Packing List For 2 Weeks In Europe – Carry On Only Travel Tips
Traveling Carry On Only In Europe
We consider ourselves experts on traveling to Europe. Our first trip was over 20 years ago and now we live in Spain. Over that time we have taken weekend trips, week-long trips, and traveled for a month at a time. We’ve done it all in one carry on suitcase. In this post we share our carry on only travel tips and help you create the perfect packing list for 2 weeks in Europe.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
What To Pack For Two Weeks In Europe
It would be easy to just throw together a European trip packing list to let travelers check off items. We wanted to share more than that, though. We start with why it’s important to travel light in Europe and recommend travel bags to maximize space while minimizing weight.
When it comes to what to pack for Europe, we focus on clothing recommendations, what else to bring, and what not to bring. Some of these tips may seem obvious to seasoned travelers to Europe, but often times people sort of skip over a lot of these things to pack for Europe. Our packing list includes luggage, clothes, toiletries, shoes, electronics, and travel accessories. Along the way we offer special tips if traveling to Europe in summer or winter. Yes, it’s possible to pack light even in winter!Get Our Recommendations For The Best Carry On Bag For Europe
Our Experience Traveling In Europe
This is our most comprehensive guide on packing for Europe and works for most destinations, including city breaks and small villages. Over the last 20 years, we’ve been almost everywhere in Europe, including almost all of Eastern and Central Europe. We’ve traveled to some of the most popular countries to visit, including Italy, Spain, and Portugal, as well as some of the lesser known destinations, like Estonia, Luxembourg, and even Serbia. We’ve traveled in every season and in every weather.
Also check out our country-specific travel packing lists. These include the countries where we spend the most amount of time visiting (and the one where we live, of course).
Who Is This Packing List For?
I chose two weeks because that seems to be a typical amount of time for an American tourist traveling to Europe. This list will also work for a 10 day trip in Europe and, frankly, scales up for long term travel too. You don’t HAVE to pack all of this in a carry-on only. Even if checking bags, our advice on how to pack for 2 weeks in Europe works for anyone looking to travel lighter.
I am not a fashionista, although I have been trying to dress a little nicer now that we are living in Europe. Now, I don’t need to fit everything I own into a small suitcase. I can better swap out clothes between trips. That said, I always focus on function over fashion when it comes to packing for Europe.
Yes, I am one of those girls who stands on a train platform and kind of sneers at the young women trying to load a suitcase onto a train that is so big it could fit a dead body. I know that they have 30 outfit changes and 12 pairs of shoes in that bag. They probably look fabulous hitting the clubs at night. But, they look miserable lugging their giant suitcase around (and maybe look hungover too). All of my packing tips are at the intersection of function and fashion. It’s still possible to dress nice when traveling light.
Why Pack Light For 2 Weeks In Europe
We recommend packing light because it makes a trip to Europe so much more enjoyable. Even if you can’t fit your suitcase in the overhead bin on an airplane, choose a smaller sized bag. During our earliest trips to Europe I packed way too much. My bag was too heavy for me to carry and often too big to fit in the trunk of a car. I couldn’t maneuver it around a train station, get it up and down the steps, and definitely couldn’t get it onto a train on my own. Hotel rooms are often smaller and there isn’t a lot of space to place large bags.
The most important thing when traveling in Europe is to pack as light as you can. Just remember, almost everything you need can be purchased in Europe. Don’t load up on “just-in-case” items. If you are on a short trip, you might not want to waste time shopping, but consider it an adventure. Shopping in a pharmacy or grocery store in Europe is one of the best ways to learn about the local culture!
How To Prepare For A Trip To Europe
There are a handful of issues that I recommend travelers consider before even getting what to pack! This includes having good travel insurance. Be sure to confirm your insurance needs before your trip to Europe.
Although for Americans, health services in Europe are still reasonably priced in comparison, it is best to plan for the unexpected. This is particularly true if you are hiking, cycling, engaging in outdoor sports, or heading out on a road trip. If something goes seriously wrong, it’s important to have travel insurance. You just never know and it is better to be safe than sorry.
We recommend World Nomads for travel insurance. They are one of the most reputable companies for managing all sorts of insurance for travelers. Get an instant quote here. Prices are very reasonable.Get An Instant Quote On Travel Insurance Here
What Size Luggage Is Best For A 2 Week Trip To Europe
There are two main options when it comes to luggage for a trip to Europe. A travel backpack or a wheeled suitcase. There are benefits and drawbacks to each. Both are entirely doable when packing for two weeks in a carry on.
