Europe

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The Ultimate Europe Packing List

The Ultimate Europe Packing List

Embarking on a long-term, slow travel adventure across Europe is an exciting opportunity to immerse yourself in diverse cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and fascinating history. This Ultimate Europe Packing List will help you prepare for any European vacation, ensuring you have everything you need while treading lightly on the planet. 

From essential items to eco-friendly alternatives, let’s dive in!

Two people clinking cups on an airplane, on the way to travel Europe!

Table of Contents

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Weather & Seasons

Depending on the time of year you’ll be in Europe, your packing decisions will vary significantly! As you can see from the map below, there are very different climatic regions across the continent, and your luggage should be filled with items that fit that terrain.

Luckily in Europe, it is pretty easy to travel between countries, especially if they are in the Schengen Region. That is useful to plan your travel accordingly and focus your exploration on a region, rather than the whole continent!

Source: Britannica

Summer

Summer in Europe boasts lush green trees, waterfalls, warm weather, and long days. In fact, some parts of Northern Europe have 24-hour days where the sun never sets! This is the best time of year to explore Europe, especially for the outdoorsy ones who can’t wait to jump in a lake or camp under the stars. 

This is a perfect time of year to focus on travel around swimming in alpine lakes in central and eastern Europe or relaxing on the coast of the Mediterranean in Southern Europe & Iberia. 

Autumn

Autumn in Europe is a perfect place to see the leaves transition through colors of crimson and gold as the days get shorter and colder. 

Autumn is a great time to visit Europe since the cost of travel is lower than in summer, but it is still relatively warm and beautiful to explore the natural landscapes and history that was founded here. 

Winter

Winter in Europe hits differently at various latitudes. Northern Europe gets very cold, reaching sub-freezing temperatures as early as October. In contrast, winter along the Mediterranean means brisk days and a lot of rainfall. 

Visiting Europe in winter is great for those who want to ski in the Alps, see the Northern Lights, or take advantage of the insanely low prices! Take the chance to check out the famous Christmas Markets and take part in local traditions. 

Spring

Spring in Europe is filled with wildflowers, blossoming trees, wildlife, and fresh streams and lakes filled with recent snowmelt. This time of year is when everyone appreciates the longer days, the warmth of the sun, and the feeling of summer around the corner. 

Visiting Europe in spring is perfect for those looking for a mellow retreat in quiet towns, and for those that love the sweater weather and the sun all at once. This is the perfect time to dive into the cultural history, castles, and museums that cover the European continent. 

Top Packing Suggestions

Packing for a trip is a personal decision, and while there are tons of lists that tell you how many shirts to bring, everyone has their preferences. However, the items that are essential to bring to Europe, should be highlighted above all else.

Every destination has its ‘things’ that you learn once you’re there – the atmosphere in crowds or the accessibility to amenities. This list covers the things you learn you need in Europe, only after you’ve been!

1. Comfortable Shoes

You’ve probably heard it before about wearing good shoes in Europe, but wow that is accurate. So many of the best areas in Europe can only be accessed by using your feet, make sure to keep them comfortable and protected!

I’m pretty active, but when I was suddenly walking 10+ miles a day (16 km) on hard ground, my body felt it. As much as you’re attached to those dirty white Vans and Converse, they will not do you any good in Europe.

If you’re limited on space and don’t have the perfect pair that is versatile and comfortable, fear not. Europe is known for its footwear quality and design, so you can pick up something when you’re there! 

2. Coin Purse

Something that is overlooked is how you carry your money in Europe. If you’re from the US, you may be used to not really bothering with coins, or leaving them in a jar at home. However, there are 20 countries in Europe that all use the Euro. The exchange rate fluctuates, but it hovers around $1 = €1.

Unlike American bills, the Euro has €1 and €2 coins, so suddenly the coins are worth a lot more, and they’re in circulation a lot more too. For any American male, when was the last time you had a zipper pocket to store coins? 

Having a small coin purse, or even a random bag to collect them will be useful to have! This is especially important for using public restrooms. They often cost some money, anywhere from 50 cents to €2, and many only accept coins!

 

3. Pickpocket Safety

And on the topic of money, pickpocketing is a common profession in many European hotspots, and wow they are good. Be aware of your surroundings, and who may be seeing interested in you and your things. Don’t flash your money and valuables around, and keep things tucked away in safe bags in public areas. Also, be aware of any distractions that are designed to lower your guard and awareness, they can be sneaky!

I personally have some emergency money and essential document copies stored somewhere safe when I travel. It is also a good trick to not keep all your cash in the main slot in your wallet. Fold up a few bills and tuck them behind your insurance card or in your phone case in case someone forces you to give you money, you have some extra stashed away. 

