Here is a really long list of items regarding what to bring abroad, how to travel, etc. Things I wish I had known before coming! Enjoy:
-bring a raincoat, or at least a coat with a hood. It rained basically the entire month of March. Don’t bring rainboots. They’re too heavy and take up too much space but bring shoes you can get wet (I have combat boots I wear in the rain).
-bring business-casual sized heels (which I consider about 2 inches). I really wished I had brought some here to wear out because you’re on your feet for so long some nights and my 5 inch heels get the best of me.
-don’t bring yoga pants. It’s a waste of space. Don’t bring Uggs because you’ll stick out like a sore thumb even though I miss them a lot.
-bring lots and lots and lots of scarves.
-bring a small backpack (like something leather). Its perfect for day trips or if you’re going grocery shopping. Make sure it has a lot of pockets and isn’t easy to open (I have ones that snap and zipper, that way no one can take anything from you. It also has a pocket on the back, which lies against my back when its on, which is great for cash). When you’re on the bus or tram, take your backpack off if you’re not sitting in a seat or standing against a wall. You don’t want it behind you where you can’t see it.
-bring Tide detergent packets. They’re heavy, but the detergent here smells weird.
-if you’re having visitors from home, send some clothes back with them so you have more room in your suitcase going back
-for jackets, I brought a leather coat which I wore every day and my north face which is a little puffier and good for London/Dublin. If you think you’re going to go places like Prague bring a heavy jacket otherwise it’s a waste.
THINGS TO BRING
-bring notebooks. The notebooks here are all grid paper which is inconvenient and annoying to write on.
-bring all your own medicines- Nyquil, advil, allergy medecine etc. Sometimes you need a prescription for that kind of stuff
-also make sure to fill all prescriptions far in advance (enough to last you until you come home). You may also want to ask your doctor if they can write you a prescription for antibiotics in case you get sick. My doctor had no problem doing that.
-I brought my own pillow case but I’m crazy about that kind of stuff so it just depends on the type of person you are
-invest in a nice camera. I was lucky enough that my boyfriend bought me one right before I left, but its worth it to buy a very nice camera to take pictures. Don’t bring it out with you.
-bring peanut butter if you have room!
-bring enough make up to last you as long as your trip. Makeup here is expensive and often you have to buy it from a sephora and not a drug store
-obviously bring like two million satchels
-bring a journal or a planner. My friend alanna who was in Barcelona both wrote down what we did every single day. Just quick things that you won’t remember. Sometimes we’ll say “pick a date” and read them and its really fun to look back on (also, I blogged which was awesome for my family and friends at home and I like looking back and reading it)
-get a Capital One card for a credit card because there is no exchange rate (I used this only to book things online-planes, hostels, etc.) A lot of places don’t take cards, so you need another card you can use to withdraw money. For this, get a Bank of America debit card. There are related banks in Europe that won’t charge you fees for withdrawing money (you can online chat or go to a Bank of America to see which bank will be compatible, for example Barclays in London or BNP Parisbas in France). Remember the exchange rate- if you withdraw 100 euro, it’ll show up as more in dollars on your online account.
-don’t carry more than 20 euro on you. This isn’t a lot, but I rarely carry more than 30 euro. I never ever brought my entire wallet with me either. I brought a crossover bag with on a ton of pockets so I never had to bring everything with me (just the essentials, like a little cash, keys, phone. Never my bank cards unless I needed to withdraw money). This way, if you get pick-pocketed, you only lose 20 euro, not 100 euro, all your bank cards, your license, passport, etc.
-I withdraw 100 euro a time because I don’t get charged any withdraw fees with Bank of America. Its unnecessary to take out more than that and dangerous. Also be aware of what is going on around you when you withdraw money. Try to go inside if that is an option, and always make sure to enter your PIN discreetly. A lot of time homeless men sleep outside the banks or even in the lobbies. Obviously just come back another time if that’s the case.
-Buy a card with a chip- its much easier to use around here for places that do accept cards. They take swipe cards most places, but machines (ATM, kiosk etc.) only take cards with chips. You probably don’t know what that is but you’ll see.
-If you have an American Express card or anything else that isn’t international- bring it abroad but leave it in your apartment. I kept mine in my passport holder because I really only wanted it for emergencies.
-Bring your iPhone!!! You can use this to connect to WiFi and iMessage/FaceTime home.
-Don’t get an international phone plan through American companies. Its extremely expensive and doesn’t last long. Not worth it.
