Happy Wednesday, friends!
Well, this sure is shaping up to be a season of travel in our life! In the past few months, we’ve been on the road more than we’ve been home, traveling to Europe for our five-year wedding anniversary and to Canada to teach photographers about publication. We’re getting ready to crisscross the country this fall to shoot weddings and do more teaching, too. We’re so thankful for the chance to see so many new places and experience so many new things together. All this travel has also made us so grateful for home.
We were home for nine consecutive nights not too long ago, and we cherished every moment of it. Sleeping in our own bed. Snuggling our kitties. We never – ever – expected that we’d travel this much for work this year, because, at heart, we’re two of the biggest homebodies you’ve ever met! It’s not in our comfort zone. We’re getting better at it, but we don’t come by it naturally. We believe, though, that God does His most important work in us when we’re uncomfortable, because that’s when we feel the most vulnerable, and that’s when we remember how much we need Him. From vulnerability comes growth!
In the past few weeks, we’ve shared our top five gear essentials for traveling photographers and our top five tips for photographing your vacation. Today, we’re going to continue on that theme with a list of our top international packing tips. So, whether traveling is in your comfort zone or not, we hope that these tips will make your next trip a little easier!
8 Things to Consider When Packing for Europe
When you’re packing, keep in mind that most American airlines flying to Europe will allow you to check two bags at 50 pounds each. However, once you land in Europe, if you make any inter-European flights (like London to Paris, for example), in most cases you’re only allowed to check one bag and the weight limit is 20 kilograms (44 pounds). So, if you’re planning on flying somewhere else in Europe once you cross the pond, double-check that your bags weigh less than 44 pounds to begin with, and make sure that your second checked bag is small enough to fit in the overhead compartment on the plane. That way, once you’re in Europe, you can check one bag, put one in the overhead compartment, and still have your personal bag under your seat. Every airline is different and they’re constantly changing their regulations, so double-check your airline’s guidelines before you start packing. If you think that you’re bags are going to be heavier than the allowable weight, some American airlines will let it go when you’re checking in, but most European ones won’t! They’ll charge you at the gate for the added weight, so if you think that you’re going to go over, it’s much cheaper to purchase additional weight online before your flight rather than in person!
Mixing & Matching
We got TONS of questions about how to decide what clothes make the cut in the packing process, and while we’re by no means experts at this, we’ll just share what worked well for us! Since the weight restrictions are so tight, it’s just not possible (or practical!) to pack thirty different outfits into one suitcase. Our best advice is to strategically pick items you can mix and match. We packed almost all neutral colors (whites, blacks and beiges) and then each picked two or three complimentary colors and tried to stick to those as much as possible. That way, almost any pair of pants would work with almost any top, and a few accessories could help make it look like you’re not wearing the same thing all the time. Light scarves were key for Amy because they could easily be used to cover her shoulders or head in a church, and they also helped add pops of color to neutral outfits. Since we were going to be in the cool air of Ireland and the heat of the Mediterranean all in one trip, we packed lots of items that could easily be layered depending on the weather. Don’t forget an umbrella!
Men have it pretty easy in this area, but it’s another story for the ladies! Amy wore skirts a lot while we were in Europe since it was so hot, but she couldn’t wear the shoes she normally would because no matter how comfortable wedges, flats or even heels are for a few hours, they’re not practical for twelve or more hours of walking. So, what’d she do? She wore tennis shoes almost the entire time. Even with skirts! She’ll be the first to admit that she wasn’t going to start any new fashion trends with that look because it certainly isn’t the cutest, but she didn’t care, because it was the only way to prevent collapsing from blisters and soreness! You’ll notice her feet are left out of all our shots!