4. Outlet Adapter

Nowadays, we rely on our devices to help us navigate, as a source of education, and so much more. Having a reliable way to charge your electronics and connect to power is essential. 

While it can be easy to just go to an electronics store in your destination, not all adapters are created equally. Getting 1 quality wall adapter that can be used in every country, and has multiple ports will save you a lot of headaches when trying to charge everything!

5. Local SIM

Connecting to a local phone plan is essential to stress-free travel. Whether you go into a mobile phone store and start a short-term travel plan, or purchase an eSIM online to manage your data usage, connecting to the internet will allow you to immerse more and get off of the beaten path. 

Luckily, Europe is very dense with people, creating a ton of locations to connect to wifi in public areas, cafes, restaurants, and shops. While this is a useful solution to staying connected online, it can be a headache, especially when things go unplanned. 

Unsure where to start? Check out this article for more information on getting an International Phone Plan!

6. VPN

While you are connected to the internet, it is essential for your virtual privacy to be protected. Using the public internet can be dangerous as it creates a bridge of connection between this open-end source, and your device. Unfortunately, there are many people trained in accessing that bridge, and thus accessing your devices and the information on it. 

Using a VPN (virtual private network) is quick and easy, and will save you time, stress, and money in the future if someone attempts to hack into your devices. Especially if you work remotely, a VPN needs to be a part of your travel kit for virtual (and physical) safety.

As a reminder; when you are on any public WiFi, make sure to use a VPN to protect yourself online! Learn more here.

Best Luggage For Europe

Regardless of where you’re going, packing starts with the luggage that holds it all together. Generally, you have 2 options; a wheeled suitcase, or a trekking backpack. While it doesn’t matter too much which one you choose in the scheme of things, it may contribute to a more or less enjoyable and comfortable experience!

Typically, most long-term travelers will use a backpack between 35L-60L. These are great for organized storage, ease of movement, and potential budget opportunities since they can often pass as a carry-on, or comfortably sit on your lap in transit. 

Especially in Europe, wheeled suitcases are not ideal. Some of the best areas in Europe are along cobblestone roads, and nothing announces the arrival of a tourist like the rumbling on cheap wheels over historic walkways. 

The staircases and hallways in buildings are smaller, cars are smaller, literally, everything is smaller… which will make wheeling a massive block of a suitcase a complete headache. 

Ultimate Europe Packing List

Essential Items

  • Passport
  • Entry Documentation
  • Copy of Important Documents
  • International Driver's Permit
  • Travel Insurance

These are essential items to bring to every international destination! Make sure to check the embassy of your destination to see what entry requirements there are before you arrive. 

It’s a good practice to have a digital and photocopy of important documents such as your passport, visa, driver’s license, and international driving permit.

Find the right Insurance Plan for you!

Health & Safety

Being prepared for the elements helps you enjoy your experience a lot more. Avoid itchy (and potentially dangerous) bug bits, and sunburns with these items!

Be sure to look into the natural hazards and threats of where you will be visiting, so you can be prepared! This is especially true if you’re traveling to Europe in winter when the elements are much harsher. 

Clothing

  • Shirts & Tank Tops
  • Shorts & Pants
  • Dresses & Skirts
  • Layers for warmth
  • Jacket
  • Scarf
  • Tennis Shoes / Hiking Shoes
  • Comfortable Sandals
  • Bulky Jacket
  • Heavy Boots

Clothing is always a personal choice, so this is just guidance. Your clothing choices will depend on where in Europe you will be, and the time of year. 

In general, the attire in Europe is well-dressed but comfortable. Business casual, but on a Friday. Of course, there are always differences (bright & bold colors in Spain vs. muted & natural tones in Austria). 

Focus on versatile clothes that you can use for any adventure, and it helps to have a general color scheme that is easy to mix and match within. If something can’t be worn for 3 different occasions, or doesn’t match 3 different outfits, it’s probably not the best choice!

Toiletries

Luckily most of Europe has many of the basic amenities and products you are already using at home.

While traveling long-term, I focus on items that are reusable vs. single-use to cut down on space, cost, and waste! I couldn’t imagine traveling with a box of tampons or makeup wipes.

European countries have very proud cultures and indulge in the natural beauty of things. Don’t worry so much about having the perfect products and always being perfectly styled.

Check out my top toiletries I couldn’t imagine traveling without!

Electronics

Staying connected is important in this electronic world. It is essential to have a quality adapter that works in all the countries you will be in. 

It can be easy to overpack electronics since we’re so used to having them everywhere. Be selective about what you bring and make sure it will work for what you need.

