Featured image: tonightatnoon.com.
The following is a list I compiled of things that almost saved my life during my 5 month stint abroad. I mentally thought of this list post-abroad, but feel it is the most necessary to share with fellow UCEAP (and non-UCEAP) students.
You’ve probably Googled “packing for Europe” or a phrase along those lines. And hey, you got great ideas. But here is the nitty-gritty of things beyond 4 jeans, 5 tops, and 6 pairs of socks.
1. Space Bags
Living in LA, I am fortunate to have a growing chain of Japanese discount stores (Daiso) spread across town. If you are also blessed with this store, you can get space bags for $1.50. I bought several medium size bags (packs of 2 each – larger space bags come in singles), as they make organizing clothes much easier. They are basically giant Ziploc bags and save space by squeezing the air out. Buy some extra packs for when you go home. You’re going to need it after all the clothes you accumulate from shopping. You can also find space bags on Amazon, albeit not at $1.50. Keep in mind it only saves space; it does not take away weight.
2. Laundry Protector Bag
Also at Daiso, these laundry protector bags keep your clothes from ruin inside the vicious washers in Europe. I don’t know about washers elsewhere, but Italian washers are on some intense steroids. I bought one large bag for jeans, shirts, and tops, and a smaller bag designated for delicates (undies, bras, tights).
3. Camelbak Groove Water Bottle
Everyone and their cats in my program had one. I wish I had gotten the memo. This particular water bottle is useful when there is no clean/purified water, as there is a built-in filter in the straw. They say you can drink the tap in Italy, but it tastes terrible. Additionally, you have to pay for purified water when you dine in Italy- so a filtered water bottle is best. Water from the restroom faucet? No problem.
4. TSA Approved Luggage Locks
I recommend combination locks, as you can lose the keys for key locks (just one less item you have to worry about). I bought the Ivation locks via Amazon. The locks also give you piece of mind when you leave your luggage at a hostel.
5. External Battery
I cannot emphasize this enough. Some where along the way during your travels, your phone will die and you will be in need of an outlet. My external battery saved me on countless occasions. I recommend the Anker brand. They have several selections based on the amount of power you need. I have the Anker Astro E5 15000mAh, which I found is a little power monster and sufficient for a weekend trip. Anker constantly unveils new generations of batteries, so the general design changes often.
6. Weekender Bag
Although I love my Samsonite carry-on luggage, a weekender bag is the best way to go instead of rolling around a small luggage on cobblestone streets with 5,000 people around you (plus, you can walk faster with just a bag on your shoulders). As you will soon discover, weekend trips will go by as fast as it took for you to fly there; you really don’t need to pack your life for a short weekend. Weekender bags (not to be confused with a weekender purse) are the perfect size for such trips. I highly recommend Everlane weekender bags.
7. Other miscellaneous but important items:
- Hand sanitizer – Always.
- Travel tissue – You don’t know how many times I walked into a McDonalds to use the restroom only to find there is never any toilet paper.
- TSA approved travel containers (or buy travel size toiletries) – Pretty self-explanatory. You don’t want to be lugging around full-sized shampoos for a weekend trip.
- Luggage scale – Better to know an approximate weight than a guesstimate. I knew my luggage and carry-on (yes, some airlines, AirFrance in my case, weigh the carry-on) were over the weight limit. I paid a fee of 70 Euros each. That’s about 180 USD. I cried on the flight home.
- Travel adapters – Must-have.
- Power strip with 3+ outlets – So you can charge more gadgets with 1 wall outlet + adapter.
- Travel memory foam neck pillow – I don’t know about you, but those micro-beaded pillows just don’t do anything for me.
- Reusable grocery bags – Decently sized sturdy ones. In Italy, you have to pay 0.05 Eurocents for each plastic bag. But their plastic bags are incredible sturdy. You will learn to buy in moderation when grocery shopping. Last but not least…..
8. Moleskine Journal
Trust. Writing a short paragraph about the places you’ve been, people you meet, and things you see/eat will be well worth it when you come home and read it again.