What to pack for your European Summer

What to pack for your European Summer

When it came time to pack for our two-month trip to Europe, I told myself everything I brought needed to fit in my 21” carry-on suitcase and North Face backpack, both pictured above. Also pictured is a yellow stripped market bag that I fell in love with during our time in Provence, but I carried that around empty to get through airport security.

A week before our trip, I thought to myself, “Packing for two months will be a piece of cake!”, but ultimately, I had to reconsider my packing list several times before I was able to zip my suitcase. I also have to confess that after a few weeks I ended up sending a several items home with my mom: a pair of long yoga pants (it was way too hot for them), a white blouse, and some souvenirs.

In this post, I provide general packing tips for spending more than a couple of weeks in Europe, and a list of items that I packed in both my suitcase and backpack!


General Packing Tips

When travelling to Europe for more than a couple of weeks, I recommend the following:

  1. Leave all electronic hair appliances (hair dryers, straighteners, curlers) at home
    • You may think you can’t live without them, but keep in mind that hair dryers are often provided in Airbnbs and hotels. These appliances are heavy and require a power converter. Even when you convert the power there’s a risk of them overheating and burning your hair!
  2. Leave your “special occasion items” (high heels and fancy dresses) at home
    • Unless you have a specific occasion for which you are certain you will use them, leave these items behind. An alternative to heels is to bring a comfortable pair of wedge sandals that you can also wear while touring.
  3. Pack solid colored clothes over loud patterned clothes
    • While there is an argument to be made that patterned clothes hide stains more easily than solids, I recommend sticking to solids because they can be easier to mix and match – enabling you to create more combinations
  4. Pack solid deodorant over liquid: it won’t count towards your liquid allotment! I recommend the brand Native. If you click on the link you will get a free travel size deodorant with your purchase!
  5. Pack Sudafed. It is common to catch a cold while travelling, and in Europe Sudafed is difficult to find.
  6. Try to limit single use plastics by purchasing refillable toiletry bottles that you will keep long-term rather than disposable samples that you will discard.
  7. Leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs, or pack an additional bag that folds up. This way, if you find an item you want to purchase you can check your bag on the way home and use the folded bag as your carry on.

 


Suitcase Contents

Below is a picture of the contents of my carry-on suitcase.

Suitcase items for 2 month europe trip

Tops:

  • 1 loose cardigan (great for plane rides, and chilly evenings)
  • 2 long sleeved shirts (these came in handy in the Baltics)
  • 3 v-neck tops (all solid colors – white, black, and gray)
  • 2 sleeveless button up shirts (all solid colors – blue and yellow)
  • 3 tank tops (I originally packed only one sleeveless shirt, but purchased two during our trip)
  • 3 dresses (I originally packed only one dress, but purchased two during our trip)

Bottoms:

  • 2 pairs of Crocs Sandals
  • 1 pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars
  • 2 pairs of shorts (one white pair one navy pair)
  • 1 jean skirt
  • 1 pair of long dark jeans
  • 1 pair of jean capris
  • 1 pair of white linen capris
  • 1 pair of yoga capris (I ended up sending my pair of long yoga pants home with my mother. At home I wear long yoga pants frequently, but even on travel days felt they were too hot!)

Other Items:

  • 1 Bathing suit
  • 1 Bathing suit cover-up
  • 1 Longchamp purse
  • 1 reusable grocery bag
  • 1 scarf
  • 9 pairs of underwear
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 4 bras
  • 1 brown leather belt
  • 1 SteriPen: a handheld UV water purifier (this is a lifesaver when it comes to limiting your use of single-use water bottles)
  • 2 toiletry bags (containing shampoo, soap, lotion, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, deodorant, make-up, face wash, band-aids, Ibuprofen, Sudafed, tide pens, and Tide detergent packets)

 


Backpack Contents

Below is a picture of the contents of my backpack.

backpack items for a 2 month trip to europe

  • Water bottle
  • Computer and charger
  • Kindle
  • Wallet
  • Passport
  • Sunglasses
  • Journal – shout out to my mom for the beautiful journal cover that she embroidered for me!
  • Raincoat & umbrella
  • Charger cords
  • Selfie stick
  • Kleenex
  • Pencil pouch – containing pens, earphones, travel scissors and scotch tape (useful for taping souvenirs in to your journal)
  • Logic Puzzle book and note pad – I wish I would have left these two items at home

 

 

The Cost of a European Summer

If you’ve made it to this page, you might be wondering, “How much does it cost to spend a summer in Europe?”