Opt for items with longer battery life, lightweight, and only the essentials!

Some of these are self-explanatory, and up to each traveler to decide what would be beneficial vs a waste of space.

A string & carabiners are so helpful to set up your space and stay organized. Whether you need a makeshift curtain at a hostel or a way to hang your bags, we always use these!

We also couldn’t travel without our microfiber towel for a quick dip in the river, a picnic blanket, or to complete that hostel curtain!

Some other things to consider could be a journal, an art set, a yoga mat, outdoor adventure gear, or whatever else you want to make anywhere feel like home!

 

Summary - Ultimate Europe Packing List

Taking off on a slow travel adventure across Europe presents an opportunity to not only explore captivating destinations but also prioritize environmental conservation and minimize personal impact. It is essential to understand the natural environment where you will be exploring, and what additional considerations are necessary regarding the weather, seasons, cultural practices, and personal preference.

The choices we make while traveling have the power to shape a brighter and greener future. So, pack your bags responsibly, explore with curiosity, and leave only footprints of admiration behind!

What other destinations are on your bucket list? Find your Travel Inspiration here. 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Europe, 0 comments
What Is The Schengen Visa Rule?

What Is The Schengen Visa Rule?

Europe is a traveler’s dream for its historical cities, unique cultures, and beautiful scenery. The population density makes it easy and affordable to move around to different places and explore everything the continent has to offer. However, before going to Europe you must be aware of the Schengen Visa rules and restrictions that can affect your travel. 

There are 27 countries in Europe that share a tourist visa permitting a 90-day stay in the region, so travelers can’t stay in Europe indefinitely without leaving the region. While this does create a headache for travelers to manage and decide how to spend their limited time in these European countries, it allows Schengen citizens to maintain their economy and life without nomads roaming their world for too long. 

So if you were thinking you’ll hop over to Europe and stay 1 month in each country, you can’t. At least not with a little bit of planning and a thorough understanding of the Schengen Visa Rule. 

Various items related to travel including a passport, money, a camera and sunglasses laid out on the table

Table of Contents

Schengen Area

What Is It

The Schengen Area (pronounced: sheng-uhn) is comprised of 27 European countries (and counting), that share a border for tourist and travel purposes. The countries that have voluntarily joined Schengen have abolished their internal borders, allowing people to travel freely between the participating countries, for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.

Schengen Countries

This Schengen Area is not to be confused with the European Union. The EU is a voluntary alliance focused on economic prosperity since much of European countries rely on trade with each other. 

So just because a country is in the European Continent, it doesn’t mean it is a part of the EU or Schengen area.

Countries that are outside the EU, but in Schengen include: Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and Liechtenstein.

Countries that are in the EU, but outside of Schengen include Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, and Ireland. However, Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus have plans to join Schengen soon.

Schengen Countries
Austria
Belgium
Czechia
Croatia
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Italy
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland

Microstates

A big question is on Europe’s microstates (Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City). Since these countries can only be accessed from a Schengen country (France & Italy), a Schengen is needed.

If you don’t need a Schengen visa for Europe, then no visa is required for these microstates. Although they are not technically within the Schengen Area, they do count towards your 90 day limit.

Schengen Visa

Generally speaking, citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European countries, and much of south and Central America do not need to obtain a Schengen Visa. There are some exclusions in certain circumstances, so please thoroughly check the Schengen Visa Info website to confirm your status.

*NOTE: After 2023, anyone who does not need a Schengen Visa will need to apply for ETIAS, which is a visa waiver.

For those who do need a Schengen Visa, the cost is 80 EUR and can take 10 working days for processing. There are specific requirements on top of the application including travel health insurance, flight itinerary for arrival and departure, proof of accommodation, proof of financial records, proof of employment, and travel itinerary.

If you’re traveling to the Schengen Area for any reason beyond tourism, you must apply for a visa specific to your purpose of travel. More information can be found on the Schengen Info website. 

90/180 Day Rule

As mentioned above, you are limited to 90 days in a 180-day rolling period. There are a few things to note about how the 90 days are counted. First, the days are only counted when you’re in a Schengen country, as soon as you leave, the days stop counting towards the 90 days (but continue counting towards 180 days).

 The 90-day part is pretty straightforward, but the 180-day period is where it gets a little confusing. The 180-day period is counted backward from the last date of exit from Schengen. 

