Spain Packing List – Travelers Guide To What To Wear In Spain

Spain Packing List And Guide

When we started traveling to Europe, we often dressed like the typical American tourists. Since our first trip to Europe about 20 years ago, though, we’ve learned how to dress more like locals. This is particularly true because we’ve been living in Spain. This Spain Packing List And Guide provides you tips on what to pack and what to wear in Spain, from a Spanish resident.

Spain Packing List - Travelers Guide To What To Wear In Spain

Spain Packing List – Travelers Guide To What To Wear In Spain

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What To Pack For Spain

Over the last 20 years of travel in Europe, we’ve made some packing mistakes. It happens even to the most professional travelers. Now that we live in Spain, though, we definitely feel like we have more packing wins than mistakes.

In this travel blog post, we share our top tips on packing for Spain, whether your itinerary takes you to cities, villages, or the Spanish islands. These packing tips for Spain will help travelers planning a city break or a more lengthy itinerary. My ultimate goal is to provide a Spain holiday checklist, that covers clothing and other travel essentials, for you to have a hassle-free Spanish holiday.

what do i need to travel to spain

What You Will Learn About Packing For Spain In This Post:

  1. What are the important things to take on a Spain trip

  2. Tips on how to dress in Spain from a Spanish resident

  3. What to pack for a Spain holiday aside from clothing

What To Bring When Traveling To Spain

For some travelers, all they need is a straw hat and sunglasses for a holiday on a fabulous Mediterranean beach. But, there’s so much more to a Spain holiday packing list than that. Although perhaps not as fashion-forward as Italy, I want to share tips on what people wear in Spain depending on the seasons and the destinations visited in Spain. There’s a big difference between planning to walk to Camino de Santiago versus planning for a city break in Barcelona.

There’s also more to packing than trying to find the perfect outfits.That’s why this ultimate packing list includes advice on a few different topics. This includes our tips on packing for Europe, with a focus on Spain in particular. I might even include some of our top tips on things to take to Spain that you might not even be thinking of. Conversely, I share some items that many people pack that could be left at home. This is particularly important for people traveling to Spain or traveling to Europe for the first time.

Our Expertise On Figuring Out How To Pack For Spain

Although our first trip to Spain was not until 2009, we’ve been traveling to Europe for almost 20 years. During that time, our travel style changed a lot. During our first few visits to Europe we definitely overpacked. We carried over-sized luggage, which I couldn’t carry on my own, filled with all sorts of “just-in-case” items that I never ended up needing. Now that we live in Spain, and have traveled extensively across Europe, I feel that I’ve finally figured out how to pack like an expert.

Packing List For Spain – Top Things To Consider

There is no way to write a short travel blog post on packing for a trip to Europe. There are different recommendations we make for different travelers depending on some of the following circumstances.  

  • Think about the time of year of your visit. What people wear in Spain in winter is totally different than in summer.
  • Whether you will travel carry-on or will check your bag.
  • How much walking you will do during your trip.
  • What kind of activities are you planning and what destinations will you be visiting? Are you planning outdoor activities, solely food and wine travel. Will you be traveling to mainland Spain or to one of the Spanish islands?
What to Pack For Spain - Carryon Bags

Carry-On Versus Checked Baggage

Oh boy, I could spend thousands of words talking about this very issue. The most important thing when traveling in Europe is to pack as light as you can. During our early trips to Europe we made so many packing mistakes. On our first trip to Ireland, our two suitcases were so big they couldn’t fit in our uncle’s car. During my first trip to Italy, my suitcase was so  big and heavy I couldn’t get it on and off trains.

Now, I only travel with a carry-on sized bag that I can carry, roll, and lift wherever I need to without any help. Eric carries the same bag as I do. Occasionally I do check my travel bag, but mostly that is because I am carrying toiletries that are not travel sized. Sometimes it is because I am returning home with wine, or honey, or olive oil (all things that could happen in Spain).

All that said, I use this same 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. In this packing blog post, I will share some pro tips on how to travel with a smaller bag. As a frame of reference, we recently spent over 3 weeks traveling in Southern Spain in the fall, with some colder weather. We each carried our Eagle Creek Load Warrior. We stayed almost exclusively in hotels, but booked an apartment with a washing machine in the middle to wash clothes.

Another thing to consider when packing light is that although it might take some time, almost everything you need can be purchased in Spain. If you are on a short trip, you might not want to waste time shopping, but consider it an adventure. Shopping in a pharmacia or grocery store in Spain is one of the best ways to learn about the local culture!

Check out this guide to the Best Backpacks and Wheeled Bags for Europe

Travel Packing Checklist For Spain

Regardless of the season, there are some items that you should consider packing when traveling in Spain or in Europe, generally. Some of these recommendations may seem somewhat obvious to seasoned travelers. But for travelers who are not as accustomed to traveling to Europe, these recommendations might not seem so obvious. Feel free to skim some of these recommendations if you’ve traveled to Europe quite a bit in the past.