-There are a few different options for getting a European cell. Most people will tell you to buy a go phone (just a little flip phone you can add minutes to whenever you want) which is definitely a viable option. My advice is to look into SIM cards you can put into your iPhone. I was able to get Free Mobile, a French company. It cost 10 euro and took two days to get a SIM, then 20 euro a month for unlimited calls and texts in France, three gigabites of 3G a month (more than what an American phone company gives you. This allows you to text anyone with an iPhone), and unlimited calls to the US. I can’t say what other European countries do, but I know Free Mobile has “sister” cell phone companies in different countries. Its worth looking into. Make sure if you have AT&T you unlock your phone at home. With Verizon, my dad (the account holder) was able to call and have my phone unlocked, but other phone companies need your phone there in person.
- copy and scan every important card you have (I scanned my Bank of America card, Capital One card, American Express card, license, insurance, passport, and Visa). Make copies to bring with you (I brought two), give copies to your parents, email the scans to your parents, and save it in a file on a computer.
- The copies of your passport are good to have for emergencies but are also convenient for going out. I always have one in my satchel in case of emergency, and if I get ID-ed at a club or bar.
-You can “make” your own birth control if you run out but going to a pharmacy. If you show them the kind that you take, they can make it for you (most likely)
-sometimes it is better to pay extra for a flight. If you use sky scanner (a website, or a really awesome app on iPad), it gives you access to the cheapest flights available, which sometimes is great; however, do your research. If you have the option to fly out at 6am for 40 euro, or 10am for 60 euro, absolutely choose the later time. You will end up paying much more for your transportation to/from a hostel/hotel than your flight (example: 6am flight from London, had to pay 130 pounds to get to the airport at that time in the morning - 260 USD)
-absolutely bring a duffle bag rather than a small rolling suitcase. Most cheap airlines are terrible about carry on baggage and they only allow one item (no personal item like US flights). The great thing about duffles is that you can shove a purse or small backpack in them, unlike rolling suitcases (which isn't worth it just to roll around the airport). The airlines often make you fit your bag into a box that they say is the size of an overhead compartment (although it is much smaller) and it is easier to squish a duffle than a hard rolling bag.
-if you choose to fly RyanAir, you need to print your boarding passes ahead of time otherwise they charge a ridiculous fee (like 70 euro). Even though you are already checked in and your boarding passes are printed, if you don't have a European passport you need to get it stamped at checkin. Be sure to make sure you get this stamp (my advice would be to avoid flying Ryanair. Their flights are at ridiculous times to get to the airport, they make it difficult to get the stamps, they are unfriendly, they charge 50 euro for having to check your bag. If you can avoid it, don't take RyanAir. If you have no other option, be prepared. Check out ihateryanair.org)
-do a lot of research on how to get around a city. Taking a cab from the airport is always the worst and most expensive option. Most airports have buses that take you to and from the airport for no more than 6 euro one way. If you ask someone at the tourism desk, they will tell you which stop to get off at for your hostel.
-be sure to know your hostel address before you get to the city. If the hostel isn't well known and you cannot access wifi, you won't be able to get there.
-download a map of the city onto your phone to get you around until you get to the hostel where you will most likely get a free map
-if you are staying in a hostel, bring a minimum of important items. I don’t bring my iPad or computer when I stayed in hostels because I didn't want to leave it in the room and I didn't want to carry it around with me
-make sure to bring carry-on size shampoo and conditioner (I brought small travel size bottles with nothing in them when I came abroad) because hostels don’t have them. Bring shower shoes. Bring tooth paste. They don’t provide this.
-get a passport holder that has a section for cards and boarding passes. I have one that has 5 different card slots and also allows me to keep my boarding passes in one area. It's organized and easy to know where everything is. I keep my AmEx card in there because its only for emergencies.
-put the scan of your passport into your suitcase and your backpack incase you lose your passport.
-if you know you want to go to certain places, "map" it on your phone. Take screen shots of the route you're going to take so you know where you need go.
-sometimes, iPhone maps still works even if you're out of wifi. You can't search a place, but you may be able to see where you are (this worked for me in London and Dublin but not in Venice).
-buy a water bottle or bring an empty Brita bottle. It's good for traveling and not having to pay for overpriced water. Luckily in France the water is free but most countries it isn’t.
-your hostels will have the answers to almost everything. They also often provide free (walking) tours and other options (like a pub crawl). Make sure you find out all about this stuff when you first check in! You're paying to stay there so you might as well take advantage of it.
-some hostels will have towels, some don't. You can bring one if you think you have the room, otherwise some might charge 1 euro. (More worth it to pay for a towel then bring one.).
-if you're crazy like me, I sometimes bring bed bug spray. I brought it with me from the US here and have used it at most places I stay. It smells like cinnamon
-leave room in your bag for souvenirs!