A travel backpack is different from a traditional backpack normally used for hiking or for “backpackers,” which we are not. A travel backpack is better for more urban travel, for city-hopping through Europe, for people using trains, planes, and buses, not just their own two feet. These open like a suitcase instead of top-loading. A travel backpack is often more square and boxy than tall and then. There are fewer annoying straps. They just look more slick.
In comparison to wheeled luggage, a travel backpack allows for hands-free movement. That said, when you are trying to get it on and off, it can be cumbersome. They are obviously easier to carry up and down steps and over cobblestones.
We don’t use a travel backpack anymore for two main reasons. One, we tend to travel for work and often stay at nicer or even luxury hotels. I don’t like showing up at a Ritz Carlton with a backpack. Second, I am just too old and my back can’t take it anymore, particularly on longer trips or with how often we travel. I would much rather wait on a train platform with my suitcase next to me than standing with it on my back. This is really a personal choice.
If I had to recommend one travel backpack, though, it’s the Osprey Packs Porter 46 Travel Backpack. It’s lightweight, compact from the outside, but cavernous on the inside. This is the bag I used for our first few years of full time travel. I still own it.
Most Europeans travel within Europe with small, rolling luggage. Backpacks are more reserved for hiking or camping or more youth-oriented travel. We are in our forties and switched to rolling luggage about five years ago. A doctor told me to stop carrying a backpack if I wanted to stop compressing my discs!
Some of the benefits of rolling luggage include the fact that it is easier to roll than to carry for longer distances when it comes to saving the stress on your shoulders and back. You can place your smaller bag on top of the rolling luggage and save your shoulders there too. Last, rolling luggage looks more European, if you are trying to fit in.
Some of the downsides of rolling luggage is having to roll it along all of the cobblestone streets in Europe. It also means having to possibly carry it up and down stairs in train stations or at hotels when there are no elevators or escalators. If you travel carry-on sized bags this is not a huge problem.
Our Wheeled Luggage For Europe
We both have the Eagle Creek Load Warrior 22. I use this same carry-on sized bag whether I am traveling for a weekend or a month. I’ve used this bag for summer trips and winter trips and for business trips where I am packing a blazer. I just make it work.
We can use the Load Warruior as a carry on bag, even in Europe, and even on Ryan Air. The interior of the bag is bigger than you think. Even fully loaded I can carry it up the stairs in a train station in Europe.
I’ve had it for a few years now, so the version available on Amazon is a little fancier looking, but has all of the same features. There is a small pocket at the top for wet stuff or a light jacket. There is a larger zip pocket on the front, which I use for shoes and toiletries. And it’s expandable to provide extra space while also having compression straps to make the bag seem smaller if trying to get around stingy carry on airline restrictions. I just can’t say enough about this bag! We also love Osprey bags, so the Osprey Ozone Wheeled Carry-on is a great options.
We’ve been considering changing to a hard-sided suitcase for city breaks in Europe. We haven’t made the leap yet because our Eagle Creek bags are still in such great condition. Hard-sided bags can be more durable and are more compact, but I like the fact that I can kind of smush my Eagle Creek into an overhead bin without issue. I like that it can expand or be cinched based on how much is inside.
If you feel safer with hard-sided luggage, check out our review of Chester Luggage, one of the best hard sided luggage options for Europe.
Travel Daypack Or Crossbody Travel Purse
The other piece of luggage you need when packing for two weeks in Europe is a daypack. This will be the bag that normally fits under the seat in front of you on flights, but will often also be the bag you carry with you during the day when exploring.
This can be a backpack, messenger bag, or a crossbody bag. It’s meant to hold everything you need during a day out in Europe including camera, mobile phone, charger or battery pack, sweater or jacket, scarf, travel umbrella, water bottle, wallet, etc. Here are some of our recommended options.
Eric carries a Timbuk2 Messenger Bag when we travel, but doesn’t carry it as a daypack. He uses it to carry our laptops and important things on the airplane, but he leaves it at home during the day because it is pretty big.
In addition to my luggage I will either travel with a purse or a travel daypack. For purses, I have two that I rotate between depending on where we are going. I have a Desigual purse that fits securely under my arm and is large enough to hold my camera (in the photo above).
