Some people go to World Youth Day to visit the country where it’s taking place. Some go to experience new cultures and meet people from around the world. Some go to deepen their faith. And some go to see the Pope. Whatever your reason, you can’t help but be reminded that even with our differences and diversity, we are all together in Christ.
But before you do all that, make sure you’ve checked everything off your list. Here are our recommendations for just about everything.
When you go to World Youth Day, you’re going to be carrying your belongings around quite a bit. So the name of the game is to pack light. We strongly recommend bringing just one bag: either a travel backpack or a carry-on bag with shoulder straps. (You can find some anti-theft bags with slash-proof material and special lock features for your protection and peace of mind.)
As you pack, remember that Portugal’s best weather of the year occurs in late July/early August. Expect temperatures to be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and in the higher 60s at night, with comfortable humidity. Rain is unlikely, but it could happen.
Keep in mind that even though the humidity will be comfortable, it will be very hot! You’ll need to keep sunscreen on and drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated through the miles of walking.
With all that in mind, here’s a quick look at what to pack:
- Short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts. Moisture-wicking is generally the best kind to keep you comfortable all day.
- Durable pants. Choose pants that are durable, comfortable, and lightweight to get you through all that walking.
- Comfortable shorts. Keep in mind your knees and shoulders must be covered when you visit religious sites.
- Pajamas. Bring pajamas that aren’t too warm or too lightweight. You’ll want to stay warm during your night under the stars, but you won’t want to be uncomfortable the rest of the time.
- Sweat-absorbing socks. You also might want to bring a bandana or sweat-absorbing headband.
- Lightweight, weatherproof jacket with a hood and umbrella for unexpected rain or wind.
- Durable shoes that have been broken in. To help prevent blisters, don’t bring new shoes you haven’t walked in.
- Travel detergent so you can easily hand-wash your clothes. We really don’t recommend bringing an outfit for each day. Instead, bring a couple pieces of clothing and just wash them in a sink or tub.
- A clothesline and clothespins to make it easier to dry your hand-washed clothes.
- Protection from the hot sun you’ll be walking in all day:
- A baseball cap or sun hat.
- Plenty of sunscreen with the highest SPF you can find.
- Travel-size toiletries like soap, deodorant, shampoo, etc. If you are staying at a hotel, you may not need shampoo or soap. Talk to your group leader so you know what toiletries, if any, will be provided on your trip.
- A water bottle or canteen. Make sure it will either fit in your backpack without spilling. The water is safe to drink in Portugal, so you’ll be able to refill your bottle.
- Compact microfleece sleeping bag and small pillow for your night under the stars. Some pilgrims also like to bring an inflatable raft for this occasion or to use every night if they will not be staying at a hotel.
- Quick-drying camping towel and some washcloths. You probably won’t need these if you are staying in a hotel.
- Adapter plug (like this one) and USB adapter to fit European outlets. Bring your phone charger and earbuds, too!
- Any necessary medications. Generally it’s helpful to have acetaminophen or ibuprofen for headaches and an antacid and probiotic for digestion in case a new food upsets your stomach. Of course, bring any medications you take on a regular basis, in their original bottles.
- High-energy snacks. Pack granola bars, high-energy protein bars, trail mix, nuts—any non-perishable snack that will keep you going through the long days!
- Your valid, up-to-date passport. Keep this with your wallet at all times. Take a photo of your passport on your smartphone so you have a backup copy in case your physical copy is lost or stolen. If you don’t have a passport, start your application here. If your passport is out of date, renew your application here. Note that routine processing takes 6-8 weeks so get started as soon as possible (there are expedited options if you need it faster).
- Spending money. You can get euros at your local bank before you depart, or you can bring cash, a credit or debit card, or all of the above.
- Hand-held AM/FM radio with earphones. All World Youth Day events are transmitted over the radio, so we’re going old school on this one. It’s incredibly helpful if you want to listen to the Pope in your own native language! You can find a handheld radio on Amazon.
- Money belt or small anti-theft bag. No matter where you go, you never can be too careful with your money, ID, and passport, especially when you will be in the midst of massive crowds. If you are bringing a bag rather than a money belt, absolutely do not let it out of your sight. If you are bringing a money belt, wear it under your clothing and do not take it off except to shower.
- Medium/heavy duty tarp. Those blue tarps you can find at Home Depot or Lowe’s will be super helpful at the outdoor Vigil. You can share it with four or five other pilgrims, and it will make sleeping outside way more comfortable. Trust us, you will be glad you brought one!
- Some books for the plane ride.
- Items to trade with other pilgrims. A popular thing to do is trade items with other pilgrims from all over the world. Bring small trinkets or religious items such as keychains, bracelets, pins, magnets, rosaries, religious medals, or prayer cards. Small and lightweight is key since you the more you bring, the more you can trade! Country-themed items are also really popular. Anything that has a U.S. flag will be a hot item. Some pilgrims even trade shirts, hats, flags, and other larger items.
