A few days in Asheville: Our Beercation

Asheville is only about a 3 1/2 hour drive away from Atlanta, so it made for the absolutely perfect last minute getaway. It’s a super easy drive with gorgeous mountainous views. We had heard a little bit about Asheville from friends and from Pinterest, but we were still surprised by how many cool unique breweries there were and how walkable they were to each other.

We stayed at a little Airbnb about a 30 minute walk from downtown Asheville, called the Zen Cabin. It was tiny, but it was perfect for us, since we planned on being out hiking and drinking the whole time.

Beer

Once we arrived, we dropped off our things and immediately headed downtown to start our beercation. We didn’t arrive until around 4:30 in the afternoon, so we only went to four breweries the first day — but there are so many that looked awesome that we missed — so we definitely plan on coming back.

Wicked Weed

Wicked Weed

Our first stop was Wicked Weed. At first glance, it looks like a cool indoor/outdoor restaurant, but you have to go downstairs to the beer bar. Downstairs had 9 additional beers on tap, and we each did a beer flight. I loved the beer flights at Wicked Weed because you got to pick 6 beers from anything that they had available, and it was only $8. They also had unlimited free pretzels and mustard! It was a super cool place, all outdoors with bulb lights, huge picnic tables, and really dog friendly.

Catawba

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Next we walked a little further down to Catawba, where we both got another beer flight. You can choose from four preset beer flights at Catawba, and each come with four beers for $8. Catawba had a really cool indoor area with barrels stacked on the walls, but it also had a cool outdoor area with rotating food trucks. By the time we had gotten there it started to get chilly, so we stayed inside after trying out the sweet cinnamon plantains from the Vitamina T food truck.

Burial Beer Co.

After Catawba, we were hungry, so we decided to try Salt & Smoke, which is located within the Burial Beer Co.’s patio. Burial Beer Co. has an awesome patio, with tons of seating, tons of bulb lights, and for some reason reminded me of a cool outdoor bar in Budapest. We grabbed a Burial Beer and tried the roasted pork sandwich and the grilled steak sandwich, and both were absolutely delicious.

Twin Leaf Brewery (& trivia)

On our way to Burial Beer Co., we passed by Twin Leaf Brewery, and we knew we had to check it out later. We walked in on a hopping trivia night, and loved how spacious the area was. There were huge windows, lots of seating space, but also giant Jenga and a Foosball table. They also have $8 flights, and apparently they have amazing pretzels that we somehow missed. We definitely will have to come back to this one.

Highland Brewing Company

Highland Brewing

The next day, after our 8-mile hike, we stopped by Highland Brewing Company, which is further out from the other breweries, but definitely a cool spot to check out if you can. They have a huge indoor space, perfect for live music, an outdoor patio and a rooftop. They have a you-pick beer flight for $8 as well.

Food

Brewery Food Trucks

I’m a huge food truck fan, so anytime I have a chance I love trying out new food trucks. The food truck scene in Asheville is pretty big, and there are always rotating food trucks at most of the breweries. Click here to check out the schedule.

Homegrown

Homegrown

Just two blocks away from where we were staying is this super adorable homestyle restaurant, called Home Grown. Every uber driver that dropped us off at our Airbnb told us we had to try this place. There’s a place in Atlanta called Home Grown and we love it, so we knew this would definitely be on our list. We went for breakfast one morning when it was raining, and it was amazing. I got the open faced fried chicken biscuit and gravy — two of my favorite staples mixed into one — and it was everything you can imagine and more. The chicken was cooked perfectly, and trust me I’ve had plenty of fried chicken biscuits. My boyfriend had the huevos rancheros, which had the perfect spice from the chorizo and the perfect southern twist with the cheesy grits. Overall, I 100% recommend this place when you’re in Asheville!

Oyster House Brewing Company


This brewpub is located in West Asheville and is the perfect place to have local beer and a good bite to eat. We sat outside, people watched, decided we could totally live here, and drank beer brewed with oysters, while munching on some oysters. I’m a sucker for a good failure to success story, so read the owner’s story here and you’ll know you’ll have to try their unique beer!

