As you probably can tell from this blog, I have been doing a lot of traveling this year. Ever since I arrived in France for my teaching job in September, I made it a goal to see as much of Europe as possible, in the brief eight months that I am here.
So far during my stay in France, I have gone to around eight different countries (not including France itself), as well as so many cities (whether for visiting or in passing) that I have lost count- at a certain point, I stopped counting! There’s really just too many to remember!
Of course, I am not stopping yet; I still have about two months left of work, of staying in Europe, before I need to head home to the United States. Still have places that I want to see and explore, and am actually in the process of planning my next vacation, which is to come very, very soon. 😉
That said, since I do so much traveling, preparing and packing for each trip as become almost reflexive for me: I know exactly what I need to bring, how much of it, and so forth. I would like to share the things that I always bring during my travels, the essentials that might help you, whether a seasoned traveler or an inspiring one, on your next vacation!
Without further ado, let’s get to it! 🙂
Things to Bring While Traveling
1. Enough pairs of clothes. Yes, packing clothes is a no-brainer, especially if you’ll be out of town for several days. The next step, however, is to know how many pairs you need to bring during the time away. It can be tricky, calculating the number of days and the number of shirts/pants/underwear that you need.
Having packed clothes many times so far, I would say that one should pack enough underwear for each day that one is away (therefore, seven pairs of underwear for seven days of travel). Shirts, pants, even socks, can have less pairs, as you can wear the same ones perhaps two days in a row; might sound gross, but it depends on you and how much you’re going out, sweating, etc. There are exceptions, however: if you have access to a laundry machine while on vacation, then packing less pairs shouldn’t be a problem.
Overall speaking, knowing when you will and won’t be changing clothes and showering is important, as it is necessary to find a balance between packing too little and taking your entire wardrobe on vacation.
*great tip. To save space in your bag/luggage, roll up your clothes; it really works!
2. Put liquids in small (100 mL) bottles. Especially if you’ll be flying out of the country with only your backpack, putting things like shampoo, toothpaste, and face wash into tiny containers will save you from having to throw them away during security checks at the airport; I admit, I have had to throw away face wash on my way to Lisbon from Madrid, as I had thought that I could get away with my half-empty, 115 mL bottle (not the case!). Save yourself the stress by purchasing the travel container kit (can be found almost anywhere, and for cheap!) and putting your liquids in them before departure.
3. Bags, bags, and more bags. There is no limit to how many plastic bags that I bring on my travels. Yes, I already have my backpack (for storing things like clothes, toiletries, and paper documents) and small bag (for everything else), but the rest like food and my umbrella go into plastic bags. I also have some extra ones on hand for storing dirty clothes and whatnot. Save them: they are very useful!
4. Sandals (or slippers). Now, for the first couple of trips that I had gone on, I hadn’t thought about bringing an extra pair of footwear; I thought only my tennis shoes (since I did a lot of walking around) would suffice. However, while not completely necessary, having sandals or slippers for indoor wear is beneficial, especially in hostels (where one has to share the living space with many other people) and in other people’s homes. Not only does it help with sanitation, but it also is a sign of respecting the place where you’re staying.
5. Lotion, lip balm, and band-aids. Three little, otherwise forgettable items that actually make all the difference in terms of staying comfortable outside of home. My hands and lips get easily chapped, and so I always am applying them to my skin every few hours. And I never know if I will accidentally cut myself on something (as I did while in Lille, with the hostel’s door-lock, which was sharp!) that I will need to use a band-aid. Safety first!
6. Necessary documents. Aka your passport, booking reservations for flights, transportation, and lodging. While I have seen people just taking screen-shots of their reservations, sometimes they aren’t accepted, for some reason. I make sure to print out all documents before I leave (since I don’t have a functioning printer in my flat, I rely on my school’s printer- sneaky, sneaky!). 😉
7. Food. Now, this sounds a bit strange, as you might expect just to spend money on food when dining out at your intended destination. And I admit, I love visiting a place just to try the local cuisine, willing to spend some money for a nice dinner or dessert. However, it is not always necessary to go out every night, every meal, to buy food, as it very quickly adds up. Doing some grocery shopping before, as well as during your trip, will end up saving a ton in spending. Simple things like a loaf of bread, apples, and other non-perishable items will keep you covered for three to four days- and for very little cost!
Also, if you’re staying in a hostel or Couchsurfing, those places ought to have refrigerators and access to the kitchen, and so you can cook while away!
8. Notebooks. For me, I bring two notebooks: a standard journal for recounting my travels (which can run for pages and pages) and a smaller one for keeping track of spending; every time I buy something, I make note of that in my notebook, in order to budget my money while on vacation. Tallying it up in the end helps with even better budgeting the next time around! I also use my small notebooks to write down directions to places (in case Google Maps decides to fail me), as well as a list of places that I would like to see, or are worth seeing in the city.
9. Music and/or books. You might think that you’ll always be having things to do while traveling, and be too busy to rest. However, what might surprise you to believe is that there will be at least some free time between days of travel; sometimes, you might be too drained to go out for the whole day, and would prefer to stay in the hostel for the morning. Having music and books on hand helps you to take a break– physically and mentally– while on vacation. I also use music to pass the time while on long train rides from one city to the next- helps to have a good playlist! 😛
10. An open mind. True, traveling itself opens one’s mind, but also having one before hitting the road is really important. There will be moments when things don’t go the way as planned (e.g. delayed trains, a less-than-stellar hostel), and it is necessary to remain cool and calm about all of that. Being easily upset makes no difference to the situation at hand, and so it’s pointless to do so. Also being willing to meet new people, trying different cuisines, and challenging yourself in ways other than what you’re accustomed to are, in the end, very enriching.
For me, I can say that I have changed since starting my travels back in October; not dramatically, but I can see the difference in terms of how I interact with people, how I deal with change, and so forth. All’s not perfect, but I am happy to see how far I have come through these great experiences while traveling.
…all right, that’s about it for me! I am sure that there can be more on this list, so if you have something to add, don’t hesitate to Comment on this post! Thanks, and take care. 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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