I also have a Desigual crossbody bag that is slim and fits within my suitcase, but is a secure option when sightseeing in big cities. Crossbody bags make good travel handbags because they can distribute the weight across your shoulder. And, they free your arms to take photos, to eat street food, or to shop, the same way a daypack does. They also may be the best purse for travel because they offer a little more security and peace of mind. It is less likely they will be snatched off your arm.
For something with a bit more security, there are a few anti-theft bags I recommend. A lot of people have been talking about anti-theft travel bags because the technology is rather new. There are two primary brands for anti-theft crossbody travel bags, Travelon and PacSafe. They offer bags for both men and women.
The Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bucket Bag is probably one of the most commonly recommended crossbody bags for travel. All of the Travelon bags are practical and functional. This one, in particular, is large enough to hold a camera as well as everything else you need for a day exploring. It also comes in over 20 colors, including fun stripes, so it can be stylish as well.
Travelon’s anti-theft includes slash proof mesh, a slash proof shoulder strap, and RFID pockets for credit cards. There are also locking zippered compartments. There is an adjustable should strap and the strap can wrap around a chair or post for extra security. It’s also a great crossbody travel bag with water bottle holder. I like this because I carry water everywhere I go!
Travelon also makes a, which is very practical, or a .
Daypack or Backpack
Of course the most classic option is a daypack or backpack. My favorite women’s small daypack is the Anello Lightweight Backpack, which is lightweight and still fashionable. I use this as a carry-on bag, and it fits my laptop, cords, a sweater, wallet, water bottle and more.
A packable backpack is another great option. It is a good thing to pack if you might end up returning home with more stuff than you left with, i.e. souvenirs. You can always check your bag on the way home if needed and carry this plus your normal carry-on onto the plane. We did this in Scotland when I checked my suitcase because it had two bottles of whisky in it! A good packable daypack like the Eagle Creek Packable Daypack can work for men and women.
Packing For Europe Pro Tip
Thinking about bringing home wine or alcohol as a souvenir? Check out our guide on How To Travel With Wine and Alcohol, with tips on how to pack wine securely.
Other Travel AccessoriesHere are a few other items that can help you pack light for a two week trip to Europe.
Packing Cubes: Packing cubes are helpful in organizing your clothing and accessories within your bag. They help to keep your clothes compressed as well. You can separate outfits into different cubes. Or, use them to segregate dirty clothing from clean. If moving from place to place and hotel to hotel packing cubes allow you to quickly grab what you need without having to unpack your entire bag. If you don’t use packing cubes, think about a stuff sack for keeping dirty clothes in one place.
We like the Eagle Creek packing cubes. We’ve had one that we’ve traveled with for over 10 years!
Packing Folders: Packing folders are designed to organize larger items within your bag, like dress shirts, skirts and dresses, or pants. We’ve never used packing folders, but I know a lot of people who swear by them to help keep clothing organized and wrinkle free.
Portable Coffee Maker: Some areas of Europe have great coffee. Others do not. If you are particular about having the perfect brew when you travel, check out our guide to the Best Coffee Makers For Travel.
As an American, I used to be very concerned about not looking like an American when traveling. I’ve given that up. I generally know I look like an American, even if I am often mistaken for being Spanish to Italian or Portuguese because of my dark hair and eyes. Eric doesn’t have that problem being blonde with blue eyes, but does when we are in Germany or the Czech Republic.
The thing is that in modern society, Europeans dress a lot more casually than they once did. Even in Italy! Many Europeans tend to spend more money on fewer items of clothing. They often wear the same outfits over and over because they tend to value quality over quantity. This works out well for travelers who want to pack light – it’s totally okay to repeat outfits! Also, many cities in Europe, large and small, have a Gap, an H&M, a Levi’s store, and other chain stores found in the US. They wear Nikes and NY Yankees hats.
This just means that travelers to Europe should worry as much about looking like an American. Instead, dress for weather and comfort, and a little bit of style.
Clothing Packing List For 2 Weeks In Europe
Here is our basic packing list. What follows below are more specific suggestions based on destinations visited, seasons, and our tips on how to pack light successfully.