Buffalo Nickel


After apps and a few drinks at the Oyster House Brewing Company, we walked a few blocks down in search of a place for dinner. Feeling indecisive, we walked down the street and picked Buffalo Nickel, really because the people were super friendly and the place looked really cool. I’m glad the people were friendly because the food was amazing. They have tapas styled foods as well as entrees, but we decided to go with the tapas style. We got the mac and cheese (definitely recommend!!), chicken wings, cheese curds, and pulled pork tacos. The other super cool thing about this place is that they have a game room, filled with arcade games, pool tables, dart boards, etc. The weird thing about this place is that when you google it, google tells you that it’s permanently closed….but it’s not. We googled it before we went in, and it said it was closed, and I just googled it again and it still says it’s closed…but it was very much open when we went!

12 Bones BBQ


If you are looking for some amazing Carolina BBQ, then you have to try 12 Bones. It’s located in the River Arts district and is only open on weekdays! I grew up in Georgia, so I’m already pretty picky when it comes to BBQ, but I promise this place will not disappoint. The fall off the bone ribs, and the perfect batch of potato salad and mac and cheese, made this a place that I will always recommend to anyone passing through Asheville. We may have went overboard with two half rack of ribs and four sides…but there were no regrets, just overly full stomachs. Don’t forget to stop by the galleries in the River Arts districts to walk off the food.

Red Ginger Dimsum and Tapas


How did we stumble upon this place? Honestly don’t remember but I guess we decided that Asheville would be a great time for Timmer’s first time trying dimsum…and it was a great decision. We decided to split four things – Szechuan Wonton, Pork Spare Rib, Black Truffle Shu Mai and Steamed BBQ Pork Bun. It was the perfect dinner to end our rainy evening.

Biscuit Head


Remember that time I said I had plenty of chicken biscuits? I wasn’t kidding – I’m a southern girl and I like my biscuits. So obviously I had to try Asheville’s favorite biscuit place — Biscuit Head. This place is no joke; with the the line literally wrapped around the corner, we knew this place would be worth the wait. And of course it was. I had the pulled pork biscuit and he had the fried chicken biscuit, and although the picture doesn’t do it justice, this place was really really delicious and 100% worth the wait.

Bars

Top of the Monk


This speakeasy/hidden gem was one of my favorite spots in Asheville. In order to come in, you have to become a ‘member’ but you can bring up to 6 guests.  In order to become a member, you have to sign a form and pay an exorbent fee of $1. The cocktails are divine, there’s an awesome rooftop patio, and with every drink you buy,  you get a key to a locker and within each locker is a little snack! 

Jack of the Wood

This little pub was wonderful – great for people watching, great for dinks, and amazing for live music! We walked into a jam session, and it was exactly what we were looking for. 

Red Stag Grill Lounge


If you’re looking for something more upscale and chic, you should try the Red Stag Grill Lounge in the Biltmore village. With fancy furniture, a cozy fireplace, a live piano player, and great small bites, this was a great place for us when we were feeling like drinking something other than beer. The Biltmore Village is great in general, as there are wonderful places to shop and people watch. 

Hikes

Harper Creek Falls


Okay so we only went on one hike while we were in Asheville, but we got lost and climbed up a random mountain before turning around to find the hiking trail we actually wanted so that we could see the waterfalls, so in my opinion that counts as at least two hikes. The mountain we accidentally climbed was kind of scary, super steep, but the actual hike we meant to take was really nice, with plenty of areas for camping and bonfires, and super dog friendly. The waterfall was beautiful and serene, and although not dog friendly to get to the actual waterfall, someone had kindly left out ropes to make it easier to make it down to the falls.  

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Five things you must do in Boston

1. Brunch, of course

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Brunch is probably my favorite meal, so lucky for me, Boston has plenty of great brunch places. Unfortunately, there aren’t any bottomless mimosas places within the city (that we could find), but everywhere boasts pretty great boozy brunch deals. We went to Friendly Toast in Cambridge, which was featured in Man v. Food, and serves breakfast all day. Their breakfast tacos are delicious and their Bloody Marys are the perfect way to start off your day.

