In 2015 I spent part of the summer in Europe and swore never again to return during the crowded and hot summer months. Especially not to Southern Europe, where the scorching sun is insufferable.
Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredible experience. I simply hadn’t anticipated how crowded it would be, throw hot temperatures in the mix and I was exhausted.
Fast forward to May of 2016 and what do I decide to do? Study abroad in Italy for the summer. I think the quote “never say never” was half-heartedly created after me. Alas, I was thrilled to break my promise and jet set off to Europe again!
Of course, it was hot and crowded, so I was sweating. A lot. A couple of times I thought I’d die, but I didn’t. And guess what? I had the best damn time of my life!
So how’d I get through it? With the exception of a couple of bouts of heat rash, impromptu naps on shaded park benches, and more gelato than most people consume in a lifetime… I survived by going prepared.
Without further ado, here is your survival guide to spending the summer in Europe!
Sunscreen – Because, duh! 8 hours of walking around Paris should result in a sun kissed glow, not the hue of a vine-ripened tomato. But, we’ve all been there, right? No? Well, I’ve been there. A few times.
Bug spray – Depending on where you go, you could be accosted by pestering mosquitos. I think I counted 23 bites after visiting Pompeii. I won’t even tell you the grand total by the time I left Venice. In the South, the summer months get humid and sticky… basically a hotbed for mosquitos. And those bites hurt! Don’t be me, bring bug spray and keep that Euro-tan smooth and bite-less.
Wipes – I can’t imagine life without wipes. Refresh while on the go and if you’re in a bind in a public restroom… wipes to the rescue!
Hats – Bring two, a casual baseball cap and a more dressy fedora or a straw hat to add a little European refinement to your look.
Sunglasses – Can’t go wrong with bringing 2-3 pair! For a timeless look check out these Ray-ban combination frames from Allyn Scura Eyewear.
Scarves – Not only will you need to cover your shoulders in churches, but scarves can also block harsh rays from scorching your pale skin. Oh, you’re not a redhead? Ok… well then bring one for a pop of color!
What you pack will vary depending on where you’re traveling to, and for how long you’re going, and whether you’re checking your bags or backpacking. That said, there are certain items that you will wear over and over again no matter where you go.
Lightweight cotton – Your clothes are going to get wet. They are going to stick and cling to your sweaty body. You will be immersed in a sea of bodies who are also emitting the same volume of sweat. Stay away from tight, uncomfortable materials. I even found jeans to be on the border of too structured and hot.
Maxi skirts and linen pants – You don’t want to be that awkward tourist who tries to enter a holy church wearing a mini skirt and crop top. They will put some variation of what looks like a trash bag or a paper sack over you and I will be one of those jerks laughing at you. Sorry, not sorry. Just don’t do it. Bring 2-3 pretty maxi skirts and/or tailored linen pants. You will look fashionable, sophisticated and won’t offend anyone by dressing too revealing.
Sundresses – Need I say more? Bring a few otherwise you will look like me in 2015 and when you scroll through your pictures you realize that you’ve somehow spanned 6 European countries wearing the same sundress. Yikes!
Plenty of undies – I cannot overstate this. When I’m in Europe I walk EVERYWHERE. 30 minutes to lunch, 30 minutes to coffee, 20 minutes to shop, 15 minutes to a museum… 4 hours walking around the museum! You get the idea. Without being too detailed, I suggest you plan for two undies per day, you won’t always need them both, but it’s nice to stay fresh. I recommend a laser cut cotton variation. No seams, barely there, no fuss.
Shoes – Ahh the ever annoying shoe debacle. Opt for cute? Suffer miserably as you roll your ankle on ancient cobbled stone roads. Opt for comfort? Put on an adorably cute summer outfit only to trudge around in your grandmas sketchers/loafers/unforgivable ensemble of rubber and leather. Ew. Call me superficial, but I just don’t think you should have to choose one or the other, and the recommendations I found on other blogs were just… unmentionable. Here’s my 3 part shoe cocktail that won’t let you down.
It seems so simple. Drink water so that you don’t pass out. But then, everything is so bright and shiny and exciting and wine tastes better than water.
Do: Bring your own water bottle and refill it. Big bottled water is an easy thing to get your hands on in Europe, but it comes at a cost of up to 3-4 Euro. Save yourself money and reduce your waste by bringing a bottled water. Plus, there is natural, refreshing fountain water abundant in Europe. Keep it in the refrigerator over night so that it’s cold in the morning!
Don’t: waste your hard-earned money on water at restaurants. You seriously can’t go wrong with bringing your own bottle!
Ok… confession: I didn’t bring my own water bottle to Europe, but after just traveling through Cuba and bringing a water bottle, I saved a lot of money and will definitely bring my own bottle next year when I return to Europe.
Otherwise, you can plan on this look everywhere you go:
Let’s face it, you won’t be the only one spending the summer in Europe. You will be but a speck of sand to a million other specks all going to see the same places you want to see. You can opt to avoid all tourist traps and explore off the beaten path. But part of you will regret this. How can you go to Rome and not see the Vatican? You may not forgive yourself.
Sometimes though, fatigue will simply get the best of you. When it sets in, don’t fight it nor let it ruin your enjoyment. Anytime I feel travel fatigued I plop my tush down at a cafe and people watch. Take a time out. Part of the reason you came here was to enjoy European culture, right?
The bottom line is that there is a balance. How to achieve that balance?
Plan – use your time wisely and route your stops so that they make sense and are geographically efficient. This will help you save time and avoid wandering about lost.
City cards – if you want to hit several of the city’s specialties, look into getting a city pass which includes entrance into 2-3 attractions, public transportation for a specified amount of time and discounts. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of city cards though, is the fact that they permit you to skip the 2-3 hour lines!
Compromise – I personally went to Paris without going to the Louvre. I was so exhausted that the idea of shuffling through a mass of bodies to see the Mona Lisa sounded like misery. Instead, I went to Musee Rodin and Espace Dalí. There were only a handful of other people there and both of these gems still resonate in my mind as profoundly enjoyable experiences.
Go early, go late, or don’t go at all – Pretty self explanatory, look up the hours of where you want to go and either be the first one there, or go within a couple of hours of closing. As always, research the best time to go as it is situational.
Anytime, and I mean ANY TIME, you get a chance to dunk your body in a sea of water… do it! And don’t ever underestimate the power of gelato. It’s refreshing, it’s tasty and above all, it’s cold! Now go plan that summer trip to Europe!
How do you beat the heat and crowds of summer in Europe, let me know in the comments below!
Love European beaches during Summertime? Be sure to check out the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to here.