The Essentials

Items you’ll need:

  • Power bank. I carry 2.
    • A small/light one that charges my phone halfway. This is for short day trips.
    • A large one that would charge my phone entirely at least 3 times. I love my EasyACC 10,000 mAh. It was 2 USB entrances so my travel buddy can recharge as well.
  • Eye mask & ear plugs
    • Perfect for long flights, sleeping at airports or hostels
  • Copy of your passport
    • If you lose your passport, the copy will expedite the process of getting a new one at the embassy. Make sure you locate your embassy at every city you visit.
  • Lock
    • For your luggage and locker if you’re staying at a hostel. I tend to bring a small one and larger one since lockers are not a standard size.
  • Flip flops
    • For showering in public spaces and walking from the shower back to your room, if you’re staying at a hostel. Also, you’ll feet will need to breathe at the end of a long day of walking.
  • Microfiber towel
    • Check to see if your first destination has a Decathlon. It’s a sporting store that carries affordable and good quality microfiber towels. Otherwise… Amazon rarely fails.
  • Sim card
    • If your phone coverage doesn’t cover, or charges extra, for data in the Europe, you’ll need a Sim card from any European country. It should work all over Europe, but double check with the retailer when purchasing. You might have to change a setting in your cellphone, especially if it’s American, but the retailer should be able to help you.
    • Beware of calling rates and try to stick with data. Whatsapp is the most commonly used app for texting and calling.
    • Most “pay-as-you-go” rates are traps. Even if you’re only traveling for 2 weeks, it tends to be cheaper to purchase service for a month since most companies have a special rate for the first month.
  • Umbrella or raincoat
    • Better safe than sorry!
  • A good neck pillow that keeps your neck straight.
    • This is for long (6+ hours) flights, buses or train rides. Believe me, a crappy one will have you regretting your choice. Neck issues are no joke!
  • Power Converter
    • Not all of Europe uses the same power entrance. So I recommend getting a Universal Wall Charger with a USB entrance. Connecting to USB directly charges your devices quicker.

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This app is amazing with public transport and it’s free! Start by selecting the city you’re in. For example “Madrid”.

Screenshot_20181001-1935261. Save your favorite destinations, such as “Home in Madrid”, meaning your hostel/Airbnb/Hotel…etc.  Making it easy to always head back after a few beers, wine, vermouths… whatever your heart desires.

2. Select the best route, it can be metro, bus, train or walking based on the estimated time of arrival. Press “GO” on your favorite route.

4. Citymapper will now work offline, so even if you lose wifi or go underground, your route will still be active in real time.

3. The app will now estimate the arrival time of the metro, bus or train to the station. It’s impressive how accurate it is! The only downside is that it only includes major cities.
In my opinion, Citymapper is very user-friendly, but I’ll gladly go into detail with anyone that would like help figuring out the app.

Google offline map
Another option is to download Google maps offline for the city you’re visiting. This will save you data when exploring the city, as well as save you from getting lost in areas with low coverage. The map saves onto your phone and you can always delete the map when you leave the city to make space for other city maps, as well as the many pictures and videos I’m sure you’ll be taking when exploring a new city.

  • Below is a very “cutre” step-by-step slideshow demonstration of how to download Google offline maps:

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.


  • Create a document with your itinerary, mainly all your flights and lodging info. I like Google sheets and create tabs for each new city. Online options are the best so you’re info is available from anywhere. Also, don’t forget to include the location of the embassy for emergencies.
  • Try to research travel to and from airport/station beforehand. You could add screenshots from Google maps to your itinerary doc.
  • Add links for free walking tours. Meeting points for these tours tend to be centric so it’s a good way to figure how far or near your lodging is from the city center.
  • Money
    • Get a card (debit or credit) that will not charge you foreign fees and use it whenever. If you need cash, atms give you a better rate than exchange places. You can also ask tour guides for their recommendations.
  • Saving time at the airport
    • If you’re flying and want to save time, avoid checking in your luggage. This means you can only carry one Ziploc bag worth of liquids.
    • Make sure that your toiletry bag is handy and your water bottle is empty, any laptops or tablets are out (unless you’re pre-check TSA in the US)
    • Minimize your liquids. Here are some products you can avoid using in liquid form:
      • Deodorant. Go for stick.
      • Sunblock. There are also stick versions of these.
      • Soap. I know a bar of soap is bulky and messy so you can try the “soap sheets”. 
      • Dry shampoo. If you’re itinerary looks anything like mine, you’ll barely have time to get dolled up every morning. So when I don’t have time to wash my hair, I use a powder dry shampoo (remember, you can’t take aerosol sprays in a carry on). Take into account that if the weather is hot, you might want to wear a hat when walking around in the sun all day. And if it’s rainy and cold, beanies and hoodies are your best friends.

I know all of this looks like a lot, but believe me, all these things will make your life easier when hopping around different cities or even countries. Remember to pack light so you have space for souvenirs and you’re not feeling like “El Pipila” (another Mexican reference). Make the most out of your trip, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Even when times get hard, enjoy the moment and BE PRESENT!

El Pipila

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