i’ll be the first to admit it: for all of my life until now, i have been the Worst packer. up until now, i have always just grabbed a couple things, threw them in a bag, and left. i Still don’t own a suitcase or a toiletry kit. i just bought a backpack a week before my trip (BEST decision ever). i just operate under the mentality that i’ll be able to find whatever i need wherever i go.
something changed for me during the last trip, in part because i am super lucky to have the hyper-organized, ultra-prepared travel partner i did and in part because even though i realize my lack of preparedness is pretty integral to who i am as a person and also is something that’s been beneficial to me in the grander scheme of things, (i’m super flexible and quick-on-my-feet) i realize now how it is oh so nice to be prepared.
my travel partner and i are both backpack people, but on our trip we saw many people with roller-type suitcases, which is really just a matter of personal preference. the obvious benefit of a rolling suitcase is that you’re not carrying any weight. the drawback is that you’re wheeling everything you own through narrow, crowded, cobblestone streets. pick your poison, i suppose. i can say that i personally Really love my backpack. this is the one i have:
i purchased this online from steepandcheap.com, which, if you haven’t heard of, you Need to check out. more on this in another post. the REI backpack lady actually fit me for this one, and then i bought it for less online.
a day bag.
we had one that fit inside the normal backpack, and this was maybe the most important thing we brought. it’s So Nice to have all your things in one spot, and as a bonus, you can bring and have a place to hold extra layers, a water bottle, and a change of shoes (we attached sandals to the outside with a carabiner).
even if you’re not climbing, these things are the most useful little things ever.
a water bottle.
you’re probably going to be walking around a Lot. most places in europe, you pay for water, but very many have fountains outside where you can stop and fill up.
– panties and socks (if you wear panties or socks)
they’re teeny, so there’s really no harm in packing Way more than you
think you will need.
layers are key here. i would bring a couple tank tops, a couple short
sleeves, and a couple long sleeves.
another two-of-every-animal situation. some shorts/skirts, some leggings,
some jeans (if you’re into those things.)
i don’t wear pants, so i forwent the whole top-and-matching-
bottom scenario altogether by wearing a dress virtually the entire trip.
my dresses-only policy is something i can discuss the merits of pretty
extensively, but rather than get into that here, i am going to say that even
if you’re not a dresses-wearer, bring something nice in the event you go
someplace nice or have a hot date.
– a cardigan/light jacket
seriously. i carried this around in the whole time in our day bag and had
it in case i was cold or in case what i was wearing was slutty for church.
(in rome, many of the museums have dress codes, which means show all
all the boob you want, but cover your shoulders).
– a raincoat
no matter how much of a pluviophile you are, if you don’t have one, buy
– shower flip-flops
if you’re concerned about this. probably a valid concern, but i have never
in my life worn flip-flops in the shower and have had no consequence.
or you’ll have to buy a pair when you get there (:
the trickiest part, because they’re likely the heaviest thing you’ll pack. i
brought some wedge heels, flat sandals, approach shoes and climbing
shoes. your list will be obviously contingent on what you’re planning to
do, but at the very least, i would say bring some comfortable walking
shoes and something nicer for going out. i hate wearing shoes so i wore
sandals basically the whole time. one thing you could do is wear some old
shoes you plan to throw away on the trip, that way after you do, you have
freed-up space in your bag in case you want to buy souvenirs. or a two
hundred dollar italian leather jacket.
a wet/laundry bag.
you need some method to separate your clean and dirty clothes, basically right away. we used a wet bag for dirty clothes and this worked very well.
a quickdry/camping towel.
even if you’re not swimming, you may want to have one of these. most hostels provide them, some do not, some say they do and don’t have any. we actually shared one and this worked just fine.
nothing major, just a smallish padlock with a combination or a key. some hostels have lockers and don’t provide them for you.
especially if you’re a light sleeper and especially if you’re going to be sharing a dorm-style hostel.
sunscreen and mosquito repellant.
sunscreen is crucial. even if you’re mexican and you don’t burn. as far as mosquitoes go, they make these spirally mosquito repellers that you wear and are supposedly effective without spreading a melange of toxic chemicals all over your skin. available from REI here: https://www.rei.com/product/101156/bug-bam-mosquito-band-package-of-2?
or amazon here:
all your usual toiletries.