- 1 coat, jacket, or windbreaker, depending on the season
- 1 sweater, heavier in winter or cardigan in summer
- 1 scarf
- 1 pair of jeans, unless traveling to Southern Europe in summer, then these can be skipped
- 2 pairs of pants, shorts, or capris depending on season
- 1 or 2 dresses or skirts, depending on the season, or one dress shirt for men
- Seven tops, a combination of t-shirts, tanks, or nicer tops depending on season
- Undergarments: two bras in winter (three in summer) and seven pairs of underwear
- One pair of pajamas
- One bathing suit in summer
How To Pack Clothing For 2 Weeks In A Carry On
The best advice I can give for packing light is to think critically about the clothing you pack. This will take up the most space in your luggage.
Many people we meet who travel with enormous suitcases do so because they don’t want to do laundry during vacation. I totally get that. But, if the alternative is being miserable while lugging around a giant suitcase, I choose laundry. Here are some of our tips on how to keep clothing clean while traveling for two weeks or more in Europe.
Book An Apartment With A Washing Machine
When we trained around Andalusia, Spain, for three weeks we stayed almost exclusively at hotels. When we realized this, and knew laundry was going to be an issue, we booked one apartment in the middle with a washing machine. As much as people don’t want to do laundry on vacation the idea of having an entire suitcase of clean clothing during a trip makes me very, very happy.
This is easier to do than ever with Airbnb (if you’ve never tried Airbnb, save money on your first stay here). Even Booking.com has apartment rentals now. On the left side, you can see the filters. Choose Apartments under Property Type and then further down under Room Facilities, choose washing machine. It’s also possible to find launderettes when traveling, but no one wants to spend their holiday waiting for their laundry. By having a machine in your apartment, you can do a load in the morning while getting ready. Set it and forget it.
The Glamorous Way Of Doing Laundry In Europe
The other option is doing laundry in the sink. It’s not glamorous, but it will work. During a two week trip through Europe I might was undergarments in the sink once or twice. I normally wash at night and let them dry overnight. I also might wash a few t-shirts or tops to get more uses out of them. I rarely will wash any pants or shorts. Some people recommend a travel sink stopper. We’ve never traveled with one because most hotels will have them.
We will either travel with some powdered soap in a plastic container. Or, I recommend laundry soap sheets, which pack flat and dissolve when in the laundry. These can work both in a sink or in a laundry machine. For stains, pick up a Tide To Go Stain Remover Pen, Shout Wipes, or Vanish stain remover bar. Another option to keep clothes fresh when traveling through Europe is by using Febreeze To Go.
Doing Laundry When Traveling In Europe Pro Tip
Even when there is a washing machine, normally there is no a dryer. Most Europeans hang dry clothing. Wash your clothes in the morning, spend the day out, and when you come back everything should be dry. Many European washing machines wash slowly and can 90 minutes or more. Look for a rapid or express button to speed up washing to only 20 or 30 minutes. If the washing machine is not in English, use Google Translate or look for a setting that reads 20’ or 30’ to save time.
Coordinate Clothing Colors And Focus On Dark Colors
Over the last year, much of my travel wardrobe has been focused on orange and blue. Orange, because it is bright and one of my favorite colors and blue because it goes better with orange than black. By coordinating your colors when packing, each article of clothing should pair well with any other item. You can mix and match and save space.
Also, think about dark colors, which are easier to coordinate with each other. Dark colors also hide stains well so if you spill on yourself, you can still get away with wearing it again. This is particularly true for jeans! For a super-simple wardrobe, pack mostly black and use scarves and tops to accessorize. Avoid any items that are single-wear. In two weeks, you will wear it once and then it will just be taking up space in the bottom of your bag.
Shoes When Packing For Europe
This is where function over fashion comes into play. This doesn’t mean you only bring sneakers or only bring hiking boots like a backpacker through Europe. It’s just important to be practical. You will be walking a lot in almost every European city you visit.
There are stairs, cobblestones, hills, etc. Cobblestones in Italy can wreak havoc on high heels. The hills in Lisbon can be treacherous when it rains. A comfortable pair of shoes can make or break a trip. Depending on your itinerary, if you can get away with only two pairs of shoes, do it! We tend to pack either two or three pairs, but always can make them fit in a carry on bag.