Passport Requirements For Spain

If you are traveling from within the E.U., a National Identification Card is sufficient to enter Spain. For the rest of us, a passport is required. Most countries require at least six months of validity on your passport to enter a country. For example, if your trip begins on January 1, be sure that your passport doesn’t expire until after July 1.

Some people recommend that you carry a physical, printed photocopy of your passport in case your bag is stolen or lost. We used to carry several copies, one in each of our bags. With today’s technology, though, we no longer carry printed copies of our passports with us in Europe.

Instead, when we receive a new passport, we scan a copy or take a picture of our passport identification information and store it in the cloud. This includes having it saved locally on each of our cell phones and laptops, as well as having it stored in Dropbox or the Google Drive. Or, email a copy of it to yourself at an email address you can access when traveling, i.e. Gmail.

Schengen Rules For Spain

If you are American, be aware of the rules for Schengen. There are few geographical distinctions here. Spain is part of Europe, part of the European Union, and part of what is known as the Schengen Zone. Other countries, like Ireland, are part of Europe and the European Union, but are not part of the Schengen Zone. It can get complicated.

In the end this means that Americans (as well as travelers from other countries, including people from Canada, Australian, and New Zealand) can travel within the Schengen Zone (and Spain) for no more than 90 days within 180 days. This is a complicated and comprehensive travel topic, but just be aware of the Schengen Visa rules for traveling in Spain and throughout Europe.

Travel Insurance

Be sure to confirm your insurance needs before your trip. If you get sick during your travels to Spain, healthcare and pharmacy services are reasonably priced. It’s possible to pay out of pocket. But if something goes seriously wrong, it’s important to have travel insurance. This is particularly important if you are driving in Spain in case you get into a serious accident, or if you are diving or hiking.

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.

Get a Quote from World Nomads for the Best Travel Insurance For Spain

Money Issues

This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about traveling in Spain, or anywhere in the world, particularly from Americans. I will speak to this from an American perspective. 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 bag is stolen while out during the day. For an extra layer of protection, take photos of your cards (both sides) and keep them with your passport images.

Don’t forget to call your bank and you credit card companies before leaving. This is important for two reasons. One, let them know that you are traveling to Spain and the dates of your trip. This lets the bank know that it is you using your card overseas so they will not turn your credit card off for suspicious behavior.

The second reason to call your bank and credit card companies is to confirm whether your bank charges Foreign Transaction Fees. These fees can be 2-3% of every purchase you make, and can really add up. Some credit cards have these fees and some do not. Obviously, try to use a credit card that doesn’t charge these fees. We’ve had the most luck with Chase, although we also have a Citibank card that doesn’t charge Foreign Transaction Fees.

As for accessing money, the easiest and best way to access cash when traveling to Spain  is to use the local ATM machines to withdraw Euros. There is no need to convert Dollars to Euros at your bank before leaving home. There is no need to convert at the airport in the US or on arrival in Spain. Generally, the exchange rates and fees are way worse than simply withdrawing money at an ATM. The same rule goes for ATMs and credit cards. See whether your ATM card will charge a Foreign Transaction Fee for accessing cash. We’ve used Charles Schwab and Capital One in the past to avoid these fees.

When in Spain, avoid ATM machines that are inside or attached to a convenience store or souvenir shop. This is particularly common in Barcelona and Madrid. Instead, look for major Spanish banks, like BBVA, Caixa Bank, and Santander. Another tip to limit fees is to withdraw larger amounts at one time. If you withdraw €300 or €500 at a time it avoids transactional fees. When we do this, we split up the money. I carry some, Eric carries some, and we hide the rest in a bag or two inside the hotel room.

Money Belt or Passport Belt

A lot of people put a money belt or passport belt on their list of things to bring to Spain. We have not traveled in Europe with a money belt or passport belt since some of our earliest trips to Europe. For the most part, there is no reason to carry your passport with you during the day. It’s safest at your hotel or apartment rental.

As for money, Eric doesn’t carry a wallet when traveling (or at home in Spain either). 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. Remember, traveling to Spain is not like traveling to Mars. Take the same precautions you would in any big city, like San Francisco or Miami. If you keep your eyes open and your wits about you, you should be fine.

All that said, if you would feel more secure using a money belt, we recommend this neck wallet. It includes an RFID blocker, which means that your credit cards are more secure. It also has room for a smart phone to keep it secure as well.

what to bring on holiday to spain

Medication

One of the most important things to pack for Spain is any prescription medication that you must travel with. First, pack your medication in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage, in case your luggage is lost. Second, try to bring any prescription medication in the original bottle that shows your name and details. We’ve never been stopped and questioned about medication in Spain, but you never know. This is better than bringing random pills in a pill organizer.

As for other basic medication, I always travel with ibuprofen, Alka Seltzer, and other just-in-case items. It is pretty easy to purchase anything you need at a Spanish pharmacy if needed. In Spain, basic items like this are almost always purchased at a pharmacy rather than at a grocery store. Pharmacies are generally open Monday through Saturday, and some close in the afternoon. In larger cities and towns, there is normally a pharmacy or two open on Sunday, but they may be harder to find. For this reason, I like to carry the basics with me in case I need them at night or on a Sunday.

