17 Top Spain Packing List Items + What NOT to bring (2017 Update)

What should I bring on my Spain trip?

Spain is a wondrous mix of the old and new. To help navigate this great country, I put this packing checklist together.

At the end you’ll also see “What NOT to bring to Spain”, and additional tips on traveling in Spain including what to wear.

Spaniards have style and taste — and that goes for every aspect of their lives. To fit in, make sure you pack accordingly, and don’t forget your appetite, endurance, and appreciation of life’s simple pleasures.


1) Passport Pouch – When traveling to Spain, you’ll obviously need to bring your passport. You don’t want it to be stolen, and you’ll need a place to keep it and other valuables (like your ATM cards and any cash). The passport pouch is ideal and it can also be worn under your shirt so that it’s next to impossible for it to be pickpocketed.
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2) Shawl, scarf – A scarf will help you two-fold in Spain: for any seasonal changes, where an extra layer is called for, and when you need to cover a up in the historic churches or other religious sites you’ll be visiting. Pack a lighter one for the warmer months and heavier one for the rest of the year. This is a great opportunity to accessorize, as well, so take advantage of Spain’s tendency to be fashion-forward and dress up your whole outfit with a nice-looking scarf!
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3) Universal Waterproof Phone Case – Most of us take our phones wherever we go, and for good reason. This case is waterproof (you can even use it for underwater videos!), universal-fit, and dirt/dust proof so that you don’t have to worry about your phone while you’re exploring. At under $10, it’s a steal!
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4) Spain Power adapter – Spain’s electrical outlets call for 220V, 50 Hz — and type F prongs (with the rounded tip). This is different than the U.S., so bring along an adapter for each charger you’ll need so that you don’t risk frying your electronics or being unable to charge them.
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5) Activated charcoal – Travelers diarrhea can be pretty debilitating, and can happen to anyone. Most experienced travelers have had more than one experience with it, and not just in the more exotic locales – you can still fall victim to it in well-developed countries. Spain is much safer than places like India or Mexico but it’s still common for travelers to get a bout of diarrhea typically lasting for 24 hrs. Activated charcoal tablets quickly absorb any toxins that may be in your system, and can help remedy your stomach upset quickly and easily. I never travel without them.
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charcoal-tablets-for-dysentery

6) Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger – This external battery pack is a fantastic way to keep an easy device-charge on hand at all times. It uses the USB cord that most devices come with to transfer charge, and is roughly the size of a tube of lipstick! This makes it easy to carry around with you for those times when your device needs to be charged but you don’t want to go back to your room to wait for it to charge via an outlet. This small but powerful charger is a must-have.
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7) Travel Insurance – Don’t leave home without travel insurance. When the unexpected arises, whether that’s weather or illness, it’s a small price to pay for what you can get in return. Make sure to check your own health coverage, and if it doesn’t suffice, you can supplement. Trip insurance will make sure you have peace of mind when it comes to flights and other logistics.
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8) Travel toilet paper – Many travelers are surprised to find that bathrooms in Spain may differ from those back home, and they may not be quite as well-stocked. I always recommend bringing a supply of travel toilet paper so that you don’t get caught unprepared!
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9) Lonely Planet Guidebook – There’s so much to do, see and eat in the various cities and towns across this beautiful country, a helpful guide is a necessity. Lonely Planet offers restaurant suggestions, as well as best times to go. Dinner starts much later than your average American meal, with many people and businesses enjoying an afternoon siesta, so plan your day accordingly.
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10) Packing cubes – It may seem that adding something like packing organizers will just add bulk to your suitcase or bag, but it’s actually just the opposite. They actually tend to do a great job compacting items and keeping them organized so that it’s much easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. These packing cubes are ideal because they are reusable, washable, and come in varying sizes (and fun colors!).
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packing-cubes

