European Travel :: tips for teens

Europe-travel-teensThe moment a teen discovers that he or she is going to Europe, I suspect there come dreams of basking in the sun on one of Spain’s beaches or strolling along the streets of Paris.  The logistics of European travel are easy to overlook.  It is, after all, much more fun to concentrate on the dreamy stuff.  Not to worry–I’m here to help with a list of tips to ensure that the trip goes off without a hitch (or pickpocketed iPhone).

Packing tips:

Many European cities have climates that fluctuate greatly over the course of a single day.  Dressing in layers is of the utmost importance.  So, too, is it important to bring along appropriate rain gear.  Here are my some of the basics you’ll want to be sure to bring along for summer travel:

  • lightweight raincoat
  • rain boots, if possible
  • umbrella
  • cardigan sweaters (girls)
  • lightweight zip-up hoodie (guys)
  • both long and short-sleeve t-shirts
  • comfortable walking shoes
  • dressy shorts (ladies, leave your cutoff booty shorts at home)
  • capri pants (girls)
  • heels, flats or sandals for evenings out (girls)
  • dressier shoes (guys)
  • jeans
  • khakis or slacks (guys)
  • sundress or skirt and blouse (girls)
  • cross-body bag with a zipper closure
  • packable parka or stylish pea coat

One thing I noticed during my time in London and Paris last summer was that Europeans take casual up a notch.  Whereas we Americans might run out to the store in our workout clothes, I didn’t see a single Parisian woman looking anything less than polished.  Use your European trip as an excuse to accessorize–you won’t be alone!  Keep your clothing simple and clean (think neutrals like white button-up blouses) but let your personality show through in your statement necklaces, scarves and fedoras.

Money matters:

Before leaving home, be sure to acquire some cash in the currency local to the country you’re visiting.  I sent my daughter to Spain over spring break with the equivalent of $100 (US).  Once she had spent the cash she arrived with, she used an ATM card to pull out additional euros.  The following tips are good to know when it comes to cash-flow concerns abroad.

  • Call your bank at least ten days before you are to depart.  Let them know where you’ll be traveling.  Ensure that the ATM card you have will function abroad.
  • Inquire about any currency conversion fees.
  • Familiarize yourself with exchange rates so that you have a rough idea how much money you’re spending when you pull forty euros from your account, but keep in mind that the rate can fluctuate daily.
  • Try not to pull out too much cash in the local currency; you’ll have a hard time converting excess back into American dollars and cents.
  • If wouldn’t be a bad idea for Mom or Dad to send along a credit card for use in emergency situations only.

Safety and security:

Pickpocketing is extremely common in many European cities.  Americans–and probably especially American teenagers–are at risk of having valuables stolen without even realizing it.

  • Do NOT carry your cell phone in your back pocket.  Not ever.  You’d be surprised how quickly and efficiently a professional thief could remove it and disappear.
  • Don’t hand your camera or phone off to a stranger who offers to take a photo.  Instead, ask a trusted travel companion to do the honors.
  • Don’t use any banking apps in public places on free wifi.
  • Try to use bank the ATM of a bank rather than an independent machine with outrageous fees.
  • Try to use the ATM during the bank’s operating hours, in case the machine “eats” your card and you need help retrieving it.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Avoid walking down the street or riding the train with your face buried in your phone.  Pickpockets prey on easy targets.
  • Know that busy spots (like train loading platforms and museum entrances) are more likely to have increased pickpocketing activity.  Be extra cautious in these places.
  • Avoid carrying backpacks or bags without zipper closures as they are easily targeted by thieves.
  • Purchase a small passport carrier that can be worn around your neck under your clothes for safekeeping.
  • Make a note of your passport number and leave it at home with Mom or Dad just in case.