Travel Umbrella

A lot of people pack a travel umbrella, which can be a small addition to keep you dry in rainy weather. We like to take risks here. We each have a rain jacket and many of the hotels we stay at have umbrellas to loan out. But, this is definitely not common. If traveling to Spain in the spring or fall it’s probably worth it to travel with an umbrella just in case. This is more of a requirement when traveling in Central or Northern Spain than along the Southern Coast, where rain is not as common. Check out this Windproof Travel Umbrella.


Sunglasses

On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t forget your sunglasses. In many areas of Spain there is sun 330 or more days a year, so you are more likely to experience sun in Spain than rain. You can buy sunglasses cheap in Spain as well if you forget. I don’t recommend packing expensive, designer sunglasses when traveling, though, because you might end up breaking them or losing them during your trip.

Crossbody Bag Or Travel Purse

I usually travel with my carry-on travel suitcase, a travel day pack, and a travel purse. 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. 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. And, it is a Spanish company so I feel like I fit in a little more with the locals. I usually pack my travel purse in my suitcase and use my travel daypack as a carry-on bag.

Check out this post about the Best Crossbody Travel Bags For Men And Women

Filtered Water Bottle

We’ve never had problems drinking tap water in Spain from a health perspective, but just like in the US, it can taste a little strange. We try not to buy loads of plastic water bottles when traveling, although I recognize it will happen. To reduce your use of plastic, I recommend bringing a Britta filtered water bottle so you can fill up your bottle from the tap in your hotel or apartment rental and carry it with you through the day.

Spanish restaurants generally do not serve tap water. Instead you will end up ordering a bottle of still or sparkling water at restaurants for about €2 depending on the size. It’s worth it. Stay hydrated, particularly when traveling in Spain in the summer. Still water is agua sin gas and sparkling water is agua con gas.

Things To Take On A Spain Trip – Technology

When it comes to technology, there are few things to take into consideration when visiting Spain. Sometimes people are concerned about flashing fancy smartphones or having big cameras when traveling. This is not as much of an issue in Spain anymore because everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone. That said, I had my purse stolen in Spain, in our home town, when I became too comfortable with my surroundings. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings.

What to bring when traveling to Portugal

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. More often than not, I use my Samsung S9, which takes amazing photos and video, even at night. We also bring a simple “selfie” stick, which is more like a tripod, and a gimbal to take stabilized videos.

Extra Memory Cards

We uploads photos and videos 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 amazing Spain holiday photos because you’ve run out of space. This 125GB memory card will mean you will never run out of space for your photos. 

What To Pack For Europe

Other Technology To Pack For Spain

In addition to a camera or smartphone there are a handful of tech items that you should add to your list of things to take on holiday to Spain:

  • 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.
  • Power Pack: We always travel with at least one portable battery to top up our smartphones during long days of sightseeing in Spain. 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. We’ve had a few power packs from Anker that have worked well. Some rental cars in Spain also have USB chargers in the car, which is convenient.
  • Travel Adapter: A proper travel adapter will help you charge all of your devices while traveling. I recommend taking multiple converters 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 back at the hotel. A Universal Adapter is the best value because it can be used in Europe, the UK, and Asia.
What not to wear in Spain

What To Not Take To Spain

There are a handful of items that continue to be placed on many European travel packing lists. For Spain, though, some of these items are just not needed.

Traveler’s Checks

In today’s society, traveler’s checks are no longer needed. In fact, they can be a real pain to use because you need to go to a bank (when the banks are open) to exchange them. I have a strong memory of waiting in line at a bank in Barcelona, sweating, just to exchange traveler’s checks years ago.  Follow our tips on how to access money in Spain, above.

Impractical Shoes

Since moving to Spain, I rarely use the fabulous pair of bright red heels I bought while living in Bangkok. We walk everywhere, which means that, at least for me, heels are impractical. Add to that the existence of cobblestone streets, slippery stones, and lots of medieval staircases, and heels can be a big problem. In Europe, remember, it’s function over fashion. A great pair of ballet flats or even low wedges are probably better.

Hairdryer

Most Spanish hotels will have a hairdryer, even if it is not of the best quality. Packing a hairdryer takes up space. It requires an adapter. A lot of times hotel bathrooms in Spain don’t have an outlet for an appliance like this. If you are renting an apartment in Spain, particularly from Airbnb or Booking.com, check their list of amenities to see if they have a hairdryer.

Baseball Cap or Visor

As much as it is becoming more common to see many Europeans wearing sneakers and even shorts, a baseball cap, particularly one with a US team just screams American. The one exception is that because of its marketing might, a NY Yankees cap is seen on the heads of teenagers around the world. If you want to protect your face from the sun, perhaps purchase this foldable sunhat for women or this packable hat for men and women.

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