2. Run next to the Charles River

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In my opinion, one of the best ways to explore a city is to run through it. The Charles River in Boston is lined with parks, great views of the city, and really great opportunities for people watching. The river forms the border of downtown Boston and Cambridge, which is where we stayed, and located along the river are a few universities that you may have heard of – Harvard, Boston University, and MIT.

3. Lobster Roll

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When in Boston, you absolutely must have a lobster roll. There are two ways lobster rolls are made: with hot butter or with mayo. We decided to go to Neptune Oyster, and I can honestly say this was one of my Top 5 meals of 2016. We got a dozen oysters and a hot buttered lobster roll. I promise there is nothing overrated about these lobster rolls – they really do deserve all the hype they get! However, we were really really lucky that we got to Neptune Oyster when we did; we arrived to the restaurant 25 minutes before they opened and found ourselves waiting in a line. Once it finally opened, people were slowly seated and then we were the last ones in the line that could fit in the restaurant. The people behind us were told that they would be called/texted when their seats were available, which would probably be 45 minutes to an hour. So just remember to get to Neptune Oyster before they open!

4. Stroll around Boston Common

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Boston Common is the oldest city park in the United States and is located in Downtown Boston. There was so much going on in the park on the day we walked around it – we went the weekend of September 11th so there was a firefighter and bagpipe procession; a movie was being filmed on the lawn; and many people and families were just hanging out, having a picnic and enjoying the weather.

5. Italian dinner in North End

When in Boston, you must go to North End (aka Boston’s Little Italy) for some delicious Italian food. We went to Panza, which is a friendly and intimate restaurant. We ended up getting their appetizer special, a buffalo mozzarella dish, and the Linguine Alla Pescatore and Lobster ravioli. We split a bottle of wine, but if you decide to order by the glass, they have a very generous wine pour (literally all the way to the top of the glass). Reasons why I loved this restaurant – you can make reservations, which is nice if you are on a tight schedule, and they are very decently priced. Entrees were around $16-20 and bottles of wine were around $20-26. After dinner, be sure to stop by one of the Italian bakeries for dessert.

Grilled peach & pancetta flatbread

As summer has started to come to an end, schools have started back up and store fronts have begun advertising the newest fall trends, I couldn’t help but realize how quickly this year has been passing by. It’s already more than halfway through August! And although I had a crazy, adventurous, wonderful summer, I’m not quite ready to let go of the grilling and the ice cream and the fresh fruits and vegetables that make up some of my favorite summer recipes. So today, I’ve pulled out my favorite summer dish:

Grilled peach & pancetta flatbread

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Cook time: 30 minutes

Difficulty Level: easy

Ingredients:
2 peaches
6 slices of pancetta
4 oz of goat cheese
2 flatbreads or Naan
Fresh basil
Balsamic glaze

Instructions:

Cut the peaches in half, pit them, and throw each half on the grill. Grill each side for about 3 minutes each. While those are grilling, brush some olive oil on one side of each naan bread and then flip them over and cover the other side of the naan with a hearty application of the goat cheese. I choose to pan-fry the pancetta, but this step isn’t necessary. If you do fry the pancetta, you only need to cook each side on medium heat for 3 minutes on each side. Break up the pancetta slices and add them on top of the goat cheese.

Once the peaches are done, remove them from the grill and slice them into wedges. Add the peaches to the goat cheese and pancetta-topped naan, and then put the entire naan on the grill for about 5 minutes.  Remove the naan from the grill, add a few leaves of fresh basil, and then drizzle on the balsamic glaze.

Enjoy with a chilled glass of Chardonnay or Viognier.