Prior to leaving for a two month trip to Europe, I had no idea how much to budget. There are thousands of blogs on how to travel for less than $20/day. Most of them require complete flexibility, and some form of couch-surfing, house-sitting, staying in a bunk in a hostel, or crashing with friends in order to save on lodging expenses. They also often don’t include destinations like Norway and Sweden, commonly sited as the most expensive countries in Europe.

A few months before I left, I attended a seminar where a couple spoke on travelling the world for ~$14/day. While this sounded enchanting, their calculus didn’t quantify their expenses covered by paid sponsorship from their seasoned travel blogging site.

I left thinking, “So what if you’re not sponsored to travel the world, and you’d prefer to stay in Airbnbs or private hostel rooms, instead of couch surfing or sleeping in a bunk with your suitcase locked to your bed? Maybe you also don’t have complete flexibility because you’re going to be meeting up with friends and family along the way.”

I had no idea what to expect.

Now that I am back from my trip, I want share the details!

My goal with this post, is to provide additional data points to reference in planning for your trip. Even though you won’t have the same travel schedule, I hope it will at minimum help you gauge your potential expenses.

In one of my first posts, European Summer 2018, I map out the route of our Eurotrip. As you can see, we did not optimize for transportation, a simple way to cut costs. We also mainly stayed in Airbnbs, renting either the entire place or a private room with shared common spaces.


Average Nightly Lodging Expenses Per Person

Our average nightly lodging expense came to ~$50 per person (~$20 more than I had hoped to spend per night). The figure below plots our average nightly lodging cost per person.

Graph of Average Nightly Lodging Costs Per Person

As expected, we found destinations like Italy and Sweden to be more expensive than the Baltic states, even though our accommodations were similar in quality.


Overall Expense Summary

In total, our 70 day Eurotrip cost $8,425.36 and 97k frequent flyer points per person.

The 97k frequent flyer points consisted of:

  • 40k points for BOS –> DUB (flight from Boston to Dublin)
  • 12k points for a rental car in Provence
  • 15k points for BUD –> VNO (flight from Budapest to Vilnius)
  • 30k points for AMS –> EWR (flight from Amsterdam to Newark)

I would estimate the monetary value of these points to be ~$1500 – $2000.

Expenses are broken into four categories: Lodging, Entertainment (museums, city bikes, etc.), Transportation, and Food. Lodging accounted for our greatest expense (>40% of our expenditures).

Trip Economics Table.png

Despite the summer costing more than we anticipated, we wouldn’t have changed our accommodations, as we found coming home to a place with a kitchen, where we could cook breakfast and occasionally dinner was important.

Pie chart of 2 month Eurotrip expenses

We always tried to book the cheapest transportation, and our dinners rarely exceeded $30 (meaning we didn’t frequent Michelin star restaurants), and ate every breakfast in our room.

I hope this information helps prepare you for your upcoming adventure! Enjoy your time in Europe!

 

 

 

Recipe: Chilled Beet Soup

Recipe: Chilled Beet Soup

When traveling through Eastern Europe, I fell in love with the taste and vibrant color of cold beet soup. Interestingly, the dish is fairly consistent throughout Eastern Europe, but it has a different name in each country. In Lithuania it is called Šaltibarščiai, in Poland it is called Chlodnik, and in Belarus it is called Holodnik, meaning something that cools you.

I ordered the dish in numerous countries and pledged that when I returned home I would study the recipe and share it with you all.

After reviewing many recipes online, and I am ready to share my own version of this easy to make, low-calorie, vegetarian dish!

The recipe below is for one large bowl of soup, so multiply based on the number of people in your party.

Ingredients for one bowl of soup

  • 1 cup of kefir
  • 1 cup of beet juice*
  • 3 cooked beets*
  • 3 radishes
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 2 tbsp of chopped green onion
  • 1 tbsp of chopped chives
  • 2 hard boiled eggs**

For *, ** see the Ingredient Tips section below.

Instructions

  1. Slice the radishes and cucumbers in to thin rounds, then cut them in to then 1 mm wide strips. For the radishes, cut the strips so IMG_6328.jpgthat the bright pink skin is on either end.
  2. Cut the beets in to small cubes (approximately 1 cm per side)
  3. Pour the kefir and beet juice in to a large mixing bowl. Note that a 1:1 ratio of kefir to beet juice produces the vibrant color. For a more creamy colored soup, like the one I’m holding in the picture below (taken in Lithuania) add less beet juice.
  4. Add the cubed beets, chives, green onion, and thinly sliced strips of radish and cucumber to the kefir and beet juice mixture, and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. If you’d like your soup to have less green things floating in it, reduce the amount of chives and green onion.
  5. Get creative with your hard boiled eggs… I like to add 1 finely chopped hard boiled egg to the chilled soup and garnish the top of my soup with another hard boiled egg either halved or quartered. It’s really up to you how you’d like to include the eggs, if even at all!

