European Travel Essentials Packing List for Women (2023)

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travel essentials for women

Before first traveling to Europe, I was worried about how I was going to keep up my self-care while on my trip. When traveling long distances, it’s important to pack in a way that makes it easy to do your regular self-care routine along the way. During my travels, I’ve often found myself running through the airport feeling unprepared as I jump through one hoop after another. If you’re on your period or have a medical condition that requires prescription medication, traveling can be a struggle. In this packing list of travel essentials, I will cover topics including traveling on your period and packing prescription medications, all while keeping your skin looking heavenly.

What to do before A trip to Europe

In addition to dealing with changing time zones, flight delays, and having little to no concept of time— ADHD people also have to remember to bring a doctor’s note that allows them to bring stimulant medication with them through customs. If you are bringing any kind of prescription medication, make sure to get a doctor’s note and keep your meds in the prescription bottle. The doctor’s note will need to say what the medication is for and have their signature on it. This is very important to have if you are taking stimulants, pain killers, or any medications that aren’t legal in the country you are visiting.

Oh and ahem– You will also need your passport, which I’m sure you know already.

Choosing the Right Carry-on Bag

choosing the right carry-on bag

Buying a well-designed carry-on bag with convenient pockets that is comfortable to carry is a game-changer, especially if you’re running a marathon from one side of the airport to the other. Personally, NorthFace backpacks are my favorite. I have bought multiple NorthFace bags in this style-specific style: THE NORTH FACE Women’s Every Day Jester Laptop Backpack. The padding is situated so that a woman can carry it comfortably. There’s a laptop sleeve and a separate front pocket that has a small zipper pouch, an area for pens and keys, and a velcro pouch. I like that I can organize my wallet, snacks, chargers, headphones, and any other small items in this front section. 

Technology Essentials

No one wants to hear a crying baby. Soundproof headphones are an absolute must when you’re traveling. I like to use these Sony Soundproof Headphones because they’re great for sleeping and have convenient controls. It is easy to skip songs or turn up the volume because the ear covers are touch-sensitive. 

I would also recommend getting a tracker tag for your luggage to help you in the event of a loss or theft.

In Europe, they don’t have the same types of outlet plugs as the United States. When you’re going to another country, it’s absolutely crucial to bring a power adaptor so that your phone charger will fit into the plugs. I would suggest getting a universal power adaptor so that it will work everywhere you go. 

You should also get a portable phone charger. This will ensure that your battery stays charged even when you don’t have access to a power outlet. 

Keeping Warm on the Airplane

Planes are freaking cold so a hoodie is essential when you’re traveling. I like to wear a zip-up hoodie like this one and jogger sweatpants. I like these joggers from Lululemon because the material doesn’t make you too hot. I also like to wear a beanie so that I can pull it over my eyes and sleep while I’m on the plane. If you have an overnight flight, you’ll definitely want an extra pair of clothes so that you can change during your layover.

A change of clothes is always a good idea when you’re traveling. One time when I was flying to San Francisco (in an ice-cold plane), I spilled my Hydroflask (another item I never leave the house with) all over myself. I didn’t have any extra clothes to change into so I was freezing the rest of the flight. This sucks, especially on a long flight! To freshen up in the airport, after an overnight flight you might want to bring makeup wipes and deodorant. I use the Simple Face Micellar makeup remover wipes and the lavender-scented Native deodorant. 

My Favorite Healthy(ish) Travel Snacks

When you are traveling long distances, it’s always good to have a snack. Because if you have a snack– you won’t have to steal a sandwich. One time when I was on the way home from a trip to Colorado, I was rushing through the airport to catch a flight and was forced to steal a sandwich. I HAD to steal it because I was STARVING… and the self-checkout wasn’t working. Conveniently, there was also no one working there. It was strange. There was a kiosk in the middle of the airport with nothing but a self-checkout. So I just took the sandwich and ran. Anyways…

Healthy snacks are a crucial part of any self-care packing guide. These are my favorite snacks: 

Speaking of snacks… check out this guide for how to find groceries, snacks, and drinking water once you arrive in Europe!

Feminine Care: How To Travel On Your Period 

Is it easy to find tampons abroad? 

Depending on the country, it can be extremely hard to find tampons abroad. I would recommend bringing extra with you. When I was in Italy, for example, I could not find tampons anywhere and it was super frustrating!

