I traveled to Bilbao, Spain in the summer of 2015 for a 3-week study abroad program. Before I left, I searched and searched for tips on what I should pack because this was my first experience traveling to Europe, but I had a hard time finding any posts giving any tips. Luckily my Dad has lots of experience traveling abroad and my sister lived in France for a semester so I had some people to get advice from so I wasn’t totally unprepared. Since I have blog now, I thought I would share the things I brought that were the most important to me so I can hopefully help someone else out there planning a study abroad to Spain (or another European country) in the Summer. This was not my complete packing list but instead the essentials that I think you should pack too!
Before you go:
My first tip would be to research what the weather will be like when you will be there! First look up what typical weather is during that time of year so you get an idea of what kind of clothes you will need and then as your travel date becomes closer, start watching the weather and see what it is really like. My trip was short enough that on the day I left, I had a good idea what the weather would be like for 2/3’s of my trip. It was Summer and I found that Bilbao was going to be extremely warm and sunny and I also knew it was a coastal town so I packed accordingly. (This hot weather is apparently not typical for Bilbao though so again, checking weather is very important).
Packing List Essentials:
Comfy Shoes! I bought a pair of Birkenstocks (the brown slip on sandals in my pictures) and another pair of sandals that were super comfy. I highly recommend the Birkenstock brand, they are worth every penny and so comfortable. But I also liked having another pair in a different color, that weren’t as expensive (the black scrappy sandals in my pictures). Here is a similar pair of the same brand.
Safe and Secure Purse/Bag. This one was a suggestion from my dad, he had me go through the Magellan’s catalog and pick a bag because they have super safe and secure features! I loved my bag I picked and here’s why: the zipper you could “hook” so that there was an extra step to unzip it so it kept unwanted hands out! The material it was made out of was “Cut proof” so no one could cut the strap or bag with a knife and it was secure from card readers so no one could snatch your info. It was also a great size! It doesn’t look huge but I could fit so much in there! All my personal belongings as well as a sweater fit if I needed it to. It is a never ending bag. And the satchel style was good so I could keep it in my eyesight at all times.
Extra photocopy of your passport. I flew with this on my carry-on, but then kept it hidden in my big suitcase at my host family’s house just incase it was ever needed. One was also left here with my parents.
Light sun dresses. Wearing sundresses almost every day was the best. I had class every morning M-F and then had the rest of the day to explore, sundresses are cute and comfy and kept me cool. They were appropriate for class and for walking around. (Europeans don’t really wear yoga pants and Nike shorts out in public so you will stick out like an American if you do).
Sunglasses. This one is a given for summer time, but don’t want to forget!
Plug adapters. Make sure you buy a plug adapter so you can charge your phone and other electronics in their outlets!
Swimsuit and cover up and towel. My host family’s home was about 5 minutes from the beach so needless to say this was a must have. Again, research where you are going and if you think you will be any where near a beach. You don’t want to be left out from a beach outing!
Light jacket and sweater for layers. Some days it was really hot, but a few days it was kind of chilly. Make sure to bring a light jacket and sweaters for layering. I think I brought a denim jacket, a cardigan and my rain coat.
Some cash already converted into Euros. This made me feel better that I already had some cash I could use and not have to worry about finding the closest ATM right when I got there. The ATMs their will take your bank card and let you withdraw Euros just make sure you contact your bank first and let them know you will be traveling! (There is also a fee associated with this and don’t forget the dollar to Euro conversion).
An active outfit/tennis shoes. I didn’t know before I left but one of the activities the school went on was a kayaking and hiking adventure so I am super glad I packed a “workout” outfit. You should pack one just in case, but like I said don’t plan on wearing this every day.
A small notebook or journal. I needed one for the class I took but I also enjoyed writing down all of the culture and things I liked/didn’t like while I was there. It made it super easy to talk about my trip and look back and remember how I really was feeling! Take the time to write in it everyday and you won’t regret it.
A list of all the sites you want to see. I did my research and wrote out all the places I wanted to visit in Bilbao and then crossed them off as I went. I completed them all and I am so glad I planned ahead and saw everything I could while I was there.
I did bring a backpack but only used it as my carry on on the airplane. It isn’t as safe to walk around the city with a backpack (it can be easily pick pocketed) but I had it just incase.
Well I could probably go on and on about my trip with other tips and stories but I will cut it off here for now. Maybe I will add another one to this series?? Let me know if that would interest you!
Thanks for reading!