Packing for a trip to Europe is daunting enough, but watching a YouTube video of Rick Steves pack his only piece of luggage…a carry on backpack for two month trip to Europe seems…well, impossible to me. Two months in Europe on a single pair of Eccos? Impossible!
He also suggested washing shirts with hotel shampoo in the hotel sink. Cringe! I did all that when I was 17, as I backpacked across Europe with a single backpack for a month. It was such an amazing experience and I got to check the box but…fast forward 20+ years? While going abroad for IVF? And I’m already stressed? Nah.
But before we begin, and I’m sure you already know, though egg-freezing is essentially step 1 in the process of IVF.
My fundamental belief is that the mindset in these two groups of people is worlds apart in who proactively comes in for egg-freezing alone vs. those who are undergoing IVF.
So much of the IVF and infertility heaviness is passed onto women who are interested in electively egg-freezing unnecessarily, and I think it is important to distinguish that these two groups of women do face different issues and challenges, and I think that many clinics are not doing that great of a job in distinguishing these two groups of women’s needs yet.
(Yes, ultimately, people who froze their eggs will use IVF to have children. I’m referring to the women who are freezing their eggs and freezing them for later use.)
Ok, so what to bring?
Ask yourself: “Is it for comfort or medically related?”
I recognize that everyone’s needs may be different in what they NEED to bring (do you really need to bring liquid coconut milk because of the perceived lack of dairy-free options for your morning cuppa? At least here in Sofia, there are plenty of stores with dairy-free creamer options).
Packing for a trip for a medical procedure, like egg freezing or IVF, requires a little extra finesse in selecting what goes into the suitcase. Perhaps a few emails to your airline carrier (I used Lufthansa) to get a little extra baggage allowance (be sure to use medical baggage allowance) to be able to bring some of the things I needed to be able to take (I had quite a large supplement collection). I actually got to speak with one amazing Lufthansa representative who arranged for a live call after our trading emails because my flight was due to depart the following day. (Yea!… nice people are so amazing!)
Just be warned: it has to be medically related if it goes in the extra allowance bag. The representative cautioned me that anything not medically related would have to be removed. (Of course, when I got to the airport no one checked my bag but I leave that to you to chance!)
Here are the tangible items I brought with me on the trip that really made a difference and recommend for your egg freezing procedure or IVF abroad!
1). Vitamins and supplements-this one is kind of obvious but the number of vitamins and supplements you will likely be bringing is worth trying to get the extra baggage allowance from your airline. Throw in the next few related items listed below and you nearly fill a small carry-on!
2) A heating pad (and power converters) really made a difference for me! Cramps may be an issue for you. They certainly were so for me; I am so glad that I brought the heating pad with me!
3). An acupuncture Mat. I brought an acupuncture mat as well. I love it and I use it on anything sore, I used it on my back and calves from all the walking one does when in Europe. When folded in on itself it makes a nice cushion in the luggage. It’s a bit bulky but not altogether huge, I actually got this item into the medical allowance bag. Available on Amazon.
4). A pot and pan. I actually picked this tip up from one of the Facebook fertility groups and I am so glad that I brought these! I brought two small cooking pots with lids. These cooking pans are from Greenpan. As I was staying in various AirBnB’s, I had no idea what their cooking pot situation was going to be…I was worried that I was going to be stuck with the Teflon-lined aluminum pans to cook with. I usually cooked one small meal a day in the AirBnb depending on mood (and lack of will to go out and get dinner) based on that day’s clinic visit. Yes, the pots took up valuable weight in my luggage but I am so glad that I brought them and made terrific use of them!
5). Travel size safe-beauty products. I knew that I would likely be shopping for beauty products while over here (I didn’t think it was necessary to stuff my luggage with things I knew I could buy over here like panty-liners and soap) so I only brought trial-size beauty products to get me through the first couple of weeks (and also have a built-in excuse to pop into some of the local beauty stores!)
6). A spare backpack (or two). My carry-on backpack holds my laptop and iPad and was a bit bigger than the size I prefer to take to the clinic with and run around town doing errands etc. I found and brought a little backpack from Kavu that was adjustable and slung across the body making it super easy to carry and distribute the weight equally in the event I found some glass bottles of water (glass bottles of water weren’t impossible to find but they weren’t as easily found as plastic bottles of water and I was trying to avoid as much plastic as possible). The second backpack was just a collapsable backpack picked up at IKEA. Great to carry like an extra bag. I walked to the store for everything so being able to use a backpack was a huge help!
7). A pill container. These were actually handy if I was taking a day tour on a clinic-off day, or other travel days, and would be away from the Airbnb and needed to take my supplements.
8). A book (or several at risk of the peril of your friends’ ridicule). Eating alone in restaurants, long waits at the clinic, or temporary lack of Wifi, I was thankful for the company of a good book. I brought something inspirational (or two), personal interest, and of course something on IVF.
The super helpful intangibles!
- Getting a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Totally self-explanatory but why not save a few dollars particularly if you are going to be out of the country for several months?
- An Uber-like taxi app. I used Yellow! as a taxi app it was super easy getting back and forth from my airBnB and the clinic, or anywhere else I wanted to go in Sofia.
- A VPN! For the obvious reasons!
- Yuka App to be able to scan the bar codes of beauty and food products to access the rating on how ‘healthy’ they are to consumers. This was so important being that I was unfamiliar with the brands of soap, toothpaste, and shampoo I was purchasing in the normal supermarkets that I could tell were not health food supermarkets.
- Setting up an account with WISE. This was really beneficial in making the payments to the clinic more easily and securely. Some clinics prefer certain payment methods over others for certain things like actual procedures and the medicines. Also please note that many clinics will not accept American Express. Please check with your clinic. With WISE, it seems like you are adding a middleman but wiring to WISE first and then entrusting them to wire the money onward to reach the clinic’s accounts did add an extra layer of security. I learned the hard way after ‘losing’ a wire!
After arriving in Sofia, buying local essential oils like rose and lavender was really nice for headaches and nausea. (Bulgaria is famous for its rose oil production)
The second purchase I really appreciated was no-see socks. After walking blocks and blocks in Europe, having the little socks were a huge help to make my no-sock-in-sneaker-look way more practical. Especially since the preferred look is either no-visible-sock or the biggest white tube socks you could find. Little compromise in the sock fashion.
This is a personal preference but I also really enjoyed visiting stationery and school supply shops to see if there is a new inspiring and juicy pen I could pick up (since I do like to write and often begin with pen and paper). In one of these shops, I picked up a durable folder that could hold European document sizes to keep all of my paperwork from the clinic in order.
You may ask, “What do I wish I had before I left?”
That’s easy. A power of attorney.
If you have a TO, trusted other, a power of attorney for a specified range of dates is helpful in order to carry on and not miss a beat. I found that I could have used a power of attorney with some real estate issues while I was in Sofia. It’s a nice-to-have, not a dealbreaker.
I tried to keep this list as universal yet practical as possible. What did I miss?
Let me know what you brought that was super helpful to you or let me know if you are debating on whether to bring a particular something!
Babydust and Bon Voyage!