11) Comfortable flats – Footwear is definitely noticed in this country — and flip flops are not acceptable beyond the beach. Additionally, you will find that driving in sandals is actually illegal, so keep that in mind if you plan to rent or drive a car while in Spain. Given the amount of walking you’ll be doing on a daily basis, a solid pair of comfortable flats, both stylish and supportive, will be a helpful addition to your wardrobe here.
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12) Travel backpack – If you’re backpacking in Spain as many people do, a good backpack should be at the top of your packing list. Osprey is a popular company, and is historically reviewed well. Their Porter backpack features lockable zippers, a padded laptop sleeve, and technical suspension. With this pack it’s also easy to attach an additional smaller pack to the outside in case you need another daybag.
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13) Hanging toiletry bag and toiletries – We all need certain toiletries from home while traveling, and keeping them clean, organized, and spill-free during the ride can save a lot of trouble and hassle. A hanging toiletry bag keeps your items at easy access, and makes organization a re-packing a breeze. In Spain, especially, it can be hard to find certain items that many people from the States rely on, like U.S.-style deodorant. Be sure to bring what you know you’ll need – your toiletry bag will help you keep everything compact and organized!
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14) Jet Lag relief – Don’t let jet lag weigh you down and stop you from enjoying those first few days of your trip. This homeopathic, natural jet lag preventative and relief supplement works wonders. If you take it according to the instructions, it can really help speed up the recovery process from traveling, and you’ll arrive feeling refreshed and ready to explore Spain and its wonders.
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15) Quick-dry towel – This item is a true travel staple item for a reason: you never know what your accommodations will be like in some circumstances, and you never know when you’ll need a compact, quick-dry towel while you’re traveling in Spain. Even if you know you’re staying in a place that will provide adequate, clean towels, it’s still wise to have a packable version.
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16) Water bottle with built-in filter – Water quality is tough to predict in many parts of Europe – Spain tends to have good water in most areas, but in other towns it’s not wise to drink the tap water. Bringing a water bottle with you is wise regardless, but bringing a bottle with a built-in filter means you’ll always have control over whether the water you’re drinking is safe for consumption.
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17) Solid shampoo – When flying to Spain you’ll have to carefully measure amounts of liquids and cram them all into appropriate quart-sized bags for security checkpoints if you’re carrying them onto the plane. Any product that can cut down on the liquids you have to pack is a great choice, and this solid shampoo by Lush is no exception. If you’re skeptical of solid shampoo, this one won’t let you down – it works just as well as the liquid variety.
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Other packing list items to consider bringing to Spain


 

What to wear in Spain


This is a question I love to answer, because Spain really does have a culture of fashion that’s different from that of the U.S. You’ll find that attractive shoes are pretty important – footwear is really noticed in Spain. As a tourist you’ll be doing a lot of walking so you should really make sure that you get pairs that are comfortable and attractive – leave the heels and other impractical shoes at home. Same goes for flip flops – they’re really only appropriate at the beach.

Clothing, too, is stylish and fairly modest regardless of season, so whether you’re layering up for a chilly trip in late fall or planning for a hot, dry trip in the late spring or early summer, it’s best to choose nice-looking items that you feel comfortable in. Scarves and shawls are always a good idea, regardless of season as there will always be locations that require a little more modesty, or in which you feel chilly and will want to cover up a little.
 

What NOT to bring to Spain:


1) 🚫 DON’T TAKE flip flops with the intention of wearing them anywhere other than the beach: You’ll be among a fashion forward crowd in Spain, so it’s best to dress the part. Blending in and being respectful will require a step up in the wardrobe, and that includes keeping those flip flops strictly at the beach.

3) 🚫 DON’T BRING valuables: Crime can be a problem in the touristy parts of Spain’s major cities, and even in some smaller cities and towns. Leave valuables at home or locked in a safe at your accommodations – you really won’t need them anyway. When carrying money and passport, it’s also best to use a Passport Pouch.

5) 🚫 DON’T PACK so much that you don’t have space for souvenirs: Spain has some magnificent shopping, and you’ll definitely want to bring home some items that you purchase. Whether it’s an extra bottle of wine or some bottles of Spain’s incredible olive oil, you’ll want some room to spare in your checked luggage.

2) 🚫 DON’T BRING a hairdryer: Even with an adaptor, some of your more powerful appliances won’t do so well with the electrical conversion. It’s best to leave your hair dryer at home. Many accommodations will provide one. Otherwise just take advantage of the arid climate and air-dry your hair.

4) 🚫 DON’T TAKE books – opt for a Kindle: Books take up a lot of space and weight, but a Kindle will allow you to read without the extra load. If you must have print books, you can look up spots along the way (like cafes and hostels) to swap out an old book for a new one — meaning less to carry.

