few do's and don'ts

  • DO buy it there. Urban travel rarely requires more than a carry on, but European budget airlines have extremely strict baggage restrictions. You can easily purchase toiletries once you land - most of the brands you know, but plenty of new ones to experiment with.
  • DO wear comfortable shoes. While those heels give off that Eurochic vibe, you'll truly regret your decision after the first few cobblestones.
  • DO choose neutral tones. Not only do greys and blacks mask dirt, grime and wrinkles, but they are always in style. You won’t stand out in a crowd as a tourist, and that can help keep you safe. Additionally, muted colors allow you to mix and match your wardrobe - and pack fewer items. 
  • DO leave it at home. Dispense with jewelry. Certain cities are notorious for pickpockets and you don't want to spend half a day reporting a theft at a police station. Use a money belt or an anti-theft bag to hide your valuables.
  • DO dress it up. The best way to up your style factor is to wear attractive scarves. I always take a few when I travel - not only do they dress me up but they help me pack less because I can "change outfits" more often by simply changing my scarf. Another accessory that can easily dress up a wardrobe during the day is a pair of designer sunglasses.
  • DON'T stuff your carry on. You’ll want space in there for the return trip. European cities have all kinds of amazing shopping! Even though I’d leave the tacky souvenirs at the gift shop, you can find leather purses, handmade trinkets and other amazing items you’ll want to take home. Make sure to leave them space. 
  • DON’T second-guess the weather. Check the forecast before you zip your bag shut and pack accordingly. And if you’re going somewhere you’ve never been, check the average temperatures (you can start with this weather chart). 
  • DON'T be too casual and dress for the beach in the city. Showing a lot of skin is considered ill-mannered, and even shorts are frowned upon unless your city happens to be in the deep South or by the sea.
  • DON’T overthink it. While travels in the wilderness require a lot more forethought and planning,  city travel is much more “normal”. Not only are there stores everywhere to help you fill in the blanks if you forget something, cities in Europe are probably not all that different from cities you’ve visited back home. A tinge more formal, perhaps, but buzzing and exciting nonetheless.