Many of you may have the desire to travel around, or have done it already, but got caught up in the small details. I’m hoping to ease some of the tension that comes with that. In many cases, the difficulty of traveling stems from deciding what to take with you. As someone who ventures out a lot (into both civilized society and wilderness), I’ve compiled a list of necessities, as well as the precise reason why you need them. Everyone likes to do something a little different when they travel; this list is more of a guideline than an actual rule. Be sure to check out other blogs or articles to help you find what works for you!
The Reason: This is a no-brainer, but when traveling around Europe it’s easy to think you can leave it behind because of the European Union. DO NOT LEAVE IT BEHIND. I have never had anything happen to me when I was without my passport, but I spent all day worrying about it. That isn’t a stressor you need in your life when you’re traveling.
My Advice: get a wallet that can hold your passport, your money, and your IDs so that you never leave anything behind if you’re in a hurry. Or if you can’t fit your whole passport, make a copy of it and fold the paper up into your wallet so you at least have proof of a passport. Just in case.
Backpack or Cross-body Purse
The Reason: Carrying a purse around is difficult, and if it isn’t a cross-body purse, it is more likely to be lost or left behind somewhere. Backpacks distribute the weight best; the weight should be distributed closer to the hips, not the shoulders, because of where a person’s center of gravity is. Backpacks also usually hold more than a purse does, so if it’s a long trip, a backpack is a better choice.
My Advice: I am a huge fan of cross-body purses because they leave both hands free, while also allowing me access to its contents. However, if it seems a bit too heavy to carry around all day, I recommend a small backpack that you can fit everything into, but is also comfortable. Sherpani makes good travel bags, and you can find tons of options and other brands at stores like REI.
The Reason: This is probably a no-brainer as well. Many places in Europe and around the world don’t offer free water, and some charge for bathrooms as well.
My Advice: Having a water bottle on hand is a smart choice, and depending on where you’re going, it might be handy to invest in a portable water-treatment system (I would go into a store to ask for advice on this) that you can use every time you fill up your bottle (using the sink tap from a bathroom or a water fountain). The bottle shouldn’t be too big, though, or it starts to get heavy. I like S’Well Bottle 9oz., because it fits into most bottle holders and cup holders, but is small enough to carry with you everywhere.
Change of Socks and Underwear
The Reason: Many times I’ve been bumped off a flight, or had one delayed or even cancelled entirely. If that happens and you end up being stuck in an airport or train station overnight, it’s handy to have a spare pair of underwear, and socks if you’re wearing them. These are good to have even if you just happen to get caught in the rain. Nobody likes to wear wet socks.
My Advice: Stuff a pair of underwear into one sock, and then roll the socks together like normal. It keeps the set compact and easy to pack. If you need to change, head to a restroom, or if you’re just that good, find a corner and do the ol’ switcheroo. REI and other travel stores also sell underwear and socks that dry rapidly, so you can wash them and have them dry overnight for you to wear the next day!
The Reason: When traveling, it’s easier to not wear any makeup. However, if you’re like me, your skin tends to get a bit oily and shiny by the end of the day, and if left like that, can cause breakouts. Sometimes there are no resources available to be able to wash your face twice a day, so the powder is great to be able to control oil day by day.
My Advice: Get a small compact of your favorite brand of makeup (if you don’t have one, I recommend Almay or Pixi Beauty). The less comedogenic the makeup is, the better. I personally prefer mineral powders, but if you have a brand you know and love, stick with it. Sometimes traveling means you don’t get to shower or bathe as much, so translucent powder is great to use for both skin and as a dry shampoo. Simply rinse your face with water, if available, and then apply powder.
The Reason: Nothing ruins traveling more than a horrible sunburn. Except maybe bad bug bites. Even in the northern reaches of Europe, sunblock is needed. The temperature of a region can be deceiving: if its cold outside you might think you don’t need sunscreen, but on the contrary: in winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is actually CLOSER to the Earth than in summer.
My Advice: Find a good sunblock and put some into a small travel tub to take with you. Keep in mind, anything that is over 45 SPF doesn’t protect you any more than an extra .01%, so don’t blow all your money on 100 SPF sunblocks. I recommend sunblock that contains Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. If your translucent powder has some SPF, that’s an added bonus, but don’t forego actual sunblock for makeup. For liquid sunblock, I recommend Elta MD Broad-Spectrum or Badger Balm, and for dry sunblock, I recommend Innovative Skincare SPF 20 Powder Sunscreen (which also doubles as a translucent powder!).
The Reason: One word: mosquitoes. Bug repellant with DEET is the best way to go about keeping you from being eaten alive on any continent.