6) 🚫 DON’T PACK immodest clothing: Spain is fashion-forward, but it’s also a pace where most people are fairly religious or at least conservative with their clothing. You may see some people wearing shorts but it’s uncommon, and you certainly won’t see short shorts or other revealing clothing anywhere but the beach.

FAQs


What is the weather like in Spain?

Spain has hot summers and cool, dry winters, so plan your trip and your outfits accordingly. Spain’s high seasons for tourism are in the spring and fall, but really, there isn’t much of a “bad” time to visit. Southern Spain can get too unbearably hot for some, while Northern Spain is considerably cooler. One thing to note is that many residents of Spain take their vacations in the month of August and so quite a few shops and restaurants may be closed during the heat of that month.

What kinds of transportation are available in Spain?

Taxis are common in the major cities of Spain. If you want to venture out on your own, make sure you’re comfortable with manual transmissions, as that’s what you’ll find in most rental cars, and remember the strict Spanish laws regarding footwear while driving! You can find bicycle-sharing systems in cities like Barcelona. But overall, walking is a pleasant and efficient way to see the cities.

Is a visa required to visit Spain?

For American citizens, a visa is not required for stays under 90 days. However, your passport needs to be valid for at least three months beyond your planned departure date.

How much of a time difference can I expect?

Depending on where you are in Spain, you’ll be Western European Time or Central European Time — five or six hours ahead, respectively, of east coast time in the U.S.

Is it safe to drink the water in Spain?

The water is safe to drink in the urban areas of Spain and some

more developed towns. If you get more remote, you may want to bring bottled water with you, or simply carry a refillable water bottle with a built-in filter so that you don’t have to worry about the quality of the water wherever you go!

How is the healthcare?

Healthcare in the country is very high-quality, and pretty easy to access. It is important, however, to make sure you check with your insurance regarding coverage or add a supplemental policy to cover the time you’ll be traveling in Spain.

What’s the food like?

Spain is well known for tapas, or small plates. They are shareable and delectable, from patatas bravas (potatoes) to omelets to croquettes. You’ll likely have heard of Paella as well – a rice and seafood dish that is simple but delicious. Paella is local to the Valencia region and can be widely found there, but it’s not quite as common in other regions. Fret not – there are many other amazing dishes to look forward to! The country is also known for its Jamón ibérico, or aged ham, which is a delicacy everyone should try at least once. Dinner is much later than Americans are used to – these lighter tapas meals often start after 9 pm.

What are typical accommodations like in Spain?

You have a range of options to choose from in Spain — from five star resorts to boutique hotels to budget hostels. One option to keep in mind is home-sharing platforms like Airbnb. You can find great deals in the center of the action, and they’re often much easier on your budget.

What kinds of things are there to do?

Depending on your interests, you have endless options in Spain.

Whether you want to go full-tourist and check out the The Sagrada Familia or spend the afternoon with a chilled bottle of cava and a plate of aged manchego cheese, make sure that you slow down and enjoy.

There are beaches to relax on, gardens to roam and churches to see, streets to walk and shops to explore. Grab your Lonely Planet Guidebook and enjoy the journey.

Do shops really close for siesta?

Depending on where you are, the community may or may not take advantage of the afternoon
siesta. In the major cities, you’ll find that things continue to operate more or less as normal. There’s even
been debate over changing the working hours for Spaniards — ending the day at 6 pm rather than 7 pm, effectively eliminating the practice. However, in the smaller towns it’s more common for businesses to shut down from about 2 pm to 5 pm, and you should plan accordingly.

Can I get dinner at 7 pm, or do I really have to wait until the Spanish eat at 9 pm?

Yes, you can typically still find some places to eat at “regular” dinner times, but they will be fairly empty (aside from those catering specifically to tourists).

However, some restaurants do modify their opening times and won’t open until later (8 or 9 pm). So if you have your heart set on a spot, it’s best to check ahead of time. And if you want to see how the city really lives, wait a couple more hours – snack on some Jamón and wine while you’re waiting!

What are the electrical outlets?

Plugs are type F with the standard voltage around 220 V and 50 Hz frequency, so bring a Spain power adapter – it’s essential if you plan to charge anything while you’re there.

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