Travel Essentials For a Chronic Overpacker
Travel Essentials For a Chronic Overpacker
What are the must-have travel essentials to pack on your European vacation, or any vacation for that matter? Ok, so I admit it, I am an over packer and I think that doesn’t even do me justice. I always take my 1 free checked bag and end up paying for a second. Why? Well, I need to be ready for anything and I also like to brings lots of gifts from home. The thing is I have a home base in Germany so the only headache two suitcases give me is to and from the airport.
Now if I was traveling around a country there is NO WAY I would or could haul this much stuff around with me. I learned the hard way backpacking Poland for 2 weeks. I had a backpack and a small carry-on roller bag and that was still way too much to cart around day after day. Trust me YOU DO NOT NEED TO TAKE AS MUCH AS YOU THINK YOU DO. Yes, I am screaming that because it is the truth. I would be generous if I said I end up wearing 1/2 of what I take. Even though you think that dress for a hypothetical night on the town is necessary, it’s not.
So what are the must-haves, the travel essentials everyone should consider? After all my travels I have realized there are some items that I pack time and time again and time and time again I am happy that I did. This isn’t a packing list but rather a list of practical items I think are essential for traveling abroad.
Ok, yes, of course, you need shoes but I mean really good comfortable shoes. At a bare minimum this is what I recommend for travel packing:
1 pair of hiking boots. Get a decent pair of lightweight, waterproof hiking boots even if you don’t plan on hiking. They are great for everyday wear and have saved my behind in a downpour or two. My favorite pair is the Sugarpine Boot by Ahnu. At $140.00 they may seem a little pricey but they are SO worth it. I have two pairs and even bought one for a friend as a gift.
1 pair of sandals in the summer or other more “dressy” shoes for the winter. Make sure it’s a neutral color something that you can potentially pair with all your outfits if needed. Also, make them something lightweight (this will be a theme).
1 pair of Nikes or similar. I know, almost all other advice will tell you how Nikes are SO not in style and by wearing a pair of tennis shoes, particularly in Europe, this will brand you as an American but forget that nonsense. This advice is old. Nikes, and really all tennis shoes Adidas, New Balance, you name it are on trend in Europe. When you have aching and tired feet nothing feels better than slipping on your ‘tennies.
Depending on what your plans are and what kind of accommodations you will be staying in you might also want to consider a pair of flip-flops or similar for the showers if you are staying in a hostel. I know there is nothing that grosses me out more than having to go bare footed in a communal shower room…ewww!
The key here is to make sure these shoes are comfortable; make sure you have broken them in before you leave. Don’t go buy a brand new pair of shoes and wait till you touch down in Frankfurt to put them on. Try them out before hand and make sure that they are comfortable and you can wear them for long extended periods of walking. You will do a lot of walking in Europe. This is not the US where you drive and park at every destination, Europe requires walking and nothing ruins an amazing trip like getting a huge blister 3 days in with 10 days left to go.
This is something you must take with you. This is a travel essential because without them you won’t be able to charge your American pronged gadgets. Ok, yes you can buy them there, but they are cheaper and easier to find if you buy them at home and pack them in your suitcase. Not every country in Europe uses the same plugs so do a quick google search and find which one you need or if you are visiting multiple countries you can invest in a universal converter that accommodates all the different plug types.Whatever type you end up buying buy two. It’s not fun having to alternate between charging your cell phone and Ipad or Ipad and Ebook..just take two and problem solved. You can buy a pack of three travel converters for cheap on Amazon. It makes it real easy to you just select which country you are going to and viola.
On a tangent here but also make sure any electrical device you take is dual voltage. Most all electronics nowadays, like your Ipad or smart phone, are but this also goes for other things like curling irons or hair straighteners. Check to be sure BEFORE you take it.
I would recommend investing in a nice, lightweight, water-resistant packable down jacket. This type of jacket is light enough to wear on a chilly spring night and on a cold winter day. It might even come in handy in August when you would think the weather would be nice and warm but instead is cold and windy. Typically these jackets aren’t cheap but they are versatile travel investment pieces that will last. My advice is to buy one in the off-season when you can get one on clearance and not in the dead of winter when everyone and their brother is shopping for one.
The only time I would opt for a regular rain jacket would be mid-summer. Otherwise go with the lightweight down but just please take one or the other. You will use it.
