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Most people go on trips to Europe for a couple of weeks, maybe a month. Some of us, myself included, tend to be on the road a little longer. When you’re gone from home for so long, how do you deal with homesickness and missing your environment?

I’ve been living out of a backpack sporadically since I was 20, professionally since 25. It was a thrill at first, but as the trips got longer and longer, the thrill wore off and I wanted to be home. Over time I’ve developed a coping strategy for being away. Making the hotel room as comfy as possible helps. If I’m staying in a hotel for more than a few nights, I like to buy a bouquet of flowers for my bedside table. My favorites are white Oriental lilies, which have a very strong scent. They tend to open slowly and last a few days. This is a small pleasure that I enjoy in my home, something that I’ve always done when I need a little pick me up. It somehow makes a hotel room more inviting. The flowers were €10, I borrowed the vase from the hotel. Money well spent.

Scent is a personal thing and some people like myself are sensitive to the smell of dank hotel rooms. I recently stayed in a hotel that smelled like a 1970’s basement and the room instantly made me uncomfortable. My remedy was a scent disk. Bath and Body Works sells little gel disks meant for cars, but the are great for travelers too. I choose the “Fresh Linen” scent because it smells like clean clothes and I can pretend that the scent is coming from my very not clean suitcase.

Small habits can make a room a home. I try to cultivate patterns, like laying out my toiletries kit the same way, putting a bottle of water on my side table, arranging my shoes against the wall. These little things help me navigate the room when I’m groggy and not entirely sure where I am. I don’t hang clothes in the closet, though. If I do that I’ll often forget them and leave them behind.

The most important comfort item in my room is my pillow. I carry my own pillow, it is true, even if I preach the gospel of light packing. But sleep is very important when you’re on the road, especially when you work as much as I do. Most hotel pillows here in Europe are not what you might be used to. They are often hard, oddly shaped, lumpy or just simply not what you like.

My pillow is surprisingly light and compact. I bought an inexpensive down pillow for about $20, the key being that it is the bottom of the line. Cheaper down pillows have less down fill in them, which is exactly what I want. It’s a twin sized pillow and fits neatly in my suitcase, squishes down to almost nothing and weighs very little. When I arrive in a hotel, I give it a good shake and it pops back to life. It’s warm and soft, very comforting on tough days, and it has a familiar smell.

The pillow case is a gift from my sons, who decorated a white zippered pillowcase with fabric markers. They’ve drawn pictures of things they think will remind me of home. It’s very colorful, and a good thing too- I never forget my pillow anymore because it doesn’t blend with the hotel bedding, and the maids don’t take it away by accident.

The zippered pillowcase is also a great item to have for laundry day. I dump my clothes in there and zip it up so that my delicates don’t fall out on the way to the laundromat. That could be embarrassing.

How do you make your hotel room more like home? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear more ideas.

AWS Staff

This post was published by the Adventures with Sarah team. Click here to find out more about the people that make everything at AWS happen.


  • anng628 says:

    I have a small clear zippered pouch labeled “NIte Stand” which is the first thing I pull out of my suitcase along with my battery operated alarm clock which also has the date & the temp. In the pouch I have things like earplugs, Benadryl in case I cannot sleep, My alarm clock also has a flashlight for potty trips (Lewis & Clark) so I no longer pack a little flashlight, small nail file, lip gloss, etc – anything I might need before bed or in the middle of the night. I consider this my survival kit.After a full day of touring – I never seem to have a problem sleeping! I am allergic to down, but most hotels seem to have non-allergenic pillows available if you ask. Fortunately, we have never encountered a musty smelling room…..maybe I should add nose plugs..LOL!

  • Diane Stewart says:

    I bought a couple fabric fold-up trays to put my odds and ends in. Got them at Bag and Baggage. They’re a bright purple, silky patterned fabric that I love. I put one on the nightstand for my eye glasses, lip balm, watch so they will be in easy reach and won’t fall off. The other I put on a desk or chest for other small items. They look luxurious, are bright and cheerful, and help to corral stuff. They fold flat so they’re easy to pack.

  • Wanda says:

    Sarah, I am so glad you blogged about this because I have such a hard time, when I travel to settle in. I have problems sleeping normally and so it makes all the more difficult when I’m in a strange place. The pillow, scents and flowers are absolutely great ideas. Can you suggest a place where I can purchase a pillow? Another question is how do travelers adjust to jet lag. Do you have any suggestions to help with that? I would truly appreciate it. I wanted to thank you again for your blog. It’s greatly appreciate it.

    • Marilyn Andrews says:

      I also love thinly filled down pillows like Sarah, so when I bought a new down pillow, and it was too thick, I took a third of the down out and made a travel pillow with that excess. To keep all the down from coming out of the big pillow, I stitched across it, a third of the way down, then unstitched a portion of the end seam, then reached in and grabbed handfuls of the down and put into a case that I made previously from another pillowcase. That pillowcase cut across the center became 2 little travel sized pillows. ( I did sew down the long side of this case, and opened up the shorter end, to make stuffing easier. Perfect!

  • Joan says:

    Great ideas!

  • 1. both a tub stopper & a rubber “pancake” that can keep the water in either the tub or the sink. If one doesn’t work just right the other usually does the trick, so I can do my laundry and get that much-needed hot soak.2. a nightlight–so I don’t have to turn on the light during a wee(wee) hours pit stop in an unfamiliar room.3. a rubber doorstop for extra security4. if I’m going to be doing a lot of work, I bring–or pop out and buy–a higher wattage light bulb. The ones in hotel room lamps are invariable weak.5. a clothespin–curtains in even the best of hotels tend to gape open, usually arranging themselves so that an intense beam of sunlight lands right in my eyes before I’m ready to get up.None of these items takes up much room, and they make a huge difference in my hotel stay.

  • Barbara says:

    Collapsible vases in pretty colors and light materials are available for the long term traveler to feel at home.

  • Wanda says:

    Always such great hints! I bring a travel sized scented candle in its covered tin from Illume to take care of the smell of musty rooms.

  • Jean Trent says:

    THANK YOU for mentioning the down pillow! I’m a stomach sleeper, so I rarely find a hotel on a work trip that has a flat or unlumpy pillow. I purchased the down pillow in the travel size (half regular) on Amazon and used it for a week at home. I’m on work trips again this week, and I packed the pillow and slept so well last night! I always just take my carry-on suitcase for work or vacation, and this pillow was perfect to slip into the top of my suitcase…and even helped keep everything in place. It’s going on our next Europe vacation, too!

    • Jean Trent says:

      Just realized as I was packing again that I use another option to help with the odor of a hotel room that serves double-duty. I have a picky nose, so hotel odors affect me, too. And, as I age, my skin is dryer that it used to be. I’ve been bringing a special bar of soap on my trips – something that smells nice & also keeps my skin softer. On this trip I’m using a pear-scented bar. When I open the hotel room at the end of the day, I’m greeted with a nice clean scent. I cut the regular bars in half & place the half in a small Ziploc bag. Each half usually works for a couple of week-long trips.

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