Since you’ll have more days than articles of clothing, eventually, you’re going to run out of clean clothes! Dry cleaning is expensive, most hotels don’t have washing machines and dryers, and who wants to spend an entire day of their European trip in a laundromat? But you also don’t want to over pack, so what’s the solution? We brought a small box of powder laundry detergent with us. Then, every night (or almost every night) when we got back from our day’s adventures, we’d wash socks, underwear, and excessively dirty pants or tops (because, let’s be honest, you can wear a pair of pants a few times without getting sick of your own smell), in the sink and then hang dry them over the shower. Some hotels and cruise ships even have hang dry lines in the bathroom, too. If worse comes to worse and you don’t have any laundry detergent, you can always wash your clothes with the hand soap or body wash provided. It works almost as well!
Adapters & Converters
Make sure to purchase power adapters for the countries you’re planning to visit. In the old days, you also needed to converter to change the 220v coming out of European outlets to 120v that American devices are used to. Now, most modern electronics come with power cords that automatically convert the 220v to the correct voltage before it hits your device, so you don’t have to worry about blowing a fuse in the hotel, harming your devices, or starting a fire. An adapter will be sufficient!
Hairdryers & Heating Tools
Prepare yourselves! Your regular hairdryer won’t work in Europe. We tried. Everything. Including using a converter. Unfortunately, for reasons passing understanding, they just don’t work in Europe. The good news is that most hotel rooms and cruise ships come equipped with hair dryers connected to the wall in the bathroom, so you can use that. It’s not as powerful as your one at home, but it’ll do the trick. As for heating tools, like curling irons and straighteners, those are a gamble! Sometimes Amy could get hers to turn on (and sometimes stay on! that was the tricky part) but if you want to be extra careful, we’d recommend purchasing one before you leave on Amazon that’s made for a European outlet.
There will be A LOT of situations traveling to and throughout Europe when you won’t have access to food right away, at least not food that doesn’t cost you your first born child! Whether you’re on a plane, train, or bus, on a tour, walking around town, or at your hotel late at night, you never want to be without something to eat. Here’s the problem, though, you need something you can purchase at home and take with you for a few weeks that won’t melt or go bad. So what’s the solution? Salted cashews and raisins. This isn’t our snack of choice at home, but it definitely is when we travel! We buy a tub of salted cashews and raisins from Costco (Wal-Mart has them, too) and mix them in a gallon-sized plastic bag. We pack the gallon bag in our check suitcase and keep a smaller bag in Amy’s purse at all times. We like this mix because, for how small is it and how well it keeps, it offers the protein (cashews) we need to stay feeling full if we won’t eat for a while, as well as the bit of sugar (raisins) we need to keep us going during those afternoon lulls. We brought enough for our entire trip and we were SO glad that we did!
On most international flights, you’ll have in-flight entertainment via a screen on the back of the seat in front of you with more TV and movie choices than you can handle. However, when you’re in your hotel room at night, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a few TV stations in English, and they’ll probably just be news channels. Even if your hotel has Wi-Fi, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be a strong enough signal to stream something through Netflix or Hulu. A lot of the hotels we stayed in offered free Wi-Fi, but the speeds varied by hotel, and, in most cases, you had to pay more for faster service. And on a cruise ship? Forget it! So, to help bring the comforts of home with us (and something fun to do each night), we brought an entire TV series with us. If you have a DVD player in your laptop or a portable one, this is a must. You might not need it on the way there, but you’ll thank us when you’ve settled in for the night and you’re watching your all-time favorite series in English instead of a foreign show!
Love seeing new places? Here are links to our other travel adventures!
International: Ireland • England • France • Spain • Italy • Greece & Turkey • Anniversary Photos: Venice • Italy 2.0 • France 2.0 • Vow Renewal: France • Switzerland • Iceland • Prague • Germany & France
Domestic: Nashville • Denver • Phoenix • Vancouver • Seattle • Vegas • Atlanta • Santa Barbara • Florida • Virginia • New England/New York • Sedona • San Diego • Nantucket • Boston • San Diego • Virginia • Arizona • Charleston • Disney Cruise