Packing for a weekend jaunt in the next town over can feel like a daunting and stressful task. Imagine throwing an international trip in the mix and you might just be ready to pull your hair out.
This is the scenario that I faced earlier this year as I prepared for my first intercontinental trip to Europe. While I had been out of the country before, all of those trips were on cruise ships which are geared toward Americans and have every amenity you can imagine. So I wasn’t that worried about forgetting to pack something.
When it came to Europe, I had no clue what to expect, and being the Type-A person that I am I tried to think of every single thing that I might need and asked the more experienced travelers that I know what they would consider a must-have travel item.
Now that my trip is done, here are the things that I’m so grateful I thought to take with me and the things that I won’t forget to pack for my next international journey:
1. Comfortable Sneakers or Shoes to Walk Long Distances In
When it came down to packing shoes for this trip, I grabbed one pair of black heels, two cute loafer flats that wouldn’t take up too much room in my suitcase and some flat ankle boots that I planned to wear every day (the weather in Europe is chilly in January). I thought I’d be fine, and for the most part I was, but I did not anticipate the marathon type distances that we’d walk, which turned out to be an average of about 11 miles per day.
Even though I did have the foresight to buy some gel inserts, they ended up being a major fail because it made my shoes uncomfortably tight so I couldn’t wear them. While I was able to push through the foot and shin pain, I will never, ever, ever forget to pack sneakers or comfortable walking shoes for a trip again.
Perspex Black Mesh Backpack – Asos.com, $42.00
2. A Small Back Pack
The one thing that I knew that I didn’t want to do is carry around a purse in my hands or across my shoulders, so I made a quick run to Marshalls before my trip and picked up a $15 backpack which turned out to be a really convenient and safe way to keep track of all of my belongings while on the move.
3. A Wi-Fi Hot Spot
Even if wi-fi is included as part of your accommodations you never know what the speed or signal strength will be. I learned this the hard way when I was in Rome and the internet where we stayed was awful. We could barely get online. Next time, I’ll definitely be looking into getting a wi-fi hot spot before I go just to be on the safe side.
4. Trigger Point Mini Foam Roller (Travel Size)
I’ve had my TP mini foam roller for awhile now but I am so happy that I packed it for my trip! I’ve been an athlete for most of my life and I’ve always suffered from muscle knots in my lower leg and calves. I knew this could potentially be a problem due to the long flight and the amount of walking that we did and I was right. You can use this foam roller in so many different ways (not just for legs) but I used it to increase blood flow in my legs and to roll out the knots after long days of walking.
5. A Custom First Aid Kit
You never know if or when you’ll get sick so it’s good to be prepared for anything.
I packed bandaids, motrin for headaches and stomach aches, cotton balls and q-tips, and a few individual packs of theraflu which came in handy when I had a scary hypoglycemic episode in the middle of an 8 hour flight (s/o to my best friend for quickly figuring out what was wrong with me).
Pro tip: European bandaids are better than American bandaids as they have enough material to wrap around a finger several times. Buy a pack to bring home.
I am imagining that you may be rolling your eyes at this one, but let’s face it, we are a selfie stick nation and it really is a great tool to take on vacation.
7. Mophie Battery Pack
We do everything on our mobile phones these days: listen to music, take photos, call and text, gps, etc., so having some extra juice is essential. The worst thing that could happen is your phone cutting off on you in the middle of a beautiful day while you’re traveling.
This is an absolute must-have. Make sure all of your plugs fit before you purchase, especially for your computer or any device with a three prong plug, because some of the universal adapters don’t accommodate this.
9. A Memory Foam Travel Pillow and Plush Throw Blanket
You may or may not receive a blanket and pillow on your flight so it’s good to purchase both of these items in advance to be on the safe side. And before you begin to believe that all neck pillows are made equal, try one with memory foam and prepare to have your life changed.
It is essential to have a good book or journal with you to help pass the time on a long flight or layover. I took both with me on my recent trip but I admittedly didn’t have any time to write in the journal but I did enjoy reading Teri Agins’ book Hijacking the Runway.
11. Foreign Currency
You may plan on waiting until you arrive at your destination to do a currency exchange but you will get a better exchange rate and save money on fees if you order your foreign currency through y0ur local bank branch. If you call ahead, they will let you know if they have currency on hand or if they need to order it for you. It’s best to call 2 weeks before you trip (I did this the day before mine…but I’m in NYC so I was able to locate a branch that had the currency).
12. A Good Attitude
It’s true, you don’t know what to expect. But if you go into your trip with a positive, optimistic attitude I guarantee you’ll have a much more pleasant experience.
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What are some of your travel essentials? Comment below!