Going on a teen tour in Europe? What to consider while packing

“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry So, you’re booked on your first teen tour. Hopefully this means you’ve joined  Atlas Workshops on one of our Global Innovator Summer trips, but either way, an awesome adventure awaits you – all you need to do is pack your bags and hop on the plane. Easy, right? Maybe not though if you’re a new traveller. When you’re traveling with Atlas Workshops, we want you to be prepared for the range of activities you’ll be doing so you can focus on getting the most out of it of the trip. To maximize fun, and avoid rookie packing mistakes, make sure you consider the following tips:

1. Weather. Most of Europe is at a higher latitude than the US (Sunny Madrid is actually only at the same latitude as New York City). Thanks to the Gulfstream, the continent isn’t totally frozen solid in winter, but summer can be surprisingly cold and rainy, especially in Northern Europe. Teen tours usually involve a bit of movement, so it’s very likely each city will have a change of weather. Tackling this challenge: Layers. Pack items that are lightweight but warm for a winter trip, and breathable but provide protection from the sun for a summer trip. Essential: some kind of lightweight rain gear (As I write this, our trip to Croatia has just had an entire day of torrential rain.)

2. Activities. All of our teen programs have a pretty big mix of activities every day. Since most of our work and learning is outside of the classroom, on a day to day basis, you can expect to be doing everything from swimming in the Adriatic or doing group work in a café, to eating in a nice restaurant and meeting a VIP, and of course a lot of walking in between. You’ll be expected to carry your own water and snacks on a daily basis, and to be able to carry or wheel your suitcase on and off of trains and busses. Tackling this challenge: pack at least one dressier outfit and avoid over-packing (more on that below). Essential: good shoes that are dressy and comfortable.

3. Personal style and comfort. Everyone says traveling is awesome, right? Life changing, perspective broadening, the world is your oyster, etc. Completely true, but it can also be a challenging experience, especially at first. You may not only find yourself fairly jet-lagged, but needing a few days to adjust to the local diet and to traveling in a group of strangers. While you should be ready for that mentally, you can also help yourself by bringing things with you that make you comfortable.Tackling this challenge: Be patient with yourself and continue to try to make the most of the trip even if you find yourself homesick or actually sick (Your Atlas Workshops leader will help you with all of this of course and will always have a full first aid kit). As a general rule, bring clothes and shoes that you have worn before and that you are comfortable and confident in. Resist the urge to buy a new pair of shoes just for the trip – no need to have blisters ruining your trip. You will be encouraged to try local foods, but if you have food allergies or are a picky eater, bring (dry) snacks that you like in the event that you have trouble finding something that you can eat. Essential: anything that makes you comfortable! (In addition to the snacks, having earplugs, sleeping mask, headphones or your favorite sweater might make all the difference).

4. Context. Although you and your fellow teen tour travelers might feel like a tourist, we encourage you to try not to look like one. In many European countries, for example, even young people tend dress more formally and wearing an outfit that you could wear to the gym will definitely mark you as a foreigner. So will carrying an incredibly expensive camera or laptop. On our trips we are working as a project team and spent a lot of time researching and collaborating with local partners–so we have specific standards so we don’t look like an American teen tour group. (Cool matching shirts are for when we get home). Tackling this challenge: pack neutrally colored clothes – avoid items that are overly American and that are a basic color (as an added bonus you’ll be able to mix and match things much more easily). Essential: leave your most expensive items at home – jewellery, electronics, etc. All you really need is something to take pictures with.

5. Less is more. Rolling or folding? Packing cubes or space bags? Roll aboard or backpack? Doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, what makes the biggest difference is simply packing less than you think you need. This is something that gets easier the more you travel, but when you are packing and you find yourself thinking: “but what if I need an extra pair of shoes just in case we….” Stop. Resist the urge to over pack! You will have a trip itinerary and a detailed packing list so that you can really bring only the essentials that you need for the trip. Anything else will still be there when you get home! Plus, the satisfaction of being able to nimbly navigate a crowded train station and hoist your back onto an overhead rack all on your own will far outweigh your apprehension at leaving something behind. Tackling this challenge: start packing early (3-5 days in advance and spend some time the last day weeding out excess items). Essential: travel sized toiletries packed in a zip locked baggie. Not only are full-sized bottles heavy, the last thing you need is to have one of them explode in your bag!

Of course if you have questions about packing specifics on your trip to Europe let us know. Or if you are still deciding on your plans this summer, why don’t you look at one of our Global Innovators Summer High School Trips to Europe. They aren’t the normal teen tour, each trip is guided by a research question. We want to get you out into the world working on something big!