Shoes For Summer In Europe
In summer, I will often travel with a pair of sneakers for exercising or for any outdoor-type activities. Most days, I wear my trusty Birkenstocks. I can walk for miles and miles in them. Then, I might bring a dressier pair of sandals for evenings depending on our itinerary. Eric will also bring a pair of Birkenstocks and sneakers, along with a pair of casual shoes for evening if needed. When traveling in Ireland or Scotland, I might skip the dress sandals and bring ballet flats because it can be quite cool in the evenings.
Shoes For Winter In Europe
Obviously I am not wearing my Birkenstocks or strappy sandals in winter. I will bring a pair of sneakers, a pair of ankle boots, and a pair of dress shoes, normally black ballet flats. Eric will bring sneakers and a pair of casual dress shoes. When traveling in Ireland or Scotland, I focus on the boots and will probably not bring my ballet flats. It’s just too wet and rainy.
Shoes For Spring And Fall In Europe
When it comes to spring or fall travel in Europe, it depends on where within Europe you are and what the weather will be like. It’s important when packing to monitor the weather in the weeks and days before you depart. There could be an unexpected heat wave. In Southern Europe, including Spain and Italy, it’s possible to choose to choose the summer options for both seasons. When traveling in Northern Europe something closer to the winter shoe options could be required in both Spring and Fall.
Packing For Europe Pro Tip
This is not the time to break in a new pair of shoes. Buy your shoes early and wear them a bunch around home before packing them for Europe. Also, many Americans think that wearing sneakers make you look too American. Just own it. Everywhere in Europe now people of all ages wear sneakers!
Clothing Accessories When Packing For 2 Weeks In Europe
For borderline fashionistas who are concerned about how they look when traveling in Europe or for people who want to look fab in their photos, well-chosen accessories can really help.
In the summer, I will pack one lightweight scarf that fits the color palette of my wardrobe. In the colder months, I choose a heavy scarf that I can wear with a jacket or coat or use with a sweater when a jacket is not needed. Eric will only carry a scarf in the winter. Also, remember when visiting churches in more conservative countries, like Italy, women need to cover shoulders and knees when entering cathedrals. A scarf can cover the shoulders in the warmer months.
Don’t forget your sunglasses, even in the winter. You can also buy them cheap in many European cities. This is also a great accessory to spruce up an otherwise neutral European travel wardrobe. Also, here, there is no need to bring super-fancy designer sunglasses that you might end up breaking or losing during your trip.
Electronics For Travel In Europe
Our list of travel gadgets seems to grow each year. I recognize when you are packing for a two week vacation in Europe, you don’t need to travel with everything we do. After all, we are professional travelers.
Converters And Adapters
Some travelers to Europe get these two things confused. A converter actually converts the voltage, or amount of electricity. An adapter merely makes sure the plug of your electronics fit in the holes in the wall in Europe.
In the United States, our electrical outlets are 120 volts. In Europe, they use 220 volts. For most electronics, including computers, mobile phones, tablets, etc. this is irrelevant. These electronics are dual voltage. All you need is an adapter to be able to plug your device into a wall in Europe.
For heating electronics, like hair dryers, curling irons and hair straighteners, they are normally not dual voltage, so you would need a converter, to convert the voltage from the US standard to the European standard. Or, you could buy a dual voltage version for travel – this is what we recommend. That way you avoid frying them or causing the power to go out in your hotel or apartment. Check out this dual voltage hair dryer, dual voltage curling iron, and dual voltage hair straightener.
Adapters For Europe
A proper travel adapter will help you charge all of your devices while traveling. I recommend taking multiple adapters on a trip. We generally carry at least four on each trip, two for our laptops and two for our phones, so we can charge most of our devices at one time. This is important when you have long days and might not have a ton of time to charge up at the hotel. A Universal Adapter is a good value because it can be used in Europe, the UK, and Asia.
Adapters For The UK (Scotland, Wales) And Ireland
The UK and Ireland use different shaped outlets than they do in the rest of Europe. Most universal travel adapters work in the UK and Ireland. But, we’ve found some outlets, particularly at older hotels and B&Bs to be a little wonky. When in the UK and Ireland, we always bring a few UK adapters as well. Look for a UK adapter, or a “Type G” adapter, which will work in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
Some older hotels or B&Bs in Europe might only have one or two accessible outlets in a room. This is frustrating, but carrying a small power strip can make sure you can charge all of your electronics at one time. It can also work when trying to charge up at an airport or train station too. I recommend the Belkin Travel Power Strip with USB ports.