 

 

Traveling to Croatia – Split and Hvar

Croatia is hands down one of my favorite places I’ve visited. Maybe we got lucky – we were there right before peak tourist season so we were able to enjoy private beaches and avoid long tourist lines. We also had perfect weather the entire time, sunny and in the 80s, but no words or pictures can fully explain how beautiful Croatia is. I’ll admit I’m a very coastal person and my choice of vacation is always going to be the beach, so maybe I’m a little biased, but the history and the architecture, the island hopping and the outdoor restaurants, the waterfalls and the seafood and the Croatian wines made it impossible for me not to fall in love with this country.

Unfortunately we were only there for five short days, so we only fully explored two towns, Split and Hvar, with two day-trip excursions in between. There are still so many more towns in Croatia that I need to see, so there will definitely be another trip in the future. In the meantime, however, here is a quick guide to Split and Hvar—two amazing towns that made for one unbelievable vacation.

Split

Split is a picturesque coastal city, home to Diocletian’s Palace, the Pazar markets, beautiful sunsets, and wonderful people watching. You really only need a few days to fully explore Split, so keep reading for my Must Do’s, Must Eat’s, and more.

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Must Do:

Diocletian’s Palace – Roman emperor Diocletian built this palace for his retirement from the throne of the Roman Empire. Today, numerous shops, cafes and restaurants fill the space of these Roman ruins and it’s easy to forget that you’re walking within the walls of a fortress. I am a huge fan of free walking tours in any foreign city, and Split is no different. Join a walking tour one morning and learn about the palace; then wander around the narrow streets and get lost within the palace walls.

Pazar market – After the walking tour, explore the Pazar market (also known as the Green Market) which is located along the east wall of the palace. The market is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables of the season, like peaches, strawberries, cherries and grapes. I think we ended up buying fruit from the market every morning for breakfast. The market also has vendors selling flowers, souvenirs, toys, clothes, etc.

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Marjan Hill – Before sunset, grab some wine and cheese from the local supermarket (we went to Tommy’s) and walk up Marjan Hill to watch the sunset. It’s only about a 15 minute walk to the top, and once there you will have an excellent view of the city. Just a fair warning, there are a lot of stairs, so you’ll definitely get your fitbit steps in, but the view is worth it.

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People watching on Riva (the seafront promenade) – The seafront promenade is constantly bustling with people sipping coffee, socializing, eating dinner, drinking a beer, watching soccer, etc. Surrounded by water on one side and restaurants and cafes on the other, the promenade is a great place to sit, think, and bask in the sun, and a really great place to people watch. Somehow among the hustle and bustle, something about the promenade is also just peaceful.

Ovcice Beach – This is the more laid back, less-crowded beach in Split. There’s a nice outdoor café/bar overlooking the water, lots of benches, and excellent people watching. Grab a Somersby Blueberry (Croatian cider) and head to the watering hole.

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Must Eat:

Fife – Buffet Fife is loved by tourist and locals alike. The authentic Croatian food is delicious and at excellent prices. Try their house wine, bread, and black risotto. You won’t be disappointed!

Bistro Toc – This restaurant was recommended to us by our hostel. It’s a Mediterranean/Mexican restaurant. Their nachos appetizer is amazing, but their seafood pasta and risotto were equally delicious. If you’re staying at the hostel, bring the hostel’s business card to get 10% off your order.

Takeaway – If you want a quick and easy bite to go, whether you’re heading to the beach or out to explore, takeaways has delicious pizza and wraps. Their wraps are made with pizza dough, making them extra delicious.

Luka’s Ice Cream – While walking through the promenade and through the streets of the palace, you’ll pass by many gelaterias/ice cream shops. Keep walking to Luka’s ice cream – it’s the only place in Split that home-makes their ice cream and they have unique flavors that change daily.

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Must Drink:

Fabrique – This is where the locals go to watch soccer games and to hang out. Once you walk in, you’ll see why. This is a bar that I would love in Atlanta — there’s exposed brick walls, industrial light fixtures, a classy industrial-style bar, and chalkboard wall decor with funny quotes about drinking — it actually really felt like I was in a cool, swanky bar in America. Fabrique definitely was designed to cater to Americans, as evidenced by the food menu, but it’s a really cool place to grab a few drinks.

