Earlier this week, we got an email from an advice-seeking Sparkler with an impending trip to Europe, a limited amount of luggage space, and—gasp!—no idea what to pack.
Although at first, your SparkNotes editors were all, "You don't know what to pack for Europe? Gee, we wish we had your problems!", getting that letter brought back memories of our own teenaged trekking across the continent, when proper packing could have prevented any of the following tragedies:
a) The realization that every single person in Paris, including infants and sanitation workers, was better dressed than us
b) The discovery that, in Europe, nothing you own can be plugged in
c) An unfortunate vomiting incident involving bratwurst, a hotel window, and a parking lot full of Smart Cars (Shoulda brought Pepto!)
So for Sparkler Tim (and all other European-bound readers), here it is:
The SparkNotes Guide to EuroTrip Packing!
Let's start with...
Contrary to popular belief, people in Europe are not naked all the time, so in order to fit in, you will need to wear clothes. (However: If you visit a beach in France, be ready to get an eyeful of boobage. Just FYI.) The amount of apparel on your packing list will vary depending on the length of your trip, but less is more; if you can’t wear it more than three times, don’t bring it.
- Comfortable shoes. Your itinerary is bound to include a whole lot of walking, so unless you want to find yourself crying on the curb with a grapefruit-sized blister, make sure your kicks are up to the challenge.
- Versatile, comfortable clothing. Less clothing bulk = more luggage room to bring back miniature Big Bens for your entire family. (Yaaaaaay!) Search your wardrobe for a few pieces that don’t wrinkle easily or clash with each other, make sure you’ve got things that can be worn for daytime wandering or evenings out, and don’t be afraid to get a little more dressed up than usual. You’re on the most fashionable continent in the world; you'll want to look fabulous.
- Giant white basketball sneakers. Wearing shoes like this is like having “I’m a tourist!” stamped on your forehead, making you an object of ridicule and a target for pickpockets.
- T-shirts with stupid, smug, or vulgar slogans on them. You’re representing your country over there, so on behalf of all Americans: please don’t make us look like idiots.
Tons of walking, city grit, and a generally higher population of smokers will leave most Euro-trippers in need of a shower every 24-48 hours. Here’s the scoop on toiletries (and remember, airport guidelines dictate that liquids can only be carried in containers of 3oz or less).
- Sunscreen. All those minutes of traipsing from landmark to landmark add up to a lot of UV exposure.
- Travel-sized soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Not all hotels provide them.
- Deodorant, disposable razor, toothbrush, and toothpaste, all to be used liberally. Have some mercy on your fellow public transportation-riders.
- Cologne/perfume. You’ll be riding public transportation and sharing intimate space with your tour groups; strangers don’t need a noseful of your signature man (or woman) musk.
- Unnecessary lotions, hair products, or mountains of makeup. You want to spend your trip out experiencing European culture, not stuck in the bathroom perfecting your bro-spikes.
- Electric razors. You can’t plug ‘em in.
ITEMS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE
Failing to bring any of the following can bring your European fun-fest to a screeching FAIL.
- Your passport. Duh.
- Your itinerary, with detailed information on flight times, hotel addresses, transportation options, AND any essential contact info.
- Your plane ticket/rail passes. Double duh.
- Cash, credit cards, and non-passport ID, all in a safe place. If you think that money belts and fanny packs look stupid…well, we’re not arguing with you, but make sure your wallet is un-liftable (i.e. in a zippered pouch inside your bag, or a pocket that criminals can’t reach.)
- Copies of all your identification and travel documents, safely stowed in the very bottom of your bag.
- Your cell phone, unless it’s on a global network. (If you’re not sure, check with your individual carrier to see whether your cell will work in Europe.)
ITEMS WHICH ARE NOT OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE BUT STILL ESSENTIAL
You won’t die if you forget one of these, but you might wish you were dead!
- A digital camera and plenty of memory cards.
- Addresses of friends who would be thrilled to receive a postcard with a picture of the Queen on it.
- A guidebook that includes listings of things you actually want to do.
- A phrasebook that includes translations of such vital sentences as: “Where is the bathroom?”, “I would like the chicken,” and, “No, I did not urinate on that Palace Guard.”
- A ferret. There is no possible circumstance under which you will need a ferret while traveling in Europe.