Europe is brimming with sights to see and things to do. Whether you're visiting the Mediterranean ports of Italy, France, Spain and Greece or plan to sail the Norwegian fjords, you must be prepared. Because the itineraries are often port-intensive, it's important to have everything you'll need ashore -- from local currency to buy mementos to the clothing you'll need to meet dress codes at certain attractions.
We've compiled a list of the top 10 things you can't leave home without. For anyone planning to cross the pond, be sure these must-pack items make it into your suitcase for the trip.
Here are the top 10 must-pack items for a European cruise.
- Translation Books or Apps
- Sleep Aids
- Plug Adapter
- Brand-Specific Toiletries
- Proper Attire
- Local Currency and/or an International Credit Card
- Supportive Shoes
- Camera with Extra Memory
To get the most out of your visit to a foreign country, it's nice to be able to communicate with the locals. Bookstores sell travel books filled with common phrases in a variety of languages or you can buy a few for your Kindle to study up. If you're looking to save space in your luggage, you can also download a number of translation apps to your cellphone before you leave and either use it in airplane mode when you travel to save on data usage and roaming charges or go with a provider that includes international data such as T-Mobile.
Depending on where you depart from, flights to Europe take about six hours at the least. Many travelers like to use that time to sleep, so when they arrive for their cruises they're well rested and have, hopefully, eased some of the effects of jet lag. Take a neck pillow, an eye mask, earplugs, noise-canceling headphones or even sleeping medication with you on the flight for a nice long nap.
Be sure to take along a plug adapter to utilize chargers or small appliances. Ships usually have the right kind of plugs (although that's not always a given if you're on a European cruise line), but hotels on pre- or post-cruise visits don't. You might also want to pack a small power strip with a short cord, as many ships have only one electrical outlet available. Cruise Critic members also pack cheap extension cords or three-in-one adapters, which make charging everything easy. Just be sure you don't bring anything with a surge protector, as there's a good chance it will be confiscated when you board.
If you use specific kinds of shampoo, lotion or other personal hygiene products and aren't keen on switching during the trip, be sure to bring your own. Many North American name-brands can be difficult to find in Europe. Other must-pack items that would fit into this category are toilet paper and wipes. We also recommend packing disposable facecloths for travel in Europe.
With so much to see in Europe, consulting a guidebook to make sense of it all is often helpful. Instead of lugging the books overseas, you can photocopy pages of interest to take with you, take photos of them on your cellphone or download them on your Kindle. Alternatively, you might want to download any of a number of travel apps ahead of time to use offline while you're away. To save time, you can also plot out points of interest on a map ahead of time to help you find your way around.
Make sure you pack appropriate clothing for the activities you plan on doing in ports. Some of the historic sites in Europe, particularly churches, have strict dress codes. It's a good idea for women to come prepared with shawls, pashminas or light sweaters and pants or below-the-knee skirts for visits to these kinds of places. Formal attire is required if you plan on exploring Monte Carlo's famous casino, and if you head to the top of Mount Etna -- even in the summer -- bring a warm jacket, hat and gloves.
Local Currency and/or an International Credit Card
Having a credit card that charges low, or no, fees for use overseas is always a plus. But it's a good idea to have some of the local currency on hand, too. The best place to get local currency is at an onshore ATM. You're likely to get a better exchange rate there than at an exchange counter. Do be aware that most overseas ATMs require a four-digit pin for cash withdrawal. It's also a good idea to alert your bank or credit card company ahead of any travel to avoid having your card shut down due to foreign charges. Store your cards in a travel wallet with RFID blocking technology that prevents outsiders from skimming your data.
All of the sightseeing you'll be doing involves a lot of walking and being on your feet. The streets in Europe are often constructed with cobblestones, which can make for sore feet in a hurry without good shoes to wear. Hard-soled footwear and cushioned socks are ideal (we swear by comfy brands like Merrell and Clarks).
Camera and Extra Memory Cards or Cellphone with Enough Space
You'll want to make sure you're properly equipped to capture the memories from your cruise. If you're using an actual camera, be sure to pack extra memory cards. If you're using your cellphone to snap photos, be sure to clear some space for pictures ahead of time if you're in danger of running out. Tip: Back up your photos on a laptop at the end of each day. That way if you lose your camera or phone, you've only lost that day's shots.
You won't get far at all without this all-important item. But, aside from bringing it with you, it's a good idea to have backups in case your passport is misplaced or stolen. We recommend making two copies of your passport and giving a copy to your travel companion. Carry the other copy with you in a money belt (again, look for one with RIFD blocking technology), and also take a photo of your passport's info page with the cellphone or camera you're bringing with you.
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