We always travel with at least one portable battery to top up our smartphones during long days of sightseeing. We also carry our charging cords with us during the day because there are often cafes or restaurants where we can top-up along the way (don’t forget an adapter). We’ve had a few power packs from Anker that have worked well.
What Technology To Pack For Scotland
We travel with a lot of tech, which is understandable considering our profession. I also recognize that even “normal” travelers want to stay connected while traveling.
iPad or Laptop or MacBook
We always travel with our Macbooks, but that’s because we work while traveling. There are some great laptops for travel, but if heading out on an actual vacation an iPad or Kindle Fire might work well. This will help you stay connected and provide reading material. Check out this deal where you can sign up for Kindle Unlimited for 30 days free and get unlimited book downloads.
Camera Or Smartphone
In the past we’ve carried some pretty hefty camera equipment with us when traveling in Europe. Sometimes, we still bring our Sony a6300 Mirrorless with a lens that takes amazing food photos. Depending on the destination, we may leave that lens at home in favor of our telephoto lens to capture scenery and animals! More often than not, I use my Samsung S9, which takes amazing photos and video, even at night. Eric recently upgraded to the Samsung S10, which does some amazing things! We also bring a simple tripod for our smartphone and a gimbal to take stabilized videos from my smartphone.
Extra Memory Cards
We uploads photos we take on our Smartphone to Dropbox daily and automatically. But, we also both have big memory cards in our Smartphones and on our camera. Either upgrade the size of your memory card, or pick up an extra before leaving home. You don’t want to miss out on idyllic European scenery photos because you’ve run out of space. This 128GB memory card will mean you will never run out of space for your photos even while traveling for two weeks or more in Europe.
Portable WiFi Device
Things are changing rapidly in this area. We have Spanish mobile phone numbers, which allow us to use our phones anywhere in the European Union, without roaming charges. I know some Americans have international roaming plans or plans for $10 a day overseas. For our laptops, we rely on hotel WiFi. In some parts of Europe this is not all that reliable. We even had problems with WiFi in England recently. For people who need to feel connected, we recommend a Portable WiFi device, like the one from SkyRoam.
We don’t tend to take our SkyRoam with us when on a city break to Lisbon or Bologna, for example, but brought it with us for Scotland and Ireland, just in case. If staying in a B&B or country hotel with poor WiFi, this is our backup. You can use it on multiple devices and it acts as a battery pack to charge your phone too.Use the code WHITROAM for special pricing on SkyRoam
Things To Consider Packing When Traveling To Europe
There are some other items you might need when traveling in Europe that I haven’t covered above. These include European travel tips that don’t matter how long you stay.
- Credit Cards and Cash
- Money Belt
- Eye Mask and Ear Plugs
- Filtered Water Bottle
- Windproof Umbrella
Passport Requirements For Scotland
If you are traveling from within the European Union, a National Identification card is sufficient to enter most of Europe (for now). For the rest of us, a passport is required. Be sure to have at least six months validity on your passport. For example, if your trip begins on January 1, be sure that your passport doesn’t expire until after July 1.
When it comes to requirements and how long you can stay, it depends on whether you are visiting a country in the Schengen Zone. Generally Americans can stay in the Schengen zone for up to 180 days within a year. The Schengen Zone includes most European countries, but not the UK, Ireland, Croatia, and a handful of others.
I recommend scanning a copy of your passport or taking a photo on your phone and keeping it in the “cloud.” This can mean keeping it in Dropbox, Google Drive, or even just emailing it to yourself so that you can access it if need be. I don’t recommend carrying your passport with you during the day in case your day bag is lost or stolen.
If you have your American driver’s license, that is sufficient to show ID during the day. If you are ever asked by a police officer, a photo copy of your passport is normally sufficient. If there is a serious issue, you can always present your passport later. This has never been a situation we’ve encountered in the 20 years we’ve spent traveling to Europe but readers have asked us.
This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about traveling in Europe, particularly for Americans. This advice comes from an American perspective. We have both American and Spanish bank accounts and all American credit cards.
ATM Cards And Credit Cards In Scotland
I recommend bringing one ATM card and two credit cards. Keep one credit card in your hotel safe, or hidden in a suitcase just in case your day bag is stolen during the day. Call your bank and your credit card companies before leaving to let them know you are traveling to Europe and when so that they do not turn your credit card off for suspicious behavior. They may ask for a list of countries you are visiting too.