F de Mar – If you love the water, you’ll love F de Mar, one of the restaurants by the marina. There is great outdoor seating, which is perfect for people watching, and this is where we first fell in love with Somersby, which is Croatian cider. They have different flavors: apple, pear, blueberry and blackberry; and from then on we could not stop craving Somersby Blue which was so refreshing in the sun. We didn’t try the food here, but judging from the reviews online, it looks amazing!

Pub Crawls – We had a lot of early mornings, so we didn’t have a chance to check out the nightlife as much as we would have liked, but we did go on a pub crawl with some friends we made in our hostel. We heard about the pub crawl from our hostel and from some promoters walking around the promenade. For 20 euro, you get a free t-shirt, 2 hours of open bar during the pregame, and free pizza, and then you go to a few different bars depending on the night, and then end at one of the beach clubs.

Where we stayed:

Split Backpackers – If you’re young and willing to go the hostel route, we stayed at the Split Backpackers Hostel. It was an interesting set up, with four rooms (varying amount of beds per room) and two showers and one male and one female restroom. At first we were a little turned off by this, but we soon realized that we never really had an issue of waiting on showers or bathrooms, as everyone is on a different schedule. The people who work the front desk were amazing – they had the best recommendations and even if they didn’t know the answer to something, they researched until they found us an excursion we wanted.

Hvar

I love Hvar and I think you should absolutely go here! Although it’s a pretty small island, there is plenty to do and it is so beautiful. The views were amazing, the food was amazing, the people were amazing — even the pharmacist was nice!

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Must Eat:

Dalmatino – This was by far the best meal I had in Croatia. Both locals and tourist go here to enjoy traditional Croatian cuisine. I ordered the Gnocchi Istria, which is black gnocchi with black truffles and shrimp in creamy wine sauce, and we split the grilled zucchini as an appetizer. The gnocchi was absolutely amazing. We also split the house red and house white wines. The staff was so friendly — everyone we talked to made us feel like family, bar tenders and waiters — and we received a ‘welcome’ shot shortly after sitting down as well as a digestive shot after we ate. Just thinking about the gnocchi is making me hungry again.

Must Drink:

Hula Hula – We didn’t really get a chance to explore the Hvar nightlife, which is a shame because there are so many cool outdoor bars in this town. Hula Hula is one of the most popular beach clubs in Croatia (Beyonce has been here), so we at least made a point to go there. We went to Hula Hula around sunset time and it did not disappoint!

Where we stayed:

Helvetia Hostel – I highly highly recommend this hostel! The owner is amazing and is so passionate about his hostel/about making sure you have a great stay in Hvar. The hostel itself is amazing — very clean, good sized bathrooms, clean kitchen, and a rooftop terrace. The terrace had a great view and Reno, the owner, gave us shots of Croatian brandy that his mom made and a glass of Croatian wine that he made himself. We felt like we got VIP treatment, and it was definitely one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed at.

Absolute must do excursions:

One of the best things about Split is that all of the day trips that we wanted (Krka waterfalls and blue caves) had excursions that left from Split. If you are ever in Croatia, the Krka waterfalls are an absolute must and I highly recommend the blue caves and island hopping tours.

Krka Waterfalls

Swimming in the waterfalls at the Krka National Park is one of the top 5 coolest things I have ever done! I had seen pictures of the waterfalls on Pinterest before we went, but no pictures will fully show the beauty of these waterfalls in person. We were lucky enough to find an amazing tour company that not only brought us to Krka, but also took us to Sibenik, Skradin, and then Croatian wine tasting. It was great to explore Sibenik, which is the oldest Croatian town on the Adriatic Sea and is home to the Cathedral of St. James (it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is made completely of limestone and marble). We walked to the top of the St. Michael’s Fortress, which gave us amazing views of the city and the water.

