If you’re getting ready to study abroad in Europe, you’ve probably already perused Pinterest for everything from what phone plan to buy, to the cheapest weekend trips to take. You’ve probably also seen the abundance of “How to Pack for 2 Months in a Carry-on” and “Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List” guides – to be honest, most of them are overkill or “duh”. Do enough research and you’ll know to bring AC adapters, portable chargers, and weather-appropriate clothing. What’s not so obvious is the following list of totally random things I was either really glad I brought with me, or really wished I had thought to pack:
1. Ziploc bags
Snag a few of those free TSA ziploc bags they give you for your liquids when you go through security – they’re so helpful for making sure your toiletries don’t explode in your bag when you go on weekend trips, for packing snacks when you go hiking, for holding your wet bathing suit in a pinch… you name it! At least in Switzerland, ziploc bags (that actually close) were surprisingly hard to come by because the country is too eco-friendly for plastic bags. Either way, you don’t need a whole box, so grabbing a few for free can’t hurt.
2. cheap flip flops
I’m talking $2 plastic things you can ditch at your destination to make room for souvenirs on your way back. No, I don’t mean you should wear these out in public – a) your feet would hurt and b) your feet would get filthy and c) you’ll get looked at funny. But they are super handy for beach trips, pools, the occasional sketchy hostel, and your shower situation wherever you live. Europeans don’t wear cheap flip flops (in Geneva it was designer or nothing…), so save yourself a hassle and some money by stuffing them in your suitcase.
3. 10 FT/3M lightning cable/charging cord
Amazon Prime saved my butt with this extra-long charger right before I left! You don’t know where the outlets will be in your dorm, apartment, AirBnB, or hostel and you’ll definitely want to be able to reach your phone from your bed. It makes it easier to keep up with friends and family on the other side of the world who are just waking up when you’re turning in! Thank me later. (Don’t forget the wall adapter for wherever you’re going!)
4. cheap coffee thermos
Europeans don’t take their coffee to-go. I’m all for enjoying a good espresso drink with a pastry on the side, instead of gulping it down as a survival mechanism… but sometimes you just need a boost to get you through your morning class after “living in the moment” a little too hard the night before. (The drinking age in Europe is non-existent, I get it..) If you know you’ll be living somewhere you can make your own coffee, this will save you time and money. As with the flip-flops, pack a cheap one that you won’t mind parting with when it’s time to go home. (Free career fair/housing fair swag, I’m lookin’ at you!)
5. ear plugs + sleep mask
Sometimes you just can’t control the screaming baby next to you on your budget airline flight or the rowdy backpackers that stumble into the hostel room above yours at 4am. Also, sometimes your roommate will need to Skype her boyfriend when you’re trying to sleep (this didn’t happen to me but it did happen to my friend). Also, jet lag is a *bleep* so trust me when I say these ear plugs will come in handy *even if you don’t normally use them*.
6. travel-size hand sanitizer
Almost everyone gets sick at some point when they’re abroad, unfortunately. Even if you don’t, the people around you probably will! In many European countries, you have to pay to use the WC (water closet aka bathroom) and public restrooms aren’t everywhere for you to wash your hands – busting out the hand sanitizer – or even better, individually wrapped wipes so you have one less liquid to worry about – before you dig into your lakeside picnic in Switzerland is a much better idea, and your travel buddies will thank you for it.
7. peanut butter TO-GO cups
Contrary to popular belief, peanut butter isn’t impossible to find in Europe; it just doesn’t taste the same. Nutella is much more ubiquitous, and I didn’t mind that a bit. However, it was definitely nice to bring those little to-go packs to have PB&Js or a cheap and filling snack (apples/crackers with peanut butter) on hikes and picnics. $$$witzerland was so expensive, I’ve been conditioned to want to save! Besides, do you really need an entire jar of peanut butter for two-three months?
Friends who studied abroad in Europe – did I miss anything? Was your experience any different? Let me know in the comments!