What to pack for a trip?
Travel documents. Start with the most important ones: valid passport, visa (check entry requirements), and if you plan to drive, your driver’s license and international driver’s permit. Other documents you may need in paper form could be vouchers for guided tours, event tickets, city passes and in some cases train tickets. Tip: I also carry a printed copy of my passport. If I ever were to lose the original passport, it’s easier to prove my identity and get a temporary travel document allowing me to get back home. One additional note, you may need to bring documentation proving that you have tested negative for COVID 19 – hopefully, this won’t be an issue in the near future.
Wallet. Have some local currency for small purchases and tipping. Using a credit card for larger transactions, such as paying for dinner, is obviously more convenient and you should plan on that, however, make sure your bank is notified about your upcoming trip to avoid any possibility of your card being blocked.
Medication. Pain reliever is the one drug I take on each trip. Yes, it’s fairly easy to buy pain reliever in any country, but the packaging may be different, and the vendor may not speak English. Obviously, if your doctor prescribed certain medications for you, make sure you take them and have enough of them to last through the trip and then some, just in case your return in delayed. In some countries, it is also prudent to have copies of your doctor’s prescription if your medication includes certain drugs. Tip: pack your medication in your handbag or carry-on bag to always have access to it.
Electronics you’ll need together with chargers and adapters. Let’s break this down. At a minimum, you’ll need a mobile phone with international roaming service. From my experience, this is the most reliable and cost-effective way to be reached and to reach someone in an emergency situation. You will also need a device, such as a smart phone or tablet, to retrieve online booking confirmations, get directions and stay in touch with family. Luckily, most hotels and many cafés offer free wi-fi access, so you should be able to do all that for free. I find that a roaming activated smartphone is all I need, plus it doubles as a camera. It’s also small and easy to carry in a handbag or even your pocket. Finally, always read up on the power plugs and sockets at your destination and buy the necessary converter/adapter in advance to avoid scrambling for it on the trip. Tip: In most of Europe the standard wall sockets are CEE 7/7, 2-pin sockets and the standard voltage is 220V. In the UK the power plugs and sockets are type G, 3-pin.
Essential toiletries. My personal list includes a moisturizer, sunscreen, contact lens cleaning kit, toothbrush and hairbrush. I do usually pack some additional stuff, as long as everything fits in my toiletry bag and, if flying, I’m within the allowable limit for carrying liquids. It’s worth spending some time on this and packing according to your needs.
Clothes. This should be the fun and easy part, although I still spend a lot of time choosing what clothes to take with me on a trip. My approach is to be able to layer up when cold and layer down when warm. I prefer to pack light and thin clothes that can be worn separately or in layers, instead of packing a thick sweater, for example, which I may not use at all. (And, I don’t know about you, but I enjoy sightseeing more than ironing clothes, so I’ll pack only items that don’t wrinkle.) Ultimately though, my shortlisted pile of clothes has to fit in my carry-on bag alongside the toiletries and shoes. On longer trips, this means that I use the hotel’s laundry service, so I never run out of clean clothes.
Shoes. I left this to the end, but it’s in fact the shoes that I pack first. My rule of thumb is that shoes can’t take up more than one quarter of the bag. First, I always wear my most comfortable shoes on the plane, and I use those same shoes for walking tours and sightseeing. The second pair, which I pack, are there as backup, and if I’m really generous with myself I take a third pair for a special occasion or activity. Tip: never wear new shoes on a vacation, unless you can break them in before the trip; blisters and hurting feet are never fun.
Other items. Each trip is different, think of anything else you may need. Here are some ideas:
- Sun hat or rain jacket – check the weather, you may be spending a lot of time in the sun or in the rain
- Travel binoculars – really handy if outdoor sightseeing
- Light daypack – good for daytrips and it can be shared
- Backup glasses – especially if highly dependent for reading, etc.
- First aid essentials – a few bandages, antibiotic cream
- Extra batteries – if any of your electronics are battery operated
What not to pack
Shampoo, soap and other toiletries readily available at hotels.
Hairdryer. Hotels either have hairdryers in each room or can loan you one on request.
Incompatible adapters. It’s good that you have a whole set of adapters, but there’s no reason to take all of them with you, especially not the ones that are the wrong type.
Too many clothes. You may be attending a wedding and be booked for dinner at a fine dining restaurant, and you may even be going to a fancy show, so understandably you want to be prepared for all those occasions. Trust me though, you don’t need a separate outfit for each occasion. You can wear the same dress multiple times, no one will know. Also, if you aren’t working out regularly at home, a vacation is not the time to start being serious about it. Leave those workout clothes at home and instead enjoy the trip.
One book too many. I can’t sleep on the plane, so I usually read. I also read before going to bed each night. With that said, I take just one book with me on each trip. Afterall, there are plenty of hotel magazines to go through as well. If you are an avid reader, however, consider investing in an e-reader. They’re easy to carry and will give you access to all the books you plan to read.
BellaTerra, Manager Operations