Krka was amazing. We had four hours to explore the Krka National Park, which was plenty of time. There is an easy walking trail that allows you to see all of the best views of the park, as well as a few restaurants and a big outdoor green area for you to relax and bask in the sun. If you feel pressed for time, you should probably bring your own lunch, as the restaurants can get crowded and the food wasn’t too impressive for the price (grilled chicken, some sausages, and schnitzel). I wish we had just packed a sandwich to eat in the green area. Additionally, don’t forget to pack a waterproof case for your phone or camera! You’ll definitely want to get in the water and take some amazing pictures. Also, there are big rocks at the bottom of the water, so you won’t want to go barefoot (we all wore Chacos or Tevas). And don’t forget your sunscreen!

After the waterfalls, we went to Skradin for wine tasting. Who knew Croatia had such great wines? Croatian winemakers stay local, which is why we in the States don’t ever hear about it. We went to a local winery, had some cheese and tried three different wines. I’m usually more of a red drinker, but between me and my friends we bought three bottles of the white!

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Overall, I highly recommend this company, and even though no, I am not getting paid to rave about them, Petar, if you ever end up reading this, can I get a discount on my next trip? If you’re interested, go to www.croatia-dream.com for more information.

Blue Caves and Islands Tour

We knew we wanted to see the blue caves, but we didn’t know how we wanted to get there or what else we wanted to do. We ended up walking around the palace streets, popping into travel agencies to see what blue caves tours they had, and realized that most excursions include the blue caves, green caves, and a couple of islands. We decided to go with the Adriatic Pearl travel agency.

The next day, together with four other couples, we got into a speedboat and took a 1 hour and 45 minute ride out to the blue caves. Our tour price included the blue caves ticket, so once there, we were able to hop right into a smaller boat which took us to the caves. They were amazing. Pictures of course won’t do them justice, but they were beautiful! You are only actually in the blue caves for 7-10 minutes, but it really is unbelievable how blue the water is. Disclaimer: we went to the blue caves during an off-season. During peak-season the wait time for the caves can be very long, but it’s still worth it!

Next we took our speedboat to the island Vis, where we stopped by Stiniva Beach, which was apparently the voted #1 best beach in Croatia in 2016. It was small, so we didn’t stay. Next, we went to the green caves, which were cool but very crowded with boats and swimmers. Finally, we went to Stoncica beach on Vis, which was like being on our own private beach. There were only a handful of other people on the beach, so it was quiet and peaceful. There is also a restaurant right on the beach called Konoba Stoncica, which is where we all ate lunch. I had the octopus salad, which was so amazing! After a few hours on the beach, we all jumped back onto the speedboat for our last stop — Hvar. Since we had already explored Hvar the day before, we went to our favorite grocery store and found a few beach chairs and hung out by the water until it was time for us to head back to the boat.

Just another backpacking packing guide

Summer is the perfect time to go traveling, but one of the hardest decisions is figuring out what to pack. I’ve gone backpacking twice in the past two years, so I’m creating this guide to help list out the essentials and any other tips/tricks when packing. Hopefully, even if you aren’t using a backpack, some of these items will be useful to you too.

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The Essentials

A Backpack (or suitcase) – If you are young and planning on staying in hostels or bouncing around from city to city, I am a huge promoter of backpacks over rolling suitcases. While I’ve only traveled to Europe, I know that most towns have cobblestone streets, lots of stairs, and many hostels have only stairs or tiny elevators. It is worth the investment.

Choosing a backpack is yet another hard decision, but I highly recommend front-loading backpacks (versus top-loading) because they open up like a regular suitcase or backpack, so you don’t have to unload everything from the top just to reach something. I am a huge fan of the Osprey brand, because they’re made with quality and durability, and so far nothing has broken.

I ended up getting the Osprey Farpoint 55, and I love it! It comes with a removable daypack, which I used everyday, and these packs have technical suspension, which gives them a good support systems and makes them easy to carry. I just went into an REI store to pick out my backpack, but you can buy one on Amazon here.

