You can find most of the appliances you use every day in the United States while in Europe, but sometimes it just makes sense to bring your own things. This is especially true of expensive portable products that are difficult to replace, like laptops and personal DVD players. When you want to use your American appliances in Europe, you can turn to voltage converters and plug adaptors to get the job done. Depending on the appliances you want to use them for, these products can be inexpensive and easy to transport.
Find the voltage/hertz requirements on the appliance you want to take. Many devices list the voltage/hertz on a label attached to the power cord, but if your appliance doesn't have a label, check the location where the power source goes into the product. All American appliances will operate on 110 volts/60 hertz, but some devices will contain internal converters that allow them to work with the European convention of 220 volts/50 hertz as well. If your appliance contains such a converter, it will usually indicate somewhere on the product that it can handle up to 240 volts.
Purchase a voltage converter for products you need to take with you but that don't contain an internal converter. Voltage converters vary greatly in size and price, depending primarily on the size of the appliance and the quality of the conversion.
Buy a plug adaptor to use your American appliances in Europe. Plug adaptors tend to be less expensive and easier to come by in the United States. Find out which type of adaptor you need before you leave for Europe. Continental plugs typically use a small, round two-prong plug, while the United Kingdom and Ireland use a larger three-prong plug. ElecticalOutlets.org maintains a comprehensive list of plug and voltage requirements by country to eliminate surprises while travelling. (See Resources.)
Plug your American appliance directly into the plug adaptor or voltage converter. For voltage converters, the appropriate (female) socket will be indicated by an "output--110v" label on the transformer. The plug, or male, end of either the adaptor or converter should insert into the wall without any problems. Appliances using just plug adaptors will be ready for use, but those needing voltage converters will need both the appliance and the converter to remain on during use.
Check your appliance periodically to guard against overheating. Both appliances with internal converters and those using external transformers can be prone to overheating. This can be especially problematic for hair appliances and can result in singeing and burning during use.
Purchase small appliances, like hair dryers and curling irons, when you get to Europe. These types of American appliances have the most difficulties with power conversion, and they often don't work right even when a power converter is used.
If your appliance is still under warranty, plugging it into a European socket, even if it is technically capable of handling the voltage conversion, may void your warranty if something goes wrong. Never force an American plug into a UK outlet. Although the prongs may fit in the socket, forcing the plug could cause serious damage to both your appliance and the electrical wiring in the building.