What to Buy and Pack When Traveling Abroad


Over the past few years my husband and I have had our fair share of travel. Just recently, I traveled to Europe (without him, but with my best friend) and visited both Germany and Spain. It was an unbelievably gorgeous trip filled with so much laughter, so much metro confusion, lots of beer (the German kind), and days filled with siestas thanks to the culture of Spain.

If you are considering traveling, or are planning your next abroad trip, or maybe even your first abroad trip--my best advice to you would be to pack smart and to pack light. I know, as females we have been lead to believe that traveling with everything we ever owned in a couple of suitcases is what is best--right? Yeah, well that doesn't really work when you travel abroad.

One, the cost to check your baggage adds up over time. If you are going to multiple places (like when we visited both Germany and Spain in one trip) we took a total of 8 planes to get to all of our destinations. You could easily spend well into the mid hundreds to check your bags. If you are married--then that is double. It's unnecessary money that you could use towards adventures, great meals, and splurges. Also, if you only have one carry on, you don't even have to wait in the line to get your plane tickets. You can literally log in online, download your ticket, and walk to the gate. This was super helpful and so smart on Jessie and I's end. In Europe, the lines were incredibly long for checked luggage. We totally bypassed them all and just went on through with our backpacks.

The goal is to pack as lightly as possible, with clothes that you can mix and match together for multiple outfits, and to only bring the absolute necessities because--lets be real, the goal of traveling is not to be the best looking tourist on the street. The goal is to have the best experiences--and youre not going to do that when your waiting in line for hours, missing planes because your luggage needs to go under the plane, and toting all that stuff around a country that you dont understand yet--just to try to find your airbnb. Seriously, it's not worth it. Love your sanity more than that.

When you do pack lightly, I would suggest to bring some key players that will help with the actual travel time, but also, could help while you are away. These things helped us out so much that I could have probably cried from gratefulness that I thought to bring them. Here are a few musts.

Backpack For Airplane Carry-On

Most airlines allow bags up to 45 linear inches (length + width + depth) or 22" long, 14" wide, and 9" deep. Obviously, each airline has their own rules and regulations, but I have noticed that this is the average for a carry-on. If you don't have a backpack, here are a few suggestions.

If you are not a backpack lady...then bring a small rolley bag that fits the size dimensions.

Universal Charger

Below is the travel adapter I used for Germany & Spain. It is a type C adapter. The great part about this item is that you can choose which country/countries you are traveling to and it will have the outputs needed.

Chafing Cream

Yeah, I said it. Ain't nothing worse than walking all around Europe and your thighs are on fire. Apply this daily like you wash your face.

Emergency Essentials

Fun story--We recently went to Barcelona, and yes, the beaches there are out of this world gorgeous! We went for a day trip to a secluded beach where the tourists didn't go right on the outskirts of the city. We hopped off the train and were greeted by the most quiet, serene, beach scene on the Mediterranean. In the distance, we saw this beautiful mountain of a rock hanging out in the sea--we wanted to hang out near that rock. It doesn't look too far out, right? Let's walk there in the sand.

Y'all. The sand in Spain is NOT like the sand on the beaches of North Carolina. It is coarse, extremely hot, and your feet go atleast 6 inches down into the sand every time you step. I, LEGIT, burned my feet. I had blisters for days. Not little baby blisters, I am talking monster blisters on every single toe and on the arch of my feet. It was serious. And we still had a few days left on our trip so I had to figure out how I was going to walk. Listen to me when I say that you need to have this bandaid for blisters. It is a thick bandaid that literally acts like skin. It helped my feet so much. You just have to trust me on this.

Hygiene Essential when Traveling for Days

It took us 2 days to get to Germany. After flying to Boston from RDU, having a layover that was just short enough that we knew it was not necessary to order a hotel stay for the night, we hopped on the plane to Paris, France that took about 7 hours. We then spent about 6 hours in Paris until our train ride to Germany was available. The train ride was another 4 hours. I can not stress to you how bad I smelled. When we finally met our friends in Germany, I felt so bad that I could not even hug them. The funk was real. Save yourself.

Portable Charger

You will be taking alot of photos, especially with your phone, and you may also be using your phone for directions. Your phone will be your number one source for information, especially if you are in a place that does not speak your language. You need a portable charger because your phone will die right at the time you desperately need it.

Portable Wi-Fi

Speaking of a portable charger, if you are planning on working from afar, invest in portable internet. This is not for everyone, but if you plan on traveling the easy way--like just typing in on google/apple maps to get to a certain place, then you will need some sort of internet capabilities. Available wifi is not always guaranteed in another country.

Every single time I have traveled I have never used this, however, since my last trip in Europe I have realized that one of these is super critical and can make your life super easy. For instance, when we were in Germany we could not read any of the train stations kiosks because--you guessed it, they were in German. If we had internet we could have used google translate to interpret what everything meant. Instead, we had to have our friend take pictures and "circle" the buttons we needed to push on the picture that was sent. See what I am talking about? It could make your life easier.

Also, look into what your phone service provider can do for internet use while traveling abroad.

Neck Brace for Airplane Travel

This is an upgrade from your typical neck pillow. It's super compact, and actually keeps your neck straight. Not going to lie to you, it looks super funny. My friend Jessie used this on the flights to and from Europe, and I was extremely jealous. It's called a turtle neck brace and you basically put the hard part up against your neck, then wrap the sides around to keep it still. Jessie slept like a baby and her head didnt even flinch. I tried it and debated stealing it from her. When I got back I went ahead and bought my own.

Eye Cover for Sleep

Again, no need for you to hate your life when you are on the plane for 7+ hours. Block those lights out and do yourself a favor.

Collapsible Water Bottle

I know, you have a ton of water bottles, but since you are traveling super light, the more compact you can make your luggage, the better. I found this awesome collapsible water bottle and I am amazed I have traveled this much without it. It saved space in my luggage, and was just really cute.

Nikki Whitt