Why is the prospect of packing for a European vacation so befuddling, terrifying, or confusing?
Here are four reasons why packing for a trip abroad elicits these reactions, and what you can do to end the pre-packing jitters.
1. You don’t know the baggage rules and fees for international travel and are afraid of a disaster at the airport.
Luggage restrictions and the related baggage fees are often stricter and more costly for travel between the United States and Europe. So what should you do? Educate yourself!
Check with the specific airline carriers your flights are booked on for their rules and fees. Airline websites typically contain this information. Know that there may also be different rules for your various flight segments: within the U.S., between the U.S. and Europe, and between European countries.
2. You don’t know how to deal with the issues if your luggage happens to get lost in a foreign country. The mere prospect of lost luggage is terrifying!
Seriously consider whether you can survive with only carry-on luggage. (I know, easier said than done.) The advantages, if you can do this, are five:
- You have less laundry to wash or dry clean when you get home
- You have an excuse to shop for missing items while abroad (but remember—you have to find room to pack your purchases when you return home)
- Unless you leave it somewhere, your luggage won’t get lost on the way
- Ground transportation—rental cars with tiny trunks, trains, and buses—will be easier to use if you have less luggage to drag along
- My favorite reason to consider bringing only carry-on luggage: You won’t be denied a new, replacement flight with a tight connection because your luggage won’t make the plane.
Yes, the inability to switch to a new flight because of lagging checked luggage has happened to me. Sadly, more than once.
3. You don’t know what clothes to pack.
Clothing should be multi-purpose and able to either be re-worn without laundering or hand washable and quick drying. Plan your wardrobe around a color scheme that is neutral and mix-and-match. For women, one space-conscious accessory, such as a colorful scarf or inexpensive statement necklace, can be used to spice up your outfits. Scarves are normally on my list of fun things to shop for in Italy, as markets often carry beautiful, inexpensive scarves that make a functional and lovely souvenir from my trip. Bottom line? You will need less clothing than you imagine!
4. You’re worried about being unprepared for unpredictable weather while in a foreign country. Plan for a variety of weather with compressible layering pieces for warmth and rain protection that won’t take much space, such as a compressible rain jacket with a hood and/or an umbrella. Unpredictable, torrential rains or unexpected frigid temperatures can happen.
Does this sound like wild weather has happened to my husband and I? You’re right. It has, but it didn’t stop our fun!
Whew! Now you’ve finally packed and are ready to go, but now you’re worried about getting your luggage, and yourself, checked in at the airport.
Get to the airport early or, at a minimum, on time, especially for international flights and in large, busy European airports. My rule of thumb is to allow at least three hours in the airport terminal when travelling abroad. Finding the appropriate check-in counters, going through security, and accounting for any strikes or work stoppages that might occur in your host country can require more time than you imagine.
In case you wondered, ignoring the logic of 2. above, my husband and I normally check one bag when travelling abroad and we hope for the best. What can I say? We’re optimists!