You are going to do quite a lot of walking on this pilgrimage. Ask your group leader how many miles a day you should be prepared to walk, then start walking around your neighborhood or a park each day to build your endurance. Make sure you are wearing the shoes and socks you will be wearing on the pilgrimage.
It’s also helpful to load up your bag a week or two in advance so you can practice walking with it on your back. That way you can determine if it is too heavy and if you need to remove any items.
It will be important to have your cell phone in case of an emergency and to stay in touch with your friends and family back home (and to take pictures!) but in general we encourage you to limit your use of technology on this pilgrimage. We recommend leaving your laptop, tablet, electronic games, and other gadgets at home—they’ll only weigh your bag down and increase risk of theft.
Bring Enough Money
Typically $500 is enough spending money for your pilgrimage, but it does vary from person to person. Your tour organizer can help you determine how much money on average you should budget per day. Keep in mind how many souvenirs you plan on purchasing.
As far as what kind of money you can bring, many places in Portugal do not accept American money. The most efficient option is to bring your debit card or ATM card to withdraw euros while you are there. You can also withdraw euros at your bank beforehand if you prefer. Be sure to let your bank know you will be going abroad so they do not freeze your account due to perceived suspicious activity. It’s also helpful to check with your credit card company to see if you can use your credit card in Portugal. When you do withdraw euros, keep in mind that you will need some smaller bills for tipping at restaurants.
Get Travel Insurance
It never hurts to be prepared for the unexpected. Most Americans’ medical insurance will not work overseas, which is why Verso Ministries’ World Youth Day package includes coverage. Take a look at our recommended travel insurance plans, too. We’ll have your back in the event of trip cancellation and other unforeseen circumstances.
Learn All You Can
The more you know about where you’re going, the more exciting it will be! Here are a few ways you can prepare your mind for this exciting adventure.
- Discover some fun facts about Portugal’s history. At World Youth Day you’ll be surrounded by people from just about every culture, but you’ll have a more enriching experience when you have a deeper grasp on the significance of the country you’re visiting. Plus, when you see a famous landmark, you’ll already know what it is!
- Read up on Portugal’s pilgrimage sites—the country is filled with them! Of course, the most famous of all is Fatima, but there are plenty of others you’ll want to know about before you make this journey.
- Learn everything you can about World Youth Day, like how it began and why it’s important. It can also be enlightening to do a little research on Catholicism in other countries. For example, in some countries Catholics can’t openly practice their faith like we can in the United States, so you may see some groups shocked and elated at the fact that everyone can sing and praise Jesus or even attend Mass without reprimand.
Pray and Journal
With all the practical preparation going on, it can be easy to lose sight of the most important preparation of all: preparing your heart for this spiritual journey! Here are some ideas on how to deepen your prayer life and cultivate your relationship with Jesus so you can be as open as possible to his love and guidance on your trip:
- Choose at least one prayer intention to bring with you on this pilgrimage, whether it’s for you or someone you love.
- Enhance your daily prayer routine. For example, if you already pray a Rosary each day, consider adding a Memorare or a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Or choose a prayer from one of your favorite saints.
- Find things to offer up in the days leading up to your trip. For example, if packing is stressing you out, turn that over to God as a prayer.
- Ask your family and friends for prayer intentions to bring with you to the various pilgrimage sites in Portugal (especially Fatima). Consider bringing a few postcards with you so you can send them to those you are praying for, letting them know where and when you prayed for them or thought of them on your trip.
- On the flip side, ask others to pray for you as well!
- Ask God for the grace to turn every travel mishap or stressful moment into an opportunity to grow and praise him.
- Even if it’s not Lent, try fasting. You could fast from your favorite food or from a meal one day a week, or you could fast from an activity you enjoy or from a bad habit. Fasting helps us turn our minds to God as well as offer up little daily sufferings to him, and from a practical standpoint it can also help you prepare for the hunger or impatience you may experience during your pilgrimage while your group waits in a long line for lunch or you can’t get a snack as quickly as you hoped.
Another wonderful way to prepare your heart is to meditate on the theme for World Youth Day 2023: “Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39).
You can try starting a prayer journal to collect your thoughts and focus your heart on what this theme could mean for you. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you pore over this powerful Bible verse:
- What first inspired you to make this pilgrimage?
- What does a pilgrimage to World Youth Day mean for you?
- As you read Luke 1:39, what jumps out at you? What thoughts and feelings are you experiencing?
- In what ways are you like Mary in this verse?
- What does this verse mean to you personally?
Be sure to pack your journal so you can continue to ponder these questions, write your memories, and record the ways God speaks to your heart during your journey.
A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to World Youth Day! Pack well and prepare your mind and spirit for this amazing journey, and get ready for a week in Lisbon you’ll never forget.