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Planning your first trip to Europe can be exciting and nerve-wracking, especially when we hear first-time traveling horror stories. Never fear, our readers are here to help. Find out their first time traveler tips for Europe!
First Time Travel Tips for Europe
Travel Fashion Girl help! A reader asks:
What do you wish you had known the first time you went to Europe? Give me your tips! I’m traveling to Europe for the first time and going to Milan, Munich, Salzburg, Augsburg, Fussen, Zurich, and Lucerne in four days and am mostly staying in hostels and Airbnb’s.
The only thing more exciting than a trip to Europe is your first trip to Europe. Most of us make a lot of packing and traveling mistakes when we first start traveling, with the biggest one being overpacking. Here our readers share their first time traveler tips for Europe, as well as the lessons they learned.
Take Lightweight Luggage
One of the most popular tips among our readers was to take a smaller bag and to make sure your luggage is lightweight. One reader says, “I wish I had taken a smaller bag. You need to be able to lift it over your head and put it on the rack above your seat on a train, as well as carry it up and down lots of stairs!”
Another adds, “I was in for a rude shock when I learned that the train stations in Italy didn’t come with lifts or escalators. We went with big luggage (lots of space for shopping) and it was a nightmare lugging them up and down the stairs and on cobblestones. Should have done more research for the trip!”
If you can’t avoid packing a lot, follow one reader’s tip who says, “I found two smaller bags were easier to maneuver than one large bag.”
These are the best carryon suitcases for traveling Europe!
The easiest way to travel lighter is to travel with less! As you know, we’re all about traveling carry-on only, and so are many of our readers. One says, “You don’t need a new outfit per day. Mix and match really will save you a lot of luggage space and weight,” while another adds, “I wish I would’ve know how much I was going to re-wear the same items. I wouldn’t have brought more than a carry-on.”
If you aren’t sure how to cut back, take a look at one of our packing lists for your destination, where we list out everything you’ll need (and won’t need!). When in doubt, leave it behind. As one reader says, “You can buy everything you need, if you need it. Don’t pack for any ‘what ifs.’”
Are you a new traveler? Read this free step-by-step guide on how to pack light!
Take Smaller Toiletries
Too often, we think we need more toiletries than we’ll actually use. The secret to packing toiletries is to take smaller sized products. As one reader says, “Those travel sized items at stores are too large and too expensive. Decant your toiletries into one to two ounce containers.”
Depending on the length of your trip, you don’t even need one or two ounce bottles and can use smaller containers to help you pack lighter and waste less space.
Follow our ultimate guide to creating the perfect travel toiletries list and master the art of packing!
Pack Comfy Shoes
Perhaps the most important tip on this list is to bring comfortable shoes. One reader says, “bring the most comfortable shoes that you own,” while another recommends bringing “two pairs of comfy shoes.”
Depending on the season, bring a pair of comfortable sneakers and either ankle boots, flats, or sandals – choosing styles appropriate for the weather. Always make sure your shoes are broken in before you travel, especially the shoes you plan to wear on a daily basis as your sightseeing shoe.
Read this post about how to choose the best walking shoes for Europe.
Opt for a Jacket with a Hood
Umbrellas can be bulky and a pain to travel with in crowded areas. One reader says, “I wish I had a jacket with a hood so I didn’t always have to drag an umbrella around.”
We love jackets with a removable hood. You can either pack the hood away within the jacket or store it in your backpack and attach it to the jacket when it starts raining.
Take a look at the most popular rain jackets for travel!
Expect Jet Lag
When you’re flying to a location in a different time zone, you’ll likely experience some level of jet lag. The problem with jet lag is that it can ruin the first few days of your trip if you don’t prepare for it and try to adjust to your new time zone.
One reader says, “I wish I knew about jet lag. I was 20 and no one warned me. I was out of it for three full days! Luckily I arrived a few days before I needed to be there, but it took forever for me to adjust! So, my advice: SLEEP ON THE PLANE OVER!”
Bring a Small Coin Purse for Coins
Several readers recommended using a coin purse for coins. One reader says, “The first time I wish I had brought a small coin purse for my Euro coins (which add up and are great to use to buy snacks) they just didn’t fit in my wallet so they would get lost.”
Another adds, “I totally agree about having a coin purse. The first time I went I didn’t realize how much you use the .50,1.00 and 2.00 coins. It seems that most places in Europe really don’t like you paying with larger bills if you can’t help it so I was always fumbling around in my wallet, taking in and out of my purse all the time.
The last time I went I took this coin purse and it made things so much easier. I wanted to buy a coffee, pastry, snack or use a public restroom on the street I just pull out the coin purse and leave my wallet with credit cards and larger bills in my purse.”
Here’s the best crossbody purses for women!
You May Need a Top Sheet
For those of us not from Europe, we may be used to sleeping with a fitted sheet, top sheet, and a blanket or comforter. However, in some European countries, the top sheet isn’t common. If you’re staying at hostels, some charge extra for sheets. Contact them in advance to find out or just bring your own sleeping bag liner (travel sheet).
One reader says, “One thing I found very odd is that all the apartments/condos/houses we rented had a bottom sheet and comforter/bedspread on each bed but not a top sheet. It was that way in all the rentals (7 different locations).”
You may reach out to your host or hotel and inquire about a top sheet, or pack one just in case. Travel sheets are great because you can choose your favorite fabric and feel more comfortable when sleeping.
Here’s how to choose the best travel sheets!
Bring a Battery Power Pack
If you enjoy taking a lot of pictures and video, make sure you bring an extra battery or a battery power pack. One reader says, “I wish I had brought a battery power pack. My camera and phone battery would die and I had to go back to the hostel to recharge.”
Having easy access to a charger is more important than ever and there are tons of portable chargers on the market there to make your life easier. I am currently using the Pebble, which has two USB ports, and is palm sized.
Here’s the best portable power bank chargers for travel!
Pack What You Love to Wear
Packing for a trip to Europe can be more difficult and complicated than you’d think. You want to find the balance between comfortable and easy to wash and pack items with pieces that you feel good wearing.
One reader says, “I wish I thoroughly tried on outfits and packed things that I loved wearing. I tended to take clothes that were easy to pack and wash but weren’t necessarily items that I felt good in.”
Never underestimate the power of confidence! Wear what you love and feel comfortable wearing. Creating a travel capsule wardrobe can help you curate a packing list of comfortable and fashionable pieces you like wearing.
Look at these sample capsule wardrobes to learn more tips on choosing the best clothing for travel!
Don’t Worry About Looking Like a Tourist
One reader sums it up perfectly: “I have spent too much of my life and travels worried about how I look. ‘Looking like a tourist’ was a badge of dishonor. Being an older traveler is liberating. As long as I’m a good citizen of the world, it’s okay to wear comfy shoes. No one in Nairobi, Jo’burg, or even Amsterdam or Paris going to mistake me for a local.”
Rather than focus on fitting in, use the guidelines in this blog to choose your outfits based on the weather and your planned activities. Based on those practicalities, you can choose the corresponding clothes according to your own personal style.
If visiting a conservative destination or going to religious sites, you should also consider any local dress guidelines as some require you to cover your shoulders and knees.
Read this 10 Step Packing Guide for Europe for a stress free trip!
It’s Okay to Wear Jeans
There is an old-fashioned idea that Europeans dress up more than Americans and don’t wear jeans. The reality is that everyone wears jeans around the world. The only difference is that in Europe, many prefer a more tailored, fitted look as opposed to a relaxed fit.
As one reader says, “I wish I had known that wearing jeans is totally ok. When we went the first time in 2009, everything I read said Italians dressed up more than Americans. What I experienced was totally different.”
We recommend going for a darker wash to dress up your look. Additionally, black jeans are perfect for a comfy yet classic style. Pair them with flats or ankle boots and a blouse and you’re set!
Here’s the best skinny jeans for travel according to our readers!
Do as You Do at Home
When we travel, we often get caught up in all the tourist sights. While we all enjoy a good museum and landmark, don’t forget to stop at local spots to take in the culture of your destination.
One reader says, “I like to do the kinds of things I like when I am at home. Go to local coffee houses and restaurants, bookstores, local museums or a museum of just one artist (like Van Gogh or Paul Klee).
Go to gardens and be in nature. My first trip to Europe was go go go, cathedrals, museums, landmarks. I was so tired and didn’t appreciate what just looking and listening and taking in the local atmosphere.”
If you’re working with a smaller budget, check out this awesome guide: Lonely Planet: Europe On a Shoestring!
What are your tips for a first time traveler to Europe? Please comment below!
For more Europe packing tips, please read:
- 10-Step Packing Guide for Europe
- How to Choose the Best Shoes for Europe
- Packing List for 2 Weeks in Europe
- Carryon Only Packing List for 3 Weeks in Europe
Suggested travel resources:
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