I’ve covered the basics in my bag when I’m packing for Europe. There are probably a few things that you may identify as missing. That’s fine, not everyone will bring exactly the same things, everyone has different needs. There are a few things you really don’t need, though, and you may disagree with me here. Many of the things you don’t need come from travel stores and I’ve already bought them and tried them. Remember, I’ve been doing this for ages. Learn from my mistakes.
“Travel” Clothes- Many companies are making big bucks off of this “Travel Clothing” thing. Ex Officio, Travelsmith, Eddie Bauer all have lines of clothing with special fabrics meant only for travel. This is snake oil. I don’t know who designs this stuff but I’d like to have a talk with them someday. First of all, the styles…vests with many pockets, zip-off leg pants, cargo pants, Safari hats….these items of clothing may be perfect for a jaunt to Namibia or the Amazon, but not for a night out in Paris. They are usually baggy and unflattering in any case. Second, the fabrics. The fabrics are usually synthetics which don’t breathe well and get stinky. Many of those same fabrics are heavy, such as Ponte Knit. Sure, it’s true that it doesn’t wrinkle, but it weighs so much that it’s impossible to pack. You don’t need anything from these catalogs. The clothes you already own probably fit you better and cost you nothing.
Travel Pillows- You know those funny u-shaped pillows meant for the airplane? You don’t need that. It takes up so much space and the amount of time you’ll use it will pale in comparison to the amount of time you’ll be schlepping it around. Get a nice big scarf. Make a pocket by folding it in half. Stuff it with some soft clothes. Voila! Travel pillow.
Excessive Toiletries- This is a place people seem to get hung up. Try hard to trim your beauty supplies down. Simplify your make up and hair products as much as you can bear to. You may feel inclined to bring full sized bottles of things like shampoo because you are afraid of running out. It’s ok. They sell shampoo here too. You may even find something you like better.
Curling Iron- Them’s fightin’ words, I know. Don’t hate me for saying it. Ever thought about trying a new hairstyle? Maybe now would be a good time to try that. Simplify. Seriously. It will improve your trip.
Sleep sack and Travel Towels- If you are staying only in hotels, no hostels, you don’t need to bring your own sheets or a travel towel. Sleep sacks are a must for hostelers but all hotels provide sheets. It is true that Euro towels were pretty skimpy in the past, but that hasn’t been the case for a while. The hotel towels are just as nice and big as yours at home.
US Dollars- This may seem obvious to you, but I still meet people occasionally that think dollars are accepted in Europe. They are not. I met a couple just yesterday that asked me to help them with an ATM, they were unsure if it gave out Euros or USD. Euros only over here in Italy. I never bring US currency anymore. If you do, you’ll have to change it at a bank which costs a lot to do. Bring $100 as an emergency back up if you really want to.
Gadgets, Gizmos and Whatchamacallits- You know what I’m talking about. All of those cool trinkets from the travel store that you just could maybe possibly need. That plastic spork/knife thingie. That headlamp. That metal doodad that opens bottles and filets a fish. Nope.
Hairdryer- As long as you plan to stay in a hotel rather than a hostel, you do not need to bring a hair dryer. Every hotel I’ve stayed at in the past year had one, except for in Switzerland. In that case, I borrowed one from the concierge. The hotel ones are not that powerful and all behave differently, but I’ve got a mass of very long, slow drying hair and even I can get my hair dry every day. Often when people bring a hairdryer from home, I’ll know it pretty quickly because the power in the hotel will short out- wrong current. Just forget about it. Use the one at the hotel.
Current Converter- Back in the oldy-moldy days of my youth, most people brought current converters. I’m not talking about the round prong adapters which you DO need, but something bigger. Here in Europe the electricity has a different power than what we use in the States. If you plug in something strictly for US use, it will either blow a fuse or self destruct. Current converters are gizmos that you plug into the wall, then plug in your electronic item and swaps the current. I can’t guarantee this 100%, but I can tell you that ALL of my computers/electronics have dual voltage already in them. I’m talking iPad, iPhone, laptop and so on. I plug those into the wall with only a prong adapter. Small appliances don’t necessarily have current conversion so you may need to buy a dual voltage model. Case in point-travel hair dryers come with a switch to choose the current. But you’re not bringing one of those, are you?
Got some leave-behinds or travel fails to share? Post in comments!