Do These Five Things Before You Pack your Bags for Europe

The night before I travel abroad, I usually have a meltdown, brought on by many pre-trip anxieties. For example, I’m certain I packed all wrong - too many pair of shorts, not enough tanks. Do I need more dresses? Do I take jeans? What about shoes - are mine comfortable enough? And finally, will my suitcase close and if it does will it weigh too much? Add the general trip anxiety to the mix, and you can see why I’m a wreck. Even though it’s not my first rodeo, I sure act like it is.

However, I do have one thing down - the important stuff. I take care of passports, emergency contacts, and money matters well before my trip. I know that the whole packing thing… really doesn’t matter that much. Bottom line, I always end up with packing errors, but I still have amazing trips. The game changers I’m about to write about, however, can seriously impact your trip and maybe even your life (cue dramatic music).

  1. Let’s talk passports, because we know without them, we are not traveling. That said, the moment you get an inkling to travel abroad, check the expiration date on yours. Remember, you need to renew if you are within six months of your expiration date. Don’t get that surprise at the airport. Also, avoid any ticket counter conflicts by making sure your passport name matches your ticket name. If your passport says John Charles Doe, but your ticket says John C Doe… you might have a problem with the airline. Don’t risk it, some airlines are picky about that kind of thing. While you have your passport out, take a pic of it and store it in a folder of your phone where you can access it. This comes in handy when you’re shopping and traveling in Europe (you can often show a pic versus the actual passport) and also is good in the unfortunate case that yours is lost or stolen. Keep that camera out, and take pics of your credit cards- both sides, so you have the 800 number to call if necessary. Bonus points- print these pics out, and leave copies at home and take copies with you. A friend of mine recommended putting a copy inside your shoe, under the sole. That way, if you’re completely robbed - phone, wallet, the works… you at least have an ID on your person.

  2. Get your phone plan in order for interational travel. While you can safely use WiFi to do many things - Facetime, WhatsApp, check email and social media, etc., you might want to add an international plan so that you can make phone calls or send regular texts from the street or train, away from WiFi. Again, do this task in the weeks preceding your trip. It would be a major bummer to forget to do this and end up with lots of international charges.

  3. App up your phone. Start with the airline you’re using - it’s good for getting flight updates and gate information. Next, load WhatsApp (a popular texting app abroad) and tell your friends at home to do the same. Note you need WiFi to send or receive WhatsApp messages. Public Transport Apps - depending on where you’ll be, load appropriate apps. I doubt you’ll need a metro app if you’re in a small village in France, but you’ll definitely want one when in Madrid, Barcelona, or any other major city. I used the Madrid Metro Map all the time- it also had bus information. Plus, it didn’t require WiFi, so I could figure out my route wherever I was. Other great apps include: Citymapper (no WiFi needed), Triposo, and Air BnB if you’re looking for that kind of lodging. Currency XE is another good one, especially if you’re math challenged like me. Like anything else, for any situation you might find yourself in, there’s probably an app for it. So, do some homework ahead of time and download in the comfort of your living room.

  4. Get your business in order. This means… print out your itinerary and give a copy to someone at home. Keep a digital copy too, so that no matter what happens, you know where you’re going. It’s helpful to have the printed copy so you tell a cab driver or program your Uber app, or ask someone on the street (by showing them the name vs stumbling around)… especially if there’s a language barrier. Also, it’s a good idea to tell your bank and credit card companies that you’ll be traveling. That way they won’t be alarmed when they see a sizable Euro charge made in the Corte Inglés Shoe Department (totally random example, never done it…). Speaking of money and money exchange, you might want to google “best places in _______ to change dollars to Euros” - this will give you info on cash machines or banks that offer the best rates and lowest charges.

  5. Check your insurance for medical coverage abroad, and if necessary add a travel policy. You never know what weird illnesses, ailments, or accidents might affect you in your travels. It always helps to have a handle on what you’d do in an emergency… before there’s an emergency.

These are just a few “little but big” things that I like to handle well before my pre-trip meltdown. Pick a day and get all of these important security measures taken care of so that you’re free to have a nice little packing meltdown the night before.

What do you do to prepare before you travel? Leave your tips in the comments!

Happy Travels, Friends!