basically, you are going to need every showerthing and sinkthing you normally use. for the shower i brought shampoo, conditoner, a bar of soap, and a razor; for the sink i brought a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and deodorant. the kind i use is a thai salt crystal, which doesn’t have any nasty chemicals (if you care about that) and it is also solid (for carryon purposes) and lasts Forever. the link is here if you’d like to try it, and it comes if you use facial or body lotion, q-tips, tampons, face wash, toner, cotton rounds, perfume, hairspray, body wash, dry shampoo, a hair dryer, curling iron, or straightener, bring those things too. i will say that a very helpful thing is to have two separate toiletry kits, one for showerthings, and one for sinkthings, that way you don’t have to carry everything around when you’re just trying to brush your teeth each night. we color-coded ours with tape to make it easy.
other bathroom things.
other things to not forget: extra hair ties (don’t bring just one, like i did), a brush and comb, nail clippers, and tweezers. when you’re packing, you may think your pedicure is going to last two weeks, it won’t, so bring nail polish too.
an ipad. (?)
bringing laptops seemed way too cumbersome and heavy, but it *would* be nice to be able to do things (book tickets, make reservations, read maps) on a screen bigger than an index card. i actually have an iPad and just didn’t think to bring it, but looking back on it, it would have been helpful.
probably the single most important thing to have, after your passport and cell phone. we considered getting a smaller one since we’re backpacking, but opted to get a larger and more-powerful one and were happy we did. the least number of times you have to charge the thing = the most freedom. it’s extra helpful if you and the people you’re traveling with all have the same chargers. if you have a spare cable, bring it. the connection on mine was intermittent by the end of my trip, and bringing a spare eliminates spending your vacationtime running errands.
make sure you do some research. italy has its own adapter, but the regular european one we had was compatible.
my travel partner and i both just had our iPhones, so our outlet usage was minimal. a lot of european buildings don’t have a million power outlets in every room like we’re used to in the states, and if you guys are bringing laptops and tablets and other electronics, it would be much cheaper to bring one adapter and a power strip than a separate adapter for each and every device and hope there are enough outlets.
thank you cards.
not super necessary, i just think this is nice. i like to thank whoever owns the airbnb i am staying in, the hotel staff, the especially-helpful front desk person, the hotel housekeeper, basically everyone.
a pen and paper/travel journal.
journaling is time consuming, but if you’re taking a lot of trains, it’s a really good opportunity to write things down. even if you’re not into journalling, it’s good to have something to write with and something to write on with you.
if you’re staying with a friend, a gift for them.
this way you don’t have to spend any vacation time shopping for them.
in case you want to mail something to someone back home. just another thing you won’t have to shop for.
first aid kit.
especially important since we were rock climbing, but even you’re not doing anything active/outside, it’s still a good idea.
i forgot mine, but there were a couple times i wished i hadn’t. if you normally take some kind of pain killer it would behoove you to bring it along. something i didn’t consider also is packing some kind of anti-nausea/stomachache treatment. we were lucky enough to not have any issues with that, but i can forsee, since you’re traveling to a new place where you’re not used to eating the typical cuisine, situations where it may be a good idea to Not have to go and find something like that after you’re already sick. planes (and other people) are filthy. bring some airborne and emergenC (and put these in your carryon).
even if you aren’t climbing, headlamps are handy and much less cumbersome than flashlights.
laundry detergent packs.
sever of the places we stayed had washing machines, None had laundry soap. if you get the packs with liquid (like tidepods) you can use them to handwash your clothes in the event that you don’t have a washer. you can even use dental floss to macgyver yourself a clothesline. none of the places we stayed at had a dryer.
even if you don’t have access to a dryer, dryer sheets have the dual purpose of removing static and making your bag smell nice.
a (carefully packed) bottle of wine.
this actually wasn’t my idea, but rather one i read about on the internet. i at first thought it was crazy, but if you’re checking your bag anyway, this can be nice. i would seal it in one of those take-away bags you can get at restaurants. the first night you’re at your destination, you’re going to have just finished traveling all over creation (in my case, for 23 hours) and the first thing you’re going to want to do is eat. after you do that, the next thing you’re going to want to do is sit on your couch or bed with your travel partner and revel in how sedentary you are going to be for the remainder of the night. trust me, it will be nice to already have a bottle of wine to split and it would be greater than or equal to as nice to not have to find a liquor store on the way home. bring a wine key too, so you don’t have to push the cork in. (: