Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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Packing for Europe

Now that Shaun's birthday has passed, I can finally focus on our big Europe trip to Spain and Switzerland which is happening in a short 9 days! I'm getting my happy dance on like it's my job.

 in Buda, overlooking Pest in 2007

Since I'm a planner, my inner nerd really shines through at a time like this. I rock lists galore in my trusty pink notebook.

Is there a better feeling than making a list and crossing each line off one by one? Of course for traveling in Europe, it's not like packing for any old trip, so I think extra organization is necessary to a) keep me sane and b) make sure we're not forgetting any vital items!

My motto for traveling Europe: Pack lightly but make sure all bases are covered and look effortlessly fabulous throughout entire trip. Obviously.

It’s not an easy feat.

And this is where planning in advance really comes in handy. I like to leave enough time to start list making so that I can also take care of any shopping that might be needed. I break out my packing plan into 5 categories.

Not too much need for explanation here. Clothing includes anything and everything that I plan to wear throughout the trip, starting with what I will wear on the plane and what I will wear on the way home (most often, I plan for this to be the same thing, barring any spills). This should include everything from jeans and underwear to outerwear and scarves. Oh and shoes too. I totally make a plan for footwear, not only to minimize suitcase space, but make sure my tootsies are covered, taking into account the types of activities you will be doing. My number one pick for traveling? The American Apparel circle scarf. Perfect as a scarf, a hood (even a dress!) but also as a blanket on the plane. I'm wearing my tie dye one here:

Navigating Winter's Eve at Lincoln Center
This includes not only soaps and shampoo, but medications, prescriptions, a mini-First Aid kit. You never know what can happen while traveling and I never want to leave anything up to chance in case of an emergency. You also never know where there will be a drug store or what types of items will be available there. Something seemingly obvious in the US may not necessarily be at an arm’s length abroad. This includes everything from Band-Aids and Advil to Neosporin and Tums.

You know the drill. Anything and everything to keep busy on the long plane ride and even for late at night in the hotel. I hardly ever sleep on the plane, so I usually include the following:
Computer (for wifi in the hotel or movie viewing on plane)
DVD player
Giant sleeve of DVD’s (usually my preferred entertainment is TV on DVD)

iPod (fully charged and stocked with new tunes of course)

Magazines (for take off when I can't use the Kindle)
Sudoku (my favorite puzzles!)

This includes all plugs, cords, European converters, headphones + splitter so Shaun and I can watch DVD's together on the plane, food for the plane, hair brush, handbags & carry-ons, and any of those other 'random' items that we might need. I actually just ordered this Kelly Moore camera bag, so that I can carry my DSLR in style while abroad (and beyond).

We are also thinking about getting pay as you go international cell phones since Shaun will be working for a lot of the trip. With phones, we'll both feel more secure that we can find each other if I'm out sightseeing, and I'll feel safer if (God forbid) I get lost or something while sightseeing out on my own. This is why I plan early - so I can make sure we've got it all!

I usually put together an itinerary not only for Shaun and me so that we have everything in one place, but also to share with both of our parents. Just because you never know. I have nightmares about being in a situation where people might not know where I am should (God forbid) disaster strike. Perhaps it stems from the fact that I was in NYC on 9/11 and thus my lingering fears of being in a place of non-communication, but let’s just say that since that day, I’m always very careful to let people know where I am. I write out our flight information, hotel contact info, dates of where we’ll be and when, and also include copies of our passports. Just in case.  I am probably completely over-the-top about this kind of thing, but I like to just take extra care to make sure everything is in order. Oh and we also make sure to have all of our guidebooks!

On an overnight train from Prague to Budapest, 2007
So there you have it. My tips for packing for a major trip! What are some of your packing and safety tips?

Reader Comments (16)

I also make tons of lists for when I travel! I get overwhelmed if I don't have everything written down.

I pack way to much when I travel,I mean even for a weekend I go incredibly ott! If your stopping over in England its been really nice and sunny,I havnt taken a coat or jacket out with Me since February :) Have fun on your adventures.

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKel

Jealous!! What countries are you going to? I'm a big fan of bringing a little guidebook - like Let's Go or Lonely Planet - if nothing else for the restaurant recommendations. They usually have some of the off-the-beaten path places that are way better than the tourist traps along the central plazas.

Katie, I totally agree! I also love the Eyewitness Books...it's like having your own personal tour guide! We will be in Madrid, Spain and Zurich & Zug, Switzerland!

May 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterRachel

You're so right--Eyewitness Books ARE like your own personal tour guide! We used them for trips to Italy and Puerto Rico last year and loved them!

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicolle

Wow your trip is coming up fast! I love making lists too, it's satisfying to cross things off and it really helps to stay organized. My tip: roll up your clothes rather than folding them. They take up less room that way and are less wrinkly afterward. I've seen youtube tutorials that show some pretty impressive packing techniques.

Great tip Rachel! We plan to only take one big suitcase and one small one between the 2 of us, so that will definitely come in handy!

May 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterRachel

Looks like you got it all under control!! I'm a list person too and that totally helps. I'm getting better at packing but still tend to overpack clothes. I like options! lol But my clothing advice is just to pack mostly neutrals so you can mix and match easier.

I just have to swoon and those camera bags!!! I can't believe how beautiful they are for a camera bag!!! AWESOME!

Love these traveling tips! You can tell you are experienced! :)

"My motto for traveling Europe: Pack lightly but make sure all bases are covered and look effortlessly fabulous throughout entire trip."

Love you, Rach!. Love love love. This post is evidence that we should live closer. I am so excited for you to go on your trip!!

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndie

I am a complete freak when it comes to traveling. I pack way more than I should, plan every minute of the day, and tire myself out. :) I listened to my husband (then fiancée's) suggestion of taking it easy on a trip and I like my way much more! :)

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan(Oliepants)

love that camera bag!!!! so cute.

I'm definitely a list-maker too! ("Surprise surprise" says Rachel my twin.) lol.
I just returned from a European trip myself (six days in Paris)! My most reliable traveling tip is to LAYER clothes. Even weather forecasts don't always tell the truth, so it's good to be prepared. Like when you plan for warm weather but it turns out to be extremely windy...it's good to have something you can throw on, like those fabulous scarves! (Which also work great, like you said, as blankets OR pillows on the plane.)

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Hanson

Breaking Bad! YES! Europe! YES! We need to discuss.

I'm getting on my jealous face like it's my job! =)

I love your tips - and I'm totally organized like you are - lists and lists and more lists are my friend - especially at work!

May 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauraJayne

I can fell how excited you are. But I like what you did, specially those preparations you have done.

Accommodation Cape Town

May 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSophie Torres

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