Daypack (or big purse) – Even if you don’t end up getting the Osprey Farpoint, I highly recommend bringing a daypack/small backpack to use while exploring the city. My daypack was used to carry my small rain jacket, a notebook, my wallet, my water bottle, snacks, etc. If you bring a purse, just make sure it’s big enough to fit everything you need, and make sure it has a zipper to prevent any easy pick-pocketing.

Packing cubes – Okay, maybe this isn’t essential to everyone (some people prefer putting their outfits into a ziplock bag), but it was essential to me. Packing cubes helped me keep my clothes and shoes organized and made it really easy to pack. I bought TravelWise packing cubes from Amazon, and I like them because they are lightweight and durable.

Sleep Sheets – If you are staying in hostels, I recommend getting a cotton sleep sheet. Most hostels did have clean sheets and pillowcases, but there are always one or two that are a little questionable. I recommend the Cocoon Cotton Sleep Sheet, which rolls up really tiny and doesn’t take up much space in your backpack. This sheet is lightweight and comfortable (it’s like a cotton sleeping bag), with a pocket to insert your pillow. Most hostels don’t blast their air conditioning, so nights were pretty warm; this sleep sheet was the perfect amount of coverage that I needed, as anything else would have been too hot.

Quick Drying Travel Towel – These towels feel a lot different than normal towels, but they dry so much faster, which is important if you have to pack quickly to move on to a new town. I bought mine here; note that these towels are much smaller than regular towels, so I recommend getting at least a large or XL.

Rain Jacket – The weather in Europe is just as unpredictable as the weather in Georgia. I found that umbrellas take up space and can break easily (yes this happened to me in Brussels), so an easy to pack lightweight rain jacket is all that you need. I bought a travel rain jacket that can fold up and fit in my tiny purse from Amazon here.

Water bottle – Okay, I guess this isn’t technically essential either, but since in some places in Europe wine is cheaper than water, a water bottle is a good investment. In many countries, the tap water from fountains is cold and safe to drink, so filling up your water bottle is easy to do. I ended up getting the Camelback Groove water bottle, which comes with a filter and makes filling up anywhere (hostel kitchens, water fountains, bathroom sinks, etc.) easy and more acceptable to do.

Locks – I recommend bringing two small TSA approved locks – one for your main luggage and one for your day bag. While I felt that most hostels were safe and their lockers were secure, I just felt much safer having a lock on my bags, especially if I kept my iPad and passport in my main bag while I was out for the day. Additionally, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are a few places in Europe that are more susceptible to pickpocketing, so in busy areas (metros, markets, tourist areas, etc.) I would use my second lock to lock up my daypack.

Shower Shoes – In most hostels, you are sharing a shower with many other people, not just the people in your room, so for sanitary reasons, shower shoes are important. I just used the $2 rubber flip flops from Old Navy.

Adapter and chargers– Make sure you bring the correct plug adapters! The UK and Europe have different ones. You can get these from Target in the travel section. And of course, don’t forget your phone charger and your fitbit charger!

Sunglasses and sunscreen – While walking around all day, you don’t realize how easy it is to get burnt! I recommend croakies for your sunglasses if you’re going to be hiking or if you’re going on a boat.

Ziplock Bags – Quart sized bags are needed for carry on liquids; gallon sized bags are useful for wet clothes/bathing suits and I always put my shower shoes in one to keep them from contaminating anything else. I also used ziplock bags to help with packing (souvenirs, dirty clothes, etc.) or to keep my passport and other travel documents from getting wet.

Other Items to Consider

Carabiner – I used a carabiner to attach my water bottle to a strap on my daypack for easy water bottle access. You can get one from Target in the travel or camping section for really cheap.

Hanging Toiletry Bag – I found that many hostels don’t have shelves to keep your items on, so a hanging toiletry bag was very useful. I usually either hung mine on the shower curtain rod or on the towel rack, but this kept me from having to put all of my toiletries on the gross floors. Additionally, at home I use this hanging toiletry bag whenever I shower at the gym. I got mine from Marshalls but there are a bunch of options on Amazon here.

