Packing for my Contiki European Vista was such a huge undertaking for me! I had never been on such an extensive international trip, and I really only had about two weeks to get everything together. Here’s everything I know about packing for Contiki, and a few tips and things I learned along the way!
Contiki limits your bags to 73cm x 50cm x 25cm (29″ x 20″ x 10″) & weight of 20kg (44lbs) plus one hand/day bag. Contiki does not have luggage drop service like Trafalgar and other tour groups, so you will be carrying your own bags everywhere. If you can’t lug it, leave it!
Suitcase or backpack?
I was the only female on my trip who brought a backpack – and I was so thankful that I did! The other girls all brought extra-large suitcases, and while they certainly had more outfit choices than me (which I totally envied!), they also had to lug those big suitcases up stairs at some of our hotels that were without elevators.
If you’re up for a little extra work to have more outfit choices, go for it! Just make sure you don’t go over Contiki’s weight limits — they weigh your bags on Day 1. If not, bring a pack instead.
I chose the Osprey Farpoint 70L and was so happy with my choice. The pack is a front-loader, so it zips open like a suitcase, and has a detachable daypack, which I used as my carry-on bag. The backpack straps also zip inside, to protect your bag as it travels through cargo holds and baggage claim.
There is nothing I recommend more for staying organized than packing cubes. They’re great for travel of all kinds, but are especially useful for tour travel. You’re unpacking and repacking nearly every day, so these babies will make your life so much easier.
There are a ton of different brands available online at all different prices, but I chose Eagle Creek for their quality. I selected a large packing envelope, two large cubes, two half cubes, one tube cube, and one half tube cube. Then, I used a clear, TSA-approved zippered bag, and my favorite toiletry carrier from Victoria’s Secret, to organize my makeup and shower essentials. Here’s what I put in each:
- Large Packing Envelope: Blouses, dresses and maxi skirts
- Large Packing Cube #1: Folded shirts (Tank tops, t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts)
- Large Packing Cube #2: Jeans, black pants, cargo-style pants, shorts and pajamas
- Half Cube #1: Socks, swimsuit, swimsuit coverup
- Half Cube #2 (Blue): Extra change of clothes for my carry-on (Jeans, t-shirt, bra, socks, undies)
- Tube: Hair Straightener, hair brush, misc. accessories
- Half-Tube: Underwear and bras
- Clear Cosmetics Bag: Skincare products, toothbrush, toothpaste, meds, anti-bacterial wipes
- Victoria’s Secret Bag: Makeup, shower items, Downy Wrinkle Releaser, dry shampoo, hair mousse
Ladies, what should you bring in terms of toiletries? Here’s my list of must-haves:
- Makeup. Keep it simple and bring one of each essential item like mascara, eyeliner, blush, foundation, etc. You can’t go wrong with a classic red lipstick in Europe!
- Shower essentials. Even though you’ll have access to some bath items at the hotels, there’s nothing like using your own shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion. Don’t forget your razor!
- Dry shampoo. You’ll be on the go A LOT, and may not have time for a full wash every day. Dry shampoo will keep your “day two” hair looking and smelling fresh.
- Skincare. After long flights, long days, and long bus rides, you’ll need a good day cream (with SPF) and night cream to keep your skin hydrated. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a good eye cream (for those early mornings after long Contiki nights!) and a good lip balm.
- Medicine. Contiki cough is real. Bring immunity boosters (like Emergen-C or Airborne) and take them often. I also brought DayQuil, NyQuil and cough drops and used my entire supply. Tums or another stomach-settling product is a good idea too. You’ll be eating a lot, and may be eating foods your stomach isn’t used to. Better safe than sorry!
- Feminine products. You can buy these all over Europe of course, but they may not be the brands you’re used to, and you might not have access to a store right away. Best to bring supplies from home.
- Curling iron/straightener. If you’re coming from the USA, only bring dual-voltage appliances– you can’t use single voltage ones overseas. Look for one that says “120/240 voltage” or “dual voltage” on the label.
- Downy Wrinkle Releaser. Not only is it great for getting wrinkles out of clothes, but a quick spritz of this scented spray will keep your clothes smelling freshly laundered through the whole trip.
So how did I pack everything?
Here’s everything that went into my main pack:
- Large packing envelope, packing cube #1 and #2, half cube #1, tube cube, half tube cube, folding cosmetics bag, shoes, and jacket
Here’s everything that went into my carry-on:
- Roll-up travel pillow, travel umbrella, sleep mask, airplane toiletries, travel journal, half cube #2, camera, passport, money and ID, small pouch for misc. papers
A few things I WISH I’d brought:
- One more dressy outfit. I brought a maxi dress that was great for going out at night, but there were quite a few occasions to dress up. I could have used more options!
- Flip flops. There were many times when I wanted to slip these on to run to a friends hotel room, or run downstairs to grab a beer with tourmates.
- A pair of boots. Even in May, weather was chilly in certain places (England, Austria, Germany) and I wish I’d had something a bit more toasty (and fashionable!) for my feet.
- A pair of gloves. I ended up shoveling out £10 with my shivering hands for a pair of gloves in London.
A few things I’m GLAD I brought:
- A camera. It seems obvious, but don’t think you can leave home without this! Your phone may take decent pictures, but likely not the quality of a nice point-and-shoot or DSLR camera. Plus, when my phone was pick-pocketed, I was so happy that I still had a way of recording my memories without it! Speaking of missing phones…
- A watch. There are many times you’ll need to meet up with the group at a certain time, and if your phone is lost/stolen, or it’s battery is dead, a watch will be necessary.
- A travel pillow. At first, I didn’t want to pack this because I was worried about space, but this little memory foam pillow was so worth it. Whether on the plane or the bus, I could sleep in comfort anywhere I was.
- A journal. Opening your mind is an inevitable side-effect of traveling. I was happy I brought a place where I could record my thoughts and jot down notes/inspiration.
- A zip pouch for spare papers. I’m sentimental, and after 10 countries, I collected a lot of little papers and mementos (museum tickets, maps, menus, etc). It was nice to have one place to keep it all.
One more thing – don’t bother exchanging money before you’ll go, you’ll pay a really high exchange rate. Instead, hit the first ATM you see upon arrival. You’ll pay a lower exchange rate (which will save you money in the long run), and by having to hit an ATM for money, you’ll be less likely to overspend. It also gives you flexibility to get the currency you need based on the amount you’ve been spending daily (you’ll need four different currencies for European Vista – British Pound Sterling, Euros, Swiss Franc and Czech Crown).
And there we have it – everything I know about packing for Contiki! What item do you never leave home without? Let me know in the comments below!
Check out my other Contiki posts:
Introduction: An American Girl in Europe
Day 1: Oh hey, London
Day 2: Bonjour, Paris!
Day 3: Parisian Adventures
Day 4: Lookin’ Good, Switzerland
Day 5: All Things Swiss
Day 6: Switzerland, Italy, France…oh my!
Day 7: Bond. James Bond.
Day 8: Buongiorno Italia!
Day 9: When in Rome
Day 10: That’s Amore
Day 11: Vatican City to Venice
Day 12: The Last Italian Adventure
Day 13: Hop-fer-gerten
Day 14: Soaring Over Austria
Day 15: München
Day 16: Bittersweet Symphonies
Day 17: Vienna to Prague
Day 18: Ahoj, Prague!
Day 19: St. Goar, Rhine Valley
Day 20: Amsterdamage
Day 21: Even more Amsterdamage
Day 22: Back to the Start
Day 23/24: The End of a Great Adventure
Contiki in a Nutshell: Know Before You Go
Contiki: What Should I Pack?