Updated: May 13, 2024 | Has affiliate links

7 Simple Essentials for Traveling To Europe

Essentials for traveling to Europe

A trip to Europe is a wonderful experience. From all the history and the many distinct cultures to all the food and sights, Europe is a popular destination. No wonder many people want to travel to Europe and experience first hand. However, when planning a trip to Europe there are a few important things to do before traveling to Europe. So what to do before traveling to Europe? In this article we will explore the essential things to bring when traveling to Europe as well as a few tips for planning your trip to Europe. Read on to find the essentials for traveling to Europe.

Like any complex trip, planning a trip to Europe requires quite a bit of preparation before actually leaving on your trip. Some things are essentials for traveling to Europe while others are not as important. Therefore a few questions arise right away: What do I need before a trip to Europe? Or even more practical: What do I do before traveling to Europe? If you’re thinking about traveling to Europe and you are asking these questions, you are in the right place as I will give you a simple list of essentials for traveling to Europe.

I have been traveling to Europe from the US for the last 20 plus years and with every trip I have gained more understanding about the real essentials for traveling to Europe without any fluff. So, let’s dive in.

1. Essential Documents for Traveling to Europe

When it comes to essentials for traveling to Europe, documents should be top on your list. But, what documents do I need for traveling to Europe? So let me show you my list of essential documents you have to have before traveling to Europe.

  • Get a Passport. While having a passport is clearly essential, getting a US passport takes some effort and time to get. So, if you need a passport please allow up to 3 months to get your passport, even though most of the times it takes around 6 weeks to get. Therefore, figure out where you need to go get a passport in your area, make an appointment, gather all required documents and just go apply.
  • Verify the expiration date on your existing passport. If you already have a passport, make sure that the expiration date of your passport is at least 6 months after the date you plan to return from your trip to Europe. This is very important as countries in Europe have varying requirement for the validity of a foreign passport. Most require at least 3 months validity after the date you’re leaving that country. If the expiration date on your existing passport is close to your return date, renew your passport before leaving for Europe.
  • Plane Ticket. Having a plane ticket is obviously one of the essentials for traveling to Europe, make sure you buy it in advance in order to get a great price. Also make sure you understand the conditions for making changes to your plane tickets and what is the luggage allowance including suitcase dimensions.
  • Driver License. Your valid driver’s license is also one of the essentials for traveling to Europe especially if you plan on renting a car in Europe. However, even if you’re not renting a car, your driver’s license servers as a second proof of identity which might come in handy.
  • International Driver License. If you are definitely not renting a car in Europe, you do not need an international driver license. However, if you are renting a car in Europe, this is a newer addition on my list of essentials for traveling to Europe. While in the past I have rented cars in Europe many times without needing an international driver’s license, in recent years all the car rental places have started asking for one. I always get my International Driver’s License from my local AAA office. They do it quickly and it costs about $30 including pictures and the license itself. The bad thing is that it is valid only for one year.
  • Make paper copies of your documents. I have always made paper copies of passports, driver licenses and credit cards. I place them usually in my carryon in a front pocket and leave them at the hotel as a backup in case anything happens with the originals. I have never needed them, but this is a great travel tip that all travelers swear by.
  • Slim fanny pack. Having a secure way for storing all your documents and money has always been high on my list of essentials for traveling to Europe. Many people ask: is traveling to Europe safe? The answer is yes, it is safe to travel to Europe but you have to guard against pickpocketing especially when using mass transit options like buses, subway or trains. A slim fanny pack that you can easily hide under your shirt or jacket goes a long way in hiding your valuables so you don’t become a target.

2. Prepare Your Credit Card for Europe

One of the most helpful tips when traveling to Europe is to make sure your credit cards will be working in Europe. So, go through your wallet and pick 2 credit cards that you want to use in Europe. Then follow these simple steps using your credit cards in Europe. You can also read my answers to most frequent questions about using your credit cards in Europe.
Here is a list of simple steps for making sure your credit cards will work in Europe:

  • Check your bank’s phone app. These days a lot of banks have added features for turning on/off international usage for your credit card on the bank’s phone app. Also, look for a way to setup a travel plan on the phone app. However, more and more banks, like Capital One, don’t require any notification about international travel anymore. But make sure you check.
  • Call your bank. The easiest way for making sure your credit cards work in Europe is to call your bank and tell them about your upcoming trip. If they require a travel plan, give them the dates and countries you will be visiting. Make sure you include the country for your layover airport.
  • Get a great travel credit card. While not essential, a great travel credit card can save you up to 5% on your travels and give you many other benefits, including a generous sign up bonus. What is the best credit card when traveling to Europe? I have been using my Capital One Venture as it comes with the highest travel rewards and no foreign travel transaction fees. You can also compare my favorite travel credit cards.
  • Get a slim wallet. While also not an essential, having a slim wallet to store your credit and debit cards along with some cash will save a lot of space. I leave my regular wallet at home when I travel to Europe and and use my favorite slim wallet which holds my 2 credit cards, 2 debit cards and my drivers license along with a bit of cash. Saves me a lot of room.