Example

Let’s say you enter Spain (in Schengen) on January 1st, and you stay for 30 days until January 30th. From here you leave to Morocco, (outside Schengen), and stay in Northern Africa for 60 days. [You’ve used 30/90 days] = 60 days left

From here then you enter Italy on April 1st, and stay for 6 weeks (42 days) before departing to Albania (outside Schengen) on May 12th. [You’ve used 72 days/180 > 30 days in Spain + 42 days in Italy] = 18 days left

You spend 30 days in Albania, before going to Croatia (in Schengen) on June 12. You now have 48 days left that you can spend in Croatia before you reach 90 days. You stay in Croatia until July 29th when you’re on your 90th day.

But wait, wouldn’t that mean you overstayed?

No! Since it is a rolling 180-day period, 180 days from the last exit (July 29th) is January 31st. That means the 30 days you spent in Spain from January 1-30 are not counting towards your 90 day limit. 

How to Keep Track Of Time In Schengen?

The 90-day limit is a hard limit, there are no extensions or easy workarounds, so you need to know when you entered to know when you have to leave. The 90 days include the day you arrive and the day you depart.

My partner and I did a simple Google search and counted the weeks “90 days from (entry date)”… but this search didn’t include the first day!!

We had our whole plan to leave Europe on the 91st day, which needed to be changed. 

Schengen Calculator App

We then found the ‘Schengen App’ where you can enter your travel dates that are in the Schengen area, and it will tell you how many days are left in the area. This app allows you to save trip dates and shows you an accurate count to determine how many days are left so you can plan effectively! There are a few in the app store you can use!

Also check out this Short Stay Visa Calculator from the EU. 

Screenshot of Schengen Calendar app

How Can I Get Around The 90/180 Day Rule

The 90/180 rule is definitely a firm rule held up by the participating countries. While there are some reports that immigration doesn’t thoroughly check the entry dates on your passport and calculate the time in the region, it is definitely a no-go to overstay. 

Punishment for overstaying can include being sent to your home country or being banned from the Schengen area for a number of years (which can definitely add a big hurdle to travel plans). 

Travel to Non-Schengen Countries

Luckily there are a few countries in Europe and surrounding areas that you can travel to while you wait out the time months to return! Check out the Balkan Region, where you can explore Albania, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, and Kosovo. This area is affordable and incredibly beautiful.

Another option is heading north to the UK! England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland are free from Schengen restrictions (thanks to Brexit). 

Alternatively, check out Northern Africa like Morocco or Egypt, and the Middle East

Digital Nomad Visas

Many countries around the world are offering ‘Digital Nomad Visas’, also called ‘Resident Permits/Visas’, which allow you to reside in a country for an extended period (a few years) if you’re making an income.

Each country has different requirements for visas, which can be found on their government’s website.

This option requires a bit of planning further out and often must be applied for while in your home country.

Student Visa

It’s not uncommon for travelers to enroll in a European University to obtain a Student Visa. This allows the traveler to remain in Europe and travel freely for the duration of their visa (up to 3 years). While you can go to class and learn some things, you don’t have to! 

This option does take a bit of planning since it involved applying and acceptance to a foreign university, but it is definitely possible.

Working Holiday Visa

This visa allows a person under 30 to travel and work within a country for 1-2 years. This is a great option if you’re from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the US (although the US only has 2 options). You are able to move around Europe freely during this time, and have the chance to make some income! Work for pay can only be done in the country where the visa was provided.

It is also possible to get consecutive working holiday visas so you can stay in Europe for years!

Bilateral Agreements

Many of the Schengen Member Countries have a bilateral agreement in place which allow a traveler to stay in that country for up to 90 days, regardless of time spent in the Schengen Area. There are exclusions, so some additional research is required.

Countries with a bilateral agreement with the US include Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, and Spain. A full list of countries that have a bilateral agreement at all can be found here

This is the least common option, and traveler still face difficulties. Many of these bilateral agreements were implemented after WWII, and border agents may not be aware they even exist. It is crucial to verify your entry date into the country which you choose to exercise this, as well as documentation proving the agreements existstence. Remember, there are no border crossings where your passport will be stamped if you’re coming from another Schengen member.

Summary - WHAT IS THE SCHENGEN VISA RULE?

Europe is one of the most traveled regions of the world, for a great reason. It is easy to get around, there is so much culture and history to experience, and the ability to do it on any budget. However, as a tourist, the Schengen Rule is a common barrier to living your Europe travel dreams. This 27-country agreement limits tourism stays up to 90 days every 180 days, making you think outside the box to stay longer. 

There are ways to get around this, including alternative visa options, traveling to a country that is in a bilateral agreement with your home country, or simply optimizing your travel so you don’t overstay. No matter what option you go with, you’re sure to be in a beautiful place with opportunities to explore and learn on every corner.

What other destinations are on your bucket list? Find your Travel Inspiration here. 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Europe, Travel Planning, 0 comments