I must have been asked that question about a thousand times, so in order to save time, I’ve compiled my own packing list. Although it was compiled with inexperienced travelers in mind (hence tips and explanations), I’ve found its printout useful as a checklist.
Packing Tips for a Vacation in Greece
When packing for any trip, two are the things to always bear in mind:
- Pack for any eventuality: lost luggage, freak weather and even theft are not often, but they may happen. If you’re prepared, you will fare better and be better able to enjoy your holiday.
- Pack light: lugging a heavy pack or suitcase around airports and ports can be so tiring as to detract from the pleasure of your trip. Leave out of your pack anything that is not absolutely necessary. A good trick is to pile all you think you may need on your bed and then halve the pack. Be ruthless (unless you travel expensively, in which case pack all you want).
Generally speaking, it is good to have the following:
Wheeled suitcase or duffel bag: should be moderately sized and fit all your stuff without bursting. There should always be some room left for an extra book or souvenir.
Daypack: A medium-sized backpack or messenger bag. It should be comfortable and lightweight, as you’ll be carrying it most of the day, and have room enough for all your daily essentials: A bottle of water, map, hat, camera, an extra layer (eg. a hoodie), sunscreen, sunglasses, etc. Remember, this will double as your hand luggage. Make sure it’s rainproof – if not, invest in a rainproof cover.
Money belt or small pouch: should have room for your passport, tickets and some cash. Never keep those in a bag that can be forgotten somewhere or snatched away.
Tote: One or two collapsible, lightweight ones for shopping etc.
Plastic bags: for packing shoes, laundry etc.
Luggage tags with your name and contact details for every piece of luggage.
Passport (or ID card if a citizen of the European Union)
Visa (if needed)
Student card (if any; necessary for discounts at museums, ferries, etc.)
ICE list (phone numbers of family/friends in case of emergency).
Photocopies of all the above. You should be carrying the originals in your money belt at all times, but keep two sets of copies; one in your hand luggage and one with your larger luggage; a third may remain at home. In case of loss or theft they will prove invaluable and save you a lot of time and trouble.
Credit/debit/ATM card. Inform your bank about your upcoming trip and check whether you will be able to draw funds with your card when in Greece and what restrictions/fees may apply.
Photocopies of all your cards
Credit card contact information
Some spare cash (50-200 euros; although most venues accept credit cards, many, usually small ones, don’t; taxi drivers and street vendors also don’t.)
Camera and enough card capacity for more photos than you think you could possibly take.
Mobile phone; ask your provider whether your phone will function in Greece and check the cost. If too high, you may prefer to buy a cheap phone with a local number and prepaid calling time (available at the airport and many other spots) or use a calling card and e-mails to keep in touch.
Address book (if you plan to send postcards. Make sure there’s a duplicate back home).
Tablet/ipod/reader/etc., if you must.
Laptop (if you must) and memory stick for backups.
Chargers for all your devices.
Adaptors (and possibly converters/transformers too): Greece uses 220-240 Volts alternating current with Europlug or shucko sockets. You will need one or more adaptors (to charge multiple devices) and, depending on the type of device you use, possibly a converter or transformer. For more information, see this page.
Medical insurance card. Inform your provider in advance and check whether your insurance applies overseas.
Over the counter medication for headaches and/or menstrual cramps. Also, for constipation, diarrhea, motion sickness; although the chance of these being needed is small, they don’t take up much space and it’s better to have them handy than search for a pharmacy in the middle of the night.
Band-aids for blisters and small cuts.
Antimicrobial cream for same.
If you are on medication or are allergic, don’t forget to pack:
- All the necessary medication/equipment for the duration of the trip, with some to spare.
- A list of all the medications you are using, including the necessary prescriptions, or a list of all the substances you are allergic to, possible reactions and prescribed medication. Keep these on your person at all times.
- Photocopies of the above to keep in your daypack and large luggage.
- Inform your co-travelers, escort, guide and hotel of your needs and requirements and also of possible signs of trouble they should be on the lookout for – remember, better safe than sorry.
Sunglasses; necessary even in winter
Spare glasses, if using.
Spare contacts, contact solution etc., if using.
