I have been asked a lot by friends that are traveling to Europe what they should, or should not pack. I feel like my lists are always identical to the ones available on every other travel website. It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking of all the weird things I would rethink packing (or in some cases, not packing.) I thought it might be helpful to share a few things I would buy before going to Europe, and other things I would buy once I arrived. These items may not to relevant to everyone, but they were ones that I found very important during my travels.
Things to buy once you’ve arrived:
Hair Styling Tools:
I would suggest buying hair styling tools while you’re in Europe. When I was in Spain I brought “the works”, blow dryer, curling iron, and flat iron. All of these products were made for use in the United States, so I brought converter attachments. I had used these same styling tools in Europe previously, and never had a problem. Unfortunately, my second night in Bilbao I was getting ready to go to a party, and noticed my flat iron started to smell like wires burning. I touched the flatiron and noticed that it was hotter than normal. Because I am the fool that I am, I decided it was worth the damage I may cause, to straighten my hair. Thankfully, I was smart enough to press the iron lightly, to avoid burning. I then decided my hair needed some loose curls. My curling iron never smelled funky. So I assumed my flatiron must have been acting up. I probably left my hair wrapped around the curling iron for around five seconds. Then I noticed my hair was stuck to the curling iron barrel. The whole apartment started to fill with a burning smell. I pulled the curling iron away, and my hair came off with it. Of course, this strand of hair had to be in the front of my face.
The dead ends it left me with, lead me to learning a lot of Spanish words about hair. After many hair masks, I finally broke down and went to a salon to get my hair trimmed. All this being said, I would just be cautious when using hair styling tools from different countries. I eventually bought new European ones that worked just fine. I believe the reason for the overheating was caused the fact that in Europe the outlets run at a higher voltage. This causes American products to get over heated. In all honesty, you may be able to find some high-end converters that can maybe reduce this problem. But my Target bought converts seemed to work just fine, except for those styling products.
In Europe they are a lot more environmentally conscious than we are here. One example is the fact that if you want to have a typically thin plastic grocery bag for your things, you must pay a small fee for each bag. I love this concept because it makes you rethink how many plastic bags you’re wanting to use. What is far more common in Europe, is to buy a reusable bag (usually a euro), and bring it with you to each shopping trip. I bought about four bags when I first moved to Bilbao. I made sure I always kept one in my backpack or purse for any spontaneous purchases. These reusable bags will save you money in the long run, avoiding the constant small charges for the thin plastic bags.
Over the counter Medicines and Eyedrops:
These are not necessarily things that you have to wait to buy in the country you’re planning on visiting. Although, medicine in Europe is far cheaper than in the United States. The only problem is trying to get your typical over the counter medicines. Because I don’t often take medicine whatsoever, the thought of bringing much medicine for my six month stay in Spain did not cross my mind. I packed vitamins and a small travel size amount of ibuprofen. This was all fine and dandy, until I became incredibly ill, and soon used up all of the ibuprofen.
So like the basic America that I am, I went to the market to pick up some more. Little to my knowledge, these types of medicine are not sold at markets. After humbling myself and finally asking some locals, I found out you have to ask at the Pharmacia for this medicine. I lived literally steps from a Pharmacia, and even spent days practicing how to ask for it. But every time I walked pasted the Pharmacia, I saw lots of people in line. Any one who knows me well, knows I get nervous speaking a lot of Spanish in front of locals. So after about a week of procrastination and a high rising fever, I finally got the nerve to ask for the medicine. I felt so stupid for getting so worked up about asking for ibuprofen. It took me about two seconds and they pharmacists were so nice. I returned multiple times later on to buy medicine there. One thing to remember if you are in a country where you do not know the language is that, most all pharmacists know at least a little English. The fact that they knew English helped me a lot when I was trying to describe eye drops. Because once again that was an item I did not realize I would need to pack.
Things to bring with you:
Like most Americans, I use an Iphone. While Americans have a cult-like obsession with Iphones, Europeans don’t see the fascination. So, when my phone charger broke, I went on a wild chase to find a new one. The one place I had ever seen phone chargers for sale was inside what are commonly called “China Shops”. These are shops with low priced household items all made in China. I was so excited that I found a charger for two euros. The excitement soon died when I tried it out at the apartment, to just find out it didn’t work. After a day of searching I finally found an electronic store with an iPhone charger. This may have only been such a struggle for me to find one because I wasn’t a local. But I will say that for every one Iphone charger, you’ll find around twenty android chargers. This just seemed odd to me coming from a country that worships the Iphone, and sells chargers at every gas station and grocery store.
Whether you’re a fan of Spotify or some other music streaming service, playing the fees for offline use is well worth it. I don’t think any investment was more important for me than my Spotify premium membership. Most travel blogs I read talk about how important a plane ride playlist is, and without a doubt it’s a must! But in Europe you will be walking and taking public transportation a lot. At first, I listened to my playlists on the metro and bus to simply avoid unwanted conversations for weird guys on the metro. But after the months went on I listened to music while on transportation or walking because I missed the sound of English. I know this may sound crazy because Spanish is a beautiful language. But when you spend any large amount of time out of the country, you start to miss familiar sounds.
This also helps when you are in a country where the people speak a language you do not understand. During my summer in Germany in 2016, I didn’t run any errands without headphones. Because if I didn’t have them in someone could possibly try to ask me something I would not understand. This may seem rude for me to avoid people like this. But the level of stupidity you feel when you shrug your shoulders because you don’t understand a word someone is saying is far worse. In addition, to my many reasons why you should have offline playlists ready for your travels, is because the songs you listen to during those adventures will forever remind of a certain place. I have dozens of songs that remind me of bus rides, or the beach, because with offline playlists you end up listening to the same songs a lot!
While this purchase is not necessary, it’s one of my favorite things to purchase for a trip. Pick a perfume or cologne to wear everyday during your stay in a certain location. I only did this for three different countries. But every time I come across the left-over perfume I’m instantly flooded with memories from my time there. It is a way to hold onto a memory without it just being a photo or video.
When I lived in Bilbao I wore Miss Dior every day. This is my favorite perfume and I had worn it before in the United States, but saved it for rare occasions. When I returned back from Spain, about three months into being home I had an event that I felt I needed the Miss Dior for. This sounds incredibly dramatic but I’m telling the truth when I say I cried because to me it smelled like Bilbao.
I hope that some of these suggestions would help you pack for your next European adventure!