My Advice: If you’re opposed to using DEET and you know of a bug repellant without it that actually works, please tell me, because I get eaten alive about 90% of the time I’m outside. Taking a whole canister of bug spray with you isn’t a very good idea, as you could get caught in airports, or it could explode in your pack. However, Off! makes a small, portable bug spray about the size of a pen. It contains 7% DEET, which is good for anyone who isn’t venturing into the deep woods like I do quite often. Use it to spray the edges of your clothing and your exposed skin every 2-3 hours.
The Reason: When I visited Stockholm, I didn’t have a phone that could access GPS or internet, and almost nowhere had internet I could access with my iPad. Thankfully, I was able to stop into a hotel and pick up a few maps of the city to use. When traveling, you may never find a place that offers free Wifi, or any Wifi at all. If you’re lucky, you can get the Wifi password with the purchase of a cup of coffee.
My Advice: Scope out the region you’re visiting ahead of time, and if you can, find some maps. If you can’t get any maps of the area, make sure you know where the hotels are, or where you can get a map as soon as you get there. Knowing how to get around the area without using technology is essential.
Money (in Cash Form)
The Reason: I don’t know anyone who travels anywhere without buying at least one thing. That being said, the less you buy the better (because you’ll have to carry it all with you), but having cash on hand is better than a debit or credit card. Some places can’t or won’t take US cards because they don’t have a chip in them, but some small vendors also just prefer to deal in cash. Many restrooms cost a few cents, and you can’t pay electronically. Some places also charge to use the phone, or have pay phones, if you need to call anyone (which I don’t recommend unless you want to pay for long-distance calls).
My Advice: Make sure that you make a stop at the ATM and withdraw $100-200 (or in the equivalent of that region). Having the cash will also prevent you from buying anything frivolous because you’ll be forced to budget your money. I even suggest writing out beforehand what your expenses are going to be for that trip before you go, so you can look at it when/if you’re shopping for any souvenirs. As a shopaholic, this method has helped me save several hundred dollars, because it forces me to seriously think about what souvenirs I will actually value in the future.
Notebook and Pencil/Pen
The Reason: I’ve ended up in a few places where I wish I had written down the local sayings or taken notes about how a certain item was crafted.
My Advice: Don’t bring a 8.5×11 notebook, that takes up too much space. Instead, being a notebook half that size, and before you go, look up different phrases that may be useful (“Where is the bathroom?”, “How much is this?”, etc.) and write them down, both in the language and with the phonetic spelling next to it, so if you need to read it, you can. When you’re out and about, you can also use the notebook to write down any interesting things you saw, or any souvenirs you liked that you can order online, or come back to later. I also use the notebook to store my List of Expenses, so everything is in one place.
Granola Bar or Trail Mix
The Reason: While visiting a region, you’ll want to sample the local food. Sometimes though, you may be allergic to what they’re serving (I’m allergic to dill, a major spice used in Northern Europe), or just way too weirded out by it (Cantonese cuisine includes monkey brain).
My Advice: Don’t buy the snacks when you’re already over there, but don’t bring so many with you that all you eat is granola. Save your snacks for emergency situations only. Sample the local food, and if you like it, HOORAY! If you don’t, then you can eat your granola bar or find something there that you do like. In the northern ends of the globe, you can often find bakeries or baked goods, and nearer to the equator it’s easy to find fresh produce, like fruit. Know where you’re going and what the food options are like.
Raincoat or Sweater:
The Reason: This is optional. If you’re going to Egypt, I seriously doubt you’ll need either of these options, but if you’re visiting the UK, a raincoat and a sweater are very smart things to bring.
My Advice: Know the local climate for the particular time of year you are visiting. And if you do happen to get caught in the rain somewhere, or get wet, you have your change of underwear and socks already!
If you’re taking any electronics with you (like a phone or a tablet), bring along the USB charging cable, and consider investing in a portable battery pack (mophie is a good brand), which you can charge by plugging it into the wall, then take with you to charge your phone or tablet when their power gets low.
If you are traveling for more than 24 hours, I recommend investing in portable soaps, or if you are like me and prefer to use less soap, I recommend the Konjac sponge to gently scrub off dirt, dead skin, sunblock, bug spray, and anything else that might be on your skin. Wet it, use it (you can add a little soap if you want for extra cleansing power), then try to let the sponge dry back out. If you can’t, slip it into a plastic bag to take with you without getting anything else wet.
Make sure to check the weather for wherever you’re traveling to! If you’re traveling to Greenland, you’re going to need completely different clothing than if you’re going to Argentina. Be aware of the season you’re traveling into. If you’re from the Northern Hemisphere, and are going to go to Australia for the summer, keep in mind that it will be winter in Australia when you’re visiting, so the seasonal weather may be immensely different than what you might expect. While the rainy season of a region may make it cheaper for traveling, it may also make it more dangerous and more difficult to travel to and through.
Do you have any travel accessory advice? Let me know in the comments!
**My friend just reminded me that a deck of cards is a good thing to have in case of delays in a train station or airport! Play solitaire, or if you have a travel buddy, there are dozens of games you could play together!