Most important, check whether your credit cards charge Foreign Transaction Fees. Foreign Transaction Fees can be 2-3% of every purchase you make. Some cards have these and some don’t. Most of our Chase credit cards don’t charge the fee. The same goes for ATM cards. Just call to confirm so you are not surprised when you get home with random fees. I can place a travel alert on my Chase cards online and on that page it tells me what Foreign Transaction Fees are for each of my cards.
Accessing Money in Europe
As for money, the easiest and best way to access cash when traveling in Europe is to use the local ATM machines to withdraw either Euros or Pounds. Most countries within Europe are part of the Euro Currency Zone and use the Euro. The United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales use the Pound. Some European countries use their own currency, including Hungary and the Czech Republic.
There is no need to convert USD to Euros or Pounds at your bank before leaving home. There is no need to convert at the airport in the US or in Europe. Generally, the exchange rates and fees are way worse than simply withdrawing money at an ATM. Avoid ATMs that are located as part of a souvenir shop or convenience store in touristy areas – stick to the ATM machines at legitimate banks.
Money Belt or Passport Belt
There are cities in Europe that can be problematic with pickpockets so it is important to take precautions. A lot of people consider a money belt or passport belt when packing for Europe. We have not traveled with one since our first trip to Italy in 2000. First off, there is no reason to carry your passport with you during the day. Leave it at in your hotel safe and have a copy or a photograph on your phone instead. That way it stays safe.
As for money, Eric doesn’t carry a big wallet when traveling. He keeps his money in his front pocket where it is most safe. If you follow my advice above about keeping money in various places and not carrying all your credit cards with you, you should be fine. This is particularly true if you are used to traveling in big cities, like New York or Chicago. You just need to keep your wits about you.
All that said, if you would feel more secure using a money belt, we recommend this Stash Neck Wallet It includes an RFID blocker, which means that your credit cards are more secure. It also has room for a smartphone to keep it secure as well. For extra security, think about an RFID blocking wallet as an alternative.
If you have prescription medication that you must travel with, try to bring it in the original bottle that shows your name and details. We’ve never been stopped, but you never know. This is better than bringing random pills in a pill organizer.
Eye Mask And Ear Plugs
If you have difficulty sleeping, I can’t recommend these two options enough. Hotel walls are thin or your room might face a city street or square. Bring at least a couple pairs of ear plugs just in case. Sometimes, the curtains might not close all the way and there could be street lights just outside. If traveling to Ireland, Scotland, or anywhere in Northern Europe in the summer, it rarely gets fully dark. I would recommend an eye mask for traveling. This can also help on planes and trains as well.
Filtered Water Bottle
We’ve never had problems drinking tap water when traveling through most of Europe. We try to reduce our use of plastic whenever possible. And, traveling with a filtered water bottle can just reduce any concerns you might have about drinking the water straight from the tap. To reduce your use of plastic, I recommend bringing a Brita filtered water bottle so you can fill up your bottle from the tap and carry it with you through the day.
Depending on the season, or your destination, a windproof umbrella might come in handy. If you are used to traveling with an umbrella, be sure it is high quality and windproof.
Toiletries For Carry On Travel
I feel like there is no more controversial topic for female travelers than trying to limit their toiletries to carry on sizes (okay, maybe shoes are pretty controversial). Rest assured, it can be done! This means either buying travel-sized toiletries or buying travel bottles for your favorite shampoo and conditioner. Here are some suggestions and steps for how to make this work when you pack carry on only for 2 weeks.
Separate your liquids from your non-liquids. The toughest part is trying to meet FAA and international requirements for liquids in a carry on when you have other items getting in the way. For non-liquids I use a small cosmetic case, which has a few smaller compartments in it. It doesn’t need to be any longer than the length of your toothbrush. This can hold your dry makeup, pills, dental floss, solid deodorant, etc.
Place your liquids into a non-spill bag. This can be a simple Ziploc bag, but I’ve used a waterproof toiletry bag that I’ve had for three years and it was a great investment. With a Ziploc bag, it could get punctured during your trip and leave you with a big mess.
When packing, leave the liquid bag in an easily accessible place, like the outside of your suitcase, when going through security. Also, remember no small manicure scissors in your toiletry bag.