When I pack, I usually follow the “less is more” rule. I like to pack light – I can travel throughout Europe for three weeks or more with just a carry-on. It is easy for me to decide which clothing options to bring, but sometimes it’s the “extras” that I have to think about.
Should I pack my bathing suit? What about my hair dryer? An umbrella? Jewelry? A hat? There are several items that may be classified as extras. Here are some suggestions to help you decide:
Bathing Suit and Towel
Obviously, if you are going on a beach vacation, you will want to bring a bathing suit. However, you may also want to bring one if you aren’t anywhere near a large body of water.
Why? First, a bathing suit does not take up much room. Find out whether or not the hotel where you are staying has a pool. Hotel pools are not as common in much of Europe as they are in the States , but some hotels do have them. Are you interested in a spa day? My daughter and I visited a spa in a small town in Germany. We were glad to have our suits along for the sauna and pool.
A regular beach towel takes up too much room and adds too much weight to your luggage. If you want to bring a towel, invest in a microfiber one. (I have one listed on my Travel Products Recommendations page). A large one takes about as much room as a t-shirt. Occasionally a hostel or apartment may ask you to provide your own towels, so a microfiber one would be handy. A microfiber towel can also be used as a picnic blanket.
Speaking of picnics, I’ve sometimes packed a few picnic supplies. Europe has great food markets which can become sources for delicious picnics. I have a small set of heavy plastic silverware, a couple thin plastic plates and some plastic wine glasses. I also bring a small corkscrew, but whenever I bring it, I risk losing it to security in the airport. I haven’t lost it yet – keeping my fingers crossed.
If you plan to just eat in restaurants and have no desire to picnic, don’t bring picnic supplies. I think about who I am traveling with to help me decide whether or not to pack utensils for a picnic. If I’m traveling alone, I don’t bother with them; my daughters and I like to picnic together; and my husband and I usually eat out.
Hair Dryer or Curling Iron
While you are still home, try letting your hair air dry. It might not look the same as you always wear it, but could it work? You won’t likely see anyone you know while traveling in Europe (except your travel companions) so it might be a good time to try out an easier style. Also, the less time you spend getting ready in the morning, the more time you can spend seeing the country.
If you must bring hair appliances – and I know some of you do need them – there are a couple things to keep in mind. Larger name brand hotels may provide hair dryers – check before you pack. If you bring your own appliances, be sure they will work with European voltage – and bring a plug adapter. Most appliances today are dual voltage, but if you ignore this, you may end up burning the appliance… or your hair! Look for a compact travel hair dryer or curling iron (like this one on my Travel Product Recommendations page). They not only take up less space, but they add less weight.
Look at the average weather for the area you will be traveling. Some areas get little rain, especially in the summer. If you skip your umbrella and it rains, the umbrella and rain poncho sellers will appear. This is true all over Europe, but especially in larger towns, cities, and other tourist areas. You will pay between €5 and €10, but you will also come home with a souvenir. Again, look for a small compact one if you plan to pack an umbrella (like the one on my Travel Products Recommendations page).
A hat can shield you from the rain, but it can also protect you from the sun. Are you sensitive to the sun? If so, a hat can be beneficial. Everyone will appreciate a hat on a sunny day at Versailles. Select a hat that is crush-able or roll-able so you can pack it without damaging it. If it cannot be packed, you will have to wear it on the plane and on trains as you travel.
Jewelry and Other Accessories
Most jewelry is best left at home. Wearing expensive jewelry can be an attraction to thieves. Even flashy costume pieces may garner unwanted attention. If you must wear jewelry, try to keep your choices simple.
A better option is to accessorize with scarves. A scarf or knitted shawl can be more versatile than jewelry as it can be worn as a wrap in a cool building or a head or shoulder covering in a conservative religious venue. A large scarf can be used as a blanket on the plane, as a picnic blanket, or folded into a seat cushion. If the scarf becomes too warm, it is easily removed to be stored in your bag.
My Own Shampoo
Many large chain hotels provide small sample-sized bottles of shampoo for you to use while traveling. However, smaller family-run hotels, apartments or hostels do not. Personally, I am partial to my usual brand of shampoo, so I always bring my own. A small amount of liquid is allowed in carry-on luggage – enough for three weeks or more.
Similar rules apply for toothpaste, make-up, contact solution, and lotion. If they are not available in your hotel, these products are all available to purchase locally. If you are going on an extended vacation (two months or more) or are moving abroad, you will want to find a local source for your beauty products.
Laptops are heavy. You go on vacation to get away from work and social pressures. Leave your laptop at home. That is easy to say, but not always easy to do. I like to stay connected, even when I am traveling.
The last couple of trips I have been on, I have been able to get by with a tablet instead of my laptop. I can write a journal entry or post on my tablet; I can load pictures to my tablet for safekeeping and to add to my posts. Tablets weigh considerably less than a laptop, so they are easier to travel with. Although I have an iPad, my daughter has a Kindle Fire – either one will work, but the Fire is much less expensive. (Check out the link on my Travel Product Recommendations page).
“Always bring your knitting!” my friend told me before I left for a recent trip. I didn’t listen, so had to I find supplies in Europe for a project to work on (not a bad problem). Now, I always bring at least a small project. Are you an avid photographer? Be sure to bring the camera equipment you will need.
Whatever your hobby, think carefully about whether or not you would hope to engage in it while traveling. Don’t bring everything, though; only bring what you will reasonably use.
Things to Remember
Remember that if you are traveling on your own – not with an organized tour – you will need to carry all your own luggage. You will carry it onto the trains and up and down stairs to the platforms. If you are driving, you will take your luggage in and out of the car for every lodging stop. Even with an organized tour, there will be a certain amount of luggage hauling.
Carefully consider each item that goes into your bag. You will have a much more enjoyable trip if you pack light.
How do you decide what to pack? Leave a comment below.