How to deal with your period on an airplane

I don’t want to air out my dirty laundry here, but… I love period underwear. They’re especially perfect for flights abroad because can wear them for up to 12 hours, whereas tampons need to be changed every 3-4 hours. When I’m on a long flight, the last thing I want to think about is changing my tampon. That’s why period underwear is the route to go. 

I personally use this pair by Saalt. These underwear replace 3 regular tampons or 2 pads. I like them because they fit like regular bikini-style underwear. The material is kind of silky, it feels like athletic clothing. I have found that these underwear are more moisture-wicking than pads are. They also aren’t all “up in my business” like pads are. The absorbent lining is very thin. I’ve never had an issue with it leaking. 

I’d suggest just getting 2 pairs of period underwear and rotating between them. They are easy to hand-wash in the sink with detergent. Since you can’t wash them in the airport really, just bring a plastic bag and put the dirty pair in there until you get a chance to clean them.

InFlight Skincare 

When I travel, I use face wipes to clean my face. I only wear mascara and concealer under my eyes— then I just go around my eye area with the wipe. 

As silly as it sounds, sunscreen is important when you’re flying. Plenty of supermodels have full-blown skincare routines that they do before they fly. The sun becomes twice as powerful when you are at 30,000 feet, which is the height of most commercial flights. If you’re trying to fly like a supermodel, sunscreen is my #1 tip. The vast majority of skincare products exist to reverse sun damage, the best thing is to just prevent it before it happens. My favorite is the Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen if I’m sitting in a window seat.

How to Travel With Prescription Medication: 

how to travel with prescription medication

You need to carry all your prescription drugs with you in your carry-on bag and have a note from your doctor on hand. The note from your doctor needs to list all the medications that you take and explain what they are for. You should contact your doctor a month before you plan to leave for your trip.

When going through customs, security officers don’t always know what certain medications are. If they don’t know what something is, they are unlikely to let you bring it through. The note needs to say what the medication is and what medical condition it treats. Some medications aren’t allowed in certain areas. Countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Southeast Asia, for example, ban or have restrictions on stimulant medications such as Adderall. Some places do not allow stimulant medications in the country at all. 

When I go through customs, I keep my medications in the prescription bottle. But once I’m at my gate, I put a dose of my meds into a key-chain container like this one. That way, if I need to take it while I’m on the plane, I don’t have to risk spilling an entire bottle of pills. In my checked bag, I have an empty pill organizer with the days of the week on it. Whenever I get to where I’m staying, I put my pills into the slots so that I make sure I don’t miss any doses. 

My personal experience traveling with rare ADHD medication 

I take a rare prescription medication called Adzenys for my ADHD. It comes in a large box, and each pill is individually packaged in aluminum that reads, “WARNING: Amphetamine has high abuse potential.” So, when I was pulled aside by a security guard while going through customs in Hungary, I was scared shitless. The lady slowly unpacked my overstuffed backpack. I braced myself as she pulled out the two cardboard boxes containing my medication, but she set them aside. She then withdrew a butter knife from the side pocket of my backpack and scolded me in broken English.

I was relieved as she pushed the plastic bin toward me and walked away carrying the knife while shaking her head. Luckily, I had no trouble getting my medication through Italy, Hungary, or Spain. No one even asked to see my doctor’s note. However, I would still suggest bringing one. There have been cases where people have been arrested for trying to bring stimulant medications through countries where they are not legal. 

Do I Need To Bring Local Currency?

do I need to bring local currency when traveling to Europe?

Local currency can be good to have when you’re abroad, but it’s really not necessary. After covid, everyone started accepting credit cards. At the baggage claim in the airport, there are currency exchange booths but you shouldn’t use them. They charge a service fee on top of the currency exchange rates. You can go to an ATM, but that usually isn’t worth it. The exchange rates at ATMs are ungodly.

When I was in Spain, the only time anyone used an ATM was when they wanted to go smoke the devil’s lettuce. In Spain, there are weed clubs. Weed clubs sell marijuana and you can only enter them after paying a “lifetime” membership fee. Even though weed clubs are legal businesses, they only accept cash and they aren’t visible from the street. To find them, you have to find a local stoner who speaks English. I once found myself inside the lobby of a weed club. After learning that I had to pay cash that I didn’t have, I decided not to sell my soul. Anyway, I digress.

