Figuring out what to bring is important when packing for Europe, but so is figuring out what not to bring.
Packing for Europe: Items You Won’t Need
Not sure how to pack for Europe? Save yourself irritation and embarrassment by leaving these eight items at home.
Most Europe trips involve lots and lots of walking, often over uneven cobblestone streets. You might also find yourself climbing hundreds of steps to reach the cupola of the Duomo in Florence or the top of the Belem Tower in Lisbon. (Historic buildings like these typically don’t have elevators.) Needless to say, this is not the time to try to break in a new pair of sneakers.
Instead, pack comfortable walking shoes that you’ve worn and walked in for at least a few weeks. (Merrell is known for attractive shoes that are easy to walk in.) Some travelers prone to blisters prefer to pack two pairs so they can switch back and forth from day to day, which helps cut down on repeated friction to the same parts of the feet.
Clothes That Stand Out
When you’re strolling the chic streets of Paris, wearing sweatpants or a Hawaiian shirt will make you stand out—and not in a good way. As you’re packing for Europe, pick clothes that will help you fit in with the locals.
Focus on well-tailored garments in neutral colors, perhaps with a fashionable scarf to dress up the look. Avoid white socks and tennis shoes, baseball caps, T-shirts with blaring text or logos, and athletic wear (unless you’re actually working out).
If you want to broadcast the fact that you’re a tourist, then sure—go ahead and wear an old-school fanny pack in Europe. Besides being almost universally unflattering (with the exception of a few newer designer models such as this option from Kate Spade), fanny packs present an obvious and accessible target for pickpockets on crowded streets or subway cars.
Safer alternatives include pickpocket-proof clothing, designed to conceal and protect your valuables, and crossbody bags for travel that have anti-theft features but still look stylish. Travelon crossbody bags are popular with many travelers.
The Wrong Adapter Plug
You don’t want to be caught without a way to keep your phone, e-reader, and other gadgets charged up, and that means bringing the correct adapter plug. Keep in mind that different European countries have differently shaped outlets, so don’t expect the adapter you used in London last year to work in Italy this year.
Before you start packing for Europe, check this handy list of plug types and voltages to see which adapter(s) you’ll need for the destinations on your itinerary. Keep in mind, too, that you might want to bring more than one adapter so you can charge multiple devices at once. Products to consider include this adapter plug set and this universal adapter.
Some of Europe’s most charming hotels are historic properties that have plenty of character—but not elevators. The lighter you pack, the less you have to schlep up and down between the lobby and that cozy garret room on the third floor.
Remember: Many European hotel rooms tend to be on the smaller side, so a massive suitcase could end up taking up a big chunk of your floor space. When packing for Europe, try to stick to a single, moderately sized bag.
Excessive Cash and/or Traveler’s Checks
Gone are the days when you had to show up for a European vacation with an envelope of traveler’s checks or a stack of British pounds ordered from your bank in advance. Just about every major airport in Europe has multiple ATMs where you can withdraw money in the local currency, and there’s less need for cash these days since more and more merchants across Europe are now accepting credit cards.
Consider bringing multiple ATM cards in case the first one you try doesn’t work or the machine eats your card. (This is most important for solo travelers.) The same goes for credit cards; always have a backup. And it doesn’t hurt to bring a little cash that you can spend or exchange in a pinch. Protect your valuables by carrying the bulk of your cards and cash in a money belt under your clothes.
If you heard the recent story about a woman being fined $500 for bringing an apple into the United States, you know that customs agents don’t look kindly upon every food item travelers try to bring across international borders.
The same goes for entering Europe. Although the restrictions vary slightly from one country to the next, you should generally avoid bringing any meat or dairy products from a non-European Union country into the E.U. (that means you’ll have to consume your yogurt or turkey sandwich in the air before you land). Many countries also ban potatoes. Fruits and vegetables are usually permitted in small quantities for personal consumption, but it’s best to research the exact food restrictions for the country you’re visiting before you go. Granola bars are generally a safe option.
Hair Straighteners, Blow Dryers, and Curling Irons
Yes, you want your hair to look nice in your vacation photos, but high-heat beauty tools are often not designed to work on European voltage (220 – 240 volts, as compared to 120 volts in the United States and Canada). That means you could easily burn out the device as soon as you plug it into a European outlet.
One solution is to buy a dual-voltage tool such as this travel hair dryer or this portable hair straightener. That said, travelers sometimes report issues even with dual-voltage devices thanks to older wiring or uneven currents in some European hotels, so you might be better off simply using your hotel’s blow dryer and leaving your straightener or curling iron at home.
3 words: lightweight, durable, & multi-functional. The Carry-On from Away makes traveling that much easier, especially with its removable, TSA-approved battery for your electronics.
How to Blend-Into Europe
Plaid Winter Coat for Switzerland
What to Wear in Europe
More from SmarterTravel:
- Top 25 Ways to Save on Europe Travel
- 10 Secret Places in Europe You Can Still Visit on a Budget
- What Not to Pack When You Travel
Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.