Sunscreen (necessary throughout the year)
After sun lotion
Lip balm with sunscreen
The sun in Greece is rather strong, not only in the summer, but in winter too. One can never be too careful; when sunbathing or sightseeing one may lose track of time; besides the long term health risk, a painful sunburn will do much to destroy your holiday.
Body-face wash or soap
Washcloth or sponge
Toothpaste, toothbrush, floss
Shampoo (and conditioner, if using)
Brush/comb (and clips, elastic bands, hair cosmetics, hair dryer, if using)
Nail clipper, file, tweezers
Insect repellent (in the summer)
Shaving or depilatory supplies, if using
Feminine hygiene products, if using
Makeup products, if you must
Detergent, if you plan on hand-washing some of your clothing
Note: when packing toiletries use small containers. Avoid lugging around large bottles full of shampoo or shower gel that will go home half-empty or be left in your hotel room for lack of space. Also, avoid products in glass jars. Opt for non-breakable containers. Make sure caps fit tightly. If uncertain, use this trick to avoid leaks: unscrew the top, put a layer of cling film on top of the bottle, then screw the top on tightly.
Underwear: at least two changes
Socks: at least two pairs
Note: don’t skimp on these essentials. Even if you plan on travelling light and handwashing every evening, you should factor in fatigue and the weather; your clothes may not be washed and/or dry the next day.
Pants: one or two comfortable pairs (besides the one you’ll be wearing).
Skirts: if you must. Make sure you have at least one pair of pants.
Sweatshirt or hoodie for chilly nights.
Light raincoat: Besides the obvious use, it should be large enough to fit over all of your layers in case it gets too cold. It will insulate you from the cold air and serve as a jacket. Umbrellas and ponchos cannot do that, therefore I don’t recommend them. Besides, umbrellas are heavier and tend to be blown away.
Two scarves: must be wide enough for covering legs and shoulders when visiting a church or monastery; thin enough to take little space, but not transparent (dark colors work better for this). They may also be used as an extra layer, in case of sudden chill, or as an improvised bag. When windy, one may be used to tie down a hat or replace it.
Hat. An absolute must; avoid straw ones in favor of cotton ones that can be folded away in your bag when not needed. Jockeys are ok, but prefer the protection of a wide-brimmed one for the summer months.
Evening-out-wear: at least a change of clothes for an evening out; choose something that is light to carry, easy to wear and can be varied by means of lightweight accessories.
Jewelry: if you must. Don’t take along anything that is expensive or irreplaceable.
Sweater(s) and/or fleece jacket(s), and warm headwear, scarf, gloves (from October till the end of March)
Thermal underwear (from December till the end of March), especially if you will be travelling to Northern Greece or the mountains. You may not need them, but if you do, you’ll be happy you took them along. For tips about the weather, see my next post.
Sturdy walking shoes and/or sneakers. Must be comfortable and a bit worn – avoid new footwear. Make sure they are not slippery; try them on different (wet) surfaces. Pack them in closed plastic bags to avoid contaminating the rest of your stuff with potentially nasty germs.
Shoe care products, if using leather shoes.
Flip-flops (for use in the pool or beach but also in the hotel room – stepping from the shower into your hiking boots is not very practical).
Small sewing kit, including one or two spare buttons and a safety pin
Journal and/or notebook, pen, pencil (not optional – you will need to write something down, whether directions to your hotel, or a new friend’s phone number, or how to ask for a beer)
Light reading (not too much)
Music, music player
Photos/postcards/souvenirs from home to show or share with new acquaintances
If you’ll be staying in a hostel
Towel. It should be large enough to cover you up on the way to the shower; choose a thin one, which packs smaller and dries faster.
Padlocks, for your luggage
Earplugs/sleeping mask (optional)
How to pack: Remember you will be living out of your pack for some time. Choose clothes that crease little or not at all; whether you fold or roll them is a matter of personal preference. It is better that each item can be pulled out quickly, without having to unfold-refold the entire pack. Bundle packing is better suited to those who will spend their entire vacation in a single location (ie. will not be changing hotels).
One more thing: Lost baggage is rare but it happens. Delayed luggage is more common. It is a wise precaution to pack in your hand luggage a change of clothes and the basic toiletries for one or two days. Do not leave expensive electronic equipment or jewelry with your larger luggage. Keep your hand luggage with you at all times and never leave it unattended. Do not take priceless or irreplaceable items with you when travelling.
Have a great journey!