IMG_2884.JPG

Ingredient Tips*, **

* My favorite brand of beets is Love Beets, which provides healthy, organic beets and beet juice. If this brand is available in the grocery store near you, I highly recommend using their products! If they aren’t in your grocery store, a single can of Whole Beets Grade A generally contains ~1 cup of beet juice, and will have more than enough beets for a single large bowl of soup.

Love Beets.png

** If you haven’t tried Vital Farms Eggs yet, add it to your grocery store list right now. This company is outstanding, and treats their hens with utmost care. Did you know that “cage-free” only gives hens an average of 1.5 square feet to roam? Imagine standing in roughly a 1 ft. x 1 ft. square for the rest of your life. Vital Farms provides pasture-raised eggs, which means the hens have an average of 108 square feet. You can taste the difference, and you can see the difference in the vibrantly colored yolk.

img_6346.jpg


For Inspiration: I consumed my most beautiful bowl of cold beet soup in Riga at Gutenberg’s Rooftop Restaurant. If you find yourself in Latvia you have to go an order the beet soup as a starter. The picture below is proof of its beauty! One of the greatest things about this dish internationally, is that it was always affordable. I never paid more than $10 per bowl regardless of presentation.

IMG_5355.jpg

 

Visiting Tallinn

Visiting Tallinn

Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn, is the northernmost Baltic state, and is home to a lovely old town and a majestic waterfront path that runs east of the city. In this post, I describe top restaurants & bars and things to do in Tallinn.

“e-Estonia” is ahead of its time when it comes to Internet connectivity. The country has one of the highest Internet penetration rates – as high as 75%, and they have been voting on line for more than a decade!

Before visiting, check out this great site to learn a few fast facts about Estonia. I had no idea Estonia is to thank for space food, Skype, and more!

Continue reading “Visiting Tallinn”

Visiting Ireland: Dublin, Howth, Cliffs of Moher & Galway

Visiting Ireland: Dublin, Howth, Cliffs of Moher & Galway

As I mentioned in one of my first posts, accessing Europe from the U.S. by way of Dublin is a simple way to reduce the cost of airfare… and taking a couple of days to tour Dublin and its surroundings can be a great way to start or end any Eurotrip. If you have more than a day or two, you should consider heading out west or up north to explore more of the lusciously green country!

In this post, I discuss transportation options to and from the airport, my favorite restaurants and to dos, and I provide a sample three-day itinerary.

Continue reading “Visiting Ireland: Dublin, Howth, Cliffs of Moher & Galway”

The Importance of a Routine

I have found the most important element of maintaining equilibrium is establishing some sort of routine.  By this, I don’t mean depriving your life of any spontaneity. I simply mean, ensuring you have certain elements in your life that you prioritize (exercise, eating vegetables, etc.). This can be challenging with long-term travel, but for me it is necessary for feeling healthy both mentally and physically.

The routine that works best for me, is eating breakfast in and working out before kicking off the day. Staying in Airbnbs, or places with kitchen access, makes this easier. Usually on our first day in a new location we go to the grocery store or check out a local market. Scott picks up fresh fruit, muesli and Greek yogurt, and I pick up milk, eggs, avocados, and whatever cracker or thin toast I can find for my avocado toast.

There’s a saying in nutrition that one should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. If you’ve tried it, you know that living any sort of social life or travel life can make this difficult. One often finds themselves out to dinner with friends, or ending a day of >15k steps at a pub with a hearty meal. However, I have found that I feel orders of magnitude better on the mornings following days living according to this noble mantra.

 

The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

In May 2018, my boyfriend and I packed our bags in D.C. and set off on a year of travel and reflection. I call it “gap year”, but if I am being completely honest, I haven’t stopped working entirely. I established a technical consulting practice and work part-time on the side to help fund excursions!

I have four simple goals for my gap year:

  1. Exercise often
  2. Have fun
  3. Don’t run out of money
  4. Cut down on single use plastics

The first three are self explanatory, but I’d like to elaborate on the fourth. Did you know that last year, Americans used ~50 billion water bottles? Unfortunately, only 23% were recycled. We could all do better when it comes to producing less waste, and I figured I’d do my part in starting now!  

I pledged to not use single use plastic water bottles, which means carrying around a water bottle. As much as I’d like to deny it, I have never been the best at keeping up with things. This water bottle lasted about a month before it was left somewhere. I still have my second water bottle though!

I look forward to sharing itineraries, favorite travel spots, and travel hacks in the coming months!

Stay tuned, and if there is something you’d like to hear about in particular please reach out!