Waterproof Case – We went to the Krka waterfalls in Croatia (one of the coolest things I’ve ever done!) and having a waterproof case was essential for good pictures. I recommend the JOTO case, as it is cheap and works so well. You can still use your phone while it is in the case, and it takes good quality photos.

Beach Towel – If you decide to bring one, make sure it is a small lightweight towel. Otherwise, you can usually borrow a towel from your hostel or buy a cheap one wherever you’re going. We bought towels from Barcelona for a few euros.

Ear plugs & eye mask – If you’re a light sleeper, definitely consider bringing ear plugs and an eye mask. Depending on how many people are in your rooms in your hostels, it can get loud, especially when people are coming back from the clubs in the wee hours of the morning.

Notebook – Some people like to bring a small notebook to jot down fun facts on walking tours, or restaurants/bars that they loved, etc. But I usually end up forgetting about my notebook, and just writing everything on my phone.

Headphones/iPads – Headphones are a must for the airplanes and I use my iPad to read books or listen to podcasts while on planes, trains, or long bus rides.

 

Other tips and tricks

Laundry – Many packing lists suggest bringing a small laundry kit to do laundry in the sink, but I found that most hostels have a washing machine for you to use for a euro to two. For my first backpacking trip I bought a laundry kit, but I’ve never used it. If you’re going for less than two weeks, you most likely won’t need to do laundry, and if you are going for more than two weeks, you’ll probably be able to do it in a hostel.

Moneybelt – I’ve never used one of these, as they’re kind of uncomfortable and awkward when you do need to pull out cash. When you go out for the day, only carry the amount of cash that you think you’ll need to use that day, and keep the rest of your cash locked up in your suitcase or backpack. As mentioned above under ‘Locks’ I also locked up my daypack when I was in super crowded/touristy areas. Just be cognizant of your surroundings, and you won’t need a moneybelt.

Cash– You don’t need to exchange money for your trip before you arrive. You can if it makes you feel better, but you can easily withdraw cash from an ATM at the airport or train stations. I opened up a Schwab checking account because they reimburse you for all ATM fees and they have no foreign transaction fees (plus they have no annual fees, no minimum balances, and excellent customer service). Additionally, I suggest withdrawing cash from an ATM versus a currency exchange booth, because those usually offer horrible exchange rates and hidden commission fees.

Hair – Don’t bother bringing a hair dryer or hair straightener. Most hostels provide hair dryers, and most people that bring their straightener end up breaking it with the electric adapters. Either braid your hair, scrunch your hair, or go au natural (I’ve found that my hair looks a lot better abroad for some reason); but if you absolutely must use a straightener, just buy a cheap one there that has a European plug.

Lady products – Just another helpful tip — if you think it might be that time of the month for you while abroad, you might want to consider packing extra tampons. Most places in Europe, except London, only sell the ones without applicators, which can be pretty intimidating if you aren’t used to it.

Lastly, Clothes.

Don’t overpack. It’s all about the layers. But definitely bring a chambray shirt–it acts as a great jacket and pillow on the plane.

For my last trip, I went to Budapest and Croatia, which has a wide variety of weather, and this is what I brought:

  • 1 Jeans
  • 1 lightweight dress
  • 1 skirt (it was a mini/maxi combo)
  • 3 shorts (denim, white denim, and printed knit shorts)
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 1 white short sleeve shirt
  • 1 black knit long sleeve shirt
  • 4 tanks (black, grey, white, and a chambray sleeveless top)
  • Chambray top
  • 1 light quarter zip jacket
  • 3 Nike shorts
  • 2 t-shirts for sleeping
  • 1 scarf
  • Chacos for walking shoes
  • 1 close-toed walking shoes (Reef’s sneakers)
  • 1 pair of cute casual sandals
  • Shower shoes (Old Navy flip flops)
  • A bunch of underwear to last the whole trip
  • 2 bras and 1 sports bra

Regardless, a good general rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t fit in the packing cubes, don’t bring it!

Am I missing anything? Feel free to share your packing experiences and tips and tricks below!