3. Prepare Your Debit Card for Europe

Another very helpful tips when traveling to Europe is to make sure your debit card will work in Europe. This is certainly one of the essentials for traveling to Europe. To know more details about using your debit card in Europe, follow these simple steps for using your debit card in Europe. You can also read my answers to most frequent questions about using your debit card in Europe.
Here is a list of simple steps for making sure your debit card will work in Europe:

  • Make sure your pin number has 4 digits. While banks in Europe have been moving towards allowing five digits, most banks still require four digits.
  • Check your bank’s phone app. These days a lot of banks have added features for turning on/off international usage for your debit card on the bank’s phone app. Also, look for a way to setup a travel plan on the phone app. However, more and more banks, like Capital One, don’t require any notification about international travel anymore. But make sure you check.
  • Call your bank. The easiest way for making sure your debit cards work in Europe is to call your bank and tell them about your upcoming trip. If they require a travel plan, give them the dates and countries you will be visiting. Make sure you include the country for your layover airport.
  • Get a slim wallet. While also not an essential, having a slim wallet to store your credit and debit cards along with some cash will save a lot of space. I leave my regular wallet at home when I travel to Europe and and use my favorite slim wallet which holds my 2 credit cards, 2 debit cards and my drivers license along with a bit of cash. Saves me a lot of room.

4. Prepare Your Phone for Europe

Another must have when traveling to Europe is your mobile phone. We have all come to depend on our phones a lot and when traveling to Europe, our phones are our most important tools as they hold all our travel plans and provide directions. Making sure your phone works while in Europe is definitely high on my list of essentials for traveling to Europe.

  • Call your phone company. The easiest way to prepare your phone for Europe is to work with your phone company. All US mobile phone companies have international plans that will allow you to use your phone in Europe just as you use it at home. While you end up paying more, getting a phone plan for Europe from your phone company is the easiest way to keep using your phone in Europe the way you know.
  • Get an eSim Card. Using an international sim card is much cheaper than your phone company’s plan. For example, during my recent trip to Europe I paid AT&T $140 for 24 days of international usage while with AirAlo’s Europe Plan I would’ve paid only $35, so more than $100 difference. The only requirement for using an eSim Card is that you need an unlocked phone.
  • Get A Plug Adapter for Europe. Getting a plug adapter for Europe is definitely high on my list of essentials for traveling to Europe. Without the correct plug adapter your phone charger and any other electronics you’re bringing will not work in Europe. I always bring my favorite plug adapter for Europe as it gives me 3 charging ports and a plug for my laptop. It’s perfect!

5. Prepare Your Itinerary for Europe

While lower on the list, having a SMART travel itinerary is definitely on my list of essentials for traveling to Europe. Even if you just have a rough document or a detailed list, creating an itinerary goes a long way in making sure you will have a great time in Europe. The more time you put in figuring out what places you want to see and what experiences you want to complete, the more your trip will match your expectations and you will be fulfilled. The less time you spend planning and thinking about your trip, the more chances you will have for frustration and unmet expectations. If you want to lean how to create useful travel plans, take my SMART travel planning course and learn how to get from dreams to travel plans with step by step videos and instructions.

6. Prepare Your Clothes for Europe

Bringing the right clothes is definitely high on my list of essentials for traveling to Europe. When it comes to packing for Europe, there are lots of questions. What to pack for traveling to Europe? How to dress when traveling to Europe? In order to answer these questions, you need to have your Europe travel itinerary even if it’s in rough form. You must know the dates and places you plan to visit as weather varies a lot across Europe.

  • Research the weather for the places and dates you will visit. These days it’s easy to get a rough idea about the weather you can encounter on your trip to Europe. This will be the greatest help in helping you determine what to pack.
  • Think in layers. Bringing different layers of clothing will allow you to adjust to the changing weather. While summers are generally hot and require shorts and t-shirts, spring and fall include a lot of varying weather. Being able to put on and remove layers is the simplest way to prepare your clothes for Europe.
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes. This travel tip is probably one of the most important on my list of essentials for traveling to Europe. Any place you visit in Europe comes with a lot of walking as most of the times, the old town centers do not allow cars or buses at all. So, plan to walk a lot in Europe because you will and bring shoes that will help you do that. If you plan on buying new comfortable walking shoes, make sure you buy them in advance and you break them in way before your trip.
  • Bring only a carryon luggage. Unless you stay a very long time or maybe you stay in only one place, steer away from large suitcases and focus on only bringing a carryon luggage with you. This will allow you to travel from place to place a lot easier, instead of lugging large and heavy suitcases.

7. Consider Travel Insurance

Do I really need travel insurance? While not a requirement, getting emergency health insurance when traveling to Europe comes high on my list of essentials for traveling to Europe. Since it’s not very expensive, getting travel insurance bring peace of mind while being in a foreign country with the prospect of injury and a trip to the emergency room. You can get reasonable travel insurance directly from Allianz or from your local AAA office.

Are These All the Essentials for Traveling to Europe?

Yes, this is it! Whether you are traveling to Europe for the first time or you have been there before, following my list of essentials will ensure you think of all important things to take to Europe as well as all the documents you need for your European trip. Going through my list step by step will keep you focused on the important tasks you have to accomplish without any distractions or fluff. Then you can have confidence in your travel plans and simply enjoy your trip.

Planning a Trip Soon?

. SMART Travel Itinerary. Work with me on your trip itinerary.
SMART Travel Course. Plan your travel through step by step videos.
SMART Travel Book. My best travel tips in less than 40 pages.
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