The Ultimate Packing Guide for Your Next Trip

Travel plans? Here's what to bring and what to leave behind.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the basics of packing beyond going over some unique tips you may not find elsewhere. The bottom line is to remember that no matter what you lose or forget along the way, you can always find another in Europe. While it won’t be the exact brand or packaging you’re used to, nearly 750 million people live their entire lives in Europe—whatever you may need, they have it (except for peanut butter!).

                                                                   If only we could all be this organized....

                                                                   If only we could all be this organized....

The foundation of the clothes I pack for my extended travels has all to do with my undies and socks. When I run out of clean ones, that’s what drives me back to the Laundromat. Funky socks make for funky shoes, and there’s nothing worse than grimy, smelly shoes while on the road. Keep your socks clean, and your shoes will follow suit. I try to pack about seven pairs of undies, which may last me just over a week. I can basically make everything else stretch until I run out of these.

Next, don’t come abroad with a whole new wardrobe (this one is for the ladies especially!). Besides the requisite warm jacket or new pair of shoes, you’re better off under-packing so you can pick up some sweet Euro-styles while abroad. Inevitably you’ll want to shop at least a little bit in Europe, and if you start your travels with a full suitcase, how are you going to fit your new swag? Italy, for example, has great semi-annual sales in January and August to get rid of old inventory. Additionally, this will give you a few days to scope the local styles and to find out where the locals shop so you can blend in better.

Besides clothes, it’s a good idea to pick up a couple hundred dollars worth of local currency wherever you’re heading. Even if you give your bank a heads up that you’ll be traveling abroad, that doesn’t always give you a sure pass to get cash when you touch down on the other side of the Atlantic. While on the phone with the bank, it’s also a good idea to request a chip ‘n pin card. The US is a little behind the times when it comes to card security, and this type of card is the preferred one across Europe as it comes with additional layers of protection. Most banks can issue them on request.

What to Leave at Home

The next most important thing to remember is the ‘Fashion Faux Pas’ of Europe (see my video here). It may seem crazy, but many Europeans hardly ever wear shorts unless they’re physically on the beach or at the pool. Europeans can identify Americans from a mile away when they see:

  • North Face jackets
  • Baseball caps
  • Football/basketball jerseys
  • Any college or university branded apparel
  • Blue jeans
  • Chewing gum
  • Pastel colored pants, shorts or shirts (think: frat boys at the U Alabama football game)
  • Boat shoes (Sperry’s), tennis shoes, flip flops or sandals
  • Hiking shoes in the city

Instead, I prefer to wear dark washed jeans, and I make sure they’re light material if I’ll be in Europe over the summer. You’ll need to wear them at night at nice restaurants. And I stick to “fashion sneakers” for shoes i.e. shoes that I can dress up a bit with a button up and dark wash jeans at night, or wear the same pair with a much more casual outfit in the day. If you’re visiting Europe for the first time, it’s likely you’ll be sticking to urban destinations and as long as your shoes don’t cause you blisters, there’s no need for hiking boots on the streets of Paris. Whatever you do, do not pick up a pair of leather loafers and bring them to Europe without breaking them in. For breaking a sweat, any standard pair of running shoes will work just fine—even in the Cinque Terre!

You can find a slew of my dad's packing tips and resources on his website. And you can find more of mine here.