This might be a wasted item for some people because you most likely can get any over the counter medicine or equivalent that you need in Europe BUT it’s not always that easy. You can’t just waltz out to the local Wal-Mart at 1:00 am when you can’t sleep and need your NyQuil. I am not suggesting to pack an arsenal of medicines but take some basic ones in a simple weekly pill organizer. I usually take Ibuprofen, Azo, Allergy Pills, Anti-Diarrheal pills, and after a recent incident, will start packing something like NyQuil.
Again, yes you can find equivalents to these in the country you’re visiting, but when you are sick the last thing you want to do is visit the pharmacy, where they may or may not speak English, and try to explain to the pharmacist you need something for excessive diarrhea. The pizza and gelato in Italy are AMAZING but your stomach might not always agree with you. Trust me…just bring some with you.
Bring both. Would you believe I actually know people who have considered traveling with only cash? WHY, would you do that? Not only would it give me anxiety to have that much cash on me but it is also not practical.
However, don’t expect to put everything on your credit card and pay it when you get home. You will need cash. Usually, I end up using cash far more than I do my credit cards. That is not to say you can’t use your credit cards if you choose but there are some places that only take cash. If your credit and debit card has a chip and pin system then you are one step ahead of the game because the chip and pin is common place in Europe whereas the magnetic slide strip is not.
Typically I make large withdrawals from the ATM. Usually around 400 Euros at a time or whatever the maximum withdrawal amount is for the ATM. The reason being is that my bank charges me a fee for each withdrawal. On average it seems somewhere around $25 total for each 400 euros I withdraw. This can add up so I try to get the most bang for my buck.
Of course, each financial institution is different so check with them before you go. Also, make sure you have a credit card that does not charge an international transaction fee. Unfortunately, most cards do. It best advised to find one that does not because these fees add up so quickly and it’s a bummer to have to spend your hard-earned vacation savings on stupid misc. bank and credit card fees.
This is kind of like the OTC med advice. Yes, you can find hair products and makeup in Europe but believe me, most brands will be much more expensive than in the US. If there is a specific mascara you can’t live without TAKE IT WITH YOU if there is a specific hairspray you can’t do you hair without TAKE IT WITH YOU. Unless of course, you have loads of money to spend on things you already own or would pay 25% less for back home just make room for them in your suitcase.
If you’re in a pinch you can find discount brands for your favorite equivalents in most stores but if you are looking for MAC, Lancome, Maybelline, Big Sexy Hair…whatever…you will pay more in Europe than in the US that is just the bottom line. One product I absolutely have to take with me every time I go is the Soya Want It All 22 in 1 Leave-In-Conditioner and my Clarisonic MIA. If you forgot something and absolutely can’t live without it try to look for it at the Duty-Free Shops in the Airport.
Think something functional and not something trendy. Having a name brand purse isn’t such a big deal as it is in the US. Don’t get me wrong they have all the name brands there but there isn’t “purse envy” like in the US. Take a purse that works for every day; nothing too big that makes your arm feel like falling off after 2 hours. I always find that the bigger the purse the more unnecessary stuff I seem to fill it with and there have been many times I wish I would have left most of the contents behind.
Also, depending on where you are visiting, you might think about investing in a purse that has safety features like a RFID protector, slash proof, or that has locks on the zipper. I know that sounds a bit militaristic, and while I have never had the feeling I needed it in Germany, I can’t tell you how thankful I was and how much peace of mind having a purse like this gave me in Italy. Anything from the PacSafe brand works well. The one I particularly love is the PacSafe Citysafe line. They are the right size, super functional, have so many safety features and are well worth the money you will spend on it. I bought the PacSafe Citysafe 200 Handbag about on Amazon 3 years ago and I use it every single time I travel and not just for the safety features. It is practical because the strap actually unhooks and you can hook and lock it around things (think bicycle lock). I love to go to concerts and usually end up at the barrier and it is so nice to attach my purse to the metal bar of the concert barrier instead of having it laying on the floor getting stepped all over.
This isn’t something to pack with you but please do not leave home without it. Just have common courtesy and common sense. Saying please and thank you in any country will go over well. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to educate yourself about where you are traveling. Do a simple Google search and read about the customs, the culture, the safety issues, the potential scams, whatever. Take the time to do a little research. In general, I feel much safer in Europe than I do in the US. “Even with all the terrorist activity?” Yes, even with that (which is not as dramatic as they show on CNN every night) but I do get asked that question all the time. Just be mindful, kind, and aware.
Leave a comment below telling me what you consider travel essentials.
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