What Do You Really Need to Take from Home? — Most and Least Essential Items

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Teach In Spain Program

Authored By:

Deirdre C.

Before moving to Spain I was really concerned about what items I needed to purchase or take from home to live a comfortable life in Europe. I knew that one of my main goals in moving to Madrid was to travel around Europe on breaks and weekends so I purchased some quality travel items. I did my research on what items were essential to bring with me that would allow me to travel conveniently and on a budget and live comfortably. In the last 7 months I have narrowed down the most important and least important items to bring from home. 


Bring with you:

  • A travel backpack. For me this has been easily the most essential purchase I have made. I splurged on the Cotopaxi 28L Travel Pack and it has been one of the best purchases I have ever made. Budget airlines, like Ryanair, charge extra for a carry on bag. This bag is the perfect size to fit under the seat (for free) and allows me to pack for a long weekend trip (or even longer in warmer weather). It opens up like a suitcase and has built in packing cubes so it is easy to stay organized and fit as much as possible. There are many other travel bags that are much cheaper as well. Many of my friends use this Amazon Travel Backpack. It also has many compartments to stay organized on a trip and fits perfectly under the seat on a plane as well. This backpack is extra convenient because it can be comfortably used on the day to day as well.
  • clear travel toiletry bag is another essential travel item. Many airports are laidback about the amount of toiletries you take through airport security, but it is never fun to have to toss out your extra toiletries and fit them into a small plastic bag in the middle of the security line. I have found that the Dublin Airport in Ireland is particularly strict about this, but having a clear quart size bag for my toiletries saved me a lot of trouble.
  • Comfortable walking shoes. As important as this is, I have truly burned through two good pairs of shoes in my 7 months here, so I do not have the best recommendations for comfortable walking shoes. I highly recommend investing in a good pair of comfortable and stylish shoes because chances are you're going to do a lot more walking in your daily life here than you’re used to doing at home. Don’t worry, though, if you can’t find a good pair of sneakers before arriving in Spain, there are plenty of places to buy a nice new pair of shoes while in Europe. 


Leave at home: 

  • Peanut Butter. I was told that the peanut butter in Spain (and Europe as a whole) was not the same or as good as peanut butter from the United States. Although good peanut butter can be hard to come by, it is not impossible to find. In the popular grocery store, Día, they sell Capitan Mani peanut butter that tastes just like a Jif or Skippy Peanut Butter you would buy at home. Save space in your bag for other snacks like cheez-its or Hot Cheetos (which actually are impossible to find here) and leave the Skippy Peanut Butter at home.
  • Dry shampoo. As a lover of dry shampoo, I was under the impression that there was no dry shampoo or at least that it was difficult to come by here in Madrid. One of the most popular grocery stores here in Madrid, Día, sells my favorite Batiste Dry Shampoo in their stores and it is much cheaper than the same product in the U.S. Definitely save your money and space in your bag by purchasing any dry shampoo in Spain. 
  • A winter coat. Packing a winter jacket from home would have taken up way too much space, but eventually you are going to need one in Madrid. Personally, I purchased a winter jacket in November from Bershka and it is stylish, great quality, and way cheaper than the same jacket would have been in the United States. I definitely recommend buying a winter coat while in Spain (now I just have to figure out how to take it back home with me in a few months). 


Overall, almost anything you don’t bring from home will be easy to purchase once you arrive here in Spain. I was told the same thing before arriving but, of course, I refused to believe it. Bring your favorite clothing items, some photos from home, and whatever your personal essentials are. Moving to a new country is a shock to your system so items from home can be a big comfort at first, but in a few months Madrid really will feel like your new home as well!