Staying connected:

  • Call your cell phone provider to inquire about international rates before you leave home.  Either purchase an international plan or change the settings on your phone so that you’re not hit with an unexpected bill.  Your wireless service carrier will be able to tell you exactly how to change the settings on your device.
  • Connect to free wifi in Europe to send emails and post social media updates while also avoiding wireless charges.
  • Mom and Dad might consider signing up for a Google Voice number to call traveling teens in their hotel rooms.  Users can purchase $10 increments of international calling time with calls to most countries costing just 2 cents per minute.
  • Be sure to bring along a voltage converter and/or outlet adapter(110/220) for charging small electronics.  Remember that most inexpensive voltage converters are not sufficient for American hairdryers and straighteners.  It’s best to just leave your styling tools at home.

With all of those logistics out of the way, you can concern yourself with more important matters, like how you’re going to fit all of those souvenirs in your suitcase.  Have a great trip!



  1. Annabelle is already talking about a 4 week exchange program to Japan. I am unnerved just thinking of it.

  2. This is great! And so timely for me as I’m taking my 16 year old to England in June. :)

  3. I’m planning on a three week exchange to Germany next summer, and I really love my straightener. Any suggestions for a good adapter?

    1. If you have a high-quality straightener, Abigail, I wouldn’t risk it. You could maybe buy a less expensive straightener and an inexpensive adapter for the trip. You know what I did, though? I went to my stylist and got a keratin treatment before I went on the trip so that I could get by just using the hair dryers in the hotel rooms. It worked great for me! Good luck and have an amazing trip!

      1. Why wouldn’t you risk it? I know here in Europe we have a different voltage, but any adapter can handle it. When I was in the US, i used an adapter for all of my stuff and it worked perfectly. Event my laptop. Buying another stuff, even cheap one, is a waste of money.

        And when it comes to safety, I would stress out one simple rule. If you don’t want to be robbed try not to act like a tourist. If you do, the pickpocket robbers will assume you have a big amount of money on you or you have a camera or another expensive stuff in you bag.
        If you do have to have something valuable in your backpack, put it in the middle. If you have it somewhere on a top of the bag it will be reachabe through the zipper, if on a bottom, thieves can cut your bag from beneath(it happens quite often).

        Hope you will have a nice time without any problems. And don’t be afraid, we are mostly nice people here.

        1. Thanks for your comment, Kika. I’m glad to hear your advice with regard to voltage and equipment. Here in the states we’re strongly cautioned against using blow dryers or straighteners in European outlets because they draw so much power. Laptops and cell phones are fine, but it’s the heavy duty beauty equipment we’re cautioned against. The reason I mentioned that I, personally, wouldn’t risk using my straightener in a European outlet is because they are so expensive–I’d rather follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid an expensive accident.

          As far as not acting like a tourist, I guess it’s just a difficult thing to hide when you are–in fact–visiting touristy sites and wanting to take pictures and whatnot. When my daughter and I toured in London and Paris a couple of years ago we encountered several pickpockets, but successfully avoided being pickpocketed ourselves by following the advice I have offered here. We met so many friendly Europeans! We certainly aren’t scared, just cautious in an environment we’re unaccustomed to! I so appreciate your insight on where to place valuables in a backpack. I wouldn’t have considered a bag being cut from the bottom. Thank you for the tip!

  4. I’m going for a 2 weeks long exchange program alone to China in December. I’m told the weather over there is crazy cold. Do you have any packing tips for me to travel light as my luggage bag isn’t big. Can you tell me what type of clothes and how much I need to pack for it? Thank you :)

  5. For US citizens, the Office of Overseas Citizens 202-501-4444 is crucial for you. Add it to your contact list. They can help with lost passports or other emergencies when travelling abroad. Also, before leaving home, take photos of your passport and drivers license with your phone and leave copies with parents.Having a photo of the passport on the phone will speed the replacement process if necessary.

  6. Europe always have a busy climate it always keeps on changing real quick I and my friend traveling Europe next month after reading your article I got to know what all things should be carried before leaving for the trip thanks for writing such a beautiful article I appreciate

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.