What To Pack In Your Checked Bag 

what to pack in your suitcase

When putting together your suitcase, it’s important to make sure that there is room for all the treasures you’re going to find on your travels. People often advise others to “travel light” by using a small suitcase. But I don’t like to travel light. When I travel— I like to go to local markets, shops, and thrift stores! I’ve found some of my coolest clothes that way.

That’s why I like using an expandable suitcase like this one. There’s a second zipper that can be unzipped so that the bag expands. I would also advise that you bring a collapsible tote bag so that you have something to carry around with you on outings. I like to keep my carry-on bag packed even when I’m at my destination. That way, I know where all my stuff is and I don’t have my laptop or other valuables just sitting out. 

Make sure to plan for the weather in both your clothing and shoe choices. It’s usually best to leave things that can easily be messed up– like white shoes and suede garments– at home. If it is supposed to rain while you’re on your trip, you might want to bring a collapsible travel umbrella. To prevent your shoes from staining your clothing, you pack them in your tote bag or get shoe bags.

When you are going to multiple cities and are going to be repacking your bag several times, it’s important to separate your clean from your dirty clothes. Any laundry bag will work but it’s best to use a laundry sack that’s washable and odor-proof. I like to bring laundry detergent in a travel-sized container so that I can wash something in the sink if I need to. 

For your toiletry bag, make sure that you have everything that could “explode” in the plane in a ziplock plastic bag. Bring extra plastic bags with you in case something does explode. I like to use a single-zipper cosmetic bag like this one. I also like to use a toothbrush cover so that my toothbrush doesn’t touch anything in my toiletry bag. 

What should I NOT bring On My Trip?

Whenever someone tells me to “pack light,” I roll my eyes and keep rolling my oversized roller bag. I pack a lot of clothes and I’m ok with that. I take a lot of pictures while traveling, especially when I’m with Ethan since he’s a photographer! I like to bring multiple outfits so that I’m not wearing the same thing in all of the pictures we take.

Although I am not a proponent of “packing light,” I do have suggestions of what you shouldn’t bring. 

I would advise against bringing too many “statement” outfit pieces or accessories. By statement outfit pieces, I mean shoes or purses that don’t go with most of the clothing you packed. If it’s not an item that you usually gravitate toward, don’t bring it.

For a week-long trip, I like to pack 4-5 outfits for going out to dinner, 3 sleeping outfits, and 5 cute daytime outfits. I may re-wear pants but I rarely wear shirts more than once. I would rather bring more clothes than not have enough.

I find the articles where people tell others to “pack light” really annoying. It usually costs like $30 to check a bag! By the time you buy all the mini travel-sized items they recommend and the elaborate toiletry organizers— you’ve spent more than $30. When it comes to organizational packing items, I like to keep it simple and just take the toiletry items that I already have. A large bag isn’t the end of the world if it has wheels on it like this one does!

I would suggest bringing fewer books than you think you’ll read. I tend to be too ambitious and pack too many books. Let’s be real here: my novel usually finds its way back into my bag RIGHT when I see the TV on the plane. However, on my flight back from Munich, (and yes I will name-drop every place I’ve technically visited) I couldn’t put down Verity by Colleen Hoover. I read it cover to cover. Another favorite book of mine is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Protect Against Luggage Theft & Lost Luggage

You should get a luggage tracking tag so that you know where your luggage is should it not end up in the baggage claim. When we were in Barcelona, someone’s bag didn’t end up in baggage claim. Instead, it was taken to a different part of the airport and we had to talk to several people to track it down. A tracking tag would have been useful in this situation. 

Make sure that you have photos of your passport, credit cards, ID, and any other document that you are taking with you. Also, make a note on your phone with your flight confirmation number and the addresses of where you’re staying. Save on your phone any important paper documents or things that are only accessible through wifi. Once you arrive at your destination, save the number of the local police and a taxi service.

Some countries don’t have Uber or Lyft. You definitely want to take a taxi from the airport. If you take the subway or a bus, someone might try to steal your luggage. Also, subway stations have a lot of stairs and it’s difficult to carry your bag up and down stairs. 

Conclusion

After reading this list of travel essentials for women, I hope you’re feeling much more prepared to travel with prescription medications, travel on your period, or know exactly what to bring on your trip.

Comment below